The latest from Theoretics: “Lights On”!
This is Casey Sjogren‘s music video debut as a director, though he’s been making quality content for a few years now. He directed, edited and co-produced this video. Domenic Barbero was our DP and RED Epic camera operator for the indoor footage. I co-produced with Casey, was I the gaffer for the indoor footage, and was the 2nd unit DP for the car footage (both Mark rapping in the car as well as the drivelapse footage of the city at night), which we shot on a 5D mark iii.
Lighting “Lights On”
I had an early idea to string party lights in a room and plug them into dimmers from a hardware store, so different strings of lights were on different dimmers. The idea was to just manually bring the lights up and down on each dimmer during the performances, creating an organic and pulsating lighting effect. After set everything up and got it wired correctly, I had the distinct pleasure to stand near the AC outlet with dimmer in hand, pulsing the light to the beat while an assistant stood on the opposite side of the room doing the same thing, but syncopating the pulses to different musical cues than I was. The result was interesting live, but I think really gets its payoff during the slow-motion scenes.
Other than the overhead string lights, we used my trusty smoke machine and Domenic backlit the dance scenes heavily, which created nice silhouettes and a great atmosphere.
Throughout the course of the video we have various speed tricks that mess with the viewer’s head a bit. For roughly one third of the takes, we played back the song at full speed while the emcees sang along to the track. For the other takes, we’d alternate between a half-speed version of the track (with the emcees delivering their lyrics in slow-motion while everything around them went at full speed), and a double-speed version of the track (where the background dancers danced at normal speed while the emcees moved quickly).
Casey corrected the speed in post, and the result is a speed mismatch between the environment and the vocalist, where their environment is either moving fast and twitchy (see Mark’s car scenes, like at 2:01), or it’s moving in slow motion while the vocalist is at normal speed (see Chima at 1:41).
Domenic also filmed a lot of dance footage at 120 fps, which gave Casey plenty of room to play with speed ramping between full-speed (24 fps) and 1/5 speed (120 fps slowed to 24 fps), as you can see throughout the video.
I don’t know if anyone else loves the genre of drivelapse (timelapse + driving), but I just love doing this sort of thing. In case the frenetic clips of driving through the city at night didn’t fill your aesthetic quota for the day, here’s a bit more of the same drivelapse I filmed for “Lights On”:
I used a Canon 5D mkiii with a 3rd-party intervalometer to take the photos every second. The camera was snugly secured to the hood of my car using the magnetic RigMount X by RigWheels (I love that mount). Each exposure was shot at ISO 100 with a 0.4 second shutter speed, which made for nice long light streaks as I drove along through traffic at an unexciting 20-25 mph. Since the shots were initiated every 1.0 seconds, that left only 0.6 seconds of lag time between each image, which created a fairly smooth continuity from one frame to the next when played back at 24 fps. (If you’ve ever tried a timelapse with cars at night, a challenge can be to keep the exposures long enough to see the headlight streaks but still close enough together, at a high enough frequency, to have continuity from one frame to the next. Cameras with slower image processors often need to separate slow-shutter exposures by 2 or 3 seconds, but thankfully the image buffer in the 5D mkiii could keep up to the frantic pace of one exposure every second, continuously for 20+ minutes.)
I lightly processed the photos in Lightroom, then compiled them in After Effects and exported as a 4k ProRes sequence. The only editing involved was to remove the lag time at stoplights, where I’d sometimes wait for 3-4 minutes before driving again. Once those stops were removed it created a fairly smooth, organic texture of light that ran from Sodo through Pioneer Square, into the heart of downtown Seattle on a Saturday night. It was a lot of fun!