Neon Zoo – Darkest Dance

Darkest Dance was my first go at a music video. My wife and I met the band at a nightclub in Nottingham we used to frequent, some months before the launch of their first album.

We shot this on a Sunday afternoon in that same nightclub, which had conveniently black walls. I lit it with a couple of halogen work lights from ScrewFix – not very controllable but very cheap. I set up a monitor so the band could see themselves, which was a mixed blessing – it proved a bit distracting.

In the edit, I had two takes of each of the six band members (one wide, one close-up), plus a couple of extras for the lead singer. I created a half-second clip and pasted many, many copies of it so that I could just switch each clip to point at any one of takes below. It took many passes over the whole song to select the best combination of clips. Then there was some painting out of lens flares and reflections off the back wall.

The concept is deliberately simplistic, but it’s dramatic, shows off the distinctive personalities of the band members, and well-received at the “premiere” – after their gig at the Devonshire Fox in Camden. It was enormous fun to shoot the video and hang out with the band for a lot of their summer tour. Happy days 🙂

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Motion tracking freeware: PatchMaker 1.0

A quick tip, because writing about Churchyard reminded me…

PatchMaker 1.0 is a simple 2D motion tracking tool for Windows. It does only two things but it does them well and simply. It will either stabilise footage, or apply the same camera motion to a patch image (it will also export the tracking metadata into After Effects if you need to do something elaborate).

Although it’s only 2D tracking, it’s subpixel-accurate and easily good enough for any shot short of a crane or steadicam move. I tested it on Churchyard to attach a replacement name and date to a gravestone, but the trial version would only do 1 second shots – so, cheapskate that I am, I tried to do it by hand. Ouch.

I’m glad I didn’t buy it though, because it’s now FREE!

So in Monsters, I stabilised a slightly wobbly 1080p dolly shot. We had done several takes on set until it was silky smooth – but of course during editing I particularly needed a bit from the imperfect tail end of take 2. It required a little experimentation to find the best tracking points, especially since actors were passing in front of the background I was trying to track, but the end result almost eliminated the wobble. I suspect it could have been perfect if I’d spent longer refining it.

Grab it while you can!