Category Archives: Film

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Justin Bieber (Official Music Video)

I edited this music video (in 3D) in southern California in October during 3 sleepless days to get it delivered to Sony Pictures in time. You can view it in true 3D right now if you go see it play in theaters before Arthur Christmas. Even if you’re not a Bieber fan, check out the excellent urban dancing from many members of The LXD!

The music video was filmed on two RED Epic 5k cameras and we used Cineform’s 3D codec to edit the muxed files in 3D using Final Cut Pro 7 and a Blackmagic output box, viewing the stereoscopic picture on a passive 3D 1080p monitor (we wore 3D glasses).

The video is directed by Charles Oliver, who directed many episodes of The LXD. The director of photography was Alice Brooks (also the DP of The LXD) and it was produced by Kyle Sonia (also of the LXD family).

Alabaster – Overcome (Official Music Video)

Jill and I filmed this video for Alabaster right in the middle of production for Jekyll & Hyde. Besides risking creative burnout, I found that there were amazing advantages to drastically changing gears right in the middle of a two-week production:

  • Working on “Overcome” helped clear my creative mental blocks that had been building up for “Jekyll & Hyde,” ultimately making the latter a stronger piece.
  • Shaina (Alabaster’s lead singer) was in both productions (somehow) so we had plenty of time to get comfortable and communicative by the time filming started for “Overcome.” Had we jumped straight into her music video without having filmed “Jekyll & Hyde” a few days before, we wouldn’t have had anywhere near the artistic rapport that we had on this set.
  • Hair & Make-up artists were shared between the two projects, facilitating communication on that front.
  • Rented lights, lenses and other gear was shared between the two projects, adding production value to both.
  • A certain type of creative momentum carried me through this production. I found that the harder I pushed myself the more I had inside of me. Something about going beyond the comfortable, more stagnant realm of careful planning and extensive production paperwork helped visuals flow to me.

"Overcome" by Alabaster

Alabaster was a fantastic group of people to work with, and a refreshing example of hard work and humility in the music industry. Their work is excellent (also thanks to their talented producer, Joel Casey Jones) and I’m sure I’ll be hearing their music all over the city once their forthcoming album is released.

Some gorgeous production photos by my wife (Jill) are here.

If you prefer to watch on Vimeo, here’s the music video there:

Alabaster – Overcome (Official Music Video) from Garrett Wesley Gibbons on Vimeo.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Music Video (by Theoretics)

Theoretics is an awesome group of hard-working and very musically-talented artists. If you haven’t yet listened to their whole debut album, do it while you read this!

Project Conception

I first heard this song while Mark Hoy and I were driving around downtown Seattle in February, listening to an unmastered copy of the album while trying to decide which song to make into their first music video. I was blown away by this song, and told Mark that it wasn’t the time to make this yet (there was less of a budget, time was tight, etc…) but that I needed to make a video to Jekyll & Hyde. The music video for “Higher” was thankfully well-received and this summer Theoretics launched a Kickstarted campaign to raise money for a “Jekyll & Hyde” video.

I had begun writing a screenplay back in July, and after a few long brainstorming sessions with all seven band members pitching in their varied ideas we decided to go with a surprisingly traditional representation of the original novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I read the novella deeply and repeatedly for a few months as I worked on other projects. I was blown away by how different the story was from the general concept of Jekyll & Hyde that seems to make its way into popular culture.

Our version has most of the core elements of the original story, but I won’t tell you much more about it because I want you to just read the novella. It’s amazing, it’s short and it’s free on the Kindle store and Project Gutenburg.

Thankfully, the band raised the money and we began filming the week after the Kickstarter campaign ended.
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The LXD Season 3 and Me

I was blessed with the opportunity to work on The LXD season 3 this May and June as the personal assistant to Director Charles Oliver, as well as editing the season finale.

301: The Extraordinary 7

For those who have been following the series, the first three episodes of season 3 were a fun story arc that explore the origins of the LXD and their dance-related powers.

I worked a lot on the casting for episode 301. I worked with Charles to audition young actors for the lead “Young Narrator” role and spent a lot of time tracking down specialty extras who were the circus performers in this episode.

