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Old May 17th, 2007, 12:12 PM   #1
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mtvU's The Ronnie Day Project

Hey everyone,

Haven't posted in a while. I wanted to share with you a project I've been working on for the past couple months. It's called the Ronnie Day Project and it's an episodic music video series I directed for Epic Records and mtvU. We took six songs from Ronnie's album and created a six-episode music video series.

The project aired on mtvU each week for the past six weeks and is available at mtvu.com.

I haven't posted until now because I wanted to make sure you guys could see the whole project from start to finish. You can check it out now at:

http://www.mtvu.com/music/ronnie_day

Unfortunately, you have to have a PC or Windows (on a mac) to watch the project. I'm working on getting quicktimes up on my website but you guys know how labels are. So, my apologies to Mac only users (I'm one myself so I know how you feel). And please mind the compression on the site, it's not the best.

A little information on the project:

We shot all these projects on the HVX-200 in 720p, which was my first time using this camera. We used a Red Rock Micro adapter with Nikon still lenses. Everything was posted in Final Cut Pro with final color correction being done in FCP as well. (Just missed out on using Color, which my colorist is saddended by.)

We shot all six videos at one time over a 5 day stretch in Orange, CA.

A heads up for those watching...these are not really intended to be stand-alone videos, but rather a narrative series set to music. So, there's not a heavy emphasis on the artist performance with tons of angles and so forth. He's really meant to serve as our narrator. These can't be totally viewed as music videos only. Just wanted to put that out there.

Anyway, hope you guys enjoy the videos. I'd be happy to answer any questions have. On the website there is also behind the scenes photos and video, as well as a production blog for each episode.

And for any students out there, mtvU is holding a contest to make the 7th video for the series. You can get more information on the site.

~Josh
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Old May 24th, 2007, 07:33 AM   #2
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Are you guys having trouble watching the clips? Or just waiting until Quicktimes are available?

Anybody...?
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Old May 25th, 2007, 06:27 AM   #3
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Hi Josh!

I just watched episode #1 - romatic, emotional, erotic, beautiful pictures, nice little story - just perfect! The only thing I don't like too much is the music. ;-)

Keep on with the good work!

Regards, Oliver
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Old May 25th, 2007, 03:21 PM   #4
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Well, that's fine since it's the only part I didn't create. He he. Glad you liked it.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 10:45 PM   #5
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Really liked the videos Josh
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Old May 28th, 2007, 09:41 AM   #6
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It doesn't like Firefox. Maybe that's why you had a sluggish response at first. I'm guessing the tech-oriented people on this forum might have a high Firefox usage ratio compared to the overall internet community.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 10:08 AM   #7
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That's right. I totally forgot about the firefox thing. You have to use IE. Sorry about that folks.
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Old June 2nd, 2007, 02:22 AM   #8
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The Ronnie Day Project can now be viewed on YouTube. Click below for Episode links.

Episode 1:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZuOmaoUADg

Episode 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN4KxKJwFJQ

Episode 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swAdcr7lWys

Episode 4:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV5y9-YwV4E

Episode 5:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKB__v98kPI

Episode 6:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7lX9iKIJvQ
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Old June 2nd, 2007, 09:29 AM   #9
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looks great. Some shots seems to be a bit out of focus (maybe ment to be) for instance the second film around 1;10, starts out of focus and ends in the car in focus. Was this supposed to be or because the focus is hard to handle?
Are those parts handheld shot? How did you viewed the shot, with the flipped image?
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Old June 2nd, 2007, 01:57 PM   #10
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Some of the shots aren't neccessarily meant to be out of focus but I do like how it starts out of focus and then comes into focus.

The real reason is that we were shooting with the HVX and the Red Rock Micro and did a lot of our shots throughout on a Glidecam Smooth Shooter. We didn't have a wireless focus and so on some of the shots, rather than have a guy adjusting focus by hand and thus bumping the camera, I decided to set the focus to the final frame and then come into it with the camera. But I ended up liking that, so we took what we had and turned it into something stylistic.
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Old June 3rd, 2007, 08:17 AM   #11
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Hi Josh,

I also enjoyed watching the series.

