DEAD UNICORN: ASTRONAUT PROBLEMS
Zac and Paul and I had wanted to do a music video for a while so when they told me about the new album Code Green: Aliens – I was stoked to create some science fiction. The lyrics to Astronaut Problems provided a pretty good story to show, but I knew a simple shot of Zac in a helmet against stars would be pretty boring and tired, so it would need something else. The gimmick would be a moving single direct light source, in order to simulate an astronaut tumbling out of control through space. We crafted a device made from C-Stands, a few arms, and a hardwired 300w Daylight LED bulb. The device was cranked by hand, creating an orbit around Zacs head, who stood in front of a green screen. The helmet and uniform were all modified and detailed for the shot: the helmet alone recieved a full LED array, metal around the visor, a cloth resurfacing, and a blacked out interior.
BEHIND THE SCENES: VISUAL FX
This video was actually shot over the course of almost 3 years! The VFX scene was shot first, in December of 2014. Because of scheduling conflicts, we weren’t able to shoot again until March of 2016 – at which point we shot the music performance scenes.
The performance scene was shot over the course of two frigid days: one to build and light the set and the other to shoot and strike everything. Somehow, this interior space was colder inside than it was outside, which was bitter to begin with – you can watch and see a few spots where Pauls breath is clearly visible. Cool effect but we froze our asses off! Since we had a huge interior space to work with, I designed and built 4 ‘walls’ of plastic sheeting, as well as a sketchy overhead rig that would fly 4 LED Panels 12ft up above the band. Just for effect, I added a perimeter of incandescent stage lights around the exterior of our ‘room’ and pointed all of them toward the center. The warm spots matched the orange flightsuits and added a nice contrast to the cooler LED panels without adding too much fill or color on Paul or Zac. I was going for a sort of E.T. / X-Files oxygen tent hazmat zone thing as a loose concept, and think it turned out well enough.
At that point, I cut the video. Basically everything after the opening dream sequence was done by April 2016. Since the guys were behind on tracking and recording the album, it waited on the shelf for a while. I spent some time with it over those months and thought up the idea of the dream sequence. The video had been opening cold with Zac floating in space, and it always seemed a bit wrong to me. We had been dying to shoot some narrative scenes and I think that sort of prompted me to add this little prologue in August 2016.
I liked this idea that when astronauts dream up in space, they’re most likely having dreams of being on Earth. You have these dreams of being home and doing mundane stuff and then you wake up and you’re in space! If I took it a step further and made the astronaut alone, lost and tumbling through space while slowly running out of oxygen – you might have this sort of fever dream instead. It did a better job of introducing the character and circumstance that he’s in, giving you just enough context to understand the story a bit better… It was also a chance to slip in a clever little twist right off the bat – shooting this scene was actually my favorite part of the production! Once this was done, I went in and recut, finishing up in November 2016. It sat on the shelf until the album was finished and premiered in May 2017.
There was alot of help on this production, from Zac and Paul lending their time in helping me build the set, to Devin Pickering who operated B Cam for the music scene and worked with me on the dream / laundromat sequence (we both love Kubrick, can you tell?). Frank Cordaro helped AC for the music scene and actually provided the crazy macro footage of liquids for the ‘Star Gate’ scene where Zac loses his mind. The amazing Melissa Grippi helped detail the astronaut and flight suits and my always resourceful uncle helped me wire up the LED array inside the helmet. Kale Kaposhilin helped me devise the orbiting light rig for the space scene and provided support for the set design for the live music scene, which was shot in the backspace of BSP in Kingston, NY. Bri Olsson, Joe Maggio and Drake were my volunteer actors for the dream sequence. The laundromat (which has appropriately Kubrickian washers and dryers) is the ABC Laundromat, also in Kingston, NY.
EDITOR & VFX
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY