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Director Rick Knief & Hooligan Create Ground-Breaking Music Video for Joseph Arthur with the iPhone

Feb 14, 2012 12:42 PM


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Director Rick Knief and Hooligan editor Thomas Ostuni have teamed up to create a graphically compelling live-action music video for "Over the Sun," Joseph Arthur's latest single from the critically-acclaimed album, The Graduation Ceremony (Lonely Astronaut Records). The ground-breaking music video was shot on a multi-iPhone rig, captured within iPhone and iPad apps, and edited in Final Cut.

joseph arthur - "over the sun" - official video from rick knief on Vimeo.

Told on a stylized mosaic of nine interchanging and overlapping frames, the video features myriad shots of Arthur painting and playing every instrument heard in the song; the B story interprets the song's muse who is seen leaving a NY gallery where Arthur performs, into the setting sun.

"It was exciting to work with an artist like Joseph, whom I've admired for many years," remarks Knief. "He is such a unique artist. I really wanted to create a music video for him that would reflect that. And I think using an everyday tool like the iPhone in such an unorthodox way, really enabled us to pull that off."

Knief says the video's concept was heavily inspired by Arthur's acclaimed performance art, which combines looping himself on various instruments with poetry and live painting.

"The way Joseph assembles his songs live on stage informed my filmmaking process," explains Knief. "As a designer myself, I like to break things down to their core elements. Bringing those sensibilities to shooting and directing this video made sense because I could interpret the many layers of his art by essentially turning them into a collage, with each frame effectively serving as an individual film."

"My favorite thing about Rick is he approaches filmmaking in terms of the graphic nature of the imagery," adds Thomas Ostuni, senior editor, Hooligan. "He has a special knack for keeping things visually pleasing. Our goal was to keep the piece simplistic and graphic. It's an art director's dream video -- every single second is art directed, it had to be."

Knief's idea to translate Arthur's performance art in the form of a music video had long been in the making. The two first met at an Evan Dando concert and discussed the idea; subsequently, Arthur put Knief in touch with his management and the rest was history.

"Tossing the idea around with Arthur's management, I had simultaneously been in conversations with Apple to develop a project using their tools and create a 'making-of' piece to share in-store. The iPhone's video quality had vastly improved, so I decided to shoot with it."

Knief developed a treatment with a concept to divide the 16:9 aspect ratio into nine separate screens. He then devised a method to achieve the multi-frame effect using six iPhones on a custom-built camera rig he designed and built. Production took place at the Aperture Gallery and on NYC's High Line. Knief's 6-man crew completed the shoot in just one day.

Knief downloaded numerous apps from iTunes to enhance production and postproduction, from concept aesthetic to workflow. The B story, for example, called for images of the sun flaring around the video's love interest. Given that the iPhone camera is automatic, he achieved crucial lighting aesthetics with FilmicPro, an exposure locking app. Finally, to address the crucial phase of syncing footage from essentially nine iPhones, they used an iPad app called MovieSlate.

Ostuni says the consumer tools used to produce the video offered a unique editorial process, which called for creating nine unique sequences (utilizing every take) to assemble the master composite within the 16:9 aspect ratio.

"Dealing with multiple edits kept us on our toes as far as managing frames and organizing bins and dailies," concludes Ostuni. "But working in uncharted territory allotted us freedom to experiment and write the rules as we went -- convention went out the window and the possibilities were endless; but what ultimately made it interesting for me as an editor was I didn't have to cut away from the performance to show the B story. With this vehicle, I could tell two stories at once."

the making of "over the sun" from rick knief on Vimeo.

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