Chris
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Old January 9th, 2008, 01:38 AM   #12
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I was reading through my production blogs on this project and thought I would post it for you guys. I think it's interesting but that's me.

Here they are:

Episode 1:

I just wrapped production on Episode 1 of the Ronnie Day Project. The first shoot is always tough for several reasons: 1) everyone is just meeting for the first time, 2) nobody knows how somebody else works and 3) nobody knows how the equipment is organized. But eventually the machine that is production gets moving and from then on you're moving pretty fast.

Though I'm describing what we shot for Episode 1 we actually shot all six episodes over the course of a five day production schedule. And like any narrative film project, everything was shot out-of-order by way of location. So, for instance, if we were shooting in the location for Brendan's bedroom, then we're shooting six videos worth of material at the location. I want to bring this up because it's a very unique thing to be shooting six, related, narrative videos, but also shoot all of them at the same time. To give you a comparison, traditional narrative music videos are shot over the course of 2 or 3 days depending on how much is required by the narrative.

We shot three locations for this video: our bluff overlooking the neighborhood, Jamie's living room and the party house. The bluff was amazing and cold and windy. I scouted this location a week or two before and when I was up there it was beautiful. But when we got up there for Episode 1 LA suffered a quick cold snap, and though it was sunny and beautiful, the wind was freezing cold. Unfortunately, our actors, Tiffany and Marcello, were basically wearing t-shirts and jeans. You might be able to see a little wind in the final shots but you'd never guess from their performance that they're freezing. Our cinematographer Paul Niccolls did a fantastic job capturing some really beautiful images and I think it's going to be a great opening to the series. I won't share my secret of how I found it but it definitely helps make Episode 1.

We then moved on to the living room. This was our intimate moment with the characters when they're suppose to be wrapped in a blanket, "living life behind this glass" while a storm goes on outside. We couldn't afford rain machines or anything like but I think the lyrics will help tell the story, which they should. The living room was a difficult location because we were using one side of the room for one part and the opposite side of the room for another. We ended up shooting this whole sequence last, at night, with it lit for a late evening look.

We also shot Ronnie's first performance scene of the series. I wanted to connect him to the characters so we set him up performing at the party where they are. It's a very private setting but we thought it was important to connect him to our leads before he becomes much more of a narrator in the later videos. These aren't your traditional music videos. I always saw this as a narrative series being told by song, so it was really important that Ronnie was always connecting with the viewer by singing directly to him or her. I think it's a great performance from Ronnie that also captures a certain degree of intimacy. Knowing Ronnie, he seems like the kind of guy who would pick up a guitar at a party and start playing for a bunch of friends.

The last thing we shot for Episode 1 was the party scene, which came at the end of a long day of production at our party house location. From 3 PM - 10PM we shot three different party scenes, one during the day, one at dusk, and one at night. The one at night was for this episode. Lighting a night scene aside, shooting this scene was relatively easy. There's not a lot of narrative in it. As you can tell from Episode 1, it's mainly a setup video. We're introduced to the characters and shown how great and fun their love is. So, it's mainly having the actors and our extras hang out and have a good time as I grab the camera and grab shots. We wrapped around 11 or so. The crazy thing about producing videos in any capacity is that there's never enough time. The day just flies by and before you know it you've already been up for 18 hours.

It's quite a challenge to shoot six music videos in five days. But we got the first one in the can, everyone is doing a great job and the footage looks amazing. Only five more to go...
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Old January 9th, 2008, 01:39 AM   #13
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Episode 2:

We shot all of these videos on HD using the Panasonic HVX-200 camera and the Red Rock Micro Lens Adapter. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Red Rock Micro, it allows the use of cine/photo lenses with a video camera. One of the telling points of the “video look” is an extremely wide depth of field where everything is in focus. This is a result of the size of the image chip in the camera and the lens attached to it. In recent years, a lot of attention has been placed on achieving a “film look” out of a video camera. Advances in 24p technology (that is, shooting 24 frames per second) has helped, however, even using the best HD cameras result in an unwanted wide depth of field.

Enter the Red Rock Micro. I’m sure you’re asking, “Why do you need an adapter? Can’t you just stick a lens on the camera?” There’s a lot of technical information here; in a nutshell, no, you can’t. A 35mm still/cine lens is designed to project an image onto a 35mm frame. The image chips in video cameras are much smaller than that, usually 1/3 inch or 2/3 inch. If you were to just attach a 35mm lens there would be severe magnification of the image resulting in a loss of picture quality and resolution.

The Red Rock Micro (and it’s more expensive brother, the Mini35) takes that full 35mm image and scales it down to fit the full image onto the HVX’s image chip. The result is a picture that looks very close to what you would get with a film camera. This is a system that Paul, the DP, has worked with before; I’ve also used it while shooting The Beautiful Lie. This is my first time working in HD and I am very happy with the results.

Shooting Episode 2 was completely different than doing Episode 1. "November Storms" is much more of a non-linear setup video. Our goal in the first episode was to introduce our narrator Ronnie Day and main characters as well as give the audience a glimpse into their life - prior to all the drama. I really wanted to present something familiar to everyone watching - that time in one’s life when everything was perfect - endless summers spent with friends around fires, on the lake and at backyard parties.

In Episode 2, we pull all that apart. Brendan leaves to pursue his dream and our main characters spend the whole video separated. He’s left that world, so the look and color and feel of the stuff in LA is different than everything that takes place back home. Episode 1 also had a lot of night scenes while this video takes place during the day.

One problem we faced while shooting all these videos was the sunlight – or lack thereof. In designing this world that I wanted to capture, I thought back to my own experiences during adolescence. I thought of those long summer afternoons and evenings when the sun seemed to just hang low in the sky for hours. This meant that a lot of the stuff we shot was in between late afternoon and sunset. When you shoot for five days there’s only five "golden hours" you can shoot in. Some things had to be readjusted, but it became a running joke among the crew that this entire project was being shot at sunset: "Josh’s Golden Hour Film." It drove Paul a little nuts.
We also cover a lot of territory in Episode 2. Nearly every scene takes place in a new setting. We’ve got Los Angeles, recording studio, Brendan’s apartment, Jamie’s bedroom, Jamie’s living room, the party house and Brendan’s car - not to mention Ronnie’s performance on the street, which I’m really happy with. In all, it’s got a much wider spread of story, action and locations than Episode 1. It was a challenge to find the best moments to use and those that told the story in one shot; in a music video, you have seconds, not minutes in which to get your story across. This song is just over three minutes long, which is the average length of all our videos. Therefore, as a director, I have to be very picky about what is going in and be okay with all the stuff that gets cut out.

Because we’re telling an episodic story here, consideration has to be given to the story as it occurs later on. If you drop something from Episode 2 then you might wind up confusing people in Episode 4 or 5 because something was missing. It’s a very unique challenge putting together six separate yet related music videos and covering all your bases. But it’s been fun so far.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 01:40 AM   #14
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Episode 3:

Let's talk editing. While Episode 3 contains narrative elements and requires some continuity (consistency within a film; for example, a scene where an actor is wearing a hat when seen from one camera angle and not from another would lack continuity), the entire second half does not. Much like Episode 1, where the combination of shots is meant to provide an overall sense of what is going on, the fight in Episode 3 gives us the opportunity to do the same. Since we're not actually hearing the argument, the scene is very much open to interpretation based on how it will finally be put together.

