Category Archives: Music Video

Directing Postmodern Jukebox’s Don’t Stop Believin’ in ‘one take’

If you are of a certain age, or maybe have an affinity for ‘80s rock, you are familiar with Journey’s hit, Don’t Stop Believin’. Well, the band Postmodern Jukebox has put a contemporary spin on the song, and it’s amazing. The band called on KRC’s Abraham Roofeh to direct their new video, which evokes a Broadway musical. Produced by Robert Kennedy, the piece is a nod to Postmodern Jukebox’s tradition of locked-off, one-take videos and moves from static to dynamic in a stylishly playful, choreographed journey.

We reached out to director Roofeh, who is also an editor and co-founder of KRC, to find out more.

How did the project get started?
Their manager reached out to my partners and said that they were floating around the idea of doing a real music video, and they asked us to come up with a concept.

Abe Roofah on set.

What inspired your concept?
The original version of the song inspired the concept for the video. Telling the story of individuals wanting to be more than what they currently are. To do that, I literally wrote the treatment as a four-page script with the multiple characters. I wanted to be able to start the video so it looked and felt just like a regular Postmodern Jukebox video. So the idea of giving it an old-Hollywood look at the start and then revealing that it’s a cocktail party, and you’re now in the world of the servers, gave us a vehicle to tap into the multiple layers that fit PMJ’s classic video style as well as embodying the theme of the song itself.

When you are watching the video it is so seamless… then you realize what exacting choreography was involved! What was the process like?
A huge benefit to working with such a unique group as Postmodern Jukebox is that they have access to some of the most incredibly talented musicians and dancers that they tour with regularly. That meant I had the good fortune to work with dancers who also choreograph their own routines. And since we had a very short window to execute the video within, working with these specific dancers allowed us to achieve a routine in a very efficient way. We did a scout early on of the location, which helped logistically to get a sense of the space and the movement. Then my editor hat came on with identifying potential and natural cut points if needed. The day before the prelight, I had all the principals come in and we walked through the space with my DP — so together we choreographed a routine that worked for them, the space and the camera, so everything would flow smoothly and in sync.

Why the one take? How did you move the camera? Dolly? Human?
I decided to do it in one take for a couple of reasons. With the concept of a dinner party combined with the space we had access to, flying around the space and seeing it all unfold in real-time just made more sense than to stop and start the action. The director/editor devil and angel on my shoulders would also be like “you should bake in some potential cut points, ya know, just in case…” and then after the walk through we just got so excited and were like f-that, we’re going straight through.

We shot on the Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro with a PL mount and a Zeiss Uncoated super speed 18mm lens. I wanted a cinematic old-Hollywood look and feel, so we intentionally lit it warm to accentuate all the warm red wood tones throughout the house. I love the look and feel of what the Ursa Mini Pro delivers. The size and weight of the camera was perfect for the Movi as well.

How many times did they shoot it to get it right?
We did a total of 17 takes, 14 of which were full five-minute takes. Since I had two different sets of dancers flipping, I made sure to cut before we got up to them if there was something within the take that I didn’t like. Three times I cut early on. We did a couple of takes, and then we would talk about it and really hone in on what needed to be tweaked, then we did it again and shared playback with everyone which then got everyone super excited. They were able to see exactly what needed to be done, where to go and why. Psychologically, it made everyone feel accountable and really tightened everything up to work as a team to really nail it. It was so exciting as we got closer and closer to the perfect take. And when we did, everyone felt super-accomplished. It was certainly one of the best sets and productions I’ve had.

Walk us through the post process on something like this, which seems to be largely in-camera.
We were actually laughing about it on set. Because once the shoot was over, so was the edit. And as an editor, that was awesome! But overall for post production, yes, everything was done in-camera. I had my VFX guy, James Pina, remove some lighting fixtures that made it into a shot and some gaff tape that was visible. For color grading, I did it myself building a look through Red Giant’s Magic Bullet Suite within Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

The video has over half a million views — what is the fan or band feedback so far?
Both fan and band feedback has been through the roof. Fans love the new direction the band took their video in, and so many were blown away when the camera moved since they weren’t expecting that. It’s been great to see. The YouTube comments are hilarious, too.

What inspired you to become a director/editor, and what advantage does this dual role bring?
Back in the day, I used make skate videos of myself and my friends. We were sponsored by a couple of companies, and I immediately gravitated toward shooting the videos and editing them from one VCR to another, which sucked. But I learned a lot and continued that onto NLEs. Ever since then, I’ve enjoyed being able to see a project through from start to finish. The advantages are that one informs the other. I know exactly what I need in order to make something work because I can start editing in my head from the beginning and while on set.

