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.
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.
There’s a moment when Mikeskee throws a ream of white office paper into the air, a symbol of release from his day-to-day pressures. Though we filmed it five times, only the first take was usable. Here, the first take is shown last for maximum effect:
The homeless man’s locations were mostly at the Pike Place Market in Seattle, though some of his dancing took place on and near the Harbor Steps (a few blocks south of the Market, on 1st Ave). The other street locations were filmed on “The Ave” in the UW District, including the close-up hand shots in which the homeless man receives the $50 bill (that was my big cameo, as the hand). Jessica Hu deftly operated the camera for those two shots.
The office scenes were filmed in downtown Seattle. The library scene was filmed in the beautiful Smith Room of the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus. Special thanks to the UW Suzalloo staff who graciously gave us permission to use that historic room and film for an hour.
The whole video was filmed on the Canon 7D using three lenses:
Most of the moving-camera shots were done by flying a Glidecam HD-2000 (often running to achieve the look), and the others were done with the cheap and useful Spiderbrace.I used a medium-weight Manfrotto fluid head and 3-stage tripod for the locked-off shots.
All footage was converted to ProRes 422 and conformed to 23.976 fps using Apple Compressor and Cinema Tools, then edited in Final Cut Pro. I used Color for the color-grading and Quicktime Pro for the final output to a web-quality h.264 file. (I usually use Compressor for that final output but I found that it kept causing sync issues with just the second shot of the drums. Since that was maddening to troubleshoot — turning off frame reordering and setting keyframes to every 6 frames, etc…– I ultimately used Quicktime Pro, which worked great.)