Dušan Sekulović got in touch with FCP.co to tell us about a music video he produced. Inspired by old black and white films, he explains how everything was edited and composited in Final Cut Pro X.
This follows on nicely from our discussion about FCPX and Motion live on YouTube yesterday where we said nothing can match the fluidity and speed of FCPX. As you will see, Dušan expresses it in a more elegant fashion than we did!
We asked Dušan a few quick questions about how the video was made:
Q: how did this music video come about?
Death To The Uptight is a single from MSB’s (Michael Sackler-Berner) new album Short Stories. It’s a haunting album that I become addicted to.
Michael wrote Death To The Uptight as an Americana thing about a corrupt and broken country with people living like hamsters in a wheel.
When we met to talk ideas for the music video I had this different idea that involved using a car, and then Micheal played me that car chase scene from Hitchcock’s Notorious — with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant. It was a revelation!
I loved how the old back projection technique created layers. Of course in all these films the intention was always to make it feel as real as possible and not fake.
But it was the artificial distortion that made this more compelling to me. The layers of the back projection played off a parallel theme in the song: the multiple identities that we all embody; the person we think we are, the one we dream to be, and the one that others project on us — fictional realities created by our minds.
The concept developed from there. We decided Michael will play various versions of himself that all step into a magic MG Roadster and ride into the paranormal. A sort of Rorschach Western filled with ink blots . In the end all these versions of Michael end up in the same place, flying off a cliff.
Q: How did you shoot this.
We filmed over two days in Long Island, New York. We set up a green screen in a driveway and I backlit everything with that quadrillion watt HMI in the sky. I had the car propped up on pallets so it would not shift when Michael switches places and characters. We then shot all the background plates and scenes in the vicinity.
The main camera was a Sony a7s recording 4K ProRes to an Atomos Shogun, I then used the GoPro 7 to capture the plates and the spinning wheel.
The internal stabilization of the GoPro 7 is amazing. The car was shaking and vibrating like crazy, and I had the GoPro jerry-rigged at the end of a wooden slat taped to the front of the car, and the shots came out smooth as hell.
I also liked the distortion the GoPro had and did not adjust or crop it out. I was going to cut this in the same aspect ratio that Notorious was shot in, 1.375:1, Academy ratio … So I used as much vertical as the GoPro sensor would give me.
Q: Tell me about post and using Final Cut Pro X.
I knew I was going to cut this in X. I get hired on lots of jobs where I use Premiere or Avid, so I am very familiar with them — and they all ultimately do the same thing, but...
What I love about X is the power and speed, and kick ass workflow. And that translates into being able to do all the effects, keying and layering in one application.
When you work with music all the movements in the frame can be used as dancers, and I sometimes like to cut to the beat and then off the beat, and then use objects in the scene to play with certain elements of the song.
For me all that has to be done in a very freestyle, improvisational approach, as if you are jamming with the band in a room. And doing that becomes very hard when you have effects, because you loose speed and get caught up working across various software, twiddling your thumbs, waiting for things to render, just to decide you need to shift this or that, and start twiddling your thumbs again.
In this video I had up to five layers, keyed and masked, with different effects — like blurs and heat distortions — all sitting in my timeline and I was able to adjust them all individually and cut by feel and instinct — as if I was working with a single stream of video. It’s incredibly liberating creatively, and keeps you in the zone.
I did use a powerful iMac Pro and I did have to wait for things to render a bit (especially with the heat distortion effect,) but we are talking seconds not minutes or hours.
Another thing that X does well is scale the native file when you have things sub-comped, for example that cliff shot at the end, where I had the car zipping along a flat top mountain. I had two layers of scenery, a bird, three 4k layers of keyed characters, two sets of spinning wheels, generated smoke, heat distortion, a bit of promist and different color grading on each element, all applied in my timeline, nothing pre-rendered out.
I could have zoomed in to see the faces of people in the car and everything would have scaled up perfectly. It’s the kind of thing you use After Effects for, and here I was doing it in my NLE, tweaking elements on the fly, it’s such a liberating way to work.
Want to know more? You can visit Dušan's website here.