Leon and the Revival BTS

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I want to share a bit of the process behind this project, soup to nuts.  


I reached out to Paul (Leon) from Leon and the Revival earlier this year because I've wanted to start producing/shooting some one take live music videos for quite some time. Browsing the lineup for the '17 UMS in Denver, their band name stuck out and immediately after listening to their tunes I knew they were the guys. 

I sent him an email explaining who I was and what I wanted to do, and after a few conversations he told me about his friend who worked at a classic car restoration garage that might be interested in hosting the video. I thought that was awesome and a perfect fit for their style of music. We checked the place out and decided it was the perfect fit, so I drew up a treatment to lock in some of my initial ideas and project vibe. That's the process that tends to work best for me, if I have time to really sit and think through concept/lighting I feel prepared and excited.



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My good friend Matt Stoneback of Eddysound is the clutch player of the night. Without him this thing doesn't exist. I've worked for his live AV company for years, and he used to FOH Engineer for me when I played live, so if there was anyone to rely on who understands live music to pull off the gig, it was him. 

Matt owns all of the equipment (sound/lighting) besides some of the grip used on this shoot. So, obviously with the shoestring budget, nothing was going to happen unless my boy was willing to support me. Just want to sing this dude's praises for hooking it up so key for me. 


From the plot in the treatment, I basically knew I needed a large soft source to key the entire band, and then colored sources to light the background. 

For inspiration I drew from a setup for some Musicbed sessions that included rigging a 8X muslin overhead and shooting some skirted spacelights through that as a giant OH key. Awesome stuff. 

I had 3 source 4s and a beadboard. HA! But, I figured if I could keep the band tight enough, bouncing the S4s off the beadboard would expose Paul as the frontman correctly, while giving enough spill to the guys around him so they weren't more than a half stop under. The thing I was worried most about was the falloff on the background, but edging the beadboard a bit more overhead allowed the falloff to be a tad steeper which sat nicely with the gain from the background LEDs. When adding haze, the lekos gave a beautiful shaft crossing over the guys that actually added a ton to the final look, and also balanced the color contrast of the frame. 

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My goal for this setup was to key the band with a super warm wash, and then contrast the background with a cooler color. I originally wanted to use the bay florescent lights as my dingy green color, but they were just too hot. Matt brought up his fleet of Blizzard lighting, so I grabbed 9 Hotboxes and added 3 of those to each bay.

In the back of the room is a car painting room, and I knew with haze if I put a light in there, it would look gorgeous blasting through the doors. I felt that a more yellowish tone would give a nice look that sat with the overall 70s vibe I was shooting for, and would also compliment the warm key and give a bit more depth to the room. We used another light from Blizzard called the Cobzilla that I bounced off the low ceiling, and let that spill into the ambiance. 

When we arrived to the garage, I worked with the owner and Tom (Paul's friend) to set the cars where I wanted them (which was an interesting process in itself) to wrap the band, but also feature the garage as our location. To help the cars pop enough to be noticed, but not distracting, I placed another Blizzard light called a Skybox in the cabs of each car. Those lights were battery operated AND wireless DMX. Cannot tell you how stoked I was with that. 

One major advantage to Matt's lighting in this case was the DMX control. We easily set his Jands board right next to the console at FOH, and I could run colors and gain control all day to dial in exactly what I needed. Beautiful stuff. 


I wanted to challenge myself with camera movement the most during this production. I don't mean just walking around with the easyrig, but really planning my shots to choreograph an interesting story while the band did their thing. 

It took a few run-throughs for them to warmup the song, so I used this as my chance to block my moves. W-MW-M (keys)-T (Leon/dirty drums)-MW-W. I had to keep in mind where I wanted titles to go in the edit while I blocked, which was also an interesting motivation for the composition. 

On the final shot I walk back to my original 1, and Matt had to guide me back in between the cars so I didn't scratch them. I can't remember all the model names, but there were 2 Ferraris, a McLaren, a Corvette, and some other bodies they were restoring. All classics and a grand total of over $5MIL sitting in one room that we were working around. Needless to say it was tense.  

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We ended up doing 4 full takes of the song. They had it on the 2nd. I gave them a 3rd for safety, and then I said lay it all out for one more. The 4th take is the final, they just destroyed the song and gave the best energy. 


Post was pretty simple considering the minimal editing I had. I created the titles in photoshop and placed them in as pngs. Syncing was super easy, just a clap at the beginning of each take and I was golden. Grading was also easy, not a difficult grade at all. I shot the entire thing on a 5Dmkiii with Magic Lantern, so I had a good dynamic range. I added minor CC and a lut at 20% over the top of the image and bam. I wanted to make sure that I created as much of the look as possible in camera, and the balance between shooting at a warmer WB and dialing in the LEDs made that possible.

I did have to do some foley for the footsteps and the door when Paul walks in. That was pretty straight forward, but I did have that sequence longer than what is shown in the final cut. I wanted Paul to start in a classic car outside the venue like he just pulled up, he would get out of the car, walk through the door, and into position with the band. We ended up not having another car to use, and they didn't want to grab one from the garage, so we just used one of the band members trucks. While editing, I decided it just didn't fit and it made the entire video longer and more drawn out than needed, so I cut it.


The final master of the song was mixed by Andy, the keyboardist. He did a phenomenal job, and on top of that, he has an incredible project of his own that you should definitely check out.


I couldn't have made this without the generosity of everyone involved. We had a meager budget that only covered the cost of the easyrig, the minor grip, and dinner