Brian Cox of Flarelight Films (flarelightfilms.com) recently created two new music videos for the alternative metal band Gemini Syndrome. A long-time friend of drummer Brian Medina, Cox was already on board to direct and edit the band’s Remember We Die video from the upcoming release “Memento Mori,” but used the opportunity to pitch an ambitious 360-degree shoot for the track
Anonymous, which he’d offer to direct, shoot and edit.
“They asked me, ‘Can you do that?’ and I said, ‘Yeah.’ But I had never done it before,” Cox laughs. He went online to see what existed in the way of VR music videos, and to learn more about VR camera rigs, ultimately purchasing a mount from Freedom 360 (www.freedom360.us).
The videos would both be shot at The Escarpment in Huntington Park, CA. “I said, ‘I think we can pull this off,’” says Cox of the VR project. “I came up with the whole concept. I had never done [a 360 shoot] before. It was nerve-wracking. I didn’t have a monitor connected to the GoPros and when I stitched it all together, there was a lot of little dead spaces, even though I thought I had planned for it. I went back for a second day and shot the singer greenscreen from the same height and perspective. I shot him six times — calm, angry. Then I went into After Effects for a three-week edit.”
While he used GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition cameras for the VR shoot, the second day of shooting was captured using a Canon 5D Mark III.
“I [made] it with the intention of watching it on all platforms,” says Cox of the Anonymous VR video. “A lot of music videos, when you watch them on a device that’s not 360-enabled, the videos are quite boring. I needed to make it work for anyone, whether they were watching it on a TV or iPhone.”
He spent approximately two-and-a-half weeks in Adobe After Effects, stitching the footage together and creating the video’s visual effects. The band has a symbol for each song on “Memento Mori,” so Cox used the symbol for the “Anonymous” track as the basis for the visual treatments that appear throughout as digital rain, DNA and coding.
“I have six-core Mac,” says Cox, which helped with the rendering effort. His previous iMac, he says, would never have been able to handle the task. Adobe Premiere was used for the final edit.
Reflecting on his first VR music video experience, Cox says he learned a lot and can offer several pointers. First off, he says he’d use 4K GoPros going forward. “The camera choice is obvious — 4Ks are what you need.”
He also learned a valuable lesson regarding camera placement, and specifically, where the subject needs to be in relation to the camera rig. Cox recommends positioning the camera five feet from the subject, or even further. “Placement of subject is crucial. If the subject comes too close, he’s going to end up in those stitches. There were times I had [the singer] come right up to the camera and I couldn’t use any of that footage.”
“Another thing you need to remember is, every single thing is in your shot. Literally everything!” Cox points to something as simple as a randomly placed water bottle, which caused him a day of post work to remove or blur out. “It stuck out like a sore thumb, but when I was there I didn’t notice the bottle because it was behind his leg. That’s something to really pay attention to because every little thing is going to get captured."
Shortly after completing the Gemini Syndrome videos, Cox’s Flarelight Films was getting ready to move into shared studio space in Glendale, CA, where he would have access to a 55-foot greenscreen and a cyc wall, both of which would be available for future music video work.