Being a director/editor, one definitely informs the other throughout the process — from start to finish — and it’s always helpful. It’s like having multiple perspectives. They’re great to have because they may spark a creative idea or way to problem solve or troubleshoot something early on or while you’re in thick of it, which can be very helpful. Sometimes it’s like having an editor on set. For prepro we had a good amount of lead time, which allowed me to really think everything through. But still, like any production, everything came down to the wire because the music wasn’t even close to being done yet. They hadn’t recorded the full track. I got everything piecemeal.

About a week and half out I had just the piano, then a couple days later I had half the vocals. I think it was just before my flight that I got the full track with all the vocals and the instruments. We did a walk through with principals, then a prelight the day before, which allowed me to adjust to the final track. Then, the day of, I see this lovely violinist walking around, and I’m thinking to myself, “I don’t recall ever hearing a violin anywhere.” Then Scott (Bradlee, PMJ’s composer) comes to me and is like, “Oh yeah I’m gonna drop in a little violin.” It just had me laughing. Scott’s a true artist. He just hears the music and is tweaking up to the last second. Luckily, I have a super laid-back demeanor and I’m able to make it all work.

Is there a downside to doing both?
The downside is if you’re doing one but not doing the other. The goal for me is to just be directing all the time, and when that day comes, awesome. But I think there will always be some projects that I’d just be itching to cut because I do find editing to be fun and rewarding.

It seems like your company works in a lot of areas. How do you describe what you do in a way that sets you apart?
What makes KRC unique is that not only can we ideate and execute on creative to provide a client with great content, but collectively we can also provide the ability to amplify the content. That is done through our relationships with all major broadcasters, influencers, streaming and social platforms, as well as the deep-seeded data to support it. Through our extensive music contacts, KRC provides an agency-style approach by also offering custom-tailored music strategies to match clients with the perfect artist for a brand campaign.

Aubrey Woodiwiss joins Carbon LA as lead colorist

Full-service creative studio Carbon has added colorist Aubrey Woodiwiss as senior colorist/director of color grading to their LA roster. He comes to Carbon with a portfolio that includes spots for Dulux, NBA 2K17, Coors and Honda, and music videos for Beyonce’s Formation, Jay-Z’s On to the Next One and the Calvin Harris/Rihanna song This Is What You Came For.

“I’m always prepared to bend and shape myself around the requirements of the project at hand, but always with a point of view,” says Woodiwiss, who honed his craft at The Mill and Electric Theater Collective during his career.

“I am fortunate to have been able to collate various experiences within life and work, and have been able to reapply them back into the work I do. I vary my approach and style as required, and never bring a labored or autonomous look to anything. Communication is key, and a large part of what I do as well,” he adds.

Woodiwiss’ focus on creativity began during his adolescence, when he experimented with editing films on VHS and later directed and cut homemade music videos. Woodiwiss started his pro career in the early 2000s at Framestore, first as a runner and then as a digital lab operator, helping to pioneer film scanning and digital film tech on Harry Potter, Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary and Troy.

While he’s traversed creative mediums from film, commercials, music videos and on over 3,000 projects, he maintains a linear mindset when it comes to each project. “I approach them similarly in that I try to realize the vision set by the creators of the project,” says Woodiwiss, who co-creative directed the immersive mixed media art exhibition and initiative mentl, with Pulse Films director Ben Newman and producer Craig Newman (Radiohead, Nick Cave).

Carbon’s addition of the FilmLight Baselight color system and Woodiwiss as senior colorist to its established VFX/design services hammers home the studio’s move toward a complete post solution in Los Angeles. Plans are in the works to offer remote grading capabilities from any of the Carbon offices in NY, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Dell 6.15

Catherine Finkenstaedt joins Slim as EP

Commercial and music video producer Catherine Finkenstaedt has joined Slim, a creative production company based in Venice, California. She comes to Slim from from GO Film, Wondros and, most recently, Spears and Arrows. Finkenstaedt will be working with various directors at Slim, including Karen Cunningham, ZCDC, Thomas Garber, Jason Headley, Vincent Urban, Pet & Flo, Brad Morrison, Jeff Baena and Wondo.

Finkenstaedt has executive produced campaigns for various companies, including Target, Toyota, Nike, AT&T, Comcast, Activision, Visa, Macy’s and the Tokyo Olympic Committee. She has also worked with directors Jake Scott, Sam Bayer, The Malloys, Patrick Daughters, Anton Corbijn, Chris Cunningham, Mark Romanek, David Kellogg, Matthew Rolston, McG, Antoine Fuqua, Sophie Muller and Hype Williams. Musical artists she’s collaborated with include Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Metallica, and Oasis.

