It’s Almost One Single Shot – Making a Music Video

3's company music video, dance
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We so proud of this music video. We shot with a steadi-cam and did some subtle visual effects in post-production to make this "single take" video for 16OS' 3's company.

By Gino Destefano Valdivia

GinoBlog_3sCompany1

It was during one of our weekly Monday meetings that Jason Sirotin first brought up the 16 OS videos. 3’s Company and Beauty had just been approved by the client and Jason Sirotin, a principal at ECG Productions in Atlanta, Georgia, wanted to a have a blog post written for each video to accompany their release. He asked the interns to watch the videos and decide who wanted to tackle each assignment. After watching 3’s Company, I jumped at the opportunity.

While I’ve grown to love the song on repeat viewings, it was the music video that intrigued me the most at first. I’m a big fan of long takes–this is one of the reasons I love the work of Emmanuel Lubezki– and I was genuinely interested in finding out how ECG was able to capture 95% of the music video in one continuous shot. When you think about the location and choreography, the finished product is even more impressive. I also wanted to find out who was the actor in the video. He looked very similar to someone I had just met recently…

I contacted Jason Sirotin and Brandon Peterson, the Atlanta based directors of the music video, that Monday afternoon and was able to schedule an interview with them the very next day. Given their extremely busy schedules, I felt very fortunate. The full interview with them is below.

One week after the interview, while I was preparing the visuals to go with this blog post, Brandon showed me the Premiere project for 3’S Company. It looked like there was enough extra footage to make a behind-the-scenes video. So I did. Check out Jason explain the concept for 16 OS’ newest music video while he and the rest of the crew prepare to get the camera rolling:

Behind The Scenes of 16 OS – 3s Company from ECG Productions on Vimeo.

Here’s the complete interview between me, Brandon and Jason about the making of 3’s Company:

 

Gino:Alright, so first off, can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with 16 OS? I know that this isn’t the first time that you’ve worked with him, is that correct?
Brandon:Jay met him first. How did you first meet him?
Jay:16 called me and he was like, “Hey listen, I really love your work. I don’t have a budget, and I’m really trying to make it as an artist, and I think I have some good songs. Would you be interested in listening?” He was so humble and super cool, and I was like, “Yeah, definitely, we’ll meet with you.”
He had no budget for his first video, I think he had $1000 and so we decided, we really liked the song ‘Invictus’ off the album, and so we tried to think of a simple concept that would really highlight him as an artist and put the focus on the words. Then we pitched him the idea in-person and he was all in.
16 OS is awesome, he’s just like, he’s a brilliant guy, and he’s got a Masters degree. I mean he’s like a really smart motherfucker.
Brandon:Yeah, he’s very intelligent and he knows a lot of big words. Which is important if you’re a rapper –
Jay:Well, unless you’re doing trap music. What did you think about him?
Brandon:I just thought he was very intelligent and more old-school, he’s more of an old-school type rapper. He’s just more lyrical and more poetic, I guess. Not just rapping about things that are catchy or sexual or –
Jay:Well, the new album is steering towards more popular music….
Brandon:A little more mainstream.
Jay:He wants to be mainstream, and he knew that his last album was just a little too thoughtful. It’s like Jay-Z used to say, “You have to dumb it down for everybody,” and I think he’s doing that but in a really smart way. His rhymes are still really tight and really good.
Brandon:He still has his style, he didn’t lose the style doing that.
Jay:He reminds me of my favorite rapper, which is Aceyalone. Just really, really thoughtful, even his new pop stuff. And his producer, Kid Class, is so awesome. All the beats that they do, everything that they do together is just really great.
Brandon:Kid Class is a good singer, too. He sings.
Gino:Obviously 16 had a good experience working with ECG Productions the first time because he contacted you again. How did this second project start?
Jay:We went out to dinner as friends–we do that probably every two or three months–and he was like, “Hey, you want to listen to some of the new tracks?” And every track he played for me, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s amazing. It’s going to be a hit. OH MY GOD, THAT’S AMAZING. IT’S GOING TO BE A HIT.” It just kept going, and I was like, “I gotta do this, man. I gotta make some of these videos…I’ll do them for free.”
I just really wanted to work with him because I think this next album, something’s going to happen with it. And if not, man it was fun making the videos. I wanted to work with Brandon because I think we both have the same feelings about–his name’s Harrison–16. So I talked to Brandon, and I pitched him something that I had had in my head for a while.
Brandon:The dance idea.
Jay:The dance idea.
Brandon:Which I wasn’t hot on at first.
Jay:He was not.
Brandon:Just because I don’t think of Jay as a dancer, but he did a good performance. I was impressed with his performance in the video.
Gino:That was going to be my next question. Who was the person behind the glasses? Honestly when I first saw the video, I thought the guy looked a bit like Jay. So you are saying it was in fact Jay?
Brandon:You didn’t know.
Gino:I didn’t know. I thought it might be him.
Brandon:
Gino:
That’s Jay.
Wow. So that is.
Brandon:I thought this was maybe just Jay’s way of trying to get famous or something like that, like Jay was doing it for Jay’s sake. I was like, “Why? It doesn’t match the video. The video’s about a threesome, what is Jay dancing have to do with it?”
Jay:

 

 

Gino:

I had always had this idea  since watching the Fatboy Slim video back in the day with Walken and Sia’s Chandelier video. I love full dance pieces, and the concept was that if you completely let go and you just let out all your emotions in that moment, that any dance, anybody doing it is interesting. Right? A 38-year-old, white guy dancing to a rap song about having a threesome, I like that it was kind of off, and the idea that he was in this kind of weird trance state. It was really hard to get Brandon to understand it, that if anybody lets go and they just do whatever they’re feeling, then it’ll be interesting to watch.

It really was.

Brandon:I wasn’t sure if Jay would really be able to get there, but he did. You were loose, you were very loose. At first I didn’t know that his dance would coordinate with the song but because some of the dance moves correspond to the lyrics, it does feel like it belongs with the video. At first I thought it wouldn’t, that it’d feel disjointed, but it goes right along with the song so it definitely feels like a 16 OS music video and not like you took some video and just played the song under it.
Jay:Brandon definitely made that point clear, and I think a lot of those things stuck because I would do the dance in my head, and in my head, I am way more graceful, and everything is way more effortless. The first time I did it, I thought I was going to die.
Brandon:He had an asthma attack.
Jay:I had an asthma attack, I couldn’t breathe, I’m on the ground. I think we did it six times?
Brandon:Something like that, maybe four. Four to six. At least four.
Jay:Yeah, it felt like a thousand times. I watch the video now, and I make it look effortless, but it was exhausting and we actually shot it, was it 1.5?
Brandon:1.5X. We’re actually running through this… Jay was doing all like freaking out (tries to demonstrate Jay’s dancing), so when you play it back in normal motion, it looks –
Jay:It looks… you know how it has that fluid motion.
Brandon:Somewhat slow motion.
Jay:When you’re watching it back, you’ll notice how there’s that fluidity to it.
Brandon:It looks like it’s in slow motion, but it still syncs up with the song.
Jay:Brandon did a lot of speed things to make things match better. He would play with the speed so that it was really on point.
Brandon:Just because it was so fast he couldn’t possibly hit it, and Jay did a good job. I didn’t have to tweak it much.
Jay:

Gino
Jay:

When I ‘ey’ (demonstrates a dance move), you know after I cross through the big hangar area, it’s timed so perfectly. Yeah, and then you see those people at the end, we didn’t know that they would be there. That place was empty.
Oh. So those people weren’t supposed to –
No, those people weren’t there (earlier). And so when I come out of that big area and see those people down there, I’m like, “What are we going to do? I’m not stopping. I’ve already done it.”
Brandon:The show must go on. This was one take. He had one shot.
Jay:It’s one shot, so I was like, “I’m going for it.” When you see me with the beer and I’m like, “The fuck out of the way”, I screamed, “Get the fuck out of the way!”
Jay:To these strangers and kids.
Brandon:It was like a woman showing these group of kids, maybe like some school thing, I don’t know.
Gino:I love it.
Brandon:Also, we should mention that you’re not supposed to be on that property. It’s trespassing.
Jay:Let’s leave that out.
Brandon:I’m saying you’re not supposed to be there, so we can’t control the environment. What happens happens. We could’ve gotten robbed for all we know.
Jay:Yeah, on the first day we were like, “We’re going to get fucking killed” because we walked through the whole area and there’s tons of secret crevices and some of the most beautiful graffiti in town.
Brandon:It’s a large space. Anybody could be hiding out and nobody would know you were there.
Gino:That’s crazy.
Brandon:We didn’t want to ask for forgiveness because we tried to ask for permission to get that place and they’re not going to let us shoot in there. It’s dangerous.
Jay:It’s super dangerous.
Brandon:The ceiling is falling apart.
Jay:And gross, very gross. I threw out all the clothes immediately after.
Brandon:Yeah, because you had to go on the ground among the drug needles. But it’s beautiful, so much texture in that environment. That place is called Pullman Yard and tons of people shoot there – photography and video, and they all trespass.
Jay:… and Catching Fire.
Brandon:They did. That was legitimate.
Jay:When I’m humping the tree with the Go Pro, that tree, part of it is made out of foamcore and they made it look like it was on fire.
Brandon:For ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ yeah there’s a scene in there at that place. I’m sure they did it legitimate. I feel like of all people that have shot there, I don’t think anybody shows it the way we do, with a super wide angle lens going from the beginning of the place to the end, you see almost the whole space in one music video. It’s pretty cool.
Jay:And it was raining that day. We had to do it a lot of times because there was water getting on the lens. There are two drops on the lens which nobody else will probably notice, but all I see is the raindrops.
Brandon:And what I really wanted to make sure that we got in the video to help tie it all together is… Because to me it’s a video about a threesome, and Jay’s idea is that his character fails at life. He thinks he’s cooler than he is. He thinks he’s really hot, really attractive, can get women and stuff. But if you watch it, in the beginning you hear these sounds of, “Get the fuck” and it’s all echo-y and stuff so we don’t really know what that sound is, but then at the end you see those girls are kicking him and waking him up… The idea is he was there the whole time.
Jay:A hallucination.
Brandon:He passed out drunk, blacked out, but in his mind he’s the man, and so he goes on this dance routine showing off, but really he’s just passed out drunk and the girls are trying to wake him up. It was a failed threesome because he fails at everything. He had the two girls. He was trying to get a threesome with them–they’re probably hookers–but even then he still can’t succeed.
Jay:Couldn’t close the deal with them. Story of my life.
Brandon:He passed out on them, the time is up and they want him to leave.
Brandon:They’re kicking him and telling him to get out of there. Everyone’s still clothed. It was a failure.
Gino:All the meaning, all the layers of meaning in this video. It’s incredible.
So most of the video is one continuous shot. I know that was really tough on Jay, but how difficult was it for you, Brandon, from a technical perspective getting everything pretty much in one shot. You say you only did four takes, five takes?
Brandon:The biggest part is I couldn’t see what I was doing. That’s why the camera tests we did before were crucial.
Jay:We mapped it out. We had a map.
Brandon:I can show you the map if you want to post it. It shows Jay’s dance moves and my camera position. It was all synchronized, where we were going to be and when.
Jay:On Vimeo you can see the walkthrough, how we made the path. It’s what we used to communicate about timing, because the timing was so critical on it. Brandon did an amazing job. To hold the camera that steady through a whole thing and keep me perfectly framed 98% of the time, it’s beautiful.
