’14 Dusty winner Wayland Bell shares his most recent work with us: a music video with some old friends – from a distant planet. Here, he shows and tells us just how much work can go into a 3 minute music video.
“Soldier’s Last Day” by Open Space Rangers
Open Space Rangers (OSR) is a neo jazz rock groove band purportedly from another dimension. They go by the names of d and e (guitar and drums, respectively). I’ve had the pleasure of knowing these beings for several years now. In fact I produced and directed their very first video when I was 15 years old. It starred my brother and me and, before you go clicking away to Google: yes it is still up, and reviews have been polarizing.
Lo and behold, d and e have made contact once again and they’ve asked me back, after more than 7 years, to produce and direct another. The song is entitled Soldier’s Last Day and it is the first single off OSR’s new album. Check it out at the top!
Initially the concept for the video was “Garage Rock.” We’d take an empty space, fill it with smoke, give it a blasting organic godray, and then in post I would add the same brilliance to e and e’s various masks. I should say now that our budget for this video was in the region of $0. That can’t be true since I know the masks were bought for the production, but I showed up to set with a paper bag of clamp lights, the smoke machine my mom bought me one halloween, and my camera. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome with the look that ultimately BECAME the look. For example I originally just wanted a steady ray of light from that window. Of course it was daylight outside and the ambient light of the sun spilling through the window was brighter than any light I had with me.
I started with a two clamp lights with 200W crystal clear bulbs shining through full CTB into the room. It was so faint no god ray was discernible.
Moved up to a worklight tapped to a ladder. Barely a difference. Then my brother and I started searching through the set.
That’s when I said “Yo, what about that mirror?”
Although we wasted the morning failing to get our ray, the sun had come around the sky to pool perfectly outside the window. The mirror allowed us to direct the pool through the window, thus harnessing the naked power of sun itself. So for the duration of the video, that spotlight is my brother Sean on a ladder outside, blinding himself with a mirror. He did the first couple takes with a steady beam before I asked him to try panning it around. After that each take became more and more aggressive. That pulsing, fragmented beam became the model for the latter animation. But the sun didn’t stop for us. Sean had to chase it, scooting between each take to get the best reflection. By the last shot he had moved over 30 feet away to a nearby rooftop to catch the very last rays of the day.
After the shooting came the animation. It took me six months to hand rotoscope each frame of OSR’s glowing visages. I spent 10 hours a day inside, scribbling on a Wacom tablet. I spent the first 30 seconds of the video (over 40 hours of work) working in silence. Pretty soon I couldn’t handle the monotony, and I made letened to music for the next minute and a half (120 hours). Then it really became hard to focus,so I started listening to episodic podcasts. Soon the animation became so automatic for me that I realized I could basically rotoscope while I watched TV. I watched two seasons of The Sopranos, two seasons of The Blacklist, and two seasons of The X-Files while I roto’d. Not to mention the myriad of films, standup specials, and every late night talk show there is. Over 300+ hours of animation for 3 min 41 sec worth of footage.
It was a lot of work, and I hope it shows.