Raised outside of Cambridge, England, Finkenstaedt attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusettes, where she studied theatre and film. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her pet-loving husband and her five furry children.

“I could not be happier to be joining executive producer Tom Weissferdt (who I worked with in the past) in this very important next phase of my career and in the growth of Slim,” says Finkenstaedt. “We are in a sea of change in commercial and integrated production and I am excited to help support the directors and to also help identify others whose voices are yet to be heard in traditional or integrated marketing content.”


Ross Cooper joins Golden’s roster of directors

LA’s Golden, which is made up of live-action directors and a collective of designers and visual effects artists, has added director Ross Cooper to its roster. Formerly known as OneInThree, Cooper’s resume is chock full of commercial and music video work.

Cooper studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London, but his interest in original visual ideas evolved while pursuing a Master’s degree from London’s Royal College of Art. After winning two Silver D&ADs in interaction design and architecture for the live video installation The Last Clock, Cooper began shooting videos for bands like Two Door Cinema Club, Wild Beasts and The Teenagers. He went on to receive a number of nominations as an up-and-coming filmmaker at the Music Video Awards, including Best New Director, Best Art Direction and Best Budget Video.

Cooper stepped into the commercial world with a recreation of his VV Brown video for the song “Leave!” made for French bank BNP Paribas. The spot featured a rotating cardboard box that revealed a different stylized diorama with every spin. Since that time, Cooper has continued to hone his in-camera perspective to visual effects and trompe l’oeil, crafting ads for brands including Ford, O2, Trident and Betway.


Dog in the Night director/DP Fletcher Wolfe

By Cory Choy

Silver Sound Showdown Music + Video Festival is unique in two ways. First, it is both a music video festival and battle of the bands at the same time. Second, every year we pair up the Grand Prize-winners, director and band, and produce a music video with them. The budget is determined by the festival’s ticket sales.

I conceived of the festival, which is held each year at Brooklyn Bowl, as a way to both celebrate and promote artistic collaboration between the film and music communities — two crowds that just don’t seem to intersect often enough. One of the most exciting things for me is then working with extremely talented filmmakers and musicians who have more often than not met for the first time at our festival.

Dog in the Night (song written by winning band Side Saddle) was one of our most ambitious videos to date — using a combination of practical and post effects. It was meticulously planned and executed by director/cinematographer Fletcher Wolfe, who was not only a pleasure to work with, but was gracious enough to sit down with me for a discussion about her process and the experience of collaborating.

What was your favorite part of making Dog in the Night?
As a music video director I consider it my first responsibility to get to know the song and its meaning very intimately. This was a great opportunity to stretch that muscle, as it was the first time I was collaborating with musicians who weren’t already close friends. In fact, I hadn’t even met them before the Showdown. I found it to be a very rewarding experience.

What is Dog in the Night about?
The song Dog in the Night is, quite simply, about a time when the singer Ian (a.k.a. Angler Boy) is enamored with a good friend, but that friend doesn’t share his romantic feelings. Of course, anyone who has been in that position (all of us?) knows that it’s never that simple. You can hear him holding out hope, choosing to float between friendship and possibly dating, and torturing himself in the process.

I decided to use dusk in the city to convey that liminal space between relationship labels. I also wanted to play on the nervous and lonely tenor of the track with images of Angler Boy surrounded by darkness, isolated in the pool of light coming from the lure on his head. I had the notion of an anglerfish roaming aimlessly in an abyss, hoping that another angler would find his light and end his loneliness. The ghastly head also shows that he doesn’t feel like he has anything in common with anybody around him except the girl he’s pining after, who he envisions having the same unusual head.

What did you shoot on?
I am a DP by trade, and always shoot the music videos I direct. It’s all one visual storytelling job to me. I shot on my Alexa Mini with a set of Zeiss Standard Speed lenses. We used the 16mm lens on the Snorricam in order to see the darkness around him and to distort him to accentuate his frantic wanderings. Every lens in the set weighed in at just 1.25lbs, which is amazing.

The camera and lenses were an ideal pairing, as I love the look of both, and their light weight allowed me to get the rig down to 11lbs in order to get the Snorricam shots. We didn’t have time to build our own custom Snorricam vest, so I found one that was ready to rent at Du-All Camera. The only caveats were that it could only handle up to 11lbs, and the vest was quite large, meaning we needed to find a way to hide the shoulders of the vest under Ian’s wardrobe. So, I took a cue from Requiem for a Dream and used winter clothing to hide the bulky vest. We chose a green and brown puffy vest that held its own shape over the rig-vest, and also suited the character.