Brandon:The challenging thing is… a lot of times when you’re doing these types of steady cam shots, you would have somebody pulling focus, you have somebody with a wireless video, or I would be able to monitor.  But because of the camera position I had–it was low angle–and because I was running, I couldn’t really see the monitor most of the time. It was just a small monitor on the back of an a7S, and we used the Wenpod gimble. You can’t really mount a monitor to that.
Because we’re so wide angle, that helped. What I would do is look at the position of the lens to Jay and would just watch the camera and not watch the actual monitor. After practicing, you develop a sense for the angle the lens would need to be at to have him framed in. There’s one point in the video where he’s framed up too high–that part bugs me, I missed it on that part–but the rest of it’s framed pretty nicely.
Jay:Without seeing it, it’s crazy.
Brandon:The challenge was just running with the thing.
Jay:It’s going so fast.
Brandon:If I wanted to circle around Jay, if I make a perimeter around Jay –
Jay:He’s gotta be ahead of me.
Brandon:I got to move three times faster.
Jay:So when we weaved out  of those walls, when we come in off the deck, Brandon is bolting past me. I’m going around the other wall, and he meets me here. Then I go straight, he’s running back, and he added in the layer of complexity by going through that door after the big hangar. Yeah, it did look really cool, and it was a good transition point for the color grade.
Brandon:Yeah, exactly. Probably one of the fastest moves was when I went all the way around the tree when he’s doing the Go Pro thing. I was running around the tree there.
Jay:Remember the guy who’s holding the speaker, Steven.
Brandon:It was a three person crew.
Jay:That’s it.
Brandon:Steven had to go even faster than me.
Jay:Steven’s behind him, and he has to stay out of the camera but with the speaker.
Brandon:Yeah, he was just holding a small speaker to play it because otherwise Jay can’t perform it.
Gino:Right. Right.
Brandon:We needed a big sound–you can’t just play a phone.
Jay:Yeah, it has to take over.
Brandon:So you can feel it.
Jay:Makes you feel less inhibited too, you know?
Brandon:Exactly, to feel the music.
We bought the loudest portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy. It’s called the Soundblaster Roar, Roar because it’s loud. Picture a planetary system, each outer layer needs to move faster just to… or even a race. If you’re running on a track, the outside lanes have to be going faster. That’s why we stagger them, have the inside lanes start further back. Steven, he was really hauling ass behind me.
Brandon:There’s one take where you caught the edge of Steven’s foot, running. We didn’t use that take, but it’s the one time that Steven got in the shot. Surprisingly there were no other times. He did a good job.
Gino:That’s awesome.
Brandon:We were just a three man crew when we ran up on these people. It must have been a weird art installation for them. Just imagine you’re checking out Pullman Yard as this one drunk dude comes staggering by and then have the camera and Steven playing this song on this speaker. I’m sure it was really weird for them.
Brandon:But they liked it. I think they clapped after.
Gino:Last question. What’s your hope for this video? Where do you see it going?
Jay:One thing I’ve learned is that you never know what people are going to think. 16 showed it to his manager and I guess one of his manager’s guy who manages some other big rappers, and they’re like “This thing’s gonna be huge,” but you just don’t know. People could hate it.
All I care about is that we did it. That’s how I care about every piece of art that we do.
Brandon:That’s half the battle.
Jay:Right, we did it.
Brandon:Lots of people have great ideas, they never execute them.
Jay:Now we’ve done it, and if somebody’s ever like “Have you ever done a dance video?” it’s like, sort of.
Brandon:Hopefully it does take off, but you just never know.
Jay:Yeah, we want 16 to be successful, and the fall at the beginning is very real. That was not planned, but it worked out nicely. It was either fall forward and smash my head on the tracks, or fall kind of backwards and then roll, and I thought about stopping and then I was like “Nah, let’s just go because I’ve already put in this much effort.”
Gino:You might as well go all in.
Jay:Yeah, and it turned out to be the best take.
Brandon:I think it looks cool when you fall. You can see that it’s more in slow motion.
Jay:Yeah.
Brandon:At the end of the video it goes regular motion, so then you can compare when he falls at the end–that’s regular motion. If you compare the speed of those falls, then that’s one way to tell.
Jay:You should have Brandon send you the tracks, you can hear how fast the music was.
Brandon:Yeah, the 1.5X tracks.
Jay:That’d be good to have.
Gino:That’d be great.

 

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