Music Video Release: There Is Fire
We're stoked to announce our first music video. As you can see from the video, the pyrotechnics were top notch and a blast to create. In this blog we'll break down how this indie music video was filmed and created.
Making an indie music video
The concept for this video was borne purely out of science.
One of our good friends is a physics teacher at a local high school. When preparing to launch our EP, we were trying to brainstorm easy ways to make indie music videos, lyric videos, and other video content to put on YouTube. We had a budget of about nothing, so we began getting creative with cool practical effects that would translate well for our music.
The first idea my incredibly-smart-and-proffessorly friend Jackson had was the use of a microwave transformer connected to a piece of wood. This creates what's called a Lichtenberg figure. The stunning facet of this experiment is that you can actually see the energetic tines of the figure sprawl out onto wood when running the transformer's current into the block. As cool as that experiment sounds, our first round was a fail, so we may circle back to that later.
The second idea Jackson came up with was making a super bad ass sparkler. This idea immediately resonated with us. after all, we do have a song named "There Is Fire".
How to make a steel wool sparkler
Here's how to make a steel wool sparkler:
Fan out the steel wool, pulling it apart just slightly to get some spread.
Tie some rope around the middle of the steal wool, and leave some line for you to get swingin'.
Brush one end of the steel wool with the contacts from the battery.
Start swinging – and wear long sleeves. Oh and don't mind getting your hair singed.
Capturing the fire footage
We wanted to make sure we caught these tinders with great detail. This required pretty intense lighting, and a solid camera. However, when your budget is just leftover lunch money, renting a Red Camera or huge lighting rig isn't really possible. So we put a little bit out there and made magic happen.
camera for an indie music video
For about a hundred bucks, we rented a Panasonic GH5 for the weekend, and borrowed a 1K open face light to wash out the star of the film: guitarist and songwriter Adam Griffith. Supplies for the fire element wasn't too expensive, so overall the budget was about $100 for production of the video.
Granted, there is one major cost that I didn't take note of, and that was the employ of a buddy from Ember Productions who directed and filmed the video. But if you have an eye for it, the GH5 isn't too complex of a camera, and anyone could give it a shot with great success.
We cranked the frame rate up to 180fps on the Panasonic GH5 so get a lot of these amazing spark shots. The embers just seemed to fall off of the steel wool bundle as Adam swung. Watching the reaction happen was pretty phenomenal. You can get a feel for how fast the steel wool breaks down by brushing the battery up against a stationary bundle, and see how fast it combusts without swinging. it's legitimately magical.
experimenting for our steel wool sparkler
We had to light a handful of bundles for various shots, so we strung out the steel wool packs into several little strands.
To get the best footage, we took 3 main shots. The first we took with Adam's whole body within the frame, allowing that 1K to really flood the angle and give Adam a shadowy cast. This also allowed us to capture the entire swing to be in frame. During this wide angle, we had Adam walk out of frame when the wool had become about two-thirds consumed. You can see him walking out to the left at the end of the video. What I liked most about that final walk out of frame is the embers that you see splashing behind him, like droplets of water that sprinkle out of a a shower's mist.
The second angle was fairly close, about waist up. This angle caused some of the sparks to create a bit more of a backdrop, and you get to see some embers up close without anything becoming out of focus.
The final angle we captured was extremely close up. This allowed for some shadows on Adam's face to really take shape, contrasting with a beautiful bokeh of the sparks. This angle created an effect that made it seem like the sparks would randomly appear out of nowhere. Since you don't get to see the full swing of the steel wool, those sparks show up at obscure times, providing a bit of mystery to the video.
Editing the indie music video
After I received all the raw footage, I divided them up into the 3 different angles. There were a few clips that we had to ditch because the steel wool didn't light the way we wanted, but that was expected. The next step was to decide the feel and flow.
I looked through all the footage and flagged the best spots. Sifting through each clip, I realized there was this amazing section that had this fog sitting densely in the air. This was it. The right amount of mystery and intrigue to pull the viewer into the video.
Putting the first shot into Final Cut, the rest of the video took shape really quick. I decided I didn't really want the fire to show up until the second verse, so I put some sparks in the intro to foreshadow the rest of the video. Wanting to build the video almost like we built the song, it made sense to leave the sparks out until the drums came in.
About halfway through the video I started to realize it was losing steam. I still had the entire bridge – which takes a bit of a lull – to get through, and I needed to make sure anticipation stayed high to keep viewers watching. As I thought about how to keep intrigue high, I pondered different effects for slo-mo videos, and came up with speed ramping.
Adding some speed ramping was a great start. It provided a good mix to the feel of the video, but it wasn't quite enough. The final effort to add more movement to the video came in reversed footage. Combining speed ramps with reversing effects produced a really compelling ending to the video.
Figuring out what type of titles to use was difficult. It's a lot of pressure, especially because there are so many fonts out there, and so many ways to approach adding titles to lyric videos.
I started with some fonts similar to Helvetica and Futura, and landed on Bebas Neue. But how to display the text? Fades, dissolves, flashes, and tons of other transition elements are all viable when it comes to lyric videos.
A bit of collaboration and googling resulted in this awesome glitching title effect that we ended up using.
Color grading the indie music video
Our buddy Matt at Ember Productions (who shot the video) wanted to add the final touch to the video color.
The color from the Panasonic GH5 created a pretty powerful contrast between the blue of the LED and the orange glow of the sparks, so we wanted to accentuate that. Matt also wanted to pull more light out of the source, so he created some lens flares to pull out more light from the footage.
Overall, this video was a major success. It way smoother than any of the other videos we've worked on (more to come in the future), and turned out the best. Adam and I felt like this was a huge step forward in the quality of our content.