I filmed some b-roll for this episode using a Canon 5Dmk2 and a Zeiss 50mm 1.4 CP lens (it wasn’t used – the rest of the footage was shot on a pre-production model RED Epic), re-choreographed and rehearsed the partner dancing/tango section of the dance between the Countess and Joe Drift, wrote and re-worked various bits of dialogue, and generally assisted with most of the director’s work (guiding the art department, costumes, hair, make-up looks for the ringmaster, etc…).
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What Should a Music Video Budget Be?

The landscape of music production, marketing and sales has drastically changed many times in the last ten years. The relationship between music videos and the music industry has also been in flux. The amount of music being recorded and distributed is higher now than ever before, and more music videos are being made than ever before, though the budget range is extremely wide. Some bands pay for their music videos out of pocket, while bands signed with major record labels are often appropriated with a music video budget that is considered to be part of the marketing strategy for a given album or single.

Scott Zuniga music video directed by Garrett Gibbons

Example music video budgets:

  • Macklemore “Wings”: $18,269 (2011)
  • Michael Jackson “Beat It”: $150,000 (1983)
  • Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson “Scream”: $10,000,000 (1995, adjusted for inflation)
  • Average studio music video budget: $200,000 – $500,000 (2010)

We see those numbers and we see what the final product ended up being, but without direct experience with film production budgets it can be challenging to know where the money goes. Many bands are wrestling with the question of how much money a music video will cost, and emerging filmmakers also struggle to know how much they should charge for their work.

Here is a breakdown of some general costs that are typical in film production (and specifically in music video production):

Estimated production costs:

  • Producer fee: $500 – $1250/day
  • Director fee: $500 – $1250/day
  • Camera operator: $500-1000/day
  • Camera equipment rental: $150 – $3500/day
  • Key grip + assistant + lighting gear: $1000 – $1750/day
  • Wardrobe: estimated $20 – $1000/day per character project
  • City permits: $25 – $1000/day (depending on the city, exact location, whether roads need to be closed, etc…)
  • Location fees and rentals: $250 – $2500+/day
  • Actors: $200 – $1200/day (each)
  • Extras: $50 – $200/day (each)

Estimated days of post-production required: 2-3 days

  • Editor fee: $500 – $1250/day
  • Redundant Hard disk archive: $200 – $400
  • Visual FX artist fee: $75 – $150/hour
  • Colorist fee: $100 – $200/hour

Additional costs:

  • Band member compensation
  • Development/Pre-production (scripts, storyboards, strategy, etc…)
  • Additional actors and extras
  • Marketing hours
  • Props/furniture rentals
  • Set construction
  • Production insurance
  • Catering (food)
  • Etc…


I’d like to share four specific music videos I have worked on in recent years, each of which is an example of a different budget range and level of production value. Please note that nothing is set in stone, and different markets and individuals will yield different levels of work at different price points, but this should give a general idea of what I have experienced.

Level 1: Shoestring Budget ($2,000 – $5,000)

At this level, my work usually fits the following characteristics:

  • One full day of shooting (or possibly two half-days)
  • One camera operator
  • Skeleton crew (one or two people)
  • Filmed on DSLR or mirrorless cameras
  • Few paid actors, if any
  • Many production roles will be combined (for example, the Director may also produce and edit; the Director of Photography will probably be responsible for all grip and gaffer work, etc…)
  • Permit fees are often avoided by carefully selecting production locations

“Overcome” by Alabaster is a music video in this budget range that I directed, filmed and edited. We filmed the entire thing in about 6 hours (including setup), all in the same location. We filmed the band first, then quickly filled the room with fog, threw up a 2K light, and brought in the dancers. I worked with the two dancers for a little less than an hour before we had to break down.

