"Brighter" :: The Boxing Lesson

The "Brighter" video follows Paul and Jaylinn as the evade death in a cemetery while running into things that go bump in the night. Join the band as they follow a glowing orb through a cemetery filled with smoke, night creatures, zombies, and black cats, and then rendezvous with touring drummer, Kevin Sparks, to rock into brighter days.

The technical specification on this video are impressive: over 6000 still photos were taken and run together to create this stop-motion music video. Behind the camera lens was Victor Yiu of rockpark photography. This was shot over the course of a few days in a cemetery behind the band's house. Editing took place for over a month with Victor Yiu, Jaylinn Davidson and Matt Murray grinding away meticulously. Local bands Built by Snow and The Story Of can be seen as well as Austinist writer and local party animal Adi Anand & some of our friends all helped us with being extras and playing the zombies.

The Boxing Lesson
Wild Streaks & Windy Days
Directed by Victor Yiu & The Boxing Lesson

Use this high quality YouTube Embed (540px wide; see smaller sizes; original YouTube link)

How was “Brighter” filmed?

Actually, no video cameras were used in the making of the stop-motion “Brighter.” Each frame that went into the video was taken by either a Canon 40D or 20D digital SLR. The raw footage consisted of over 6,000 JPG images. Doing it this way gave us a way to add special effects, finely control the lighting, and of course – getting that unique look!

Scene: ZOMGZ!

Where/how long did it take to film?

While you can watch “Brighter” in only 3 minutes 40 seconds, it took us quite a bit longer to produce. Actual filming took place over two nights, 8 hour sessions each, in the cemetery behind the band's house in East Austin.

The first night we knocked out the band shots, zombies, and tombstones sequences. It was really a party, with special guests as zombies, makeup, craft services, two fog machines, props, and makeshift tracks to guide the filming! The police even paid us a visit to ask what the noise was about! Neighbors just don't respond well to drum solos coming from a cemetery in the middle of the night.

Zombies love makeup!

The second night we shot most the solo scenes of Paul and Jaylinn. Some of the pickup scenes were taken after that weekend.

How was this video edited?

With over 6,000 raw images, organizing all the frames was a challenge. Picasa came to the rescue and provided a way to separate the work into 100 scenes. The band and I met for about 8 hours to lay out the initial structure of the video in one go in Sony Vegas. Then, over the course of several weeks, band members Paul Waclawsky and Jaylinn Davidson, along with friend Matt Murray of Built by Snow worked extremely hard scrubbing scenes frame by frame!

Scene: The band frantically jamming until it gets brighter!

The lighting looks amazing. What was the setup?

In order to keep the cemetery looking like nighttime, we shot at night and used anywhere from 3 to 6 lights. It was a mix of continuous (work lights!) and remote-triggered strobe. The tungsten work lights provided a yellow-ish backdrop that set the eerie mood. Naturally they stayed continuously lit so we could work in the dark. However, much of the pop came from a host of gelled flashes... Who says Strobist techniques can't be applied to videos, too? :)

Behind the scenes: Victor in action. Notice the mix of continuous and flash lighting (unlit).

Flashes? Yes! I had 3 or 4 Nikon SB-25/26 flashes triggered by Pocket Wizards. Even at 6 frames a second, those Wizards never skipped a beat. Though, as the night progressed we had to dial back the frame rate as the flash batteries weakened :) In some scenes, the flashes were mounted on lightstands; in others they were aimed by assistants, or set on carts with the smoke machines. These portable flashes gave us the perfect blend of portability (battery powered) and look (with light modifiers, like a Honl Speed Grid).

Technical: Carefully crafted lighting.

(The mix of continuous and flash lighting worked because each frame of the video was actually a still picture. Whenever the camera took a picture, it triggered the flashes through radio signal and thus sees all lights "on" that split second. When put in a sequence, like in a flip book video, it gives the impression that it's all "continous" lighting.)

Scene: The "dark figure"

Technical: Shooting with a large frame SLR allows narrow depth-of-field, compared to video

Behind the scenes: our illustrious lighting crew Ryan (manager) and Kevin (drummer)

What was the orb?

Believe it or not, the orb itself was a cheap light fixture! We tried many ways of holding it up, from fishing wire to string to an inflated balloon. Serious. We ended up tieing a string with clips with various people guiding it around objects. We had to airbrush out the string in post processing. :)

Behind the scenes: The orb is a Paul lifting a broomstick attached fishing wire and clip, with Pocketwizard and flash inside!

Behind the scenes: Fishing anyone?

But the interesting part is actually how it glowed! The Pocket Wizard trigger and a Nikon flash to the rescue. It was dark except for the flashes triggered when the camera took pictures.

Where did you find those customized tombstones?

Believe it or not, those tombstones were custom made to our exacting specifications, shipped in from California. Haha, just kidding. Actually, we reused all of the existing stones in the cemetery. In post processing, the team airburshed the old engravings out, and added our own text in -- frame by frame! Let's just say we all got pretty good at free transforms and the clone tools. :)

Scene: Living zombie in the graveyard

How did you do the squiggly letters?

I get asked this a lot, and it’s one of the easiest things to do. Each frame was a long 15 second exposure. When the shutter was open, Paul used my LED flashlight to draw (in mirror image). Rinse and repeat; and paste them in sequence.

Technical: 15 second light painting with LED flashlight

How did this idea come about? Would you do it again?
Heck yes, it was an amazing experience. I had a blast, as did the friends that came by to help out. Next time, I'll be sure to think things through a little more before sheepishly proposing the hairbrain stop action idea to a band over a few drinks. You can thank Paul and Jaylinn for the premise and storyline; I just provided the technical expertise to turn their thoughts into reality.

Behind the scenes: We're pooped... it's a wrap!

Keep those questions coming and I'll update this page! Feel free to share this page directly or with the embed code on this page.

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