a TigerRAWk Film

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Far a Bheil Do Ghath (Where Is Thy Sting) by Leper (Music Video)

In October 2020, Skot Shaw and I discussed some ideas that could become music videos for Leper. These were ideas for songs off of "This Next Song Is About Death" which had been released the year before. It would make sense to make some videos for songs of the newest album, even though at the time I had begun to work on one video and had the idea for another video from an older release. I went ahead with both of those videos prior to beginning to work on any of the ideas Skot had for songs from "This Next Song Is About Death."

On Saturday October 17th, 2020, we met up at the University of Chicago to shoot some clips around an area that had intrigued Skot. He felt the old stone architecture of the buildings had a sort of European feel. Most of the shots were in or around a stone corridor. Skot did not tell me which song he intended to be used. He pulled out his guitar and set up where he wanted to me to shoot then began to play a track on his phone. It was then that I realized he intended this to be a music video for "Far A Bheil Do Ghath (Where Is Thy Sting)" from the album "This Next Song Is About Death." That first shot I remained stationary. We did another shot that was similar and in the same area, just another side of the structure. In this one, I moved around Skot to get different angles. In both of these shots, Skot played through the entirety of the song.

One thing I had to try to avoid was getting Skot's phone in the frame. While I tried my best, during editing I noticed the phone in the shot on occasion. Some clips I cut while others my hope is that the phone will be somewhat hidden or disguised when I add in the effects. Another thing I worked to avoid while filming was that various paper signs hanging around (often COVID-19 related) and other modern things that I felt sort of took away from the old world castle appearance that I think Skot was trying for.

We shot several clips in front of a door as well on a building covered in ivy. I took a few extra shots here of the gargoyles and the building itself. I figured these clips could be added in or layered over some of the performance clips. I shot these clips from different angles to hopefully give different perspectives to use throughout the project.

We also shot a couple clips on the other side of the same building, then a couple clips in a sort of courtyard or garden near the door. This ended up being a performance clip as well, however, Skot didn't go through the entire song. We were nearly finished when we decided to utilize the stone corridor some more to get some clips of Skot walking. We did a few of him walking toward the camera, one of the camera following him, and I did one other shot just walking through the walkway with the camera.

I took a few other shots of the buildings and windows of the surrounding architecture that I wasn't sure if I would use in the project or for some other personal work and once again got ready to go when Skot had the idea to shoot some footage through a window. I got a couple different clips from different sides of the windows. We did not get inside the building but shot directly through the windows.

After this, Skot met me at my house to get some performance shots that would be used for "Spezza Spezza Spezza (Chop Chop Chop)."

The next week on Saturday October 24th, 2020, we returned to the University of Chicago to get a couple more clips. This time, Skot brought his scythe with him to use as a prop. We got a couple more shots in front of the door of the building with the ivy using different perspectives and angles and a couple shots of Skot standing in front of the stone corridor. We also did a couple more shots of Skot walking the corridor with the scythe. This day, we spent much less time shooting. These shots ended up being more auxiliary type shots to be added in to where they feel that they fit.

It took me some time (months, actually) to get to really work on the editing process because I wanted to get some other personal projects done and had other matters to attend to in life. I also did not have as clear of a vision for this one as I had on the previous Leper videos that I finished.

In the meantime, another Leper video was created with Juan Carlos and put out officially by Grrr Records. It was also shot at University of Chicago in a lot of the same spots we had previously used. I tried to take note of the shots so that it wouldn't look too similar. I wasn't sure how I felt at first of making a music video using the same setting. I didn't want to use the same shots and have it looking too much alike. As I thought about it, I sort of liked the idea of having some clips from the same setting. It would turn out to be a theme as this project went along that various images or settings from other Leper related works would make appearances in the video.

