VAVÁ – The Other Side

SPENCER BALLIET

Concept, Planning, Direction, Cinematography, Camera, Editing, Color

VANESSA WHEELER

Music, On-Screen Talent

LAURA SMALEC

Production Manager, Additional Camera

 

Vanessa gets set up on the cyc-wall

When Vanessa approached me to work with her again on a music video her new project VAVÁ, it was an easy “yes.” She was looking for a video for the ‘single’ cut off of her debut EP of the same name, “The Other Side.”  She sent over the track and we had a phone call about what the song meant to her and where her head was at when she wrote it.  I got back to her a few days later with a treatment that I thought would fit well.

The song is about facing yourself and the ghosts of your past, so I wanted to create something that visually built on the feelings in the song while building a complimentary story with imagery.  I had experimented with a grey-toned silhouette pass-through look in photography and always wanted to see if it could work for video, and thought it would fit this project really well.  I contrasted her intimate and energetic performance with the visuals of transformation and growth, from the day progressing and the evolution from nature to the city.

Multiple cameras and takes synced together and edited in multi-cam

After some additional screen tests, we scheduled a late night session in the studio on a cyc-wall and got to shooting the performance, first.  I lit the scene mostly from behind to create a wrapping light around Vanessa’s body and to highlight the edges of her silhouette and prominent features. It was important that the rest remain the canvas for the overlaid footage.  With the help of long-time friend Laura Smalec, we captured multiple takes from various focal lengths and angles till we had the best of her performance.

Next, I brought the footage home to edit a rough cut and experiment with what sorts of framing and textures layered best with the footage.  I created a custom LUT in Resolve for the right color-toning and combined it with layers in Premiere for the right pass-through effect, allowing me to edit with the final look applied.

Up in the mountains after the sun has come up while shooting

With a better idea of what sort of footage to shoot, I went out into the Angeles Forest one morning before dawn, hiked a few miles up a favorite trail, and started shooting with wide aperture primes on the A7S II on a gimbal.  I captured the stars, then rising sun, and beginnings of the day.  Next, with the help of Laura again, we traveled across downtown Los Angeles capturing various views of the city from sunset, through dusk and eventually evening.

Back in the edit, I started assembling the pacing and ‘story’.  I quickly realized that the energy of the song benefited most from a more spastic and sporadic take on the footage, and started speeding each clip up as necessary, accenting holds and cuts with breaks and starts in the music.  I color graded the footage to bring out the vibrant colors and contrast between the environments before delivering the final video for release.