NYC Music Video Premiere! “Zapatillas” Feat. Sr Wilson

Senior Wilson Zapatillas Music Video Dubstuy

Today the new music video I directed for DUBSTUY RECORDS  premiered– a funky lo-fi street style vid following sneakerhead vocalist Senior Wilson on his journey to search for the perfect sneaker. We begin our story in Times Square, New York City, then move on to Queens just a few train stops away. Before working on this video, I had only heard about Sneaker Culture in passing, and was surprised to find out that Queens is apparently one of the biggest sneaker capitals of the world!

Senior Wilson Zapatillas Music Video Dubstuy
Senior Wilson “Zapatillas” Music Video for Dubstuy Records

This is my second music video for the record label (my first video was “Wicked Scams” feat. Jahdan Blakkamoore), and this is my first time working with Sr Wilson, who is a Spain-born international Reggae vocalist known for his tracks “Chatty Chatty” and “OB.F. / Rub a Dub Mood.”

It was a long video shoot day with guerrilla style shooting and LOTS of company moves, but the artist was an awesome sport and a very good performer, so we were able to get some awesome shots throughout the day.

street style music video nyc brooklyn
Shooting a music video on the streets of New York
Zapatillas Sneaker Music Video Dubstuy
Sneaker head literally has a sneaker for a head in this opening snapshot
New York City Music Video
Mixing compressed long focal length shots with ultra wide angles created a fun and funky mix in the edit
Music Video Wide Angle Lens
Scene in the basement of All the Right, an ultra trendy sneaker shop in Queens.
music video wide angle lens
Wide angle lens distortion for an epic one-point-perspective shot in Queens, NY

Times Square music video New York

While my previous Dubstuy music video was much more cinematic, the label wanted a much more casual, street-style vibe for this new track and artist to capture the atmosphere of Queens, NY. So instead of using a more cinematic camera such as the FS700, I decided to go with a simpler mobile set up– the Sony a7sii on a camera stabilizer; a popular combo for lo-fi music videos like this. With smaller pieces of equipment, you can move quickly and more discretely. From afar, we could pass as students or tourists, and never got stopped by the cops. Unless you have a tripod on the ground taking up space or if you’re lugging around big pieces of lighting or audio equipment, you can get away with guerrilla style shooting pretty easily in NYC.

zapateria music video nyc
The song was mostly in Spanish, and latin culture was a heavy feature of Queens, where we were mostly shooting.

Because Queens is apparently a sneaker capital of the world, we were able to map out a 20 block radius where we could visit tons of sneaker stores to tell the story of the artist’s journey.

music video subway train looking out window nyc
Contemplating Sneakers.
music video subway train window
Super fun wide angle distortion from the lens pulling that corner of the window. Camera op was quite tall, so he was able to get a variety of cool angles like this.
New York City Times Square Subway Music Video
The iconic grand entrance to the Times Sq 42nd street Subway Station. The most decked out station in NYC.
music video subway train
I always love a good “subject walks through one door while camera walks through another for a seamless transition” shot. We only had time for one take of this, so I was glad we could include it in the video. A big challenge was adjusting the white balance between the yellow-toned station color on the platform, with the brighter and cooler fluorescent light on the inside of the train. To do this, I made two layers of the clip in premiere and color balanced for one tone on each. I then key-framed a crop to move with the edge of the door as the camera moves past it. I blended out the edge a lot to make it as natural as possible.
music video subway map nyc
A hero’s journey: to tell the narrative of “artist searching for perfect sneaker” we simply got some shots of the map and shots of our journey to Queens on the subway to intercut and make it seem like we were travelling much more than we actually were. In reality, most of our Queens locations were blocks away from each other, and we only took the train once. Also, in Queens, we travelled by car most of the way, as we had to transport crew and gear.

I also decided to use super wide angle lenses that created almost a fish-eye effect on camera, which added to the comedic element of the video. We had an 11-14 and an 18mm prime lens, which made for fantastic exaggerated shots during the performances and some of the travelling in Queens. Any time the artist reached out toward the camera, the lens would distort his hand to be 2x the size compared to his head, and when he performed to camera, the perspective lines in the background scenery became exaggerated at extreme angles, which also added to the funky atmosphere. I contrasted the wide angles with b roll shot at 100-200mm focal lengths to add a cinematic “serious” edge to the video, and played with the two focal lengths in the edit.

music video sneaker store location nyc

NYC Music Video Times Square

music video wide angle lens street
Wide angle lens makes the hand to head ratio totally out of wack. Exactly what this video needed to amplify the ridiculousness of the narrative.
music video walking nyc
One of the artist’s “crew” getting casually attacked by a dancing noodle.
sneaker music video crew nyc fun video
I made the crew wear sunglasses. It took the pressure off of them to perform, and also was a casual enough “costume” so that they had a purpose in the video and didn’t take too much attention away from the artist. Artist’s always want crew to be in the videos, but rarely ever give any thought to “WHY???” There’s too many videos out there where the crew look aimless, and having a bunch of aimless folks standing around trying to look cool in the background of your video is one of the #1 strategies for bringing your production value down. But at least with sunglasses, anybody can look cool.
music video dubstuy
Looking cool.
music video quoc pham dubstuy
Don’t mess with the Dubstuy Records crew.

The most difficult thing about this shoot was timing.

Company moves between locations are notorious time killers, and our entire shoot was essentially ONE BIG company move. We had two cameras on set, with my primary camera operator, Nick Maciarz focused on getting A shots  on the a7sii while I occasionally grabbed B roll on a Panasonic GH5 on the side. In post, I was able to color grade a pretty close match between the cameras.

Music Video Compressing Space
Getting that over-the-shoulder, looking-at-sneakers, window-shopping shot using that 150mm focal length compression.
Music Video Sneakers
Following up with a wide angle worm’s eye of our hero.

From a directoral perspective, this video was also an opportunity for me to comment on the genre of streetstyle “videography.”

In the indie/lo-fi music video world, there’s too many “videographers” out there who simply pick up a camera and use one lens for the whole shoot. Just like shooting with a cellphone, people sometimes think that hitting the record button and composing a half way decent shot is good enough. But that’s lazy! Different focal lengths create a totally different feeling, and to create a consistent feel through a whole video, you have to know your tools and use them effectively.

music video b roll underpass
Long focal length shot of an underpass in Queens.
music video b roll queens
Long focal length shot of a street crossing sign in Queens.

For example, many street shooters will be recording a dramatic scene. Maybe it’s a hip hop video involving guns and a romance. Everything looks good in the far way shots with people running around and following the big action– and it’s super dramatic and cinematic! But instead of switching lenses to do the close ups for a kiss, they just stick the camera right into people’s faces.

It ruins the mood. Even if you don’t know that’s what they did, the slight fish-eye of wide angle distortion on the edges of the screen tells it all!

music video sneaker nyc
Wide angle lens shot inside All the Right Sneaker Shop in NYC.

It might be easier and faster to shoot with one camera and one lens, but we don’t make good work by doing things the easy way.

Without further ado, here’s the video! Thank you to Dubstuy Records and Sr. Wilson and crew for letting me make the visuals to this sneaker culture anthem. Enjoy!

Director: Lee Milby

Camera Op: Nick Maciarz

Title GFX Illustrations: Cyril Dosnon