Music Video: Childish Gambino — <I>This Is America</I>
Issue: July/August 2019

Music Video: Childish Gambino — This Is America

LOS ANGELES — Editor Ernie Gilbert ( recently collaborated with Atlanta director Hiro Murai to create Childish Gambino’s This is America music video, which has garnered more than 500 million views on YouTube and won a Grand Prix award in the Entertainment for Music category at the Cannes Lions festival in France in June.

The video is set in a massive warehouse, where the artist — Donald Glover — raps and dances, his lyrics telling the story of gun violence, police interaction and contraband. Behind him, dancers enter and exit the frame, reinforcing the storyline and Glover’s own motion. The video makes use of long Steadicam shots and whip pans for the few scene changes.

Gilbert has worked on Atlanta (Seasons 1 & 2) as an assistant editor. In addition, he’s collaborated with the music video’s director Hiro Murai in the past on a project for A Tribe Called Quest. He likens this latest project to being a server in a high-end restaurant, where the artist and director deliver a perfect recipe using five-star ingredients, and his job is to deliver the final results.

While This is America does not make use of many cuts, there were challenges in pulling the whole project off. In the opening scene, where Glover pulls out a gun, the firearm had to be digitally removed from his waistband prior to the ultimate reveal in order to surprise the audience. Eric Binmoeller, who is also a part of the Atlanta team, handled visual effects for the project.

In another transition, where the camera pans up to the rafters and back down again, two separate takes were combined to create the perfect segue. Visual effects were also used to enhance gun hits and muzzle flashes, as well as to add additional flames to practical fire that engulfs the car.

Working from his home studio, Gilbert cut the video in Adobe Premiere Pro using his iMac and MacBook Pro. This is America was shot on 35mm film, so he worked with ProRes LT transcodes at 1080p for the offline.

“I always want it to be as fast as possible,” he says of his system’s performance, noting that music videos may have any number of video files synced and stacked on a timeline. “I don’t want to wait,” he adds, noting that the 1080 resolution gives him the best performance when making creative decisions.

This project came together in just two weeks. The video was shot on a Monday and Gilbert received film scans on Wednesday. He provided a cut on Thursday and met with the director for fine tuning on Friday. VFX were added the following week, before moving on to MPC for final color.

At press time, Gilbert was putting the final touches on a new music video for Khalid, featuring John Mayer.