Sometimes relationships are unfair. My mama always lamented how sad it is when you’re overwhelmingly in love with someone who does not return the sentiment. Director Thom Glunt explores such love in the music video for Donora’s track entitled “Float Away.” Chicago post-production studio, Coat of Arms worked with Glunt and with Pittsburgh studio, Upper Cut, to post the video.
The “Float Away” music video depicts a girl (played by lead singer Casey Hanner) who is infatuated with a boy. The boy doesn’t feel the same way and appears to question their relationship. Regardless, the girl falls for him hard, depicted by the fact that she “floats away.”
We love working with Director Glunt. His unique vision and his drive to push the creative in new directions is inspiring. Last year we worked with Glunt on a video for O’Brother. Comparing this video to O’Brother’s “Lo,” you can see the diversity of Glunt’s work while his underlying style still bleeds through. Although the “Lo” edit includes ten times more cuts and it takes on a more rebellious, science fiction tone, “Float Away” still includes Glunt’s independent voice and his drive for in-camera effects.
“Float Away” opens with a stop motion title wherein the band’s name, “Donora” is carved into a tree. The song’s title displays next, singed into hot dogs that bubble among beans over a campfire. These titles are a Glunt signature, in fact he carved the logo (designed by Charlie Wagers) into the tree himself while Chicago cinematographer, John Klein captured the stop-motion title.
The music video required some visual effects work. In particular, the wires holding Hanner had to be removed in post. Upper Cut Studios’ James Hoback meticulously and carefully removed the wires. He used a program called Mocha Pro. This software was crucial for the project, as it allowed him to automate most of the wire removal process. With some extensive prep work on the shots, Mocha Pro painted out most of the wires. To clean up the details that Mocha Pro missed, Hoback used After Effects. Diverse backgrounds made some of the wire clean up tricky. For example, the wire passes across a clear blue sky, then detailed tree lines, and even across Hanner’s arms and legs.
Along with visual effects, the production design on this video was noteworthy. After deciding on the concept and the creative direction, Glunt approached Jaye Morrisey of GLUe Workshop to collaborate on building the “Tower of Junk” that ends up on top of Hanner. Originally, Glunt intended to make the tower larger than what is shown in the video but due to time restraints, the tower ended up at 60% of its planned size.
Diane Meyer designed and built the tent, and she created the flowers at the campsite. What is your favorite prop? Glunt’s favorite is the statue of cats holding hands. Why you ask? “Cats!” Glunt answers.
After production wrapped, Glunt delivered a 2tb drive of RED R3D files to Coat of Arms. As Jonathan Lacocque began editing, Robert J. Williams created several possible color looks for the video. Glunt initially wanted a cooler tone with the boy and a warmer tone with Hanner. His color inspiration came from Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” video.
With Glunt’s direction, Williams came up with the following three options for Hanner’s performance sequences:
Glunt chose Look II but wanted Hanner’s skin tone to remain more even. Therefore, Coat of Arms rotoscoped Hanner’s face to allow for a heavier color application, but it quickly became clear that the heavier color treatment diverged too far from the rest of the video. While the heavier color was interesting, it distracted and pulled the viewer away from the story. Finding a balance between the warmer and cooler tones, we decided to pull the color back for Hanner’s performance sequences.
There is a beautiful airiness and lightness to Donora’s song and to the video, and Thom wanted to pronounce that further with light leaks. Specifically, he wanted to use leaks during Hanner’s close up shots to mimic her emotions in the video. These light leaks were used deliberately throughout the video, some more pronounced than others.
To make the light leaks look natural, Lacocque color corrected and adjusted each one. He made the leaks more subtle by adding a vignette and by adjusting the exposure. When recreating this style, you can experiment with exposure, vignette, color, bloom, and your regular three-way color effects to define the look of your light leaks.
After finishing a full cut, Glunt felt the video was missing an important element. In his original treatment, the boy had nearly emptied the entire house. Glunt wanted to show how hard this guy was working to keep his lady around.
Upper Cut shot some pickups, which included empty rooms and some additional shots of the boy grabbing household items. The footage turned out great. But because the footage was captured by different shooters, on a tripod, and at a different time of day, there were some discrepancies in color and motion. The images were colored and light leaks were added to match the new and old footage. Lastly, Lacocque added movement to the images to imitate the original handheld shots.
There are many ways to make footage look convincingly handheld in post. For example, adding a “wiggle” effect is a quick solution (although we don’t find it as convincing). For the sake of keeping everything within one program, Adobe Premiere, here’s a simple way to create the “handheld look” in post:
1. Create several keyframes within the clip. The number of keyframes depends on the length of the clip. In this case, the clip is about two seconds long.
2. At the beginning of the clip, make a key frame for “position” and one for “scale.”
3. One third of the way into your clip, make another keyframe for position and scale.
4. Increase or decrease your scaling with each keyframe and move the position in a circle. Lacocque observed that our hands and shoulders tend to create a circular motion when filming. As a result the circular positioning and scaling mimic true handheld nicely.
5. Create as many keyframes as suits the length of your clip. Don’t get married to a circle/oval, sometimes a triangle or less circular shape will work well too.
Mama would be happy with the ending of this love story, and we hope you are too. Be sure to give Donora a shout out on Twitter or Facebook and take a gander at their site for albums, tour dates, and more music videos!