I chose a non-standard 1.5:1 aspect ratio, because I felt it suited framing for the anglerfish head. To maximize resolution and minimize data, I shot 3.2K at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and cropped the sides. It’s easy to build custom framelines in the Alexa Mini for accurate framing on set. On the Mini, you can also dial in any frame rate between 0.75-60fps (at 3.2K). Thanks to digital cinema cameras, it’s standard these days to over-crank and have the ability to ramp to slow motion in post. We did do some of that; each time Angler Boy sees Angler Girl, his world turns into slow motion.

In contrast, I wanted his walking around alone to be more frantic, so I did something much less common and undercranked to get a jittery effect. The opening shot was shot at 6fps with a 45-degree shutter, and Ian walked in slow motion to a recording of the track slowed down to quarter-time, so his steps are on the beat. There are some Snorricam shots that were shot at 6fps with a standard 180-degree shutter. I then had Ian spin around to get long motion blur trails of lights around him. I knew exactly what frame rate I wanted for each shot, and we wound up shooting at 6fps, 12fps, 24fps, 48fps and 60fps, each for a different emotion that Angler Boy is having.

Why practical vs. CG for the head?
Even though the fish head is a metaphor for Angler Boy’s emotional state, and is not supposed to be real, I wanted it to absolutely feel real to both the actor and the audience. A practical, and slightly unwieldy, helmet/mask helped Ian find his character. His isolation needed to be tangible, and how much he is drawn to Angler Girl as a kindred spirit needed to be moving. It’s a very endearing and relatable song, and there’s something about homemade, practical effects that checks both those boxes. The lonely pool of light coming from the lure was also an important part of the visuals, and it needed to play naturally on their faces and the fish mask. I wired Lite Gear LEDs into the head, which was the easy part. Our incredibly talented fabricator, Lauren Genutis, had the tough job — fabricating the mask from scratch!

The remaining VFX hurdle then was duplicating the head. We only had the time and money to make one and fit it to both actors with foam inserts. I planned the shots so that you almost never see both actors in the same shot at the same time, which kept the number of composited shots to a minimum. It also served to maintain the emotional disconnect between his reality and hers. When you do see them in the same shot, it’s to punctuate when he almost tells her how he feels. To achieve this I did simple split screens, using the Pen Tool in Premiere to cut the mask around their actions, including when she touches his knee. To be safe, I shot takes where she doesn’t touch his knee, but none of them conveyed what she was trying to tell him. So, I did a little smooshing around of the two shots and some patching of the background to make it so the characters could connect.

Where did you do post?
We were on a very tight budget, so I edited at home, and I always use Adobe Premiere. I went to my usual colorist, Vladimir Kucherov, for the grade. He used Blackmagic Resolve, and I love working with him. He can always see how a frame could be strengthened by a little shaping with vignettes. I’ll finally figure out what nuance is missing, and when I tell him, he’s already started working on that exact thing. That kind of shaping was especially helpful on the day exteriors, since I had hoped for a strong sunset, but instead got two flat, overcast days.

The only place we didn’t see eye to eye on this project was saturation — I asked him to push saturation farther than he normally would advise. I wanted a cartoon-like heightening of Angler Boy’s world and emotions. He’s going through a period in which he’s feeling very deeply, but by the time of writing the song he is able to look back on it and see the humor in how dramatic he was being. I think we’ve all been there.

What did you use VFX for?
Besides having to composite shots of the two actors together, there were just a few other VFX shots, including dolly moves that I stabilized with the Warp Stabilizer plug-in within Premiere. We couldn’t afford a real dolly, so we put a two-foot riser on a Dana Dolly to achieve wide push-ins on Ian singing. We were rushing to catch dusk between rainstorms, and it was tough to level the track on grass.

The final shot is a cartoon night sky composited with a live shot. My very good friend, Julie Gratz of Kaleida Vision, made the sky and animated it. She worked in Adobe After Effects, which communicates seamlessly with Premiere. Julie and I share similar tastes for how unrealistic elements can coexist with a realistic world. She also helped me in prep, giving feedback on storyboards.

