Recently I shot a music video for a song called “Rocketship.” When the artist was young, 6 of his friends committed suicide and this song was written in memory of those individuals. The concept for the video involved finding families who had been affected by suicide in the local Los Angeles area. The video would be a way for them to commemorate the ones they had lost to suicide. It was an extremely emotional shoot as you would expect, but it made for some intensely powerful images. The shooting process was definitely a challenging one as we wanted to capture the real raw emotions that these people had for their loved ones, but to get those emotions to come to the surface we needed to spend time and connect with them in order for them to feel comfortable enough to share their stories with us. The shooting process involved us visiting each individual at their house and then choosing a location within that house to shoot that would suit the mood of the piece and make for a powerful image. It felt a bit like shooting an interview set up because we wanted to put the talent in a position where they could tell the story of their loved one to the artist who was just off camera and when they reached a point where they became emotional, we would start rolling the cameras and direct that individual from that point. It was definitely a very tough thing to do to make these people pause in the middle of recalling such intense events in their lives, but it was worth it to capture the raw emotions that could only be brought out in this way.
I partnered with fellow DP Matt Roe on this project and we shot with two cameras, one with a wide lens on a slider at 24fps and another on a tight lens at 60fps. I think this worked out really well and gave the editor plenty of options. In terms of lighting, we wanted to go with hard sources, which I think worked really well for this piece. It was definitely cool to break away from the soft source techniques that are so often used. What’s fun about music videos is that you can experiment with different lighting techniques and color contrast without having to justify it in a way that you would with a narrative piece. Light doesn’t necessarily need to be motivated or feel natural, with this piece we could make the shots feel as stylized as we wanted without worrying about remaining consistent or having it feel too created. We tried to do something different with the light for every set up, whether it be with color contrast or key direction etc. I think one of my favorite set ups was when we shot in a bed room and we covered the key light with a deep cyan gel. (ABOVE LEFT) The cyan tone as well as a cooler white balance setting really gave the subjects face an eerily beautiful look. We had a source 4 coming in hard through a window in the background that put a slash of warm light on the bed/pillow as well as edged the subjects face hard from the left. I think the combination of the cyan key and the warm back edge really made for a great color combination.
Another set up that I really liked was with two subjects (mom and daughter) outside in a patio area. (ABOVE LEFT) We had been experimenting with using tungsten sources in a daylight environment prior to this shoot and this was a good one to implement that kind of technique. I really liked having the subjects look warm in an otherwise cool environment. It really made them pop and your eyes are immediately drawn to the center of the frame. The soft edges helps with that as well obviously. We used Vaseline on the lens for almost every wide shot. I loved this technique as you could literally throw any item in the frame into hazy soft focus with a dab of your finger. You could also swirl it around to make interesting patterns within the architecture of the existing frame. Using all of these techniques combined really made for some unique and original shot compositions.
You can see the full video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lO6fxLshdls