Thursday 16 February 2017

The Final Clause of Tacitus: Give Them Blood

Author's note: Go and get a cup of tea. This is a long one.

On 19th December, I received a wonderful compliment. I was told that I was "amazing".

How nice.

I was told this by my good friend, Tom Burden who - totally coincidentally - needed a favour.

A few things about Tom: Tom is Rachel's other half (yes, make-up Rachel). He looks like a tall hobbit or a small human. He is a guitarist. He is a very good guitarist. He is in a band (or three). He is in a particular band called "The Final Clause of Tacitus".

Likened to bands such as "Rage Against the Machine" and "Red Hot Chili Peppers", these guys are both heavy and funky. If you haven't already, give them a listen. You could even give them a listen whilst reading this blog post. Eh? EH?

You can find them on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon. Go on, I'll wait.

Anyway, The Final Clause of Tacitus - or "TFCoT" to save me from getting RSI earlier than strictly necessary - had an upcoming EP release, "Peace in Chaos" (due out on the 24th February) and were attempting to organise a music video for their track "Give Them Blood" but any attempts to date had fallen through and they were presumably getting desperate because it led to Tom telling me how "amazing" I was... twice... and the word "incredible" was used also. This is important, probably.

He explained that they had availability on the 14th and 15th January for filming and that the deadline for the video was about the end of January for release in February.

Then he asked whether with such a tight timescale, I could assemble a team that could do it.

So I said I would find out what we could do.

Obviously I got straight in touch with Ceri "close-up" Williams and Cédric Hauteville as soon as I could to beg for help.

And they were straight on board like the CHAMPS they are.

And so the planning began...

We knew the plan was to do half of the video as story and half as band footage so between this date and 2nd January, we worked on finding the best story we could film in a day.

We set on the story that we have ended up filming.

 A girl walking into the woods with a wooden box. She gets stared out by the lead singer who begins following her so she runs. Then, one by one, she bumps into people who are following her but completely unresponsive. She eventually runs to a clearing and buries the box. She leaves and then discovers that the followers are not following her. She goes back to the clearing to find them gathering around the box and she cannot snap them out of it. She digs it back up, tears a piece of paper inside. The crowd wake up and the girl is gone.

Following that, we spent from this day right up to 13th January sourcing everything we would need. Locations, backdrops, props and most importantly - food people!

Matt (lead vocals) and Fran (his very nice girlfriend) acquired a box for the shoot and Fran rather beautifully carved and stained it!

Here it is during that process (and in the video):

Ceri wrote out our shot-lists, planning documentation and the call-sheets and then it was totally happening.

Day 1 - Story Time
Saturday was an emotional rollercoaster. First we were an hour ahead, then an hour behind then ahead again and then it was dark already.

We got to the woods at 7am and got to 'site'.

Rachel put some make-up on Kiera by the light of my Rotolight and then proceeded to paint and entertain the band whilst we ran through the first few shots and got our cameras set up.

Turn over was at 8:30am and we were on schedule.

We started with the end of the video. The 'crowd' scenes.

We had the band:
Tom (guitar) - you've already been introduced.

Andy (bass)
Matt (vocals)

Luke (drums)

If in doubt, you can just call them all "Tom" as that's what Ceri did... which lead to online conversations later such as...

... We had the star:

... and we had all the extras...

... and we couldn't have asked for a better bunch. They were utterly emotionless (which was what we wanted, for the record). Or utterly horrified about their inevitable loss of toes. It was quite cold. I couldn't tell for sure. Ceri, why do we always film in JANUARY!? D:

We started off filming from two angles at the same time, Cédric filmed Kiera approaching the crowd from a following POV and I filmed the same from the side including the whole crowd.

We then, through some amount of wizardry, filmed 3 different shots on the shot list in one go rolling the whole development into one. That seemed to save us about an hour at the time.

The section in the morning that then ended up taking longer than scheduled for was actually the footage of everyone waking up. We took a close up of all of our extras snapping out of the trance which took a little while to get and come the edit, we actually didn't use any of these. From this scene though was where we got the group 'wake up' shots and the panning shots of everyone whilst still in the trance.