Level 2: Modest Budget ($5,000 – $10,000)

Here are some characteristics of this budget range:

  • Several days of shooting
  • Small crew (four or five people)
  • Filmed on higher-end video, DSLR or mirrorless cameras
  • Costumes are an option
  • Several paid actors can be involved
  • Minor visual effects are possible
  • City permits may be required for outdoor shoots on public streets

My music video for “Jekyll & Hyde” by Theoretics fits in this range. The band relied heavily on friends and favors, but still had to hire four or five paid actors to participate. We used a lot of interesting locations that each required a fee. We needed to close off a few sections of street to film several segments, so city permits (and correlation with local police) were necessary. Our production was small enough that we didn’t need big trucks or generators, so we were able to qualify for a less-expensive type of film permit with the cities involved; the same level of production insurance wasn’t required by the cities we filmed in since we were under $10,000 (that type of rule changes drastically from city to city, so call the film permit office before planning your shoot).

Garrett Gibbons music video director

Level 3: Healthy Independent Budget ($20,000 – $50,000)

At this level, the production feels more like an independent film set, rather than a student film or enthusiast project. It’s not a full-blown film crew sort of feel, but it’s about as close as anyone independently financed generally gets. Here are some characteristics of this budget level:

  • Several days of production
  • Medium-sized crew
  • Filmed on RED, Alexa, or other higher-end digital cinema camera packages
  • Experienced, professional actors can be involved
  • Full production insurance is required in most cities
  • City permits are required in most cities
  • Visual effects can be a major element of the video

The music video I directed, filmed and edited for Adam Zwig, “Everybody Love” was within this budget range. Paying actors was a huge part of the budget (I think we had more than thirty actors involved, though not all made the final edit), and the theater setup with the band also had a large number of costs associated with it. This video features a few thousands dollars worth of invisible visual effects as well, where some aspect of the shot was changed after it was filmed, to meet the client’s evolving vision for the video.

Level 4: Commercial/Studio Budget ($50,000+)

  • Several days of production
  • Full professional film crew
  • Filmed on RED, Alexa, or other higher-end digital cinema camera packages
  • Experienced, professional actors can be involved
  • Full production insurance is required
  • City permits are required
  • Visual effects can be a central element of the video

At this level, everyone involved is a professional who is present to do one task. There can easily be fifty people involved in the crew (ranging from production assistants to hair and makeup artists to caterers to runners to DITs), and the post-production pipeline is similar to a feature film (a full crew involved in the editorial department and post-production process).

I edited “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Justin Bieber in 2011. I don’t know the exact budget, but my rough estimate is that it cost around $150,000, based on my experience with similar projects. SONY Pictures and Island Records were the two corporate entities who financed the project, and the set was run like a feature film with a $10-20M budget. It was filmed on two days in Los Angeles: Justin was filmed for a large part of one day, with the second day being focused on the dancers. The set and props were built in the week leading up to filming (I believe that the set was brought in and assembled on the day previous to shooting, but it may have taken two days), and most of the costumes were rented in Los Angeles. It was filmed in stereoscopic 3D at 5K on twin RED Epic cameras, and I edited it in 3D on a Final Cut Pro 7 setup using Cineform plugin tools to manage the 3D aspect of the editing process. The edit was rushed to coloring and conforming so that it could play as a pre-roll to the kids movie “Arthur Christmas” for its premiere.

Comparing Budget Tiers

Some of you may look at the difference between “Overcome” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and conclude that money is wasted at higher levels of production. While that may sometimes be true in some aspects, it’s important to recognize that the benefits of a large crew and a full professional toolset tend to manifest themselves in extremely important ways that may not be obvious to the casual viewer.

For example, the Justin Bieber video was thoroughly pre-visualized, with mood boards and color palettes compiled in advance so that they could be approved by the various levels of executives involved. There was plenty of time to do everything correctly and predictably, and there was very little risk of the final product turning out differently than expected.

Much of “Overcome” was improvised on set, and required a lot of improvisation and split-second decision-making to pull the shoot off. The dancers hadn’t rehearsed nor had any choreography prepared; I relied entirely on their ability to interpret my direction while I filmed them. We experimented a lot and weren’t entirely sure what the final product would look like while we were in production.

Chilling with this group of sorry actors.

A photo posted by Garrett Gibbons (@garrettgibbons) on

Essentially, the more money goes into a music video (or film), the higher the likelihood will be that the result looks professional. I have seen many bands film music videos for $500 with a first-time director who has very little film experience, and sometimes they turn out well. More commonly, the band has a very amateur-looking music video that becomes a liability to their brand and the authenticity of their image.

