This shit seems pretty self-explanatory to me.
While this video is meant to look like I had all the money in the world, it was actually the most low key shooting experience I’ve ever had, considering there was no crew and no equipment. Just me in front of the camera and one person behind it. Keep reading to find out how I made it happen!
CREW: one camera operator
LIGHTING: natural daylight
CAMERA: iPhone 7
LENSES: Moondog Labs iPhone 7 (1.33x) anamorphic adapter
COLOR: Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Planning this video went through many stages. At first, I came up with the idea to do a rap video in order to showcase one of Aputure’s new lights. My plan was to cast a friend as the rapper and I would shoot the sickest-looking rap video I could possibly shoot. Cars, money, girls, drugs, video games, blah blah blah. Aputure was going to take behind-the-scenes stills of me using the light for their marketing purposes. Well, they ended up not needing the photos, but I had already written the rap song and decided I had to finish what I started. Otherwise, how would people know that I’m the shit?!
The more I tried to work out the logistics, the more complicated and expensive the idea became and, consequently, the more impossible it seemed to actually make into a reality. I mean, first of all, I wanted to shoot with my C200 on a gimbal. I don’t own a gimbal, so it would cost money to rent one. I wanted the shots to be filled with mansions and expensive cars and models and big animals and everything else you could possibly want that costs way too much to rent. I can’t spend $1500 to rent a Rolls Royce for an hour to feature in a video that won’t generate a dime. I just can’t. So I needed another strategy.
While trying to figure out how the hell I was going to do any of this, I found myself shooting a pilot and they had a snake on set. I had recorded the song two days before and I thought it was too crazy that I wound up on set with a snake only days after wishing that I would get a big animal into the video but assuming it would never happen because…like…how? But here it was, right in front of me, and I knew it would be a big mistake that I would forever regret if I let this snake slip away. So, during our lunch break, I found an impromptu costume, jumped in front of the camera and performed my first rap with a six foot snake around my neck. Boom. I had a fucking snake in my video! Now I had no choice but to follow through with all this.
The decision to star in the video myself solved a few problems, but created a few more. “If I star in the video, that means I have to hire someone to shoot it for me, someone who is capable of creating high quality images that will make this video look as epic as possible. That costs a lot of money. That’s not gonna work for me. How do I make it easy for any regular joe to operate a camera and get perfectly smooth, cinematic shots? I guess they could use my iPhone. Well, the quality isn’t that great. But it’s good enough and at least I would get the shots, which is better than not getting them. Setting up would be so easy and I wouldn’t need a crew. I’d be able to film anytime, anywhere.” [*Googles iphone gimbals.] “Oh sweet, they’re under $100. I can do that. Those shots will be worth way more than $100.” At the same time, I also stumbled upon anamorphic adapters for iPhones and figured that it would add a lot more production value than it actually costs. I had to have both.
(If you’re unfamiliar with anamorphic workflows, here’s a good Premium Beat article.)
Now, literally anyone could shoot this video, even my parents! (My parents definitely operated a few shots in this video.) I quickly accepted that shooting with my phone was the only way this would ever get done. I downloaded an app called ProMovie, which gave me more camera/recording functions as well as more manual control. So the plan was that I would make sure all the settings were right, hand over the gimbal phone to the operator du jour, then jump in front of the camera and start rapping. All I needed was an amazing location.
A week later, I’m on another set at a mansion in Calabasas. By this point, I had put together a costume at Ross and ordered some bling from Amazon. So I brought everything to the shoot, just in case there would miraculously be a few extra minutes to grab some shots of me rapping in front of this mansion. Turns out the artist we were waiting for was super late, so I busted out the costume, gimbal and iphone and the director shot me rapping around the house for 30 minutes. A few more scenes, snagged, before the other shoot even started!
The next day, I hopped on a plane to visit my family. On the trip, I eventually found myself at a very lovely home with…wouldn’t you know it…a Rolls Royce and a Bentley! I threw on the costume and got my cousin, Jake, to operate the camera while I rushed through some lines in front of two crazy cars as the sun set behind some palm trees.
No need for playback when the phone that has the song on it is being used as the camera, too! I just remembered the tempo and ran through a few lines at a time, then figured it out in post.
Cannabis Portraits and Video Games
While most of the video was shot in natural daylight with no grip or electric or anything, I did use my C200 and some lights for the cannabis section. I wanted it to look dark and colorful and the quality of an iPhone in low light is less than ideal. I used four of my beloved Aputure LEDs to light this scene:
*Check out @chronic_le on Instagram for more sweet, sweet nug portraits!*
The White Cyc
Zack Wallnau and Matt Hibbs, over at Hurling Studios, generously hooked it up with a white cyc and some sweet camera operating skillzzz. We grabbed as many shots as we could in an hour under the sexy blanket of soft light emitted from 30 Litegear Litetiles, beautifully diffused through a 30’x30′ overhead Magic Cloth rag:
Post-production is where a lot of this video came alive. During production, my goal was to acquire as much footage as possible in as many cool locations as I could find and then force it to make sense in post. That’s what most rap music videos do anyway, so I figured it was a good strategy in this case. I chose my favorite moments from each take, put them all on different tracks and then slowly sorted through everything, solving a riddle that combined rhythm, comedy and all-around general dope-ness. I wanted to imitate a few editing tricks that a lot of rap videos use and I found some cool ones like this:
Footage straight out of the iPhone is most certainly usable…but I wasn’t going for “usable” on a video called I’m The Shit. It needed to be the shit to the max. So I plopped on a LUT in the Lumetri Creative panel to give the footage a more filmic look: Fuji ETERNA 250D Fuji 3510, which emulates the look of that film stock. I made a few adjustments, specific to each image, but I liked the overall look.
I edited the whole video and, at the end, as soon as the rap was over, it cut to black. But as I watched it for the millionth time, it occurred to me that I should end it in a more epic fashion to match the rest of the video. So I thought it would be cool to use my Phantom 3 Professional drone to capture a Rolls Royce riding off into the sunset. The main problem: I was back in LA and didn’t have access to a Rolls Royce. I walked into a luxury car rental office. They were less than welcoming as I made my pitch…I still haven’t heard back. I wasn’t about to wait around for them, so I cooked up a better solution. Shoot a drone shot on an empty street without the car and then composite a picture of a Rolls Royce into it. More than good enough to get me what I wanted:
The Making Of…
In addition to directing/shooting the music video, I was planning to vlog on set as my character, Dale, and gather footage to use for a comedic behind-the-scenes video. That way, I got two videos for one. During the course of making the video, however, I was watching a lot of the Genius Youtube series “Framework” and thought it was a better format for the jokes I wanted to tell. So I scrapped the behind-the-scenes bits and, instead, went with a “making of” video where my character, Dale, describes his process when making the music video:
This project was an exercise in patience and compromise. Even though conditions weren’t always perfect, I constantly reminded myself that it was okay to compromise certain details in order to preserve the big picture. Despite facing many budgetary and logistical challenges, I leapt in with an attitude of “get it done no matter what.” I really wanted to get it done no matter what, AND I didn’t want to sacrifice quality or an epic scale just for the sake of finishing. I had to do it and I had to do it right.
In my experience, there are two ways to achieve high production value and you need at least one of the two: MONEY or TIME.
In order to solve a problem, you can either throw money at it or give it time. To accomplish what I wanted to accomplish without money even being a factor in my equation, meant that I would obviously need time. I slowly chipped away at what started off as a completely overwhelming task and let the video unfold over the course of a couple months. It definitely required patience, but seeing the vision actually come to life was totally worth the wait if you ask me.