We Are Animals Don’t You Know1 Comment
About 1 month ago I got a call from the gang of The Cast of Cheers. I had about three days to submit a proposal. I was sent a sound cloud link almost immediately and I got listening as I waited for the overground. On previous videos I had listened to the song in question consistently until they had lost all meaning and relevance. I decided never to do that again. I remember Don Draper talking about advertising in an episode of Mad Men. He said something along the lines of thinking about the project for an hour and then just move on to something else. An idea would come he said. I know a TV show isn’t the best place for advice and I don’t even know if I like Don but his suggestion is fairly easy to follow. I listened to the song twice and then started to think about something else.
I wish I could remember what inspired my idea but I can’t. I was sitting at my computer about a month before being asked to send in this treatment and an idea about televisions and VCR’s came into my head. I wrote down a very basic outline that read like this :
Week beginning January 30th – February 5th
TV VIDEO CONCEPT – A block of TV’s fill the screen, each with a VHS player. The band appear across three TV’s each so maybe 9 Tv’s in total. All the footage is recorded earlier and played back on the VHS player. When they walk they move across the TV’s.
So that was idea as written in my diary. It then stayed there for a month or two and I remembered it when thinking of what to make for the Animals video. It would do. I thought it was a pretty original and cool idea but I was also feeling lazy and so if the band didn’t go for it then I would enjoy the next couple of weeks off. I met the management and discussed the feasibility of getting 20 televisions and VCR’s which is the amount I wanted at the time. They passed the idea onto the band and they band went for it. A friend of mine suggested getting a gentleman called Dan Matthews on board to produce the video. I had never had a producer before. In the past I have done everything myself purely because there was no other option. At this point in time I can safely say that when dealing with a decent budget I would never consider not using a producer or more specifically Dan again. He took so much weight of my head and let me think about the video. It was actually an enjoyable experience. I was calm and able to prepare as he organised a team and drove all over London getting what we needed to make this video a reality. As much as I love the majority of videos I have made in the past I think it’s clear to see that not having a producer on board for them probably caused the end product to suffer to a certain degree. I think the Animals video is the best and most enjoyable video I have made and it is clearly because of having a team and especially a producer on board who was passionate and interested in the idea. There was only 1 or 2 evenings of waking up in the middle of the night out of breath. There was a severe lack of sleep in places when trying to get stuff ready but all the time when things seemed to be falling apart there was an excitement about what we were trying to do.
Dan got depressed and I picked him up. I got depressed and Dan picked me up. The day before the shoot I was in a real panic and asked Dan if he could see the feasibility in hiring 16 cameras and cancelling the 1st days shoot. Thank God that didn’t happen. What a weird thing the mind is. Dan had mentioned he would be able to get some people on board to help out. One of the people he got on board was Daniel “Muller” Perry. This man was a technical hero. If there is one thing I don’t enjoy it is technical things. I have the sort of sad mentality of shutting my eyes and hoping for the best when it comes to leads and things. I didn’t used to be like that. I used to experiment about with VCRs etc when making wrestling videos and would be excited. I guess when I started taking it more seriously then the idea of failure and the stuff not working scared me into not even trying it and throwing something at it and hoping for the best. Any way, I went down to the location on the night before the shoot after making all of the VHS tapes. It was in good nick but nowhere near what the end result would be. Muller was sawing through wooden planks so quickly I could feel the heat coming of the blade. He was putting serious effort in. It was inspiring. When he didn’t think something was safe he would say. When all the TV’s where on the planks I had a feeling of vertigo. I know that is an unusual situation to experience that feeling in nut thats what I felt. I was sure the wood was about to break and all the tv’s would come crashing down. Pathetically I stood with my arm under the top plank. If it broke then I couldn’t have stopped it. Muller explained about how the planks usually had fat builders walking across them and eventually my mind turned to other things.