We were anticipating letting about 3 of our 'extras' go at 11am but due to the above scene, we were overrunning a little by then. Thankfully, they were really great about it, despite the cold. So much so that after we broke for lunch at 12pm, all 3 agreed to stay to add an additional 'bonus' scene.

This scene is where Kiera jumps over the stream, runs into Tina and Matthew, and then the additional 'bonus' part of this scene is where jumps the next bend in the stream and catches sight of Alex and Louise, finally turning to run past Gavin and Yvonne.

Ceri, Cédric and I went straight over to set up this scene, leaving Mevans in his convenient hi-vis to ensure that the band and all the extras were fed and watered.

When we were sent our extras, they ran through this bonus scene once for 'rehearsal' and then we filmed it 3 times through and the team nailed their 'parts' and the timing of it all three times. Well done team.

After this scene, we said goodbye to Tina, Alex, Louise, Yvonne and Gavin so they could go forth and go back to leading their normal lives. Or go to the pub, or whatever.

I remember thinking here of all the shots we had left to get and wishing I had heated socks and/or a chair.

So now that we'd let a lot of people run free, we had to concentrate on filming all the scenes with the individual band members because they had a BATTLE OF THE BANDS that evening in Reading and we were in the middle of a woodland in Fleet so they had to get back, change and perform a gig until 1am and then get up for another 7am start...

We started with Matt's scene. This was one of the most important scenes in the story because this is the point where Kiera first comes across one of the trance-y people. It's important because this is the first time she feels threatened AND because so far it's only one person, it has a totally different tone to the rest of the encounters in the story. In this, a guy has just stared her out as she walks past him and then immediately began to follow her. No wonder she begins to run!

To highlight the intensity of this feeling, we did some over the shoulder shooting of the actual crossover as it takes place from several different angles and then when it's edited together, these are shown in quick succession which makes it feel as uncomfortable as it is supposed to be.

I think you get a good idea as you see Kiera looking straight into Matt's completely calm face that first she's confused and then, when he doesn't break eye contact at all, she's rattled. Then as you see, when she looks back at him to realise he's started following her, she runs for it.

Matt and Kiera did great at this. Matt didn't break character at all which was really good because it is definitely a weird situation for a musician to have to walk through an acting part and end up within inches of someone's face to stare them out without laughing. Especially when that someone is pulling faces, Kiera...

Next, we filmed Kiera taking a quick rest on a tree having finally 'lost' him.

She now turns to see Mevans and Rachel walking towards her, she begins to walk backwards (trying to decide whether they're staring at her or just walking) and then she bumps into Luke who doesn't react and just stares at her again. Another important moment in the story - this girl has just realised that everyone is acting strange, not just that weirdo back there (sorry Matt). She runs again.

This was the best bit to film for two reasons. The first was that Kiera repeatedly walked onto Luke's feet and elbowed him in the ribs which was much cause for giggling.

... and secondly, because we found out that Rachel cannot walk without nodding. We noticed on the day and then she did a couple of takes very deliberately not nodding but when we watched the footage back, it was hilarious. I cried multiple times.

"Awww yeah, I'mma getcha."

Anyway, this is where Rachel was allowed to put her fantastic bottom away and change out of her jogging clothes. Boo hiss.

Next, Ceri brought our attention back to the schedule. We were running quite behind, had still a fair few shots to get and we could feel the deadline of dusk creeping up on us. We fretted about it some, tried to plan in some additional contingency for the following day whilst filming the band, overwhelming panic struck and emotions briefly ran high and then we picked our heads back up and got back into filming again at full speed because, as Newt Scamander says, worrying means you suffer twice.

Next was the scene where Kiera, sans box bumps into Tom and Andy. Dressed in the exact same clothes. This isn't relevant to the plot, they just actually wore the same outfit on the day. How cute.

It was very difficult as we couldn't tell them apart.

In this scene, Kiera thinks that they're more trance-zombies following her but then, she learns that they are not following her after all and she watches them walk past without even noticing her. Here they are also joined by another walker (Phil) and so Kiera also realises that they are all heading in the same direction. Ooh. What's going on?

So this was the last band scene. Following this scene, all the band and Rachel got to go off to a gig.

Now it was me, Ceri and Cédric getting all the last shots of Kiera burying and digging up the box, opening the box, tearing the paper inside with the TFCoT logo on (expertly drawn 9 times on last-minute request by Fran on the back of my shot list to give us a few goes at tearing it). The box, the hole, the middle of the circle, etc. Everything else we might need from here whilst Mevans and Matthew packed up all the gear and waited around for us to finish - top chaps.

The only thing we had left to get was Kiera walking into the woods at the beginning of the video but light was suddenly disappearing very fast.

We heaved our gear and the leftovers from lunch to the entrance of the woods and we filmed 3 takes before it was just too dark to film at all. When we got these home, they were much too dark. :(

Like this:

That was the end of day 1. Now we had to get back, clear off our cards, charge our batteries (and the ones for the cameras) and back up the footage to get ready for the next day.

... Also, I made a last minute detour to pick up some more backdrop for day 2 and Mevans made a bunch of sandwiches for our next day in the studio.

Day 2 - The Studio (or the 4-hour gig of the same song)
Author's note: Now is a good time to have a loo break and make another cup of tea. Maybe a decaf this time as it's getting a bit late. Possibly even with a chocolate bar if you've already had your dinner... I'm hungry.

OK so, 7am, Ceri, Cédric, Mevans, Bill and I arrive at the Guide Hall in Fleet and begin to set up 'the studio' scene. The challenge here was that we couldn't stick anything to the walls as per the rules of the hall so we attached everything to my backdrop stand and the window frames. The backdrop itself is a damp-proof membrane acquired from Screwfix and it did a fantastic job looking like a soundproofed wall if it wasn't hanging off a bit at one side.

Then the band turned up with TEA! Incidentally Tom is the bestest ever and now was his turn to be called amazing and incredible.

Here is me drinking all the tea:

Next, we attached the big red TFCoT logo to the backdrop. This was also expertly drawn by Fran. She's a keeper.

I, however, was supposed to remember to bring my double-sided tape. But I forgot. I'm not a keeper. Put me in the bin.

So we attached it using the tried and tested rolling tape up into a circle which worked fine, I guess...

Then we set up the band equipment (well, they did because it's bloody heavy) and we shuffled them left and right a bit until they looked in the best place on the camera.

Next up, Cédric said that the light on the floor was too bright so we gave both my studio lights a barn door using black card, pencils and tape making them look rather like big, black angler fish:

Separated at birth?

We decided before we got there that we were getting:

1. A wide of the whole song on tripod.
2. A shot from each side for the whole song.
3. A take of each band member for the whole song on a tripod.
4. A take of each band member for the whole song free-hand.
5. A close up of Matt singing to the camera with a shallow depth of field.

... and then anything we got thereafter was a bonus.

We got all this desired footage pretty well and pretty quickly.

After Cédric got the wide shot, we took turns and rotated through the band members, Cédric on tripod and myself handheld.

I personally enjoyed Tom plucking Andy's face hair before his close up...

Shooting handheld was something I really wanted to do on the studio day as I thought it was important due to the nature of the track that there was a lot of motion in the video and the worry I had when I was dropping off to sleep on the Saturday night was that when it came to the edit, the story would feel too slow as we hadn't yet got our 'between scenes' running shots yet either.

Having watched a lot of music videos in my time, I know it's important to keep pace but Ceri, Cédric and I had never filmed a music video before today. Only ever short stories.

If I brought anything to this shoot at all, it was my worry about the pacing (and a second camera).

So, on the Sunday, I was handheld for almost the entire day, shooting at all different angles and that way I could dance as if I was at a real gig and it would totally look deliberate on camera. I was actually wearing a "TFCoT" t-shirt to complete the look of mad fan.

Luckily, no-one shot any pictures of me doing my bizarre dancing and instead I've somehow ended up with this awesome, moody, professional-looking shot.

