Blending Source Footage for an Unconventional Music Video
Music videos have always been a very strong passion of mine; in fact, I grew up totally addicted to them. I spent hours recording and watching every music video ever made. Which is it what inspired me to try and make a completely unconventional music video.
The band is Soren Well, and they're a Brooklyn-based shoegazer band. The song is called "After," and it sounds similar to "My Bloody Valentine." One of the guitarists is a good friend, and at the moment they're unsigned and want to build as much momentum to hopefully get signed by a label. So we got to talking. My idea was to do a stunt; the more dangerous the stunt, the better the publicity.
I live near the East River and have always looked at it as a natural arena. I watched party boats going up and down the river with thumping music. That's what inspired the idea to shoot the video where we did. The initial ideathe perfect stormwas the band on a barge, being towed by a tug with a massive sound system blasting. We would illegally explode confetti off the boat and off the Manhattan Bridge as the barge passed underneath. Then, as the tug/barge got to the Brooklyn Bridge, we would fire off bottle rockets and flares as the band provided as much feedback as possible. We publicized the lead-up in every blog, newspaper and social-networking system available in the Tri-State area, encouraging everyone with a video recording device to show up to the shoot. We then got everyone to upload their videos to Vimeo and YouTube. We edited their videos into a more commercial video, but we would also link everyone's personal uploads back to the band, creating an entirely viral music video which created exposure for the band. We also wanted to get arrested or at least pulled over by the Coast Guard because that would definitely get blasted around the planetunfortunately, that didn't happen.
That was the core of the idea. That was the perfect dream. What we ended up with was not that, but still something that Zach Pollakoff (the EP), the band and I are proud of.
Pollakoff did an amazing job of publicizing the event, which took place at exactly 4 p.m. on the East River on Oct. 4.
Of course there was no budget (it came out of my back pocket) so we got rid of the idea of the tug/barge and massive sound system. Zach managed to replace it with a boat out of Staten Island. We pieced together a sound system and managed to cram ourselves and two fantastic cameramen, Patrick Sher and Greg Harris, onto the back of the boat.
We all got a van in Manhattan and drove out to Staten Island to get on the boat, on the way out there I took a phone call, "Did you know it was the 100th anniversary of the Manhattan Bridge today? There's police and helicopters everywhere." Gulp! We got to the boat, loaded up, sound checked and then the boat operator refused to let us explode confetti and they refused the flare/bottle rocket idea. Zach started getting frantic calls from everyone: "When, where, what?" Bigger gulp!
I had decided to have two cameramen onboard for coverage. One thing being an editor teaches you is the importance of coverage. I was fearful of the lack of participation; I also didn't want traditional DPs. I asked Patrick and Greg to shoot it because they're actually fashion photographers, which I thought was perfect. I wanted their graphic eye to help offset some of the potentially poor footage we were going to get. We also shot on the Canon EOS 5D stills camera, and in my experience, photographers are way more adept at the use of this camera. It's a clumsy camera to use in guerilla situations so you really need to know its quirks. The other camera was the Sony PMW-EX1R. It is perfect for guerilla activity: Greg was manning it and was able to climb anywhere and everywhere to get footage.
I asked Karinja from +jacksonkarinja of Rabbit to shoot the bridge: Illegally firing confetti off the Manhattan Bridge was a one-take opportunity and was not something we wanted to dwell on, especially now that we knew it was the 100th anniversary. Karinja also shot his footage on Sony EX1R. He shot the bridge escapade on a handheld, guerilla style, which really complemented that illegal scene.
All the other footage was provided by friends, fans and family. They used myriad cameras, all shapes and sizes, which of course created a format issue for postsomeone even shot on a Betacam
In this situation, Apple Final Cut Pro is the easiest option. The Canon 5D is 30fps progressive, which can really throw you off when mixing with other formats, so I used the 5D format as the project's main format. I fed all the files through QuickTime to also help the project. Final Cut 7 definitely did its job in dealing all these formats, but it still took a week to figure out all the bugs.
I got the project working, got some selects, and then handed the project to John Resner over at Nomad. The first thing he wanted to do was the multiple boxes. The original idea hadn't been fully realized: We hadn't received as much crowd footage as we had wanted, so it was now more of a performance piece. The song is very long for a performance piece, which is why I wanted to carry out all the stunts (at least two stunts to keep the viewer enthralled). But we had one stunt. Fortunately, Resner injected life and created the illusion of more cameras by cutting the video with multiple boxes. He nailed the edit.
Resner then gave me a high resolution QuickTime, I took that to Dane Bowher over at Union Editorial, who graded it on The Foundry Nuke. The brief was not to put your hand on it too much, keep the footage natural, just tweak it, balance it and keep it looking guerilla in style.
So we didn't manage to explode confetti off the boat, we didn't get to fire bottle rockets or flares or get arrested, but the footage and the band look great, the video is beautifully pieced together and I think everyone is more than ecstatic with this extremely low-budget music video. Now I'm looking forward to getting onto my next music stunt video.
New Zealand-native Adam Jenkins is the editing pro behind countless notable spots, including American Express "Faces," Samsung "Office Party," and "Blackberry Loves U2," shot by Alex Courtes in collaboration with Leo Burnett, Chicago. He has contributed to feature films, including Mr. & Mrs. Smith. His formal recognitions include Boards'' Best New Editor, Lions, and a nomination for Best Editing at British D&AD. Prior to founding Feedthewalrus with Jeff Stevens, Jenkins worked at various premier shops, including Union, Cut & Run, Bug, and Final Cut in London.