Making Vintersea's "Crack of Light"
"Crack of Light" from Vintersea's album Illuminated is easily shaping up to be the most epic music video HotKarlProductions has been involved with. This blog post covers the preparation for the Alvord Desert phase of filming - our most ambitious shoot to date.
Alittle about me - Karl Whinnery - I play bass in Vintersea and make music videos. HotKarlProductions/Vintersea released four music videos off Vintersea's first album and I really wanted to step it up on the new album, "Illuminated". When Vintersea was wrapping up tracking the new album we started brainstorming music video ideas.
I created a google doc that had rough ideas for 5 music videos. That gave us a blue print for the title track "Illuminated", "Old Ones", "Befallen", "Crack of Light", and "Fiery Tongue". We've been working through those ideas as fast as we can.
For "Crack of Light" - I told the band I wanted to make a Behemoth/Groupa13 level video and have us pulling a boat in the desert. I thought that would create powerful visuals. The way we create videos in Vintersea is I develop a rough idea with Riley and Avienne, then when we are pretty happy with it we take it to Jorma and Jeremy and build it up.
I knew that I wanted:
The band pulling an ancient boat in the desert
Avienne using a "Sunstone" to navigate
The band to be in costumes (robes)
I wanted us in makeup
I wrote up a draft screenplay and sent it to Riley, who filled it in further and came up with the ending. Then we took the rough idea to Freddy Heath, my main partner at HotKarlProductions. He started developing the rough script into something shootable. Freddy takes our ideas and shapes them into a compelling narrative.
While that was happening I started on the boat. Funny story here - I think everyone thought I was full of shit when I said I wanted to build a boat for the video. No one seemed to take it serious, the looks I got from everyone were funny. My wife was trying to help" by asking friends if anyone knew of a boat we could borrow - but that's not the style of boat I wanted for the video.
I watched a few YouTube videos and then went to Home Depot and got started. My saving grace was this boat didn't have to float.
Building the boat
So one Saturday I snagged my brother and we went to town building the boat in the garage / side yard. We started by building the "ribs" of the boat. I made the boat 4 ft tall and about 6 ft wide.
The above photo was "success"!! It was quasi working! I had no clue how long the boat was going to be. Just kinda free wheeling it.
You can see the curve starting to take shape:
Here you can see the progress - this is still day 1 of the build. It took a bit to actually get to the tip of the boat. We got the sides on, and added some bottom 2x4s for strength.
And here's the start of the tip! The one flourish on the boat is the tip - the tip leans forward towards the top front. Oh yeah, the boat is upside down at this point.
And one side completed and a good shot of the bow of the boat:
I think this is day 2 at this point.
We flipped the boat with four people and then start strengthening the top of the boat so it had more structure. We used 2x4s for strength. Josh here drilling.
Avienne got in on the action and helped like crazy! Here she is ninja-ing the structure.
Freshly flipped and talking to my wife about it.
Late night session here - we stained the boat grey with deck staining and then used Rit with water to "age" the boat. Plot twist - Rit is amazing but not for the boat. It kept raining/getting blown out by the sun.
Here's Josh helping me build the back deck. You can see our Rit stain on the side of the boat - we did green on the bottom and went to black/brown on the top.
Some stain on the back - the grey is good but it needs to look aged. :x
And this is the start of the front of the boat.
So James Sweet, Jason Rising director, came over and mad scientisted the paint job - aging the boat a 100 years in a few hours. The trick is using acrylic and spray paint, with sponges.
Wide angle iPhone shot here of the front of the boat - the different colors represent what's safe to stand on.
Next up - getting wheels on the boat (Jeremy work):
These cuties helped:
A day later we had to transport it.
I think I started it about a month prior to needing it. The bulk of the boat was done in about 3-4 days with lots of days doing paint sprays/some finish work on it. Everyone in the band + lots of friends helped on various parts of the boat.
Moving the boat
Thursday, July 9th, was the first test. We had to load the boat on the trailer.
We used PVC pipes to roll it and holy crap I was hoping it didn't just fall apart.
The PVC did wonders.
Holy snikes! We did it! (It was HAAARD). Surprisingly it stayed intact.
Jorma back home expressing his feelings on the situation:
What good is a boat without a sail?
Riley and Avienne and I talked about and brain stormed ideas for a sail. Avienne suggested a phoenix. At this point we had been discussing color pretty heavily too - we wanted alot of things RED to stand out from the desert. So a red phoenix.
Sarah Jane, a talented artist in Portland designed the phoenix. It was everything I could have hoped for!
So I went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of different sized canvas to use as sails.
I think this one is 12x15ft - we then had a "Rit" party with Sarah and my wife and aged it pretty quickly. Rit + water + spray bottles is a great combo. We did a few passes with black, brown, and green.
I knew we needed a few things so we start on some smaller canvii as well.