Do you like the post process?
I never used to like post. I’ve always loved being on set, in a new place every day, moving physical objects with my hands. But, with each video I direct and edit I get faster and improve my post working style. Now I can say that I really do enjoy spending time alone with my footage, finding all the ways it can convey my ideas. I have fun combining real people and practical effects with the powerful post tools we can access even at home these days. It’s wonderful when people connect with the story, and then ask where I got two anglerfish heads. That makes me feel like a wizard, and who doesn’t like that?! A love of movie magic is why we choose this medium to tell our tales.


Cory Choy, Silver Sound Showdown festival director and co-founder of Silver Sound Studios, produced the video.


Smile wins Grand Prize for best music video at Showdown 8

By Randi Altman

Silver Sound’s Showdown 8 Music Video Festival took place this week at the Brooklyn Bowl, highlighting bands, showcasing music videos and naming the winner of their Best Music Video contest.

I’m proud to say that this was my fourth year as a judge of the contest and happy to report that my number one pick took home the top prize. Joe Staehly’s Smile, for artist Jay Pray, features an older woman revisiting places from her past, bringing with her a film projector that plays images of herself and friends — including one special boy — when they were young. Finally, in present day, she visits an older man in a medical facility. He clearly doesn’t recognize her and is visibly uncomfortable. The woman then turns off the lights and turns on projectors that fill the room with images of their past.

For this effort, Staehly took home the Grand Prize for the video he shot on Red Epic Dragon and Super 8 film. Smile brought the audience, and this judge, to tears. That’s right, a music video did that.

Twenty-three-year-old Staehly is a Philadelphia-based cinematographer and director at Set in Motion. Staehly, who also edited the piece, is the youngest grand prize winner in Showdown history.

Each year 21 music videos and four bands compete for the Grand Prize — Silver Sound will produce a music video with them — worth over $10,000. Staehly will be collaborating on this music video with artist Gabrielle Sterbenz.

Created eight years ago by the talents behind NYC audio post house Silver Sound, Showdown shows no sign of slowing down. “Music videos are an oft-overlooked medium that I personally find very exciting,” reports Silver Sound partner/festival director Cory Choy. “Music video directors take risks, both narratively and technically, that other filmmakers, who have to worry about dialogue, aren’t willing to take. It’s a challenge, but it’s also incredibly freeing and exciting to experience two stories simultaneously — the story that the music is telling, and the story that the movie is telling. The way these stories interact and resonate with each other… that’s what music videos are about.”


Super Hero music video gets Aardman Nathan Love treatment

The Aardman Nathan Love animation studio recently finished design and animation work on director Kris Merc’s music video for Super Hero, the leadoff single from Kool Keith’s new album Feature Magnetic that is a collaboration with MF Doom.

The video starts with a variety of hypnotic imagery, from eye charts to kaleidoscopic wheels, with Doom’s iconic, ever-rotating mask as its centerpiece.

“Being a huge fan of both Kool Keith and MF Doom for years, and knowing our studio had capacity to help Kris out, we couldn’t not get involved,” recalls Aardman Nathan Love (ANL) founder/executive creative director Joe Burrascano. “Kris was able to let his imagination run wild. ANL’s team of designers, 3D artists and technical directors gave him the support he needed to help shape his vision and make the final piece as strong and unique as possible.”

According to Merc, who’s helmed notable projects from music videos for hip-hop pioneers De La Soul to spots for HTC during his lengthy career, the Super Hero production afforded him the space to realize his vision of bending and manipulating pop aesthetics to create something altogether mysterious and otherworldly. “I wanted to capture something that felt like a visual pop travesty,” explains the director. “I wanted it to visually speak to the legacy of the artists, and Afrofuturism mixed with comic book concepts. I’m a fan of the unseen, and I was obsessed with the idea of using Doom’s mask and the iconography as a centralized point – as if time and space converged around these strange, sometimes magical tableaus and we were witnessing an ascension.”

To help develop his concepts, Merc worked closely with Aardman Nathan Love in several key stages of production from the idea and design stage to technical aspects like compositing and rendering. “Our specialty lies mainly in CG character animation work, which typically involves a lot of careful planning and development work up front,” adds ANL CG director Eric Cunha. “Kris has a very organic process, and is constantly finding inspiration for new and exciting ideas. The biggest challenge we faced was being able to respond to this constant flow of new ideas, and facilitate the growth of the piece. In the end, it was an exciting new challenge that pushed us to develop a new way of working that resulted in an amazing, visually fresh and creative piece of work.”

Zbrush was used to create some of the assets, and Autodesk Maya was Aardman Nathan Love’s main animation tool. Most of the rendering was done in Maxwell, aside of two or so shots that were done in Arnold.