The Making of Unpatriotic
Roughly a year ago I made a video for NYC artist Timothy Dark called "The Future" which is at the very bottom of this post. I made a ten minute BTS video detailing how we made that video which involved building a prison in my backyard.
Unpatriotic is the continuation of that video but unfortunately we didn't have any extra hands to shoot BTS so all I can muster is this write up with some stills.
If you're interested in shooting and directing music videos or have some questions about the DJI Ronin, C100 Mark II, or Blackmagic Design Ursa Mini Pro you may find some pertinent info here.
We moved from the forest to a warehouse complex in Passaic, New Jersey. We had access to an area of the warehouse that I estimated to be roughly 1500 sq ft as well as a cool alleyway, loading dock, and an adjacent rooftop.
"The Future" was shot with the C100 Mark II and graded with Film Convert to try and get a more filmic and grainy look to it.
It was a no-brainer to shoot "Unpatriotic" with the Ursa Mini Pro. Unfortunately, the Ursa Mini Pro is a very big camera, especially in length. Add a standard V-mount to the Ursa Mini Pro and it's not possible to balance it properly on the Ronin without having the extended-length arms.
A future solution I'm looking into is buying a D-Tap to XLR power adapter with a right angle pin and the right angle is the key. The power input is at the back of the Ursa Mini next to the V-mount plate so a regular straight pin would extend the same length as a V-mount. I'm hoping the right angle pin will give me the clearance I need to balance the Ronin and not have any restriction on the tilt axis.
Then I would mount the V-mount battery to the handle bars on the side opposite my monitor.
We did shoot all of our Ronin scenes on the C100 Mark II for this shoot and I feel like I can definitely see the difference between the Ursa and C100 scenes but I'm hoping an untrained eye will not notice.
Feel free to tell me if I'm wrong.
Our interiors basically consisted of two setups - the first shown in the image below is our main setup where we see the brainwashing chair, the American flag haphazardly draped behind it, and the mad scientist in charge of the brainwashing.
For this setup we spotted two old tungsten 1K's and aimed them at the back of the chair. We fogged up the area behind the chair to fill the light beams and add some texture. We didn't want our subjects in complete silhouette with all the backlight so to camera right is an Aputure Lightstorm with 1/2 CTS coming 45 degrees keying Timothy Dark.
For our reverse of this setup, we basically created an array of tungsten balanced lights camera left including three Aputure LED's and a Lowel Rifa ex88 for a very contrasty look.
We were limited on time, light on crew, and had a lot to do, so we didn't re-light any close-ups. We basically ran through the scene with these two setups.
Low budget = small crew. I did my directing thing and created the lighting scheme. I left camera op and Ronin op to Lawton Meyer and Steve filled in as gaffer/grip/etc.
The original intent was to have as much of the talent that appeared in "The Future" reprise their prisoner roles in "Unpatriotic". Central to the story of "The Future" was Carl Gibson, leader of the imprisoned and Tim's real life bass player. Unfortunately, Carl was on holiday during the shoot and many of the original cast except one, LaQuane Barnes, was unavailable.
So we had to catch our new actors up on the storyline and get them appropriately psyched for the parts which I wanted to feel raw, violent, and desperate. We started by keeping our four prison guards and our prisoners in different holding areas to keep a divide between them from the onset of the shoot.
My style of directing really varies depending on how much prep time I have beforehand and true to fashion when working with Tim, he was still changing ideas the morning of the shoot. I also had no part in the casting process so it was very much a guessing game when I walked onto set.
I introduced myself to each actor with our makeup artist, Diamond Hawkins, by my side. We spoke with each actor about the scene, decided a plan for their makeup (mostly light bruising) and that gave me a chance to get a feel for them and what their different attitudes were towards the day's work.
A couple of them seemed to be down for some violence so we blocked out the scene with all the prison guards and prisoners and then started to rehearse it, once or twice without cameras rolling, then with. By the fourth take, everyone was very into their parts to the extent I was started to get worried they were going to hurt each other. But it led to some very nice performances on screen.
Tim puts a lot of thought into the opening cinematics of the video. The idea changed several times but we landed on this scene that reveals a group of prisoners along with Tim and LaQuane being brought into a Trump Rehabilitation Center. I shot from the ground with Ursa Mini Pro and had Lawton shoot with the GH4 and Canon 70-200mm on the roof to simulate the binocular scope look of the band's singer, Stephanie Linn, spying on the action.
We finished the day up on the roof trying to catch some sunset which was mostly obscured by a building. We did several takes on the Ronin with Lawton basically just doing 180 orbits around the singer for several takes.
My usual process in post involves creating proxies of my 4K ProRes footage from the Ursa Mini, followed by a logging session with some note taking, and then starting a rough.
I created a multicam sequence from all of Tim's performances and a separate multi-cam of the singers performances and edited those together in real time. This usually involves me watching through the multicam feed three or four times to get a feel for what a like before making the actual edit. After I created the real-time cuts I went in and made some small adjustments and laid in a track of Tim's performance and a track of the singer.
After creating a sequence with all the selects from the story performance I made some notes about timing ie. when and where I was going to fit certain story elements into the song.
For this video I felt like we had the right ratio of story to performance. The tricky part of the song is that Tim only has one verse which runs from the track's minute mark to just over the two minute mark followed by a chorus section, a bridge, and another chorus that rides out.
So what did you think of Unpatriotic? Would love to hear your opinions on our work and if you'll be tuning into to watch the final and third video installment which we'll be shooting sometime in 2018.