Next up we did paint testing - what's the best way to get a red phoenix on canvas and have it survive being folded up/transported? Got 3 different things at Michaels and tested. Rit won hands down. The shade of red looked the coolest and it didn't bleed like we thought it would.
And this was when I knew shit was getting real. I was so excited. Here's Sarah tracing the outline of a projected phoenix. This took like....two hours?
Painting took a few hours - I think we spent 4 or 5 hours on it the first night, then did a second night to finish the wings. Here's a giant tired Riley for scale.
My messy garage (I cleaned it to build the boat and then got it super messy again to paint). Sarah working hard af on it.
And this was the end of day 2 of the main sail. Sarah did the detail and I did the broad strokes.
Main sail - DONE!
Then we started on the 2nd sail - I think it's 6x9ft. We followed the same pattern - Sarah doing the detailed/fine work with me doing the big sections with a big brush.
At that point I wanted to make a stage scrim because I was in a crafty mood. This took like 8 hours to do myself.
And then I wanted to make a flag.
I cut one of the canvas sheets into a few 2 ft sections. For this design I didn't use a sharpie to outline - I just did brush strokes to outline it.
Once it was filled in I felt it lacked definition so I did the outline in black. Cool. I like it.
Why did I want to make a flag? We had just rewatched Lord of the Rings and all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies they had flag bearers in the armies and I always loved that. Plus I thought we could do some cool shots with that and the band.
Annndddd. I had an idea for the Oasis that would help with a landmark.
I wanted something that had a message - so I spent an evening with my wife looking up cool stuff. I picked an alchemy symbol for sulfur, water, and then the omega symbol for the end. Death. Sulfur, water, and death. Your end. It's a warning but not everyone will know it. Black paint instead of red.
PROPS AND COSTUMES
Considering the level of effort that went into the boat and sails - everything else had to look good. We ordered rope off of Amazon and had to age it. Rit to the rescue again. Various colors for texture and layering.
Oh, and while we were doing that Jeremy was working out the sail situations so we can mount them. Pretty cool start here:
And while all of this was happening Riley was busy coordinating getting our robes made.
His wife's mom made them. I think all in all with coupons and everything it was about $650 for these bad boys. Look how sexy Riley is in that.
I got some cool netting off of Etsy.
Oh, and we were building crosses the entire time. The crosses are for our fellow shipmates that perishes along the way. The markings - a combo of runes, Japanese Katakana (I used to be nearly fluent in Japanese when I lived there), and some stylized AVNs (short for Avienne).
Since we wanted ancient stuff when I realized I have a friend that makes drinking horns I hit him up - like YO! need one for the video! So we talked about runes and Riley found the Dagaz rune - it means first light of the day. So sick for "Crack of Light".
Love the horns? Available here!
We had so many props - even if they were barely on screen we wanted to fill our world and make it more lifelike.
Working with the BLM to get film permits
We wanted to film in the Alvord Desert - one of the most remote and rural places in Oregon. It's in South Eastern Oregon - about as close to the border as you can get. It's also unlike anything else in Oregon.
We debated on film permits - I know lots of people have shot music videos there but we had a 20 ft boat and it's an 8 hour drive to the Alvord. That would suck to get shut down in the middle of filming.
So I spent some time researching who handles the permits for the Alvord, and what it would cost. That took a few hours and 300 chrome tabs. Once I actually got in touch with the right people at BLM it was pretty great. The Burns, OR office handled the permits. Because we weren't building anything on the land the process was fairly straight forward.
We had to get production insurance, which isn't cheap. I think we spent about $2000 on permits/insurance.
I bought Drone insurance - we could have done hourly but you'd have to file flight plans and I didn't know what we were going to do. So Drone insurance was $500.
Production insurance for two days of filming was $800.
Film permits ended up being $564, which is totally reasonable. Working with the BLM was great. There's two sets of documents and I somehow screwed the date up on the actual permit and almost had a panic attack. I didn't notice this until like a day before we were supposed to film. Thankfully the BLM was able to easily adjust the date and have me resign it. Whew. Always triple check your forms!!!
We rented an AirBnb in Burns, OR. It ended up being a 3 hour drive from the Alvord. Lodging was $585 - totally reasonable. We had two people that stayed at a different AirBnb.
At our AirBnb we had me, Josh, Freddy, Avienne, Riley, Kirby, and Jeremy. Plus a million props and costumes.
The logistics on this video were nuts. Keep in mind so far we've only talked about the Alvord location. Just handling the Alvord portion has been a big undertaking.
Examples of logistics:
We had to rent a flat bed trailer to move the boat. Where do we rent it? How much? I saw quotes for as much $500 a day. Ouch. Jorma found something from a shop down south for a decent price.
