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I Directed a Not So Awesome Music Video


I'm friends with some guys in some bands here in St. Louis. After directing a crappy romantic comedy (see this post for details) I decided that I needed more practice being a director and thought a fun way to get that practice would be directing music videos for my friends.


The best thing about music videos is you can be so creative, and after playing around with concepts, I had one that I thought would be cool for the song "Shedding Skin" by the band LucaBrasi, one of the bands in which I had friends.


Years earlier I was taking photos inside a children's museum (photography is yet one more of my hobbies that I don't have time for anymore) and the light was too low, the shots were going to be underexposed. I needed a flash, which I didn't have. But what I did have was a tripod, which allows you to set a longer exposure and get more light onto the film. However, with a longer exposure, anything moving would be blurred. It occurred to me that this might turn out cool if I did it on purpose, so I set up the camera places where kids climbed on the installations designed for that purpose, and set the aperature for one full second. The results were cool, creating a sharp background with twisting, ghostlike kids running through them.


My idea for the "Shedding Skin" video was to do the same thing, but fire in rapid succession and then stitch the photos together using video editing software so that it created a moving blur with a sharp background. I ran some experiments and made some calculations and came to the conclusion that the only way to make it work would be to have two different cameras shooting the exact same thing from the exact same angle and synchronize them so that while one was recovering to take its next shot the other was exposing the negative (I shot this digital, so technically there is no negative, but you get what I mean). Now when I say the cameras had to shoot from the exact same angle, I mean the exact same angle. If they were off by a centimeter it would create a jarring back-and-forth motion that would make people seasick. I needed both cameras to be in the same place at the same time. Impossible right? Almost. I was aware there was a work-around trick, I just needed to get my hands on a beam-splitter.


For those of you who don't know, a beam-splitter is a box that has a special mirror inside of it that allows 50% of the light to pass through, and 50% of it to be reflected. If you put the mirror at a 45 degree angle to the thing you're shooting, and put one camera directly behind the mirror, and the other at 90 degrees facing toward the reflecting surface, both cameras will catch half the light. I won't bore you with the details of finding a beam-splitter I could rent or jury-rigging two of the same camera with the exact same lens onto the beam-splitter, and all that onto a tripod that I could move around as need be, but let's just say I used up a number of days in trial-and-error cycles and leave it at that.


I wound up shooting 14,000 frames, of which about 1,000 made it into the final cut of the video. It took me almost a month to edit, largely because of all the trial-and-error that process involved.


There's things I like about it and things I don't. The effect worked pretty well, but it also created a lot of limitations. The guys in the band were really cool and thanked me for wanting to do a video for them, but I don't think they loved it. The next time I spoke to my buddy Scott, who's a professional editor working in Hollywood, he was like, "Yeah… it was cool," but I could hear in his voice he did not think it was cool.


These are the dangers of getting too wrapped up in a concept and making everything else take a back-seat to that idea.

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