Music Video: Steve Vai — <I>Dark Matter</I>
January 22, 2019

Music Video: Steve Vai — Dark Matter

FREMONT, CA — Guitarist Steve Vai’s new music video for Dark Matter was created via a pipeline that spans Blackmagic Design’s ( product portfolio. The project was shot using Blackmagic Design’s Ursa Mini Pro and DaVinci Resolve 15 was employed for editorial, visual effects and finishing.

In producing his newest music video, Vai says he wanted to do something special: “I wanted to create something that not only looked other worldly, but was also shot uniquely as well.”

The guitarist teamed with Moai Films to produce the project, which features Vai, along with his drummer Jeremy Colson and bassist Phillip Bynoe performing in a mystical environment. Visual effects replicate Vai in several scenes, where he interacts with himself.

Director Lukas Colombo decided the video would be shot entirely on green screen. 

“My natural tendency is to capture all the actions and visuals in-camera as much as possible,” Colombo explains. “But because of time constraints with Steve, and also the diverse alien landscape concepts for the video, it made more sense to shoot this way.”
Moai Films brought in two Ursa Mini Pro digital film cameras, along with a video village featuring SmartView 4K monitors and several Video Assist 4Ks. 

“We chose the Ursa Mini Pro as our acquisition tool of choice, and one of them lived primarily on a 20-foot jib,” recalls Colombo. ‘Our B camera was moving around on sticks.”
Vai wanted to capture each band member in their own unique way. 

“The idea that I came up with was to shoot the base player, Phillip Bynoe, playing to the track, but twice as fast,” Vai explains. “So when you bring that speed down to normal, and you watch it, he’s playing in sync with the track, but his motions are slow motion.” 

For the drummer, production used an opposite technique.

“The idea was to shoot him very slow, because drummers are very dynamic, especially Jeremy Colson,” explains Vai. “When you bring that up to speed it looks like he’s in sync with the track but the actions just look like there’s something interesting and bizarre about them, that just doesn’t look normal.”
The production unit used the Mini Pros to shoot at several different frame rates to achieve the unnatural and unearthly movements of the band members. Vai focused on reversing his own guitar playing and applying the same thinking to his hand and body motions to create his visual effects.

In post production, Moai Films brought in VFX supervisors Bruce Jurgens and Nick Torres to help guide the design. The concept of the video was to place the band members in a variety of alien worlds using a combination of multi planar matte painting and effects within the Fusion page of Resolve. Torres appreciated the node based layout of Fusion. 

“The node workflow gave us the maximum flexibility to manipulate footage,” Torres explains. “Unlike a more layer based approach, nodes are non destructive and allow for many more possibilities, and a much more efficient workflow.”
Jurgens, a veteran supervisor from Legion Entertainment, was responsible for the extensive matte painting work, as well as the execution of the ‘Ice World’ in the video. Together with matte painter Juliana Arrietty, they were able to plug the work directly into Fusion composites. 

“Maintaining a consistent look was key,” says Jurgens. “Resolve 15 came through with flying colors, if you’ll pardon the pun.” The team was able to preview color grades directly through Resolve before the composite, helping maintain an integrated look.
The VFX team combined 2D and 3D elements to create the unique environments. 

“We wanted to have a completely alien environment,” says Torres, “with tall spires as mountains and a glassy still ocean with a fast rolling fog on top.” 

Arrietty’s 2D elements were brought into Fusion for manipulation using the 3D compositing tools in Resolve. From there it was easy to see shots within the edit, due to Resolve’s all in one design. 

“The workflow makes my job easier,” says Colombo. “I don’t have to manage files across so many applications and worry about transcoding or consolidation. It just works the way you would expect. It takes the dynamic linking feature from other applications to a whole new level!”
Extensive keying and matte tools was used in Resolve for cleanup.

“Essentially, we created mattes with multiple UltraKeys masked together and each adjusted for their respective problematic areas,” says Torres. “Hair, for example, for both Steve and bassist Philip Bynoe, had to have their own instances of fine tuning to keep all the detail. A lot of roto was needed for Jeremy Colson’s drums, cleaning up all the chrome on the drum kit. There were quite a few shots with a lot of motion blur from the band. Luckily with the nodes in Fusion, we could simply copy polygon masks and effects from one shot to another.”
Colombo adds that they typically use a different editing package, but now that Resolve has Fusion incorporated into it, they use Resolve 15 almost exclusively.