Disco Ensemble: Protector

For the second music video to be made off the new Disco Ensemble album the band asked once again a bunch of directors to submit scripts and ideas. I was pretty excited to hear that they liked my script enough to go ahead and shoot it. It was gonna be a big project that would require a lot of planning and preparation.

I asked Maiju Laitinen as our production manager. I knew it would help me immensly not having to organize everything alone. Working on the Bääbs music video with her she really made herself indispensable and made me realize how a good production manager can make a huge difference to the outcome of the project. Maiju ended up doing a lot of different things from gathering the crew together, keeping the crew up to date and making sure that we were prepared for everything from the most basic things to plastic bags to cover the gear if it starts raining.

Of course Alpo Nummelin came in to do the lights. I don’t think I could work without him anymore! Anu Kopra was a huge help and worked with Alpo all the way. We had a few test shoots, first to see how the GH1 codec stands smoke and as expected there was a lot of gradient banding. So in the end we couldn’t use as much smoke as I would’ve propably used if it wasn’t an issue. On the other hand it might be that less is more in this case as the smoke on the video now looks quite realistic. We ended up renting quite a lot of lights. As main lights we used two 1.2KW HMI’s and two 575W HMI’s. Actually basically all you see in the video is from those light sources. We did have Kino Flo’s but never used them. We had a lot of gear! We had two 650W tunsgtens hovering around to give some shots lens flares if we needed and there were five 300W tungstens in the forest to give some depth to the shots. This didnt work that well on the wide shots as the dept of field wasnt as shallow as in the close ups and we should’ve really moved these lights a little further on the wides. Alpo and Anu also made forest flags to give a little shape to the light.

I really wanted to shoot this video on a camera that could handle all the intricate details like smoke and get as much latitude to get lots of shadow details as I wanted some shots to be really dark. I called a few friends of mine who had worked with Red One and 35mm film and we did some calculations and discussed what the workflow would entail. In the end we just didn’t have a budget for anything that would’ve made a significant improvement in the picture quality and still make the video in the timeframe that we were supposed to. I’m very happy with the outcome and there are only a few shots that I had trouble with in the post. It’s possible that the color correction would’ve been a little more heavy if the footage had allowed that. I tried to shoot with a tweaked picture profile on the GH1 to get as close to the end results as I could right off the bat. There’s still slightly too much saturation on the red colours although it’s the least I managed after a lot of tests.

After driving around Tampere a lot we decided to shoot the music video on the base of Pyynikin näkötorni. It’s the highest sightseeing tower in Tampere and they serve the best donuts in the world! We rented the space for one night so that we could use the Näkötorni’s facilities for the crew, use their toilets, electricity and 30 donuts were included in the deal!

We got the cars for the shoot from Valto Koivula OY. The man himself Valto was a very helpful man managing the junkyard and helped us out a great deal. He even let us shoot a few pickup shots the following week at this junkyard. There’s new wrecked cars brought to the junkyard everyday so I had to go in a few times before we found a pair that worked for us. A red Nissan and a grey Toyota, not too new but not too old either. Those junkyards are a fantastic place!

The Möhkö helmet was made by Topias Hirvonen. We were all really excited about it and Alpo got two meters of LED striplight to put inside it. It ended up looking exactly as we imagined it and that is rare! We got a really nice actor to wear the Möhkö, Teija Vaittinen. Although the role itself wasn’t that demanding we wanted to have someone who knows what being on a shoot entails and Teija was indeed great. It’s all waiting, standing still, moving an inch to the left and waiting more – especially when you can’t see at all where you’re moving you need a lot of patience.

It’s amazing the amount of work that is needed when you do things professionally. This was the first shoot I’ve ever done where we needed permits to shoot on location. It’s not very difficult to do all this but it takes a lot of research and time. After two weeks of phonecalls and trips to countless places the day of the shoot came and everything looked pretty good for the shoot to begin at 20.00… I woke up and had breakfast and checked all my gear. Around noon Alpo called me and asked me how I was doing, I replied I was feeling strangely calm actually. “Well, sit down cause that’s about to change…”, he said after a slight pause and a laugh. What had happened was that the night before another film crew had been shooting at that exact same location and they had managed to harm the power outlet that was next door to where we were going to get our electricity from. The owner of our source of electricity was of course extremely worried that we’d do something wrong as well and apparently the day after our shoot was one of the busyest days of the year for their business. He wasn’t suddenly happy about our shoot at all and was freaking out about us possibly ruining his business somehow. We were in a right pinch. We considered changing locations, we rented a generator so if we did change locations we’d at least have power. It was a situation where even if you have a contract you really can’t do much. I’m sure if it was Hollywood lawyers phones would’ve been ringing but no one really wanted anything like that to happen. After a few hours between Maiju, Alpo myself and the owner of the business we were getting the electricity from we managed to agree on the terms of the shoot and got the permit to use the electricity at the location if we needed to. It took a while to recover from the setback and many hours reserved for other preparations were wasted having to deal with this issue.

We got to the location and I was really happy to see the prop cars were there and in perfect condition. Unbeknownst to us they had stickered the rear windows with their own Valto Koivula OY stickers! It was pretty sweet and hilarious.

We started setting up lights around 20.00 and when the sun finally set at 22.00 we noticed that the generator we had rented didn’t work properly. The 1.2Kw HMI’s that it was feeding power were flickering because of it. We had to run the power from the main building and this going back and forth with the source of the power set us back an hour or so. We rolled camera around 23.00. A few first shots went great and the footage was already looking really good on the viewfinder so I began to relax a little. A little panic set in at around 1am as I realised that we had around 3 hours of darkness left and we had done only about a forth of the shots. We really needed to pick up the pace so instead of calling in the actors we tried to have everyone on hold all the time and instead of moving lights we moved props.

I really admire the Disco Ensemble guys and their work morale, it started snowing and they had to lie down on the cold street and on broken glass, Jussi had fever, Mikko got a cut from the glass and it was getting colder and colder. No-one complained, including the crew, everyone was working full on and the best they could. As we were closing in on the final shots it began snowing. This caused some major problems that we couldn’t do anything about in post so there’s some shots that really don’t cut that well together, we missed a few close up shots and it also cut down our shooting time by another hour so I knew immeadiately we needed to have another night for pick up shots. We did those the following week in front of Valto Koivula junkyard, they were extremely kind to provide us with yet another car we could destroy. We did the pick up shots with just me and Alpo. One of my favourite shots, the smoking cassette player was done on this day. For that shot we actually had to return to Pyynikki where we shot the principal shoot because the street lights at that location were a very special green colour. We couldn’t find any other place with that kind of bulbs and to shoot under a different light it would’ve looked totally out of place. We could’ve used gels maybe but best bet was just to go out and shoot at the same location. The second day of shooting was even longer then the principal shoot.

It’s really something to be able to work with dedicated people who are really making an effort. So my heartfelt thank you to the band, the crew and Timo Häkli from Tampere City Intracenter who provided us with the traffic lights and to Valto Koivula of Valto Koivula OY. Always a slight anti-climax that after you really put everything into the shoot we were all dead tired. Forget about going for drinks after! Well, at 7am I doubt we would’ve found any bars open anyways!

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