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behind the scenes on a music video

Filming a Music Video - Behind-the-Scenes on Don’t Take it Personal

A couple of years ago I started Phan Media, a creative arts webshow showcasing local and Indie artists throughout the Hudson Valley of NY. We have loads of talent in this region, but they sometimes have no outlet or platform. As a former hip-hop DJ, beatmaker, and engineer, I left music for digital film to offer these artists a space to perform. I believe a music video can add a lasting impact and more emotion to a song. Phan Media was created to be a platform for hungry artists to be seen and heard. I love indie music the same way I love indie films. I had cameras and learned to edit; I used my music contacts to book interviews with artists. Once I had a good grasp on my equipment and concept I started running contests for artists to win a free music video. It’s a win-win situation for us. We are able to create and promote and so can the musicians. It was one of these contests that brought us to Kortnee Simmons and Don’t Take it Personal.

Pulling Inspiration and Creating a World

Our most recent contest was for Best Original Local Song in the RnB, Pop, and Rock genres. 16 artists and bands submitted songs, which we cut down to a final 6. The ultimate winner was Dutchess native, RnB and Pop artist Kortnee Simmons. His song, Don’t Take it Personal is a smooth, mid-tempo song about someone wanting to be more than just friends. The vibe of the song called for a look that balanced both nostalgic and modern aspects. Color is very important when it comes to music videos. We wanted to use muted colors that would complement Kortnee's chocolaty brown skin and our location's color palette. We used dark and light browns, muted reds and yellow to create our world and highlight the music. behind the scenes on a music video The video also starts Kortnee’s friends, Ashleigh Duplechane and Donovan Owens. We set the scene with Kortnee feeling like a third wheel sitting at a table with the duo. We wanted the scene to look intimate but have our central character seem distanced from that intimacy. Kortnee’s performance could then stem from him speaking his mind and letting out his frustration rather than a show for the camera.

Picking the Right Gear

The music video was all shot on our Sony FS7, in S-LOG 3.cine mode. We definitely wanted a clean look to this, so I chose the Tokina Cine Alta 35mm to be our workhorse glass for the majority of the shoot. We shot the bulk of it handheld using a Sony FS7 Recoil Shoulder Rig from Zacuto with their Gratical HD EVF. The gear helped us capture what we wanted, the way we saw it.
We originally wanted a Gratical Eye but ended up with the HD model because it has its own power source and doesn’t need a D-TAP battery. It actually worked out better because the HD has an HDMI loop-out so we could use our SmallHD 5" Focus as well from only on HDMI output on the FS7. The key Gratical feature was the critical focus peaking. It helped a lot during the run and gun scenes on Wall Street in Kingston where Kortnee, Ashleigh, and Donovan walk about the strip. For lighting, we used as much practical light as possible. We used the streetlights and auxiliary lighting from storefronts. This gave it a natural look and feel. The color grading process was really focused on making sure all the scenes matched in vibrancy, or lack of, as well as keeping the same tone throughout. I edited in Final Cut Pro X 10.2 and graded in Davinci Resolve 14 on a 2016 iMac.

Wrap it Up

Overall, I was delighted with the outcome. Kortnee stated, “I was very excited. I'm normally not so ecstatic about shooting music videos, but it was fun and natural.” This project was our first time working together. He also mentioned after he saw the finished product, “watching it further proves that point. It looks natural and extremely high quality."
Not many local musicians are able to have “professionally done” music videos. As a growing production company, we’re always looking for great, hungry artists that really want to work. This project was a testament that being creative mirrors to each other is truly worthwhile for everyone. We are young, professional artists getting the opportunity to create and use pro gear to produce a clean and professional product. Although the artists did not pay a cent, and we paid for all rental equipment and travel, the outcome worth it for us. It’s an investment in our company that we’re happy to spend. Our work is our stock. ****************************************************** See more from author Shawn Strong here: #withmycamera
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