The first thing I did when I got to work on editing this project for "Far A Bheil Do Ghath (Where Is Thy Sting)" was sync each of the performance clips I shot with Skot to the music. I watched through each clip, cutting footage that didn't feel it would really work. The next step I took was to sync each of the performance clips together. I had to make a couple small adjustments at this point but I was able to get the three different clips to be pretty closely synced together and to the music...at least to my eye.

Once all the performance clips were in sync, I watched through and tried to mark or take note of where I hoped to make cuts to switch between clips. I didn't want to be too repetitive with the shots or stay too long with one of the shots if I could avoid it. I watched through some more and began to make the cuts, finding at times that the shot I hoped to use originally wasn't as good as another shot so I adjusted as necessary in these places. It was in this early process I added one of the scythe clips, syncing it to the music rather easily. After a few times of watching through, making a few more adjustments here and there, I had what I would consider a rough draft of the project so that I could then work with adding in the auxiliary shots as they fit or taking out more of the performance clips that may not look or feel quite right. I finished up the opening and closing minutes of the project and felt fairly confident that these parts were basically done. I felt there was little more to be added or taken from these parts regardless what else I would do with the project. I synced a shot of Skot knocking on the door to the drum sounds as part of the opening. I added another similar shot at the end. I choose to make a sequence of clips of the buildings and gargoyles at the beginning. Then I decided to make a sequence of clips in the stone corridor during a musical pause toward the beginning then did another one toward the end. In the one near the beginning, Skot is carrying his guitar and the one near the end he is carrying the scythe. These were sequences I did not wish to change much as I progressed on the project.

There was one thing that kept coming back to mind as I worked through this early editing process...while I could probably finish the project with the footage I had, it would feel like something was missing, in my opinion. The song has a gang vocal throughout...it would seem that perhaps adding a few other people might be needed. Also with some of the other instrumentation of the song, the flute and synth...perhaps even the bass, it might be good to try to add in at least some footage of the other band members. I didn't think the additional footage necessarily had to be shot at the University of Chicago...I thought maybe a cemetery might make sense with the song being about death and all. There happened to be Graceland Cemetery nearby to JPUSA where most of the members lived and thought it might be a good setting. I also knew that "Eternal Silence" was in the cemetery and Skot had made a painting of it which was used as a Leper album cover for "Goodbye Cleveland."

In the meantime, I went back to work with what I had. I adjusted a few clips to fit into a backing vocal track and moved a few other unused clips that fit into the chorus. I tried to lessen some of the repetitiveness as well by moving some other clips around or adding more of the auxiliary clips I had available.

After speaking with Skot about the ideas to get some more clips with other band members and people willing to participate with doing the gang vocals, it seemed this might be difficult to get done, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though most if not all the people that would be involved had been vaccinated. I decided to I put this project on the shelf until it was possible to get the other shots with other people to fill in where needed. I was not interested in putting it out when I knew there was more that could be done believing it would add more to the finished project. It wasn't a long pause, I had another conversation with Skot and it resulted in getting the shots I would need but it also added other locations for shooting.

On Sunday May 16th, 2021...about seven months after the initial footage was shot, during a trip to the Indiana Dunes, I captured a few shots in three different cemeteries including some gang vocals clips. The cemeteries were Furnessville, Chesterton, and an unlisted one near the Augsburg Svenska Skola. The gang vocals were shot at that unlisted one but I used footage of the entrance to Furnessville and some shots of the group walking through Chesterton.

