Like the “Golden Ballroom” video, we shot “Trapdoor” using my iPhone 4 and edited everything in iMovie on my Macbook Pro. This time I purchased a legit Steadicam Smoothee for iPhone 4/4S to get shake-free shots as I walked around the set. I looked into some build-it-yourself steadicam tutorials online but figured I’d never actually get around to building one. At around $120 it was worth it just to get the project off the ground.
We shot everything over two weekends at Pat’s parent’s house in Renton. We set up in the garage and strung a 9×12 canvas painters’ drop cloth (purchased at Fred Meyer) as our backdrop.
A week earlier I had built an overhead lighting rig out of black foam core (also purchased at Fred Meyer). I might have gone a little overboard with the design — the slats in the “pallet” had Velcro strips that allowed them to be moved if we needed to adjust the amount of light streaming through the gaps. We ended up never using this feature. The foam core ensured that the rig would be lightweight and lessened the chance of killing a bandmate if it fell.
I used carabiners to attach a clamp light above the pallet, and then we hoisted it up to the ceiling, attaching it to a bicycle wall storage hook. The original lamp was a little too bluish, but we happened to find another outdoor bulb on a shelf that gave off light that was more suitably yellow.
Then we used cardboard to mask off all the windows in the garage and closed it up so that the only light source was the rig. After wrapping some paper around the rig to prevent light leakage to the sides, it started looking like this:
That’s what I’m talkin’ about! The iPhone camera behaved beautifully in the low light, much better than I’d hoped.
Kyle wasn’t available the first day, so we set everything up as described above, then shot Patrick and Nelson’s footage. It was early September and it also happened to be indescribably sweltering hot. Like high 90s hot. Not ideal for being shut up in a garage. I had originally planned to create a DIY smoke machine (you boil water and glycerine together to produce a thick steam) but the smoke went straight up to the high garage ceiling and stayed there. Heat rises, who knew? Even when we were able to pull some smoke down into the shot, it barely registered on camera. And it was already raging hot in the garage, so we scrapped it.
Weeks passed and before I knew it, it was November, and we still had to get Kyle in for his takes! So we met at the house again and set everything back up. Only this time — it was see-your-breath FREEZING. We’d had an early cold snap and there was actually frost on the grass. If you’re wondering why Kyle is the only one wearing a jacket in this video, it’s because he’s the smart one. Kyle manned the camera while I did my takes and it was so cold my fingers barely worked. But we got what we needed and got out of there.
So remember: when you see Pat and Nelson, they’re on the verge of heatstroke. When you see Kyle and I, we’re courting hypothermia. LOL.
In the time between September and November, I shot most of the jumpy nightmare scenes. I’d basically find some tools or busted up wood lying around the garage or our rehearsal space and film it for a minute or two. iMovie effects were used to desaturate the colors out and crank up the exposure to give those bits a stark, dream-fragment quality. The animated rope-curling effects are done by just adjusting the clip settings to play at high speed. The creepy security cam shots were done with an Olloclip fisheye lens and using a Glif to mount the iPhone to a camera tripod jacked up as high as it would go.
All the principal shooting was finished by November 2012. So why did it take almost a year to finish this video? Because I am a master procrastinator. Once the fun of making the set pieces and shooting everything was over, I was left with the daunting task of actually composing the thing. All that syncing! All those jump cuts! And of course I had to choose the longest song of the EP (over five minutes!) to make a video.
Here’s just a partial list of things I did instead of finishing this video:
wrote and recorded a holiday song
helped a stranger record a holiday song
mixed, remixed and re-remixed some demos I’ll probably never release
drew some doodles
began an iPhone app project (not finished either!)
read a bunch of comics
rebuilt my front steps
mortared the stone walkway in front
re-shot all of Patrick’s footage and then threw it away because it wasn’t as good
played through Bioshock Infinite
played through Borderlands 2 and most of the DLC
played through most of The Last Of Us
…all of which probably could have waited the 10 or so hours it took me to get from an empty iMovie project to the final edit. What eventually prompted me to finish wasn’t artistic desire so much as shame avoidance. Fortunately, Resistance is a coward once you start swinging your fists, and I found that all I needed to get focused was to simply watch what I had done so far.
That said, I probably won’t be committing to another video project for awhile. See, Diablo 3 is coming out for PS3…