Earlier this month, the Recording Academy released an ’evolving music video’ in the spirit of the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. Featuring Grammy-nominated artist, Ella Mai, the Boo’d Up video was designed to change the more it was viewed.
Tool of North America’s James Frost directed the project, which features sound design by West LA's Barking Owl (www.barkingowlsound.com). The video began as a black & white acapella version
. As more and more viewers watched, the Recording Academy released updated versions, building on the initial video. In the
, the video is full color and Ella Mai is backed by a full band, including a marching band.
“At the start of the project, I approached it knowing that the turnaround was backbreakingly short,” recalls Frost. “This lead me down a path of thinking about how I could evolve or devise four different versions of the visuals with essentially one camera move, but still keep it interesting.”
Frost says the idea was to choreograph Ella Mai in one single movement and stick to it throughout the day, knowing there wasn’t time to re-choreograph each sequence. The same principle applied to the camera.
“All we had to do was choregraph what surrounded her in the journey from A to B,” he notes.
Decisions had to be made as to what things could live permanently or whar variations were simple enough to be placed in-frame or removed.
“We used lighting as a big part of what would drive the evolution,” says Frost. “We had to design and plan where every light would exist, what impact that would have on the frame and which ones would be working in which video, etc. It was quite the schematic.”
The fourth and final video was shot first, as it involved the most set pieces, the greatest number of talent, and the most complex choreography. That version required all of sequences of events to fall into place. This included florescent lights that moved into place as the camera retreats, dancers entering and leaving the frame on cue, the door to the light box carried into the frame behind Ella, and podiums sliding into place. The marching band also had to appear on cue as the camera panned.
“Shooting in this order allowed us to strip down each time we moved to a new variation of the film,” the director explains. “As the day went on it got simpler and there were fewer variables for things to go wrong.”
The team shot the project on Arri’s Alexa camera using Cooke Anamorphic lenses.
“I love to shoot anamorphic when I can, as there is just this quality to the glass that I have always loved. Wyatt Troll (the DP) and I toyed with the idea of using vintage glass, because there is this softness to the image along with its imperfections, but we elected to go with a more modern glass, so we could still retain the background that anamorphic gives but achieve a more clean beauty look with Ella.”
Most of the effects were handled in-camera, but VFX were used for clean up, such as removing unwanted cables or light stands.
Barking Owl was initially brought on to add some sound design and mix the videos, notes the studio’s creative director and partner, Kelly Bayett.
“The most important thing sonically, was we felt the evolution of the music along with the visuals,” explains Bayett. “In V.1, her voice had to be so clear yet warm so as the story evolved, we feel the intimacy of that first performance. As we all went through the different stories, we realized that to make that final chapter really come alive, we needed a live performance from the brass as well as recording the flute live for the texture.
“In a marching band with that much brass, you would never hear the flutes pop, but you would feel them and that element was missing. Once we recorded the live brass and flute, it completely changed the entire piece. It made everything incredibly dynamic and if you listen to the first chapter versus the fourh, it feels like a completely different world.”
Barking Owl used a matching pair of AKG 414 mics, along with a Sennheiser 416. The studio runs Avid Pro Tools 12 HD on a Mac Pro. Plug-ins include Waves’ Renaissance six-band EQ, Waves L2 UltraMaximizer, Altiverb 7 and Dorrough Meters.
Watch Versions 1-3: