LOS ANGELES — Director Brian Cox of Flarelight Films (http://flarelightfilms.com) recently completed work on two music videos for the metal band, All Hail the Yeti. The videos follow a story arc that connects the band’s new album, “Screams From A Black Wilderness,” with their self-titled debut from 2012. After The Great Fire is considered the ‘Part 2,’ of the video series. It’s a track from the 2012 album, but was released only a few weeks ago. The video visualizes the 2012 song about an orphanage run by evil nuns who abuse children.
The band’s new album contains the song Before the Flames, which reflects the events leading up to the fire. Consider it a prequel. Cox had just a single day to shoot both videos, which feature lots of flames, children and the band too. He recently spoke with
Post about the production and its obvious challenges, as well as his camera packages and Adobe workflow. The project is a lesson in both efficiency and resourcefulness.
“The singer and I have known each other for many, many years,” says Cox of his connection to Yeti vocalist Connor Garritty. “When they approached me about doing the video, he threw it out there that it would be really cool to have a ‘Part 1’ and a ‘Part 2.’ Not a lot of bands are doing that. I was completely on board with that and, right away, was super interested.”
Cox’s Flarelight Films specializes in music-related work, so this project was right up his alley. In addition to music videos, he also produces live content, EPKs, concerts, and artist interviews. For the All Hail the Yeti project, he was given a strict budget and was tasked with getting much of its dark imagery onto the screen.
“I had to make magic happen with what we have,” he recalls. “And that’s where I get off on making music videos. How am I going to make it look like we weren’t limited? A lot of it really comes down to post. The edit side of it really does a lot.”
Cox had just a single day to shoot everything he would need for both music videos. And the subject matter — evil nuns, pentagrams, Satanic rituals — added further challenges to an already difficult task.
“People turned it down,” he says about assembling a crew.
Ultimately, he was able to put together a small team.
“We shot at an awesome location near downtown LA,” he explains. “We shot all the band performance first and then we went to shoot the storyline for Before the Flames.”
He also planned to shoot material for the After the Great Fire video, including greenscreen footage of the band, but they fell behind and had to adjust on the fly. “And to be honest, there were a lot of things missing from our treatment of that song,” he adds.
The team shot primarily with two Canon Mark III DSLRs. The 120fps slow-motion sequences featured throughout the Before the Flames video were captured using a Sony A7S.
“The slow-mo is a lot of fun. You can get carried away with that.”
Fire is an element that has a major presence in the two songs’ arcing storyline. A decision had to be made as to when it could be shot practically and when it would be added in post. The decision was driven not only by the overall budget, but also due to safety concerns.
“Where the children running to the windows, all of that is composited,” says Cox. “Any time you see kids where flames are involved, that is all composited.”
The production had a professional pyro-technician who was capable of putting flames wherever they might be required, but that would have led to additional issues.
“Working with kids is really difficult and there are a lot of things that come into play when you are introducing fire onto the set,” Cox explains. “There is different type of insurance. You need to have a medic on-site the entire time. It was something we looked at but said we can save a lot of money and put this money somewhere else. I knew I could do it in post.”
Flames were shot against a black background for compositing in post. “That way we could create alpha channel,” he explains. “I have played around with shooting flames against a greenscreen and it just did not come out the same. You could tell it was greenscreen. The green would peek through some times.”
They did use real fire for scenes in which the nuns’ rocking chair and piano are engulfed, but when it came to scenes with the children, it was all achieved in post.
A third camera was locked off and run continuously during the shoot, allowing Cox to use the footage to create additional ghost effects in post. Because of the aggressive shoot, Cox says he had no time to review footage on-set. Instead, he’d look over the DP’s shoulder while they were shooting.
“It was the first video in about a year that I wasn’t able to use the video village because of time,” he notes. “There was a lot of trust involved. I knew that they would nail it. I got the footage back and was happy with everything.”
High definition footage was backed up on-set using a Thunderbolt 2 drive from G-Technology. Cox then handled all editing duties using a current generation, six-core Mac Pro running Adobe Premiere Pro.
“I edit everything I direct,” he states. “I believe I am an editor before anything else. The directing started happening a few years ago.”
He was initially a Final Cut Pro user, but switched to the Adobe Creative Suite because of its seamless integration among applications.
“With the dynamic link, you can work within After Effects or start in Premiere and do your timeline edit, and can open a shot in After Effects right away…and when you bounce back to Premiere, it’s already imported into the sequence and ready to go. You don’t have to export things and re-import things. It all does it for you.”
Cox has used a lot of Video Copilot’s plug-ins in the past, particularly for heat and distortion effects. But for the All Hail the Yeti videos, he went with something new. He found the Twitch plug-in for After Effects spot on for the look he was trying to achieve.
“I had the whole video cut and said, ‘It’s not looking how I want it to look,’” he recalls. “I dropped the Twitch plug-in on there and enabled the time option, and it makes everything kind of stutter and look like it’s skipping. After the Great Fire has a weird kind of jerkiness to it. That was because of that plug-in. It was amazing.”
Another trick that Cox employed in editorial is featured during some of the quick drum roll shots. “For that, I cut out every other frame,” he explains. “I’ll let the clip run and put my selection in there for the length of the drum roll or measure of the song, and then I will literally chop out frame-by-frame. As far as the amount of frames, it depends on how quick the roll is. For those, I think we were looking at 12 cuts. It’s a little trick that I like to do. And for as easy as it is, a lot of people really like that.”
Following the shoot, Cox had just a week to deliver the first video’s rough cut back in mid-December. “I had rough cuts for both videos delivered by the 29th and they were a step further than rough cuts,” he adds. “Most of the compositing was in there. They had minimal notes as far as the edit goes. After the Great Fire, we only had one revision. They were happy with it right away. They wanted more of the snare rolls — more of that stuff. There were some specific shots that Connor wanted his vocal performance in, where in the first cut I had more of the fire stuff.”
Before the Flames also came back with just a few changes. “That was exactly the same,” says Cox. “We had a few more passes because there is more of storyline, so that it made sense.”
The band is offering Before the Flames