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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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