Scope out our task sheet here:
I had a shot I really wanted that involved a Zoom lens - we start close up on a cross and zoom out to reveal tons of crosses. So I rented a Fujinon Zoom lens from www.lensprotogo.com
We had to over prepare for gear - we'd be shooting all day and if we forgot anything there's no plan B. And guess what - my tripod lost a screw and I couldn't fix it in time. Yay. So we didn't get the shot I wanted.
I brought every charger I owned and had pre set them up in the AirBnb so when we returned Saturday from filming I'd be able to just plug things in and pass out.
We planned to film for two days at the Alvord - Saturday and Sunday. With an 8 hour drive we need a day before and after just for travel. For the boat we didn't want to load it the same day traveling so we did that the Thursday prior to leaving.
I'm glad we did - we had to make sure we had enough people ready to help get the boat on the trailer - plot twist - we kinda didn't. But we managed somehow. I won't post the video - it's not pretty.
We also loaded the boat with flags, crosses, and all sorts of other stuff. That would end up being a mistake - the boat was the last thing to show every day and we had to wait on filming scenes we could have otherwise been filming. BUT - we didn't have space to pack the props so there wasn't anything we could have done.
Freddy, Josh and I all drove down together in a tightly packed VW Atlas. It was the most full of gear we've ever packed it.
We left early enough Friday so we could have time to scout and talk through potential locations and just get a feel for what we were doing. Cool.
The route we took from Burns to the Alvord took us on a gravel road and as fate would have it - we popped a freakin tire and went FLAT FLAT FLAT with the Alvord in sight.
Here's a pic of that. The VW Atlas has a donut tire. It sucked having to pull everything out of the Atlas on a gravel road with wasps flying around us. Oh, I was growing my beard and hair out for the shoot.
So we got the donut on the car but we had a hard choice - scout the Alvord or go back to Burns and Les Schwab and get a new tire? If we got a new tire we wouldn't have time to scout. Doh.
We made the decision to go to Schwab.
Schwab saved us.
So then we went to the AirBnb and started finishing up any props and made the good call to rehearse the fight. It took about an hour. My band mates had also decided to change things from our screenplay without telling anyone. Ha. So we got all that cleared up.
I also sprung the idea of makeup on everyone. Friday night. Everyone was into it!! We tried a bunch of different things - here's Jeremy's first run. I bought makeup from Amazon just for this occasion!! So glad everyone agreed.
We spent some time getting that dialed in and then everyone tried to get some sleep. We had an early start.
First day of filming at the Alvord
We woke up early and got on the road quick.
We hit the Desert basically on time....the drive from Burns to the Alvord was supposed to be two hours but it was 3. That hurt. But yeah - here's some of that Alvord magic:
One of the first things we realized when we got there - it was WINDY. Everyone thought it would be windy except me. Stupidly. Last time I was there with my wife there was no wind. This time it was 30mph winds with up to 50mph gusts.
Jorma and Sherri were hauling the boat and it's slow going so they got there about 45 minutes after us. Brutal. Then we had to pull the boat off the trailer and really get going.
It's a multi step process to get the boat off the trailer.
Look these leading lines! So cool. Things were coming together.
Avienne, Sherri, and Candice did our make up and they rocked it. We couldn't have done the video or made our days without them. Here's me in my makeup and cloak.
We got started filming. We had two days of INTENSIVE shoots and had to constantly be shooting to make our days. Band footage. Story. So much stuff.
This shoot was HARD. We had a 3 hour drive to and from with about 45 minutes of time to get the boat on and off. Every night we got less and less sleep. It was exhausting and really pushed everyone to their limits. We had to constantly remind people to eat so they (or we) wouldn't get too cranky, and to drink plenty of water.
But in the end we made it. This portion of the music video was the largest and had huge hurdles to overcome. The other portions of the video had their own and we'll cover those in further blog posts.
For gear we used two BMPCC4Ks with Rokinon and Xeen lenses for the majority of the scene. There were a few specialty lenses we rented - the Sirui 50mm 1.33 anamorphic lens and the Fujinon MK 50-135MM T2.9 Zoom lens.
I wanted the Sirui for the flaring and the Fujinon because wow that lens. It's parfocal (no breathing while zooming and it stays in focus the entire time you zoom) and I had some rad shots planned for it that got cut. A few shots from it it still made it in to the final prodcut.
The Rokinon and Xeen lens are amazing lenses - they aren't too contrasty (The Sirui 50mm is way more contrastly in comparison) and they're super fast for night time shoots. They were invaluable at golden hour and dusk shots.
The Black Magic Design Cameras allowed us to use SSDs via USB and write to 2TB drives - so we could shoot at BRAW Q0 and shoot all weekend without worrying about space. I also brought extra drives incase but I don't want to have to stop for anything.
Here's me, quite pleased with myself the boat didn't break on the way to the desert.
Watch Crack of Light here: https://youtu.be/1qWrrvPtZ4g
Question? Let me know.