A piece of equipment we got for the chorus shots was known as a “brick”. It was a splitter that would send one image across all of our Tv’s. It was incredibly complicated in terms of of operation. Dan got all the leads and Muller sat with it for hours. At one point we thought we had it sorted but all of the tv’s were showing the image in Black and White. At that point due to time restraint etc everyone thought we should maybe just settle for it. It looked cool. Muller spoke to the guy who owned the brick. In fact before this colour issue we actually had problems getting it to work at all. Muller being a genius worked out that the machine was not wired correctly and he actually did the opposite of what he was meant to do and got the image. He told us the exact cable he needed. He explained how easy it would be to get one. He got it. It worked. We praised him. I could write about everyone involved with the project but it would take a long time explaining how good they all were. Matt was given the cursed job of making 16 tapes that all had footage of Amps on them. The idea being that the band would play in front of lots of Tv’s that all showed footage of Amplifiers. This job was very time consuming. It seems something like this always happens on babysweet shoots. For Cashier No9 we had spent the previous night and day making loads of masks of each band member. It went on late into the night. They were never used. The Amp footage was never used either.
My dear lady Hannah used to work in media. She worked for RTE in dublin. She was fantastic at her job. So fantastic that she got a job of Travel Co-ordinator on a Natalie Portman movie. In truth the job was far too large for one person. And even more difficult for someone who had never done the role. She decided she didn’t enjoy it and quit that job. It was amazing seeing her on the set of this video. She took on the task of labeling and organising all the Tv’s and their relevant VCR’s. She talked everyone through what tapes had to be used where. What Tv’s they were looking after and what VCR’s to press when. I was behind the camera and didn’t have any VCR’s to look after. I didn’t even really know how it was all working. All I could see was an idea I had becoming reality and everyone on the crew being immense. Here is a list of all the crew on the shoot. Everyone did more than their title probably suggests :
Producer : Dan Matthews
Technical Manager : Daniel “Muller” Perry
Stage Managers : Daniel Perry and Hannah Vincent
DOP Assistants : Eliot Bushnell and Jason Hawthorne
Production Assistant : Eliot Bushnell
Stage Assistant : Matt Livingstone
Runners : Ken Plas and Hannah Charles
The shoot was split into two days with a gap in the middle. The first day was spent filming footage that would later be transferred onto the VHS tapes. The next day was a day spent making the tapes and getting the location ready. The second day of filming is where you see everything shot in the video. That day went on until about 4am. The camera used for the shoot was the Canon C300. The videos concept wasn’t ever going to show the cameras full capabilities but one of the major benefits I felt was how it handled the wires and bits of equipment hanging under the televisions and thin wires along the floor. When shooting on the 7D, which nearly everything on this site has used, I sometimes find that when there are thin wires, railings or guitar strings the image can’t deal with them and the said objects seem to move and change colour. The C300 eliminated this straight away.Another big perk of the camera is the colour detail it captures. The Animals music video was shot in Cine 2 mide and I was so happy with the colours and clarity of the image that the entire video is basically ungraded. The only shots that have a slight grade are the tv guitar and and “behind the scenes” sections. Everything else appears as shot on camera. The fact no grade was required made editing very smooth and efficient.
It also tied in nicely with the whole concept of the video which was to make a seemingly technically flawed format such as VHS work for us. I have no doubt there are people skilled in After Effects and other programs that could probably make this video with a piece of blue paper and a video camera and in essence faked this idea without using one VCR. It was my intention however to film everything in reality so that there was basically nothing to do in the edit other than order the shots. It is also an area of the whole project that I am very proud off. People Dan or myself had spoken to had discussed how difficult using VHS would be and how we would be better doing something else. Using DVD’s at least. But we stuck with the idea, except for that idiotic 16 camera alternative moment.I think we pulled it off. There was a point where Dan was concerned about whether we could make this project work as intended. I explained my thoughts on it. I don’t consider myself a very good director. I am improving with each project but I have a million times more to learn than I have learnt so far. What I think I am good at is presenting an idea. My idea was based around this 16 VCR x 16 television concept. What I did was film the idea. That’s it. Nothing fancy. If the idea is good and you can show it then the video should be good.