After shooting the Drop music video we agreed to take care of all the Burning Shapes music videos for their debut album quickly pulling together solid concepts for the third and fourth releases but getting stuck on the "difficult" second single Silence Amplified. Toby and I ran reams of emails past each other; a single shot tale of a guy running to stop his girlfriend from killing herself, a twisted stalker story about a guy who kidnaps the object of his obsession, even a superhero concept with a soundwaves controlling bad guy who ensnares the hero with a damsel in distress.
Randomly, I saw an article about a guy's resume. It was a photo of his face with a QR code over the mouth, when you scanned the code a video played of his mouth introducing himself, the smartphone fitted perfectly over the mouth area in the A4 picture so you had a talking photo. I thought it was a cool idea and sent it to Toby suggesting the idea could make a good band poster as they had been using a lot of QR codes, Toby rang straight back and said "why not use it for the video?". We discussed it, both feeling this could be the elusive concept, then Toby brought out a classic line of delegation; "I guess it just takes one of us to kind of run with it and make it their own." long pause...
I got the idea together and planned the shoot with Toby. To fit in with the band's QR angle and the smartphones in the video we also threw in tablet PCs and decided to try shooting on a smartphone too. It wasn't really up to it in my opinion so we tried a Flip camera instead, I didn't like it much more but we decided to go with it.
What the beautiful beach really looked like
I'd known Bonnie, a TV presenter and actress, for years and we kept saying we should do something together so I asked her if she fancied it and off we went to Southend one afternoon to get the beach shots. Luck was on our side and we got a stunning sunset that made everything look gorgeous, even though the reality was mud flats full of patches of broken glass and oil we were both still washing off days later.
With each scene transitioning into a video clip of the next scene, we had to shoot nearly everything backwards so that we always had the next scene available to play on the iPad. So starting from the last scene we had a smooth shoot with Toby and Bonnie effecting quick change mastery in a procession of cafe toilets around Tunbridge Wells and the striking High Rocks formation made for a great closing shot.
Waiting for the sun to go in and match previous shots
Next up Toby and I had a couple of days scheduled to get everything else and started off with a bunch of stuff around Sevenoaks; the shots in the flat and the woods. This was the first time we really brought the iPad into play and it was the beginning of a hate/loathe relationship. For all the marketing buzz about connectivity and being like magic, iPads really are a piece of shit. It wouldn't accept colour corrected clips with sound cues from Final Cut or Premiere, it wouldn't accept clips off an old or new iPhone, it wouldn't take clips off a Samsung, all it would accept, slowly and unreliably, were raw clips straight off the Flip Camera. We wanted to do a lot of strong colouring in the film so this was a big problem, every screen that appeared in the video would need to be colour graded differently to the rest of the picture, naturally I pulled out the standard filmmaker response "we'll fix it in post, don't worry about it."
Gaffa boy and parasol ninja in deepest Kent
Another issue we had seen coming were reflections. For a display device, iPads seem to be perfectly attuned to reflecting as much crap as possible, a polariser barely helped and half the time I ended up shooting in mid summer dressed head to toe in black with a balaclava and gloves, black tape over bits of the camera and a large black umbrella to try and minimise reflections on the tablet. It made an interesting sight in the very English Kent countryside, Toby with gaffer tape over his mouth and hands tied beind his back, me dressed as parasol ninja waving a camera around.
Shooting round Tunbridge Wells in the convertible
It took us three days to get all of ten seconds shot then finally things started to sludge forwards again with our last couple of days doing the long shot in the convertible and Toby on a perfectly contrasting stormy and miserable looking beach highlights. It all wound up with the smashing glasses scene where we created a kitchen wall in Toby's garden and hurled a succession of soft toys, tennis balls, beer cans then actual glasses at Toby.
The fake kitchen wall for the smashing glass shot
To get the slow motion effect the music cue was running four times faster than normal and we were trying to hit the glasses on particular beats picked out of a high speed Alvin and the Chipmunks mash. Yes, I nearly did throw one straight into his face by mistake. We also tried making Toby cry by making him bury his head in a carrier bag full of fresh cut onions for ten minutes which was pretty funny but it didn't show up on camera and we wasted nearly an hour pissing around with it because I couldn't get the shot right, after seven days frustrating shooting it was a real relief to finally finish.
The relief was short lived as things got considerably worse in editing. MP4 is a lousy format to edit with and we couldn't get a decent workflow going on Premiere or Final Cut even with conversions to other formats, everything took hours and the mass of reflections and colouration problems meant weeks of painstaking image keying to make the transitions work. About two months followed with two five hour sessions each day getting just a second or two completed each time, I began to wish we had gone for hand drawn animation instead.
Trying to find workflows for the iPad and editing
All told, working with Toby and Bonnie was a great experience and there were plenty of funny moments, but the high quantity of technology mostly made filmmaking suck like never previously. We resolved that ambition was a good thing but never to be pushed too far, and also that tablet PCs, especially iPads, had no value of any kind to the world and should all be melted down and made into something useful like sporks immediately. Most importantly we resolved that if Toby ever heard me say "we can fix it in post" again he should kick me hard in the balls as quickly as possible...