Tuesday, October 11, 2011

You've been Shattered

My video for Ventura, CA's thrash giants Warbringer recently dropped, promoting the band's new record "Worlds Torn Asunder." The opportunity came to me by way of the band's manager, Marco Barbieri, who also manages Bonded by Blood - a band I worked with last summer.

The video is for the song "Shattered Like Glass," which lyrically, concerns the delicacy of human mortality. The verses describe scenes of characters in decidedly brutal, "imminent death" situations. Initially, Marco sent me a concept that the band and label had agreed on, which was a non-low-budget-friendly, somewhat literal visualization of the lyrics. It was cool, but a no go. I sent back my own treatment, with a more straight forward, three-act narrative spin.

The story is about a man who encounters his evil-doppelganger in a spooky old attic mirror. "Mirror man" then terrorizes "normal man" in a series of surreal vignettes, eventually inspiring "normal man" to fight back. Though more straightforward than the original concept, this one was still quite ambitious considering the budget... and the time frame.

September was already filling up fast for me, so I knew delivering a video in time for the September 25th record release might mean an ulcer or two. Considering the popularity of the band and the prominence of their label, Century Media - this was an opportunity I didn't want to miss. I strapped my balls on and made the shoot happen immediately after returning back to LA after my Chicago / DC trip (that included the Diamond Plate video shoot).

My concept called for the band performing in a foggy dreamspace, surrounded by a thicket of mirrors. I wanted a sort of fun house / kaleidesopic reflecting effect. Not sure I would describe the final product in exactly those terms, but I think considering the time / resources we had, the effect comes across well enough. We shot the performance and the "black void" narrative scenes at a studio in Koreatown called "Monkspace" - one of the locations from last year's BBB shoot as well.

The narrative stars Don Danielson - a rad dude with very dynamic acting range and a high tolerance for noose-wearing. We shot the attic and bedroom scenes at this relic of a house near downtown LA. I'm not sure, but the place may have legitimately been haunted. That, or we may all have been a bit mental from the sauna-like temperatures and severe lack of ventilation in the attic.

The video was shot primarily on a Canon 5d, by cinematographer Dustin Pearlman, who also shot my Bonded by Blood video last year. I shot B-cam for the performance section with my hacked Panasonic Gh1. The two cameras cut together quite well, despite the variable bitrates on the Gh1 outputting much smaller file sizes than the 5d. If you want to know more about the technical aspects of the shooting, Dustin wrote an awesome blog post about the shoot that you should definitely check out. FX stuff was all done in after effects. Glass elements came from VideoCopilot's Action Essentials 2 2k package.

Special thanks to my producer / grip / wunderkind, Tyler Condon, who was able to assemble some great crew people, despite short notice, and ultra-low budget restrictions.

Director / Editor / VFX: Davidson Vorhes
Producer: Tyler Condon
Director of Photography: Dustin Pearlman
Production Design: Vicky Chan, Tim Otholt
Grips: Hunter Rogers, John Coffey

Cast: Don Danielson as the Man / Mirror Man.
Band: John Kevill - Vocals; John Laux - Guitar; Adam Carroll - Guitar; Andy Laux - Bass; Carlos Cruz - Drums

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thrash Devestation in Chicago

In August, I was commissioned by the good people at Earache Records to direct a music video for their up and coming Chicago thrashers "Diamond Plate." The concept was nothing crazy. In fact it was perhaps the most familiar format of music video - the live video.

Now, I've seen my share of concert videos and most of them are just 'meh.' It doesn't bug me that they usually aren't that well shot. Raw and messy footage can be cool, especially for metal videos. No, to me the most criminal fuck up is sluggish editing - or no editing at all! Call me crazy, but I just think the feel of a live video should match the feel of the music. To do that, you need plenty of coverage and a crowd full of maniacs. I got just that.

There were 4 camera ops total including myself - all using different gear (format clusterfuck, doh!). The band hooked me up with two of the shooters - Scott and Leah. They had just shot a making of video for the band's record, "Generation Why?" The other shooter, Collin, I found through the grapevine of my alma mater, Northwestern University. I told everyone not to shy away from camera movement, nor to strive for any kind of visual "cleanliness." This was a dirty rock and roll party and I had every intention of portraying it that way.

I filmed most of the basic master shot and vocalist coverage with a hacked Panny Gh1, using 50mm and 24mm lenses. Other cam ops had a 5d mark ii, a 1d mark iv, and an hvx200. All different kinds of looks, demonstrating the full range of strengths and weaknesses between the cameras. The 1d mark iv was the overall winner of the night, without a shred of grain on ANY shot, and the least amount of rolling shutter BS compared to the 5d and gh1. Any video whiz can plainly see in the footage - rolling shutter plagued this shoot. Not that I really care that the strobes look weird. It's an effect I guess - which objectively speaking is neither good nor bad. It's just there. And there. And there. And there. (yea, can't wait for global shutters)

While the shooting went well, this is a video that was born in the edit. For the afternoon part of the day, we ran through the song five times. So that's five takes times four cameras + four cameras covering the entire 60-70 minute set later that night + other random B-roll. Grand total? Seven hours. FOR A FOUR MINUTE VIDEO. Between epic stage theatrics and one of the rowdiest crowds I have ever seen for any band ever, I had nearly an hour of gnarly selects to work with. I recorded sound from the board too, so I even had the live audio at my disposal. I put it into the edit in select parts to really sell that energy you can only find in concert.

Overall, I think the video turned out great. Like all classic thrash, it's fast and raw. Cool thing of note: stage diving, which is explicitly forbidden at Reggie's was kinda / sorta permitted for ONE take. So, every stage dive in this video was captured in the first run through of the song. The stage was a rapid-fire launching pad for spastic fools. The band and I were totally stoked. "Reggie" was not enthused.

Director / Editor - Davidson Vorhes
Shooters: Davidson Vorhes, Collin Davis, Leah Howard, Scott Palmer
Band: Konrad Kupiec, Jon Macak, Jim Nicademus, Mario Cianci