Every post on here could easily start with the phrase “We’ve been busy here at The Twelfth Take”, but if there was ever the right time to use it to full effect, it would be now. We’re currently just wrapping up post-production on the music video we shot back in the summer of 2014, setting up as an official company and developing a new web-series, along with a short film. Come this summer, we will be diving into production on our new lineup of content and all being well, shooting another few music videos too. We’ll be teasing all shortly, but with the release of Infirmity’s next music video imminent, we thought we’d finally do that behind the scenes post we promised.
Unlike our previous music video for Infirmity, Frames didn’t require quite so much planning. We knew from early on that we wanted this music video to be 100% band performance as it’s release coincides with the bands album release to serve as an introduction to the band. We decided to go with a single location as the schedules of everyone involved were getting busier and busier as summer came to a close, but when we established that doing exterior shoots at night were on the cards we had to nail our timings. We didn’t want to have to start shooting extremely late due to waiting for sunset, but we also didn’t want to increase the risk of it raining or being particularly cold. We eventually settled for two dates in late September 2014. We went for two shoot days for a number of reasons: firstly, we established that rolling the first shot at approximately 10PM meant we would realistically burn out completely at 3AM, which would give us five hours – not even close to a standard day shoot; secondly with tiredness greatly increasing chances of human error, having a second shoot day would allow us to screen day one rushes to influence what we shot on day two. After a rough period was set for shooting, we went location scouting for a place to shoot that was available for those dates. As is usually the case on extremely low-budget shoots, we were incredibly fortunate in that Davy – the singer in the band, had access to a large area of woods through a family friend. We went and scouted several spots at the location before settling on a clearing that was perfect. We were throwing a number of ideas around for this project, with the intention or relying on lighting to add visual interest to what would otherwise be four people in the woods jumping around to a backing track. We had about £150 to play with in total.
Ebay came to save the day here, with 20, 40w light bulbs running in at £10. From a cinematography perspective, keeping electrical load down was a priority – we had already formed a lighting plan using 20 of these bulbs which ran at a total of 800 watts. We used two 300 watt fresnels for side lighting the entire band, and two 650 watt backlights. Now we were running at 2,700 watts, and required an additional 200 watts for the PA system. We also had the intention of running a smoke machine, which was an additional 800w. We arranged for two generators for the shoot. In the meantime, the band were busy recording the album – at this time we were working from a demo, with the vocals for it still being recorded. The final guide-vocals were recorded on the morning of the first shoot day.
The first day of the shoot took place on Thursday the 18th September 2014. We arrived at the location at around lunchtime to begin setting up, with 20 lightbulbs to wire up and stick in the ground. The crew consisted of myself and two camera operators and we spent several hours wiring up the ground lights in parallel and chaining them through a dimmer, which someone could flicker on shot. We also setup a base camp, just behind where we were shooting. Because our stupidly late finishes justified copious quantities of energy drinks, we went full hog and got a tent with Monster Energy branding on and also got hooked up with free drinks. I’ll state this very clearly here: THIS SHOOT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE WITHOUT MONSTER, we would have quite literally fallen asleep on the spot. After the floor lights were rigged, we began placing the rest of the lighting. We backlit the band with two 650w fresnels, balanced to daylight with CTB gel. This provides separation between the subjects and what would ultimately be a very dark background. Our facelight consisted of two 300w fresnels, which we left on long stingers to alter them, if necessary, shot by shot. We also left a large LED panel on a stand with batteries on board to float in and out quickly as necessary. We had to run the song with minimal pause between takes to keep up with the shotlist so being able to quickly drop in a fill-light was a life saver. In addition to all this lighting, we dropped a number of LED panels into the forest behind the band to kick out some of the background.
At 5PM the band arrived and began setting up equipment and we found out that we’d lost one of the generators. We decided that the best solution was to drop the smoke machine and soldier on with a single generator. It was a bit of a long shot being able to draw this much load from a single one but thankfully it worked brilliantly, although we burned through petrol like nobodies business.
With the band and lighting set, we began rolling. Our A camera was a Sony FS100 and out B camera was a Canon 550D, a very low budget camera package – the 550D especially. We used a selection of Samyang Cine Prime lenses, which we ran almost wide open to compensate for the incredibly low-light levels. We had a 16mm, two 24mm’s, a 35mm and a 50mm. All lenses were swapped between cameras as necessary. We blasted through the song 20 times, at four minutes a time. With the two cameras that meant we had a total of 40 angles of the performance. We stopped shooting at around 3AM and were packed down by 4:30.
The next day was spent transcoding footage into an edit-friendly format to start rough cutting with the intention of finding any gaps in coverage to pick up on the next shoot day, and sourcing a new secondary generator. After a well-earned early night we awoke the next day ready for another evening of shooting.
We made the decision early on in the day to run the smoke machine, despite not having it for day one. We intentionally left shooting the wide shots of all the band for this day as they were the ones requiring the smoke the most. We decided that we would fill in smoke in post-production on the shots where it was necessary – because everything can be fixed in post, right? We began filming slightly earlier on this evening and managed to shoot 29 takes of the song, until we completely ran out of petrol on both generators and packed away with car headlights and LED panels. This night was less-forgiving weather wise. We were incredibly fortunate not to have rain, our forecast check in the morning nearly left us to postpone the shoot day but we took a chance and not a drop fell. It was however, incredibly cold. Condensation was forming on all the equipment and were were all freezing – especially the band who had committed to warmer weather wardrobe decisions two days prior on the first shoot night. The plus side was that the large amounts of insects flying into the lights and promptly cooking to death had subsided somewhat due to the colder weather.
With footage logged and transcoded through Red Giant Bulletproof, the takes were synced in Plural Eyes 3. All 80 takes were synced without any hassle to the stereo mix of the song in about 15 minutes fully automatically, a process which would have taken an editor several hours. Now with an 80+ track Adobe Premiere timeline, each clip was colour tagged to reflect the band member in the shot, allowing for clips to be found quicker. The 4 minute edit was assembled in just a few days, mostly on train journeys on a MacBook Pro. The edit went through a few revisions before everyone involved was happy with the shots and then fine-cutting could begin. Throughout the post process, editing could take place in Leeds with notes being given over the collaboration platform, Frame.io. This allowed both the band, producer Dan, and other collaborators to give edit notes that were locked directly to the picture.
After a number of revisions, we arrived at a locked version of the edit and visual effects could begin. The effects were relatively simple, but there were 34 shots tagged with smoke continuity issues, so getting through all of them took quite some time. Most shots followed a similar process: Motion track with either the Foundry Camera Tracker or After Effect’s built in 3D tracker, add glow to all lights by placing point-lights over each one with a Trapcode Lux layer on top, add either an action essentials smoke asset or fractal noise layer, rotoscope any subjects required in front of the smoke and composite them atop, colour match smoke to the original plate.
So that’s it, with all visual effects shots locked, the project is waiting to be sent off for colour correction ready for it’s release next month. We’re really looking forward to finally being able to show our hard work and will shortly be doing it all over again.
If you happen to be a band looking for a company willing to spend ridiculous amounts of time adding CG smoke to your music videos, feel free to get in touch here
Until next time,