Category Blog, Vlog

Last week I talked about bartering and how you can use your time and skills to help get projects done when you don’t have much of a cash budget available. This week I want to share a few more ideas with you, through a case study of how I made the video for I AM MANDRAKE’s “Jupiter’s Hollow”.

Some Quick Background
During my time in Vancouver, I sang with quite a few bands in between working on my solo music. Most of them didn’t pan out, but there was one in which I came onto as a featured singer and it was one of the most productive and creatively fulfilling live projects I’ve gotten to be a part of.

I AM MANDRAKE was the project of Jerome Mandrake, a talented songwriter and performer, who teamed up with producer Sohan Rai to make upbeat and flashy electropop tunes. I worked with them for almost two years singing backups and featured parts, and played quite a few live shows around town – including two huge fully produced epic ones which were super fun.

Just after our first show, Jerome wrote a song called “Jupiter’s Hollow” and wanted to start putting together a new show around a space cruise theme. I really dug the song and, being the video artist I am convinced him to let me put together a music video.

The Set
We had just spent all our money on a big live production, so finances were tight. In Vancouver I didn’t have a garage studio like I do here in LA, and renting a space would’ve been prohibitively expensive. So I got creative and worked on figuring out how I could turn my living room into a spaceship with stuff that I happened to have lying around the house.

We had a pull up bar that Terrence had hanging from the edge of the living room which we sometimes used as a curtain hanger for when guests were staying over – so I took this black Model M band banner and hung it up there. Then I dug up these stick on LED lights that I had leftover from my Stalker video – they’re cheap, AAA battery powered, and can go just about anywhere, so I filled them up and strategically placed them on the curtain. I now had an interesting, modern and interactive backdrop.

Makeup and Wardrobe
Both of us had a number of amazing makeup artist friends in town that we could offer to barter with, but we were particularly lucky at this time because his boyfriend happened to be an award winning makeup artist and offered to do our faces for free. And both of us being performers, we naturally have a lot of accessories and interesting clothing on hand for such an occasion! So really, this was the easiest part on this video.

Lights, Camera, Action!
This was also before I had access to my own lights – and renting gear was out of the question. I laugh about this the most when I think back to filming this video… but as a bicycle commuter I have some pretty bright LED headlamps which I bought off of eBay for like USD$30. So I took one of them and duct-taped it to a mic stand which I extended to its capacity. It worked great as a direct spotlight, and as a bonus its colour temperature matched the backdrop LEDs.

Because we only had about 10 feet to work with, I really couldn’t use my EX3 camera for filming. It was just too big. I actually considered using my iPhone to film, but ended up using my rebel so that I could switch lenses if I wanted to. In retrospect, I kinda wish I actually just used the iPhone to be honest! The quality ultimately would have been comparable, and I also would have had slo mo options. But I digress…

We spent a few hours getting made up and singing, and had a lot of fun filming that night. Before you knew it, we had a whole bunch of performance footage that cost us nothing. Even if I had bought all the gear fresh (with exception of the rebel) it would’ve cost under $100!

Stock Footage is Your Friend
We wanted this to just be a really fun and upbeat video, without any particular story – just a cheesy outer space vibe. So I went on to Videoblocks, a subscription based stock footage site, and had a look at everything that they had available. I already had a subscription for my freelance work, but honestly if you see yourself wanting to do a lot of low budget videos then a yearly subscription really pays for itself in a short amount of time and is not a big investment in the long run.

So, I combined all the stock footage with the performance, then glossed it up with my own animation and text effects. Voila, we had a really fun and flashy video which none of us directly paid out of pocket for and that suited the song perfectly.