UPPERMOST "DANCE" MUSIC VIDEO
A little while back we approached French electronic artist Uppermost about doing a music video for his track "Dance." Little did we know it would end up being one of the most challenging and rewarding projects that Spliced Films has ever taken on. The intense six day shooting schedule that took us all across California and the complex post production workflow filled with difficult VFX work made this video an extremely ambitious undertaking. The end result however is a music video that we are all extremely proud of.
From the earliest inception of this project we knew we wanted to bring a strong sci-fi and cyberpunk look and feel to this music video. Some of the biggest influences on the style of the video came from our favorite sci-fi films. Blade Runner, Alien, Ghost in The Shell, and Akira. We wanted to create a sharp contrast between the nightmare worlds and the laboratory with use of lighting and color correction. The nightmare worlds have a very washed out and grainy look almost like destroyed film while the laboratory has a strong sense of contrast and color to give it a more cold and modern feel. With our edit we wanted to bring the viewer into the story at a slow pace and then hit them with a hurricane of imagery once the main character is thrown into the nightmare.
From the outset of this project we knew that Uppermost did not have any kind budget available to make a music video but we were in love with the song "Dance" and we felt very strongly about the concept we had created so we decided to fund it ourselves. Pooling what we could spare of our personal money into the project we ended up with a budget of less than $3000 for the entire project, which is a very slim budget for any kind of music video, especially one as ambitious as this.
Working on such a limited budget this music video became a passion project for our team. To make this video a reality we pulled in every single favor we possibly could, from locations to props, to camera and lighting equipment. The entire cast and crew for this video was made up of friends of the Spliced Films team who came out and donated their time on the project because they believed in what we were making. The majority of the actual project budget was spent on purchasing the materials to create the laboratory set which we constructed inside of an empty warehouse space donated to us for the shoot by a friend.
One of the largest challenges in making this video was creating the scientist's underground laboratory. We wanted to create a very ominous space which felt both high tech and at the same time very homemade and nightmarish. To do this we began with an empty warehouse space which a good friend allowed us to use. In the week preceding the shoot our production designer Matthew Withers went from junkyard to junkyard collecting different materials to help bring the lab to life.
We started construction the day before our first day of shooting. In the space of that day we took an empty warehouse space and transformed it into a cyberpunk lab with glue guns, spray paint, broken electronics, and a whole lot of imagination. It was an intense day of work, but by the end, we had our lab.
Here's a short behind the scenes video of our team shooting a shot from the laboratory destruction sequence.
To show the difference in the different nightmare programs inside of the scientist's machine we wanted to utilize strongly contrasting locations. To achieve this we searched across southern California for the perfect spots to represent forest, ocean, and desert. We ended up shooting in the Angeles Crest Forest, the port of Long Beach, and in the desert near Lake Los Angeles. Each of these locations offered it's own particular set of logistical difficulties to overcome. Our desert location required a long hike with equipment and some rock climbing, our forest location was at the end of a half mile hike which featured a couple of stream crossings, and our ocean shoot left both our lead actor Megan and our directors Alex and Connor very cold and extremely tired. The shoot days were exhausting and had their share of obstacles but in the end, the footage we captured made it all worthwhile.
Post production for this video proved to be one of the most challenging but also integral part of the whole process. Our lead editor and post supervisor Fred Beahm was working on a TV show out of state after we finished principle photography. To work around the distance between us we did a large majority of the editing for the video remotely by using duplicated hard drives and sharing project files and exports on Google Drive. This system allowed us to refine and improve the edit even while our directors and lead editor were over 1200 miles apart. The edit itself was challenging but also allowed a lot of room for creative techniques and experimentation that ultimately made this one of the more unique and stylized projects Spliced Films has ever created.
Once the edit was finished we moved into an intense visual effects workflow. To take on the 41 different individual effects needed to complete this video Fred pulled from his friends and colleagues to build a team of extremely talented VFX artists. A majority of these artists were located out of state so we had to work remotely with them. In order to streamline this process we expanded on the system had used for editing and built a Google Drive based workflow filled and documents that contained all of our DPX plates, detailed shot descriptions and lengths, reference images, and also the versions of each comp for review purposes. While the process of creating and refining these effects was still very long and labor intensive, this streamlined remote workflow helped make it much faster and more efficient.