WeWereMonkeys: Land of Talk “It’s Okay”

WeWereMonkeys: Making Of “It’s Okay”

To start: we were approached by Cherie Sinclair at The Field to write a treatment for Land Of Talk’s “It’s Okay.”

We started by listening to the song over and over on repeat. When we make music videos, our goal is to create a visual work that glues seamlessly to the music. We strive to create a unified work of art. This doesn’t usually mean literally translating the lyrics into visuals, but more like using the mood, or overall feel that we get from the music as our inspiration.

The idea of the Antiope came from our amazing producer Marcella Moser. Together, the three of us built a story of the last Amazon Queen riding her horse to her doom. We saw her riding through abstract, lonely landscapes, and finally launching from a cliff to disintegrate into nothingness.

We really love to work to a plan, but we also love to change our plan while we’re working. If a “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” moment happens while we’re plugging in AE, we jump on it.

We saw the piece in super-slow motion, with dramatic lighting and little or no colour. To us, this idea melted perfectly with the sad, slow, feeling of inevitable doom that we got from the music.

So, since we were using live action, we needed a costume for our Amazon. The three of us tracked down a lot of interesting gear; from an old red leather jacket, to a traditional silk chinese dressing gown, to a skirt of weasel pelts that my mom supplied us with. We spent two days staining, scraping and hand-stitching the thing together in our dining room.

Our next step was to shoot the live action. In order to have full control of the shoot, we tracked down a RED and rented it for a week. We figured this would give us a lot of freedom, and bonus, we’d learn how to use a RED! To help us shoot, we contracted the services of our good friend Dominic Schaefer to be our main DP. This was the first time any of us had used a RED before, but after a great tutorial from Red Rentals Vancouver we were totally set.

We drove from Vancouver to Lumby, BC, the home of our extremely talented (and time-generous) actors: Ines Stone and Desi the horse. We shot on the grass runway of Raven Aviation. The location was perfect as we were able to drive along side the horse as it ran, shooting from the open door of a mini-van. Thankfully, Randy Rauck, the owner of the airstrip was really a cool dude — and he took Davide up in an ultralight to shoot aerials of the actors. We shot everything 100fps 2k 16:9 using Nikon lenses. We shot using natural light, mostly early morning (4AM wake up calls). Thankfully we had clear skies so there was plenty of light and we could really minimize motion blur. This really helped us out when twixtoring the footage to 200fps.

So next, after we edited our footage, we jumped into a month of post. Most of our previous work is pretty two-dimensional, collage-based, and purely animation. But for this project we wanted to push ourselves, so we decided we’d learn how to build depth, matte paint and make a solid composite using live action. We also wanted to learn how to roto a horse and rider, attach 3D hair onto an actor, and stabilize and track a seriously unstable shot from an ultralight. Fun!

AE and PS did us well for all the roto / keying / matte painting. Light wrap, and using black and white made our composites straight- forward. We used C4D to make the hair, and Pftrack to attach it to the actor’s hair (tracking tape & beads on the wig helped us out here). Syntheyes excellently handled the 3D stabilization and tracking of our wonky aerial shot. From the extremely helpful Syntheyes site we learned we needed to stabilize in 3D, not 2D. And after a solid track, we were able to zoom the camera out in 3D space and re-solve. Cool!

We really love to work to a plan, but we also love to change our plan while we’re working. If a “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…” moment happens while we’re plugging in AE, we jump on it. We wanted the landscape to be abstract, but realized that instead of changing the visual elements, it was more interesting to change the physics. The everlong hair, floating upwards had organically found its way into our initial sketches, so we extrapolated on that. We started with snow and dirt floating upwards, and that concept evolved to the tops of mountains crumbling and being sucked skyward. This abstraction is meant to dislocate the viewer, and to show them a place that cannot exist by the rules of our nature. We created our own laws of physics.

Our initial edit had the video with about twenty scenes, but half way through post we realized that the video could be stronger with less scenes. We asked ourselves, can we tell this story in four scenes? Five? Six? We ended up with ten. A lot of great footage was chopped off, we said a tearful goodbye to fully rotoscoped actors and hand- painted landscapes. Our storyboard ended up being 10 sheets of 8×10 paper taped to the wall, each with a still of the scene and a list of to-dos. Our process to was this: watch video, write down to-dos, do to- dos, repeat until there was no time left.

In conclusion, I’d like to say that it was a helluva fun project. WeWereMonkeys learned many new skills and had the opportunity to work with a lot of fantastic people. I’d also like to say that all of the post (and a lot of the other stuff) was done by two guys on two computers in an apartment in downtown Vancouver.

And here’s something fun for all you kids out there — see if you can find Davide and Mihai in the video. We’re in there, somewhere… (Here’s a hint — one of us is standing, one of us is crouching)