THE FINAL RESULT
It was a lot of work and calculation but the final product worked out better than I’d even hoped! Here’s the completed video. Read below it if you’re curious about all the nitty gritty details of how we took this video from start to finish. Enjoy!
I always try to push boundaries and try out new concepts with my music videos but doing videos for my own band, Scatterheart, gives me even more flexibility to try crazy ideas that I may not have enough guts to attempt with someone else’s money. I’d seen some cool DIY Bullet Time videos online, mostly in extreme sports videos and almost exclusively with the HD GoPro – which tends to only look good in outdoor daylight conditions – not conducive to filming a contrasty music video. Also, because of budget constraints they were never 360 degree, like the Bullet Time that The Matrix movie pioneered. I wanted to create something with the amazing 360 Bullet Time effect but on an indie music video budget. The matrix 360 Bullet Time shots were done with 250+ dslr cameras and required huge budgets and setup time – I knew we had to figure out a way to get a similar effect without much fewer cameras. When our guitarist, Doug Fury, came in with the song idea for ‘Tick Tock Tick’ I knew it was the perfect song. The 360 concept would fit perfectly with the clock theme of the song and would give us a reason to use only 12 cameras (for 12 numbers on a clock).
THE BETA TEST
I did a test in my studio, using a big mic stand set to 6ft with my jacket on it as a model. I did very rough measurements and placed the same camera & tripod around the model. (You can watch this test at the beginning of the making of video at the bottom of this article). The things I noticed immediately were a) The background had to be more consistent so as not to distract from the subject. b) Getting the cameras to be the exact same height, distance, tilt etc was going to be tough! Even with just moving the same camera and tripod and trying not to change any settings, I still ended up with weird tilts or wrong distances. These things weren’t really visible if you looked at each shot individually but once you flipped quickly between them they were very obvious and distracting! I knew we’d end up having to do a lot of measuring…
THE CAMERAS & SETTINGS
When you’re looking to find 12 of the same camera on a limited budget you can’t really be too picky. We chose the crop sensor Canon cameras because we knew a lot of people with them and they reproduce a relatively good HD image. There was no way we could afford to do this shoot with a RED camera! Thanks to the generosity of our friends, we ended up tracking down 3 7D’s, 2 60Ds and 10 t2i’s. Happily, with the cameras all set exactly the same there wasn’t any noticeable difference between them. The only pain was the 7D’s larger, slower and clunkier Compact Flash card (as opposed to the SD card on the t2i and 60D). We pooled together as many batteries as we could find and hoped for the best. When you’re using 12 cameras memory and battery life are a much bigger deal – if one runs out, the whole shoot is halted! For settings, we decided on 1/30 shutter, 800ISO and f5.0 aperture. Normally I wouldn’t go down to 1/30 shutter or up to 800ISO but we had to make compromises to balance the low light with the need for a deep focal range. Neat Video’s denoiser helped deal with the high ISO artifacts – I highly recommend that software, cheap and effective!
We decided to use the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens because it’s a great looking wide angle lens that would allow us to see a wider view of the performance circle the band would be playing in. The lens is specifically built for Crop Sensor cameras like the Canon T2i, 7d etc so we’d be able to get the widest frame possible while using less expensive (and more easily attainable) cameras. It’s also a fairly common lens that most rental places have in stock, although we ended up having to order them from every company we could find across Canada to be able to track down 12 of them!
As we discovered in the initial test video, any big changes in the background became really distracting when the cameras were rotating. We decided on 12 white fabric panels that were 3ft wide by 9ft high. We hung each one with an LED light from 12 tall tripod stands. This gave us the ability to light them from above and change the colour of each panel independently but still keep a consistent look for the background of the video. It worked out even better than we’d hoped – the sheets took the colour of the light really well and there was enough black space between the panels that we could colour each one without any spill on it’s neighbour. We finished the look by sticking vinyl decal stickers of the 12 numbers on each panel. The vinyl letters were done by our bass player’s sister Jolene, who owns a vinyl cutting machine. She also made us the awesome scatterheart clock for the kick drum skin.
What’s the old adage? Measure 20 times, shoot once? That’s what it seemed like for us! Measuring was the lion share of the work on this video. It was mostly trial and error – measure, shoot, look at footage, note problem cameras, repeat 20x. It’s amazing how a minuscule difference in camera tilt, height or distance can look so terrible once the shots are cut between! We used a level with an adjustable tilt function to set the camera tilts. Because the cameras are different models and therefore different heights/shapes, any measurements had to be done from lens to lens.
Because we were only a crew of the 3 band members plus our dear friend and amazing photographer, Adam PW Smith, we needed to figure out ways to automate as much of the process as possible. The video would be a one take, performance video in a small space so creating interesting and dynamic lighting was important to keep things visually interesting. A few months back we’d done a bit of DMX lighting programming on the Scatterheart ‘Awesome Machine’ music video because it was vital that the lighting was exactly the same for every take. We took it a step further with this video using a USB to DMX interface and programming all the lighting with DMXis by Enttec, a plugin that runs within a Digital Audio Workstation and triggers scenes with MIDI. The software worked fairly well and came with presets for all the DMX light fixtures we were using. The way DMX works is that the lights are all connected with XLR cables in a long chain (an IN and OUT for each light). Then, the lights are each given a specific address. When data is sent down the chain it only affects the light that it is directed at. This is a huge improvement over old systems that used voltage/power to control each light and required cables to be run to every fixture from the lighting console. The other advantage is that you can control things like colour and brightness for standard LED par lights as well as mirror tilt, gobo etc for intellegent sfx lights. We used 15x Microh LED Par 64 cans (12 above the panels plus 3 in the drums), 2x Martin EFX 500, 3x Revo Rave and 4x ADJ Quade Phase. These are all LED lights so they’re very low power draw – this much lighting with incandescent bulbs would have required way more power than the location had! We also used 3 Source Four spot lights for our main subject positions. These are not LED and needed 2 15AMP circuits to run. They also are not DMX controllable so we rented DMX Dimmer Packs for each light. We topped it all of with 2 smoke machines to make the light beams visible and for Rock ‘N Roll atmosphere!
THE ARTWORK & 12/12/12 RELEASE
I wish we could take credit for having all these things worked out in advance but we really just got lucky, as tends to happen. Upon finishing the video we realized that it was only a week away from December 12th 2012 – aka 12/12/12. How convenient is that!? If I’d been too slow we would have had to wait another 100 years before releasing it! The Scatterheart clock logo was also a happy accident – we realized after deciding on the concept that SCATTERHEART happens to have 12 letters in the name, just like a clock. We were so happy with how the Scatterheart kick skin for the video turned out that I took a photo of it for the single cover. I love it when things just work out – it almost makes up for all the times they don’t.
THE MAKING OF VIDEO