On Monday May 17th, 2021, I was able to get some shots with Colleen Davick playing her flute in the Graceland Cemetery in Uptown Chicago. We got some shots by some crypts, by a sculpture with an angel, a Celtic cross stone, and at a stone with a sculpture of a mourning woman. I also decided to get shots at "Eternal Silence." I thought it would be fitting to add that image to the project as it was the subject of a painting by Skot that was used for the Leper album cover art of "Goodbye Cleveland." That evening I was able to capture some footage of Justin Filizola playing synths. It was decided to shoot those in front of a boiler in the basement of Cornerstone Community Outreach which Skot crawled out of in the video for "Still I Crawl." I liked using that setting as well as another sort of Easter Egg to a previous Leper project. As I wrote before, this unintentionally became a bit of an underlying theme,

After capturing this footage, I decided to get a couple shots of bass playing on Wednesday May 19th, 2021. I set up the camera in the back yard of our house and tried to figure out the focus to really just get the guitar and its neck and me playing the notes. Elphie ended up helping a bit to get the shots right. I had it shooting up the neck as well as down the neck. I didn't intend to use much but wanted to include some bass shots here and there as they fit.

I had reached out to Jennifer Mercy about getting some footage of her singing her parts. She ended up sending me a short clip she had done in the fall dancing and singing the chorus in a graveyard near her home in Michigan. Her husband, Bill Geeseman, shot the footage on an iPhone, I believe.

I began adding in the gang vocal clips, trying to avoid repetition in these clips or to remove repetition of the clips I had in place already. I synced the audio to the video then made some other adjustments with the footage. With Justin's parts, we had him play through the entire song twice to get the shots I hoped to use so I synced it up with the studio recording of the song and began to trim out the pieces I wanted to use. I did move a couple parts around when Justin sang some of the vocal parts to sync them where I thought that they might work best. I added in clips with Colleen next, trying to sync up to the flute sounds as best as I could to what she appeared to be playing. Then I added Jennifer's parts into places where they seemed to fit well and finally added in the bass clips in a few places to finish the editing of the musical performance clips.

As I watched through, I added a couple of the other cemetery shots here and there where it seemed a shot was too repetitive or perhaps ultimately didn't quite fit...maybe even felt a bit forced. I felt I had a finished project so  I watched through what I had and felt satisfied with the content of the project.

At this point I decided to add in some of the "Bad TV" effect on Final Cut Pro. As I watched through, I added this effect in spots with some transitions and a few other randomly chosen spots. On a couple of occasions, the effect fit really well with the music completely by chance. This was a pleasant surprise. I rendered the project then watched through and felt satisfied once again. I decided to finalize the project at this point, full color, with only the "Bad TV" effect edits.

Once processed, I put the newly created video file back into Final Cut Pro and started to work on other effects. My hope was that when I started using the effects on the appearance to adjust the color, contrast, and other things, I wouldn't have to go through each and every clip and attempt to match up the effect levels all the way through. I started with the "gradient colorize" effect to try to obtain the extreme contrasted black and white appearance with very little gray. I wanted to change the white to red but didn't seem to find a way to make that change within the parameters of that effect on my version of Final Cut Pro. The reason I wanted to change it to red was I wanted to it to look like the album artwork on "This Next Song Is About Death." I was able to change the color with the "color corrector" effect which I used in addition to "gradient colorize." I thought I had achieved the red color I wanted but there was some variables in the color I hoped to get rid of. I began to adjust the "white' levels which seemed to do the trick, however some of the detail and texture was lost. I played around a bit with the "mid" and "black" levels but chose to leave them at default. When I tried to add in the "Bad Film" effect, it seemed to also affect the color as I tried to adjust the elements in the effect to hopefully get it to look the way I wanted.

The color ended up turning out pink.

At this point, I decided to temporarily scrap the "Bad Film" effect and finalize the project with the red and black look. I sort of started over, removing the "gradient colorize" and "color corrector" effects and then added "Bad Film" effect back in and finalized the project that way. I wanted to try different things to see if I could achieve the desired outcome one way or another.