Here's a pic of Ceri attempting to look over my shoulder whilst I was actually filming...

(You have to imagine me bobbing around and looking like I am trying to lose her...)
and then giving up and just watching from afar as I destroy the footage with my moves...

Around midday, things were going really well. Too well. So, after filming all the bands close ups, disaster struck! One of my bulbs blew. Nooooo!

Which meant that from this point on, the one light needed to be moved around to adequately light the set ups.

Thank goodness we'd got all the important shots and needed no more wides.

But that was the end for these lights anyway. My two Elinchrom D-Lite 4's had both now come free of their casing after 7 long years as my studio lights. Today was the day that I know I had to buy replacements.

R.I.P, my old friends...

A shot I'd had in mind from the very beginning was a shot of Matt, really close up with a shallow depth of field (really blurry background). We got this in the afternoon. Cédric shot this footage and it looked mint from the beginning. It's easily one of my favourite shots. So glad we did it.

Here's us filming that shot:

The last bit of filming that I was involved in for the studio scenes was filming Matt jumping off Luke's bass drum. Something that, if you watch closely on the footage, you can still see Luke wincing about it. We learned that bass drums are rather expensive... who knew...

Well Luke definitely did.

Anyway, Matt does that live as well. It's all quite exciting. Definitely go and see these guys live, they make a great gig.

Now then, Kiera turned up a little later and whilst Cédric, Bill and Matt got some additional footage of the band, Ceri, Kiera and I went to film lots of footage of Kiera running.

This involved me and Ceri running around looking at the floor. Me chasing Kiera, me running next to Kiera, Kiera running past me, me filming Kiera's feet and the list goes on.

And all this lead to Ceri filming my 'steadicam run' again...

Oh good!

What we didn't film at this point, however, was Kiera entering the forest again or Kiera just walking which both would have been very useful...

We wrapped at about 4pm and Ceri, Cédric, Bill, Kiera, Mevans and I cleared the Guide Hut up and put it back to how it was. No-one would have known we were there. Not even the little Brownies...

Editing Weekend
Author's note: You're doing SO well. Nearly there now.

Having no-one around to edit the video together in the timescale, Ceri and I ended up doing it between us. It was mostly Ceri using Final Cut Pro and me watching and re-watching and re-re-watching all the footage to find the best bits for use whilst occasionally offering moral support.

We had a really productive couple of days. Ceri with her secret amazing drumming skills was really good at dropping the footage in perfectly in time with the music on the first go. Like, scary good. There are times when Ceri is a regular amount of amazing and then times when you're all like "damn guuuuurl!" and this was the latter.

We started work by reviewing and organising all of the footage into folders and getting rid of any false starts (shots where we started rolling and then cut with no action).

We started the edit itself by dropping the wide studio shot of the whole band in place and then just kept building on that. I had some ideas of where I expected particular pieces of footage to be in the song and Ceri and I plucked these key steps of the story out and dropped them into the video. We finished on Saturday when we had got all of the story scenes into the video roughly where they needed to be and locked them in where they had to be exactly where they were.

I had to leave at 7pm to go to a birthday party and Ceri, the trooper, carried on for a further 4 hours tweaking and moving the story pieces.

On the Sunday, we went through all the studio scenes and extracted the best shots to put over the wide until we were only left with a couple of wide shots.

We worked through lunch on both days and actually, even though by 7pm on the Sunday it didn't even nearly feel ready, we kept in good spirits, calmly tweaked and tweaked and tweaked again until it was the best it could be and then at about 10:30pm we sent it to Cédric and Bill for a look-over.

At this stage, we were concerned about the dark shot of Kiera entering the forest mostly and I wasn't happy with a particular tree-panning shot that I had got which looked too shaky. Overall, however, we were happy with the rough cut.

By this time, we had spent 20 hours over this weekend (24 if you include Ceri's extra time) listening to "Give Them Blood" on repeat and we still hadn't lost our love for it yet.

Grading and Pick-ups
Author's note: Get your chamomile tea and pyjamas. I am pleased to say we're now approaching the end at last.

Next on the list was the grading.

I dropped the footage off to Cédric on the Tuesday night and he began working on the grading. He got all the lighting inconsistencies sorted like a beast and this was when the topic of the dark shot of Kiera came up. As we know, lightening a dark image makes it noisy.

You may recall if you read my blog-post "Photography Lesson 01: The Basics" the example I give of a high ISO vs low ISO image and the effect is basically the same.

So, Ceri, Cédric and I (or "Cléric" as we've taken to calling our unit) discussed the potential for getting a few more pickups with Kiera.

I got in touch with Kiera and on the following Saturday, I met up with Kiera and Bill to walk their dogs (Nikita and Leon) with them. And get some pickups.

Here I filmed Kiera walking. Her feet walking. Some wicked lens flare. Erm, some other stuff... and of course, Bill "The Wizard" Thomas, made a brick look like the box using naught but clever suggestion.

I then drove over to Cédric's, we dropped the footage in and he finished the grading whilst I loitered and pretended to be involved.

In addition to the grading, Cédric also "punched in" on a few of our shots to make them look a bit tighter and much better.

The whole thing was finally finished off and sent to the band on the Sunday afternoon (29th January) at 2pm. Ceri hadn't been able to see it with the new footage from our pickups in yet and wasn't home and so wasn't able to catch the lens flare so she said to send it on without her. :o

The band got the video and... they said it was awesome except for the syncing issues.

I was working at this point so couldn't have a look but I was quite surprised that there were syncing issues. Still, I assumed that they had noticed stuff we didn't so I asked them to write me a list with the time stamps and a very brief description of the sync issue, thinking there would maybe be 2 or so and just things like "drum hit out of time" or something but I got quite a big list!

I passed it on to Ceri and Cédric in case they could get to it first and they confirmed that it was definitely quite out of sync. Then Ceri watched the rough cut again and it wasn't.

I'll cut a VERY long story short here rather than keeping you until morning - the grading software (Resolve) was majorly messing with the sync AND the sound as whenever it was built either the video would be out of sync or the audio was playing in mono. Apparently, it turned out that this particular version of the software had these issues raised against it and it was resolved (pun not intended) by downloading the latest version of the software.

Around this time was when the track itself was released and Team Cléric collectively decided that they were experiencing some kind of audio Stockholm Syndrome or had just totally lost it as despite 300+ plays of "Give Them Blood" that month so far, we found that we were also all listening to it on Spotify on repeat whilst at work...

However, we weren't the only ones enjoying the track... after the release date, The Final Clause of Tacitus immediately began stirring up all the "up-and-coming" spotters on popular music blogs and magazines and are still popping up here, there and everywhere in a ton of glowing reviews - including one in Kerrang magazine!

"The Final Clause of Tacitus have offered us some ear sex. It is dirty, fast, angry, and exactly what’s needed on a Monday morning. Oh, they are British as well! A great band to look out for and Peace in Chaos is a very an enjoyable EP." - Moshville Times

"‘Peace in Chaos’ is one bass slapping, guitar screaming, get your funk on EP. It has it all, sick beats and mind twisting raps that just get you groovin’ and ragin”. You can really hear the Rock-Rage-Funk influence throughout the whole EP, but they also have their own distinct flavor mixed in as well." - Ignite Music

When resolving the issues in Resolve, Cédric then decided that he was going to spend a while tweaking the grading again to make it look cleaner and get rid of some of the noise if it was alright with the band and so we arranged to pass the footage back another week later than our original deadline to do so as the band were also keen for it to look as good as possible!

So we handed the final final final video over to the band and this time they loved it how it was supposed to be loved. :)

Here is that video!

And they all* lived happily ever after. The end.

*except Kiera who disappeared at the end and is probably now lost in the upside-down.

Special thanks:

Ceri Williams
My favourite behind the scenes shot from the day was taken by Bill, I think.

Look at the actual love happening right on this ladder.

Band's eye view...
Ceri dragged me kicking and screaming into my first videography experience to film her first short story in 2013 - 4 years ago!

I enjoyed the experience at the time but I knew I wasn't interested in filming as my own venture. I'm in this happy place where, I take photos, and I love taking photos, and then Ceri needs me for a film project once in a while.

I like it here because it gives me time to forget how cold filming in January is and how much I hate it so by the time it next comes around I feel really enthusiastic like an idiot and tell her I'll do it.
However - music videos. Oh my goodness. I loved filming this music video so much! :o
10/10. Would do again many times - but probably not without my Cerikins monitoring my every move.

Send help.

I am lucky to have the working relationship that Ceri and I have when on a shoot.
If I give her an opinion on something, she will listen to it and then if she decides (as the director, after all) that she disagrees, I am happy with that. We have a good amount of respect for one another and we spend so much time together that we know each other well.

So much so that not only do other people call us by each other's names but we have genuinely accidentally called each other our own name by accident. #WhatAreWe?

I love that she gets me involved.

My only filming talents really are limited to knowing how to adjust the camera to get the right 'look and feel' and knowing when what I'm filming looks rubbish and needs to be changed. XD

Admittedly, both quite important but that brings me neatly onto...

Cédric Hauteville
Whilst I'm talking about my own reluctance for videography... 

This man, right here shot all my favourite shots in this video.

Cédric was the D.O.P for the 2nd day of the shoot but in all honesty, he was also the D.O.P for the 1st day as well. He knows way more about the technical side of filming than I do. I just wing it but he actually knows what he is doing and is actively passionate about videography.

He's shot an entire film by himself travelling around Europe interviewing people about HEMA, another of his passions.

Cédric is one of those people who picks up hobby after hobby and is just really so good at all of them that it makes you wish they were a bit of an arse so you don't have to like them so much. But alas, he is not an arse. He is lovely.

This guy forced me to download Magic Lantern against my will one night and put it onto all 8 of my CF cards (split the memory across multiple cards, she says, it'll be safer, she says...) and then taught me how to use it for this shoot.

And most annoyingly, it's really useful. Bum.

Bill Thomas
Bill is the most useful thing one can bring to a shoot.

Not only has he a billion years of experience (he's quite old) but he initially completely leaves you to it and then, when relevant, offers little, beautiful, golden nuggets of advice which he is also totally happy for you to dismiss (even though you never do) and makes you feel like it was totally your idea.

He is not only the oracle, but he is so chilled out and helpful. He'll be lugging things around the set for you before you've even realised you need to move it AND you'll come out with some totally naff idea like 'let's tape a damp-proof membrane up as a backdrop' and after 5 mins you'll be all like "holy sh*t, are we in a studio, right now?".

Mevans, came along on this shoot on both days and though he wasn't in any particular one role, he was so necessary and I'm so grateful for his help.

He moved things, carried things, repaired things, looked after extras, kept everyone in one place, he helped any time he could and was always ready and willing to be of use if he could. Not to mention that he made all the sandwiches, organised the catering and went out to get everyone breakfast on day 2. He also looked after me when I wasn't paying attention, making sure I was fed and watered and making sure all my kit was ready when I was brainless (between 6am-10am every morning).

Kiera Gould-Thomas
Our talent!

Kiera, as always was fantastic, if a bit mischievous...

She came on board at short notice AND did two lots of additional pickups with no question.

Kiera's always great to work with because she's beautiful, does her own stunts and she has "resting actors face". She never needs you to tell her how to act because it comes totally naturally. She even hand-acts perfectly.

Kiera doing her own stunts!

You just have to be ready to move out the way when she tries to lick you.

The band!
The band were just absolutely great to work with. Really chill, really professional and just really good fun despite only having about 4 hours of sleep all weekend...

You can tell how much fun they were to work with from the shots we have of them...

 We're really glad that they got us involved on this project and definitely look forward to working with them again in the future - if they'll have us!

Rachel and Fran
Thanks for making the boys look acceptable and for all your help with the props and music.

...and all the extras!
Thank you for getting up ridiculously early and standing in the cold for us! We couldn't have done it without you!!!

Note: all images used in this blog are a mixture of images and footage by myself, Cédric Hauteville, Bill Thomas, Matt Evans and Fran!