One of the things I enjoy most about editing is when I get to work on scenes like this. I did similar work in my short The Beautiful Lie. I shot an enormous amount of flashback footage and it all had to be paired down to choice moments that would say everything I needed it to say in a couple seconds. This is very common in music videos in general, but this isn't really a typical music video. We're telling a very strong, clear story that contains plot points that we can't just skip over or cut out, it all has to get in there. In terms of editing, Episode 2 was about maintaining the forward progression of the story while fitting an enormous amount of story material into three and half minutes. In the case of Episode 3, it's slightly different because the fight is the story point. So, it gives us a little more freedom to play.

Shooting the fight came at the end of a long first day of shooting. It was the second to last scene of the night. Rather than scripting out how the fight was going to go, I let the actors run with it, improvising. Since we were never hearing their dialogue and I was going to cut it all up anyway, I figured this would be the best approach. We shot three takes at 48fps (for slow motion) and the last one at 24fps. By the end of the last take Tiffany pushed herself to tears as Marcello walked out of the room.

Actors are always amazing to me. Too often "crying" is the easiest thing in the world for actors. We had several during our auditions that mentioned they could cry on cue. That might be okay for some people but to me that's "acting" and I'm not a huge fan of it. However, when an actor finds himself or herself in a very real place and they can't help but react in whatever way that might be (anger, tears, happiness), to me that's the magic of acting. The thing is, I never asked Tiffany to cry. It just happened. I hope it's because she found herself in a very real place and she couldn't help it - because at that moment, she's no longer "acting." You're still getting the same result (in this case, crying) but the way you get there is entirely different. And I'm very amazed that actors allow themselves to go to places most people try to avoid.

For the fight scene we shot four takes, each three minutes long. The final edited sequence is only about 35 seconds long. That's 12 minutes that needs to be edited down to 35 seconds. It really comes down to finding actions and facial expressions that not only fit well with the music but also paint the picture.

One of the things that was very appealing to me about shooting and editing this sequence was the ability to jump cut, change camera speeds, and go a little more abstract in it's presentation, which the other videos didn't really allow me to do. It's very freeing to feel like you can cut to something that makes the strongest point rather than what should logically follow next. That's when editing as a filmmaking tool really comes into play. You begin to rewrite as you edit instead of merely cutting and pasting. That way, you find new ways to tell your story. Allowing production to be an adaptation of the script, editing to be an adaptation of the production and so forth is extremely freeing. You then begin to see the film as it is, rather than how you originally envisioned it at its inception.
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Old January 9th, 2008, 01:41 AM   #15
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Episode 4:

One of the locations we return to several times (and for the last time in this video) is the party house. We were there from 12PM to 12AM, with shooting starting around 2 PM. We had three different parties to shoot at three different times. In Episode 1 (a night scene), we saw Brendan and Jamie as a couple; in Episode 2 (a day scene), Jamie is seen alone, on her own, until she meets Derek; then, in Episode 4 (at golden hour), she takes the same walk she did with Brendan in Episode 1, only she’s on Derek’s arm now. My, how things have changed.

Golden hour, to remind you, is the hour prior to the sun going down. It’s when the sun is at it’s most golden (hence the term) and is really beautiful light to shoot in. Problem is, it only lasts an hour. Due to our schedule, we couldn’t come back the next day and shoot anything we didn’t get. We had about two hours to shoot our confrontation between Brendan and Derek and we had several challenges facing us.

The first challenge was the short amount of time to shoot everything. Second was the nature of the content that had to be shot. In the scene, Brendan walks into the house and then over to a window. He sees Jamie sitting outside with Derek, smiling, having a good time. He then turns and walks through the house and then outside to the backyard. Heads turn, not knowing what he’s going to do. He approaches Jamie but Derek intervenes. They get into an altercation. Brendan shoves Derek who then punches Brendan sending him into the pool. Jamie watches all this happens and feels bad for Brendan as Derek pulls her away.

So, we have movement from inside to outside with a shot that would be facing directly towards the setting sun; we have a fight scene; and we have a shot of Brendan falling into a pool - which could be done only once, maybe twice. The pool would have to be the last thing we shoot and the master shot (Brendan walking through the house, then outside) would be first since we’d be facing the sky. Everything had to be lit both inside and outside, requiring set-up. In the meantime, Paul, Marcello, Ethan (our AD) and I walked through the scene and the movement. We’d get his whole walk through in one shot, all the way up the altercation outside. That went off without a hitch and ended up looking really good on film. Paul is an extremely talented camera operator.

Next, we moved outside and shot the altercation between Brendan and Derek. We shot Brendan’s angle and then Derek’s. Finally, we had to move onto the falling in pool shot. We were losing light and needed this above all else. Plus, I still hadn’t shot any angles on Jamie. Light was fading fast and we had to move quickly. Paul adjusted some lights and took the camera over opposite????. We ran through it a couple times. We burned tape (need to explain this?) while Phil “punched” Marcello. When we were sure they had it, I called action. Derek “punched” Brendan and fell back into the pool. BUT, he caused a bigger splash than we anticipated and the water was headed right for the camera and lens. In an effort to protect it, our assistant cameraman put his hand in front of the lens. The lens was protected, but the shot was ruined! We had to do it again.

Everyone froze for a moment not really sure what to do. Then, all at once, everyone was moving. People grabbed towels and threw them to Marcello trying to dry him off. We had another gray t-shirt but not another pair of jeans. Not a big deal. They were dark, so even though they were wet, the audience wouldn’t be able to tell. Finally, after a couple minutes, he was dry, his hair re-styled and we were ready for another take. We lined up and everything went smoothly. And the light was pretty much gone.

But we weren’t done. I had to get the shot on Jamie and Derek walking away. I grabbed the camera, and despite the protests of Paul who declared the light was gone, I quickly got two takes of Jamie look down at Brendan and then being pulled by Derek into the house. I then spun the camera around and shot a series of takes of Brendan coming rising out of the water and looking up at Jamie. Finally, we had the sequence…maybe. I wasn’t sure, and I knew we hadn’t shot anything on Jamie other than the shot at the end.

While the rest of the crew prepared for the night scene Paul, Ethan, Sean (our producer) and I discussed the scene. Paul didn’t think anything would cut together and didn’t think it would work. We discussed our options. Coming back another day was never going to happen. I told them that in order to cut this sequence, even if we could get the lighting to match, I still needed that shot of Jamie smiling and having fun. Otherwise, there’s nothing to cut to when Brendan sees her and it won’t make sense. It would feel incomplete. I said that as long as the lighting was okay, all I needed to edit the sequence was that one shot. Meanwhile, Paul still had a problem with the light. Sean suggested the possibility that with color correction it might work. Paul couldn’t be convinced. Ethan made the suggestion that we could potentially reshoot the entire sequence as a night scene. Everyone stayed quiet. If we did that it would be a very, very late night.

I asked Esteban (our on-site editor) to take the footage and edit the sequence together so we could see if it was really that bad. In the meantime, we had to proceed with the night scene. Paul started lighting and we continued discussing options. Then our producer gave us some bad news. Phil (Derek) was booked on a gig that started at 10 PM. To top things off, we still had scenes to shoot with him for Episode 1. We couldn’t just shift back and forth.

Finally, Esteban called me over and I looked at the party footage. He had tweaked the color a little and it wasn’t bad at all. I called Paul over and he looked at it, admitting that it cut together pretty well. There was definitely a shift but nothing that couldn’t be tweaked later on.

We decided to keep the sequence as shot and then, for our last setup of the night, we got the shot of Jamie laughing and smiling. You might not be able to tell, but the close up on her that we cut to while Brendan is standing in the house was shot in the middle of the night. Nice job, Paul.

Over the course of five days we adopted an Italian saying: “Icche c’e c’e” or “Whatever is, is.” Sometimes in production there are happy accidents and there are mistakes. When you’re working on a small budget with limited time there is only so much you can do and at some point you have to be accepting of what you have. That doesn’t mean you don’t strive for the very best - of course you do. You do whatever you can to get there. But sometimes what you get is what you get. Icche c’e c’e.
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