“Crack of Light” from Vintersea’s album Illuminated is easily the most epic music video HotKarlProductions has been involved with. This blog post covers the preparation and filming for the Alvord Desert phase of our most ambitious shoot to date. We spent over 6 months on this video.
Quick about me – Karl Whinnery – I make music videos/films and play bass in Vintersea. It’s nice to have a foot in both worlds as we can get really creative and do things as example for other potential clients.
For “Crack of Light” – I told the band I wanted to make an epic video and have us pulling a boat in the desert. I thought that would create powerful visuals. The way we create videos in Vintersea is I develop a rough idea with Riley and Avienne, then when we are pretty happy with it, we take it to Jorma and Jeremy and build it up.
I knew that I wanted:
1. The band pulling an ancient boat in the desert,
2. Avienne using a “Sunstone” to navigate,
3. The band to be in costumes (robes),
4. I wanted us in makeup.
I wrote up a draft screenplay and sent it to Riley, who filled it in further and came up with the ending of Avienne sailing off into the void. Then we took the rough idea to Freddy Heath, my main partner at HotKarlProductions. He started developing the rough screenplay into something shootable. Freddy takes our ideas and shapes them into a compelling narrative.
While that was happening, I started on the boat. Funny story here – I think everyone thought I was full of it when I said I wanted to build a boat for the video. No one seemed to take it seriously, the looks I got from everyone were funny. My wife was trying to “help” by asking friends if anyone knew of a boat we could borrow – but that’s not the style of boat I wanted for the video.
I watched a few YouTube videos and then went to Home Depot and got started. My saving grace was this boat didn’t have to float.
Building the boat
So one Saturday I snagged my brother and we went to town building the boat in the garage / side yard. We started by building the “ribs” of the boat. I made the boat 4 ft tall and about 6 ft wide.
The above photo was “success”!! It was quasi working! I had no clue how long the boat was going to be. Just kinda free wheeling it.
You can see the curve starting to take shape:
Here you can see the progress – this is still day 1 of the build. It took a bit to actually get to the tip of the boat. We got the sides on and added some bottom 2x4s for strength.
And here’s the start of the tip! The one flourish on the boat is the tip – the tip leans forward towards the top front. Oh yeah, the boat is upside down at this point.
And one side completed and a good shot of the bow of the boat:
I think this is day 2 at this point.
We flipped the boat with four people and then start strengthening the top of the boat so it had more structure. We used 2x4s for strength. Freshly flipped and talking to my wife about it.
At the end of the build we stained the boat grey with deck staining and then used Rit with water to “age” the boat. Plot twist – Rit is amazing but not for the boat. It kept raining/getting blown out by the sun. You can see our Rit stain on the side of the boat – we did green on the bottom and went to black/brown on the top.Wide angle iPhone shot here of the front of the boat – the different colors represent what’s safe to stand on.
I think I started building about a month prior to needing it. The bulk of the boat was done in about 3-4 days with lots of days doing paint sprays/some finish work on it. Everyone in the band + lots of friends helped on various parts of the boat.
Moving the boat
Thursday, July 9th, was the first test. We had to load the boat on the trailer.
We used PVC pipes to roll it and holy cow I was hoping it didn’t just fall apart.
The PVC did wonders. Surprisingly it stayed intact.
What good is a boat without a sail?
Riley and Avienne and I talked about and brain stormed ideas for a sail. Avienne suggested a phoenix. At this point we had been discussing color pretty heavily too – we wanted alot of things RED to stand out from the desert floor. So we decided on a red phoenix.
Sarah Jane, a talented artist in Portland designed the phoenix. It was everything I could have hoped for!
I went to Home Depot and bought a bunch of different sized canvas to use as sails. We projected the image the artist drew using an iPhone.
Painting took a few hours – I think we spent 4 or 5 hours on it the first night, then did a second night to finish the wings. And this was the end of day 2 of the main sail. Sarah did the detail and I did the broad strokes. Main sail – DONE!
(For full article on the build including props and costumes see Karl’s site HERE)
Working with the BLM to get film permits
We wanted to film in the Alvord Desert – one of the most remote and rural places in Oregon. It’s in South Eastern Oregon – about as close to the border as you can get. It’s also unlike anything else in Oregon.
We debated on film permits – I know lots of people have shot music videos there but we had a 20 ft boat and it’s an 8 hour drive to the Alvord. That would suck to get shut down in the middle of filming.
So I spent some time researching who handles the permits for the Alvord, and what it would cost. That took a few hours and 300 chrome tabs. Once I actually got in touch with the right people at BLM it was pretty great. The Burns, OR office handled the permits. Because we weren’t building anything on the land the process was fairly straight forward.
We had to get production insurance, which isn’t cheap. I think we spent about $2000 on permits/insurance.
I bought Drone insurance – we could have done hourly but you’d have to file flight plans and I didn’t know what we were going to do. Drone insurance was $500.
Production insurance for two days of filming was $800.
Film permits ended up being $564, which is totally reasonable. Working with the BLM was great. There’s two sets of documents and I somehow screwed the date up on the actual permit and almost had a panic attack. I didn’t notice this until like a day before we were supposed to film. Thankfully the BLM was able to easily adjust the date and have me resign it. Whew. Always triple check your forms!!!
We rented an AirBnb in Burns, OR. It ended up being a 3 hour drive from the Alvord. Lodging was $585 – totally reasonable. We had two people that stayed at a different AirBnb.
At our AirBnb we had me, Josh, Freddy, Avienne, Riley, Kirby, and Jeremy. Plus a million props and costumes.
The logistics on this video were nuts. Keep in mind so far we’ve only talked about the Alvord location. Just handling the Alvord portion has been a big undertaking.
Examples of logistics:
We had to rent a flat bed trailer to move the boat. Where do we rent it? How much? I saw quotes for as much $500 a day. Ouch. Jorma found something from a shop down south for a decent price.
Scope out our task sheet HERE
I had a shot I really wanted that involved a Zoom lens – we start close up on a cross and zoom out to reveal tons of crosses. So I rented a Fujinon Zoom lens from www.lensprotogo.com
We had to over prepare for gear – we’d be shooting all day and if we forgot anything there’s no plan B. And guess what – my tripod lost a screw and I couldn’t fix it in time. Yay. So we didn’t get the shot I wanted.
I brought every charger I owned and had pre set them up in the AirBnb so when we returned Saturday from filming I’d be able to just plug things in and pass out.
We planned to film for two days at the Alvord – Saturday and Sunday. With an 8 hour drive we need a day before and after just for travel. For the boat we didn’t want to load it the same day traveling so we did that the Thursday prior to leaving.
I’m glad we did – we had to make sure we had enough people ready to help get the boat on the trailer – plot twist – we kinda didn’t. But we managed somehow. I won’t post the video – it’s not pretty.
We also loaded the boat with flags, crosses, and all sorts of other stuff. That would end up being a mistake – the boat was the last thing to show every day and we had to wait on filming scenes we could have otherwise been filming. BUT – we didn’t have space to pack the props so there wasn’t anything we could have done.
Freddy, Josh and I all drove down together in a tightly packed VW Atlas. It was the most full of gear we’ve ever packed it.
We left early enough Friday so we could have time to scout and talk through potential locations and just get a feel for what we were doing. Cool.
The route we took from Burns to the Alvord took us on a gravel road and as fate would have it – we popped a freakin tire and went FLAT FLAT FLAT with the Alvord in sight.
Here’s a pic of that. The VW Atlas has a donut tire. It sucked having to pull everything out of the Atlas on a gravel road with wasps flying around us. Oh, I was growing my beard and hair out for the shoot.
So we got the donut on the car but we had a hard choice – scout the Alvord or go back to Burns and Les Schwab and get a new tire? If we got a new tire we wouldn’t have time to scout. Doh. We made the decision to go to Schwab. Schwab saved us.
After the flat tire fun we went to the AirBnb and started finishing up aging props and made the good call to rehearse the fight. It took about an hour to rehearse. Some of band mates had also decided to change things from our screenplay without telling anyone so we got all that cleared up.
I also sprung the idea of makeup on everyone. Friday night. Surprisingly everyone was into it!! We tried a bunch of different things – here’s Jeremy’s first run. I bought makeup from Amazon just for this occasion!! So glad everyone agreed.
We spent some time getting that dialed in and then everyone tried to get some sleep. We had an early start the next morning.
First day of filming at the Alvord
We woke up early and got on the road quick.
We hit the Desert basically on time….the drive from Burns to the Alvord was supposed to be two hours but it was 3. That hurt.
One of the first things we realized when we got there – it was WINDY. Everyone thought it would be windy except me. Stupidly. Last time I was there with my wife there was no wind. This time it was 30mph winds with up to 50mph gusts.
Jorma and Sherri were hauling the boat and it’s slow going so they got there about 45 minutes after us. Brutal. Then we had to pull the boat off the trailer and really get going.
It’s a multi-step process to get the boat off the trailer.
Look these leading lines! So cool. Things were coming together.
Avienne, Sherri, and Candice did our make up and they rocked it. We couldn’t have done the video or made our days without them.
We got started filming. We had two days of INTENSIVE shoots and had to constantly be shooting to make our days. Band footage. Story. So much stuff.
This shoot was HARD. We had a 3 hour drive to and from with about 45 minutes of time to get the boat on and off. Every night we got less and less sleep. It was exhausting and really pushed everyone to their limits. We had to constantly remind people to eat so they (or we) wouldn’t get too cranky, and to drink plenty of water.
But in the end we made it. This portion of the music video was the largest and had huge hurdles to overcome. The other portions of the video had their own and we’ll cover those in further blog posts.
For gear we used two BMPCC4Ks with Rokinon and Xeen lenses for the majority of the scene. There were a few specialty lenses we rented – the Sirui 50mm 1.33 anamorphic lens and the Fujinon MK 50-135MM T2.9 Zoom lens.
I wanted the Sirui for the flaring and the Fujinon because wow that lens. It’s parfocal (no breathing while zooming and it stays in focus the entire time you zoom) and I had some rad shots planned for it that got cut. A few shots from it it still made it in to the final product.
The Rokinon and Xeen lens are amazing lenses – they aren’t too contrasty (The Sirui 50mm is way more contrastly in comparison) and they’re super fast for night time shoots. They were invaluable at golden hour and dusk shots.
The Black Magic Design Cameras allowed us to use SSDs via USB and write to 2TB drives – so we could shoot at BRAW Q0 and shoot all weekend without worrying about space. I also brought extra drives incase we needed because I don’t want to have to stop for anything.
Here’s me, quite pleased with myself the boat didn’t break on the way to the desert.