When I played back the file with just the color/contrast appearance edits, the video still appeared pink. This was definitely not what I wanted. I began to experiment with the color settings but created short clips rather than the entire project to see how things appeared after adjustments. This way I wouldn't have to wait as long for rendering. Unfortunately, the appearance continued to be pink rather than a good full red color. I decided to scrap the "gradient colorize" and "color corrector" effects again and try with a "sepia" effect just changing the color to red rather than brownish. I tried picking a very dark red but the final appearance remained pink. There also lacked the contrast I wanted so I scrapped the "sepia" effect. I reinstated the "gradient colorize" and "color corrector' effects and put all the settings pretty much back to where I had them set previously. I adjusted the hue a bit which did seem to help to some degree but it still wasn't quite the color that I wanted. I added a "brightness/contrast" effect, adjusting the contrast and that finally solved the color problem! I thought that the "gradient colorize" effect had done enough with the contrast when I utilized it previously, however, this led me to see that I could have had even more contrast had I decided to utilize this "brightness/contrast" effect to give me the power to adjust those aspects! The sample file I created to test the playback looked the color I had hoped it would.

It was now time to get back to adding the "Bad Film" effect as well as "Vignette." The "Vignette" effect looked fine as it was in the default. I considered adjusting it slightly, even gave it a couple tries. First adjustment had the effect taking over way too much. At some point I had adjusted it to be a bit more apparent to viewing then it is in default but in the end, I decided to just stick with the default setting. This was after temporarily scrapping the Vignette effect to try to figure out the issue I was having where the effects seemed to be changing the color I had achieved in the previous efforts I had made and wrote about above. It turned out that it was the "Bad Film" effect  that continued to give me trouble though. I was wanting to adjust the scratch, hair, and dust elements to be at the maximum level. When I set it that way, it didn't seem to do much different than the default. After tinkering with this effect for several hours, after changing the brightness element, it finally occurred to me that issues with the color was it was being saturated out but the saturation element. I adjusted that to zero and consequently, I seemed to have found the solution I was looking for all this time! At this point I decided to adjust some of the other elements in the "Bad Film" effect such as scratch, hair, and dust and various points throughout the project, occasionally also adjusting the jitter and grain elements. I moved the "Vignette" effect to be the last to take effect. I had also added a "noise" effect throughout picking the "Gaussian" film grain option but ultimately decided to scrap it. I scrapped it prior to realizing that I needed to adjust the saturation to zero (thinking it might have been a culprit in the color issues) but I ultimately felt that the noise effect wasn't necessary and wasn't adding a real value to the project. I finalized a clip to see how it looked. I was satisfied with what I was seeing so I decided to go ahead and finalize the project so I could then compress it to post it to YouTube after adding the text files I created using Motion 4 on my Macbook.

On my MacBook I downloaded a "bones" font file then installed it in place to use with Motion 4. I used the newest Leper logo and used the bone text to create a title. There is a Leper t-shirt using a similar text style that was the inspiration for doing this. I thought it also was the text on the album "This Next Song Is About Death" but I found I was incorrect in this assumption. I also used the "bones' font for credits at the end. I think it turned out pretty good. I decided to keep the text in black and white. I thought it would likely get lost in the footage if I also changed it to red as well. I went through a couple different variations of the text before settling on what is in the final project. I also added some "Bad TV" effect to transition between credit texts at the end using different levels on this. I added "Bad Film" effect as well adjusting the elements at different intervals and I added "Vignette" effect on the credits but not the opening title. I had the "noise" effect used on all of the text video but I decided again to scrap it as it didn't feel like it was necessary or added real value.

Video concept by Skot Shaw and Joel A. Swanson.

Filmed at University of Chicago, Graceland Cemetery in Uptown Chicago, Chesterton Cemetery, Furnessville Cemetery, Augsburg Svenska Skola and its cemetery in Indiana, our backyard in Southside Chicago, the boiler room next to The Crypt in Uptown Chicago, and wherever the cemetery is that Bill Geeseman shot Jennifer Mercy's parts.

Filmed using a Canon Rebel T6 by Joel A. Swanson and an iPhone by Bill Geeseman.
Edited and effects added using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson
Titles created using Motion 4 on a MacBook by Joel A. Swanson

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