Music videos are expensive, but if the band is educated in terms of how much to spend and what to expect, they can carefully select a director who can help them achieve their goals within their price range.

Update: This excellent mini-documentary features all sorts of music video-related wisdom from some great directors whose work I have enjoyed and respected for years. If you ever plan to be involved in a music video in any way (director, editor, DP, camera operator, producer, band member, actor, etc…) you really need to watch this as soon as possible.

The Videographers Guide Ep. 1 – The Music Video from HBTV on Vimeo.

Run-and-gun music videos

I made this music video for Colby Miller during the off-hours of two very different projects. Colby and I filmed his half in Riverside, CA while I was involved in a few episodes of The LXD that we were filming there (you can see the same wheat field in season 3 episode 3). I only used a shoulder-mounted stabilizer and the Canon 7D for his segments, and shot during the golden hour just before sunset. Then the footage sat for a while.

The plan was to finish the music video in Utah with dancing by Krista Treu Derington, but my Utah trip was postponed a few months until we raised money for “Time Withers” to be filmed. The production schedule was tight and very busy, and we kept looking for time to film this video with Krista, but it was delayed until just after sunrise on the last day of shooting.
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The LXD Season 3 is coming!

I’ve spent a lot of time with The LXD this summer, from casting, storyboarding, assisting with choreography, assisting the director on set and ultimately editing the season finale.

I’ve been wanting to share this stuff since the day I started, but this is the first official preview of Season 3 of The LXD! The season premieres on August 11 in the USA, with international distribution to follow.

If Hulu won’t let you watch the trailer in your country, try it on YouTube!

LXD Season 3 poster

Adrian Pisarello sings to Gibraltar’s resilience

This song was written about the joint-sovereignty talks of leading up to the 2002 referendum, when Spain and the UK were discussing joint-ownership of Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar vehemently opposed the altered sovereignty status. In a crucial act of political self-determination, the 7 November 2002 referendum rejected the notion that other countries could decide the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people.

Filmed as part of the feature-length documentary “People of The Rock: The Llanitos of Gibraltar”. Adrian Pisarello is a bard of Gibraltar, singing the stories and struggles of his people and entertaining along the way. His music will be featured heavily throughout this film, along with two other Gibraltarian musicians.

Theoretics take over Seattle

Theoretics is an Emerald City gem like only Seattle seems to produce. Seven musicians trained in classical, jazz, funk, rock and hip-hop have combined to make an amazing sound.

“Higher” by Theoretics (directed by Garrett Gibbons)

Thematically, my main goal was to convey a feeling of ascension: visually, energetically and emotionally. During  the band sequences I move the camera upward, slowly from the start of the song (where the camera was on the ground) through the end where the camera was often soaring above the band members’ heads. The color palette starts cool and gradually gets warmer throughout the song. The dancers’ stories follow a similar theme, and their solos combine into an ideological improv session as the song reaches its climax climaxing with Brian Ung’s airborne power moves during the song’s final hits.


We filmed this music video quickly and the dancers (Jessica Hu, Mikeskee Huang and Brian Ung) were all wonderful to work with. One of their main challenges was dancing without music. I knew that they would be dancing mostly during the chorus and final outtro but the exact pacing wasn’t set enough to give them musical cues to use for choreography.

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Hushd Puppies “Nothing At All” (Official Music Video)

From the exceedingly talented Andrew Savoie, Zac Millan and Eva Linh comes the hip hop/jazz/soul trio Hushd Puppies. Their EP is wide and deep, and you can listen to the whole thing on their bandcamp page.

Jessica Hu was a Production Assistant and Jack Leonard held a light for a few minutes. Special thanks to The Atlantic Crossing pub for letting us film for a few minutes.

Filmed near Greenlake (Seattle, WA) on a Canon 7D. I used a portable Glidetrack SD Shooter for the dolly shots and the rest was shot on my trusty monopod. Lenses: Canon 10-22, Canon 17-40, Canon 70-200. Dialogue was recorded using the built-in mic on the Zoom H4n.