Music videos have always played an important role in my life. I would record videos on MTV to a VHS tape and had a personalized mix of all of my favorite bands. I didn’t have a CD player at the time, nor ways of finding new music, so this was what I had. Before MTV turned to shit. I found a great band where I felt a great connection to the music, approached them, and made a video.
One Hundred Thousand is quite a progressive band. I wasn’t sure which song I wanted to do, but “Low” is one that, to me, has three acts. I felt like I could tell a story with these parts, and with Rich Matos (the band’s singer), we thought of some cool ideas that would visually bring this song to life. The band’s drummer, Kurt Wubbenhorst, mentioned the song was about loss. Since it was winter in New Jersey, I felt it was an appropriate time to shoot something sad.
The idea behind this video is our subject’s journey through a place that isn’t life or death. Sort of a limbo between the two, but feels like an out of body experience where he’s slowly learning the events that took place before he died. There is no religious tone, or anything like that. Just wanted to capture that feeling of the possibility of what would happen if you were blindsided in an accident, and you get this opportunity to learn how it all happened. I feel like it would be nice to know things like that.
Production took place over the course of two days. The first day was all outdoor snow scenes in my aunt’s backyard in Wantage, New Jersey. Acres of land where we were able to plant our story of this dreamworld. We shot on RED Scarlet, with the majority of it being on a Helix gimbal. We did some test shots the night before to get the hang of the gimbal, and it just wasn’t working. Calibration after calibration, nothing was working. It was just being an ass, so we packed it up and Matt, our DP, was able to make it work on shoot day. The crew was this - Matt, myself, and two generous high school students helping out with playback and assisting Matt with camera.
We actually weren’t anticipating as much snow as there was. I went a few months back to the location and you were able to see the ground. On this day, there was about two feet of snow, AND it was snowing, so we lucked out in a lot of the slow motion shots. Since there were a few VFX plates we wanted to do here, I made a shot list of some things that would be cool in this “limbo” land. Something that would have Rich feeling trapped in this out-worldly place where he would really feel like he isn’t on earth. Things like the forcefield came out great, and him touching the rock to feel this emotional connection that he’s not in reality gave it a tiny sci-fi element. We had some other ideas like Rich picking up a rose, squeezing it, and blood coming out. Too cheesy I thought. And also him picking up a dead bird and it coming to life and flying away - out of budget, and that’s a make-or-break I suppose. Glad we didn’t do it.
We shot the performance a couple of months after the outdoor stuff. I had already cut most of that together and strategically placed the shots I wanted in the appropriate areas. We shot in a Hoboken saw mill in about 8 hours, with two RED Scarlets, one being a Dragon. We used a mix of 2, 3, and 4K to nab some high frame rate closeups, and used some sliders - not a dolly (which we couldn’t get in time). Earlier in the day, we took care of the rooftop setting, where you can see the New York skyline from Downtown Jersey City. Sort of bummed we didn’t get the Freedom Tower in, but I wanted to keep it as generic as possible.
For post, I brought everything natively into Premiere and overcut the performance on top of the snow scenes. I outsourced the VFX forcefield shots to a group of kids I found on Reddit and they had the final pieces ready by the time I finished my rough cuts to share with the band. I cut the whole video in about two days, and spent a couple of weeks tweaking. Once I had a final I was happy with, I sent an XML over to Matt in New Jersey from Miami where he had a master backup of all the footage to grade in Resolve and finish in 2K.
Great experience, great band, and probably won't work in the snow again any time soon. Here's the video: