Making "Outta My Head" in about 48 hours...

Copyright 2010. Photo by Matt Odom.

I met Tommy and The High Pilots a few years ago, when I shot some promotional stills for them in Venice, Ca.  I'd previously met Matt Palermo (the High Pilots drummer) when I shot promotional stills for Ludo, whom Matt was playing with at the time.  Great guys all around, and we had fun shooting down on the beach and Venice boardwalk.

After two years working on new material, I got a call from the head of their label, Tim Convy, about shooting some promotional stills for the new record.  During the shoot, we talked casually about shooting a video, but nothing concrete.  A few weeks later, I got another call from Tim asking whether a) I'd be interested in shooting a video for THP and b) if we could pull it off in less than a week!  It took us a couple of days to agree on both song and treatment, and by that time we literally had about 48 hours before they left on tour.  STRESS.

The concept we agreed on was to shoot an improvised video, where a number of professional dancers would dance and interact with the band, dancing harder / crazier / happier as the song progressed -- essentially getting "Outta Their Heads..."  Due to the hyper compressed shoot schedule, we had little time to rehearse, so I purposefully cast professional dancers who had no trouble interpreting my impromptu body movement direction. Thankfully, L.A. is chock full of amazing dancers, so the casting call got results fast.  Alana Shea (my co-producer) and I worked around the clock to get the right cast of dancers, a shooting location, supplies and gear.

Copyright 2013.  

As with all young bands on the rise these days, budget is always anemic at best.  I knew I'd need substantial video coverage to ensure I had enough material to work with in the edit once the band left on tour.  My solution was to shoot 5 cameras simultaenously: two 7D's and three GoPro Hero III's.  I mounted the 7D's side by side, so I could operate both at the same time, as I planned on using a handful of dolly moves to add some kinetic energy to the final edit.  Generally, my approach worked well.  

The edit was pretty complicated, but by my own doing.  I ended up with about 40 shots/takes to choose from for each measure of the song. I realized really quickly that there was no easy way to review each of the 40 shots from measure to measure, so I went another route.  I created a rough cut of the video using only footage a single camera at a time.   That forced me to choose only the best moments captured from each camera, resulting in about 5 distinct videos.  Then I competed those 5 videos against each other, until I had a rough comprised of the best shots that had made their way to into the edit.  From there, I spent another week combing through footage looking for shots I might missed, experimenting with cutaways of dancers, etc. 

In the end I scrapped all the GoPro footage.  Outdoors, the quality is pretty amazing.  Indoors though, the quality quickly falls away if the lighting isn't blasting the subjects.  Unfortunate, because I had some fun angles. 

I also decided that I wanted to really accentuate the difference between Tommy's dancing in the intro, and motionless dancers behind him.  These takes were improvised, and in retrospect I would have shot them differently to get a better result.  No matter how hard the dancers tried to stand still, there was always someone swaying, blinking, coughing, etc. that ruined the vibe I wanted. My solution was to take a single frame of video to use as a plate, minimized Tommy as much as possible in it, then Roto'd another version of the same video clip, where only Tommy dancing was left.  The results resulted in the background being more frozen while Tommy dances in the foreground.  

I'm pleased with the final result.  I think it does the band justice and represents them well.  Live, Tommy is a total entertainer and the band is sharp as a tack.  They're getting some quick press and attention, and I hope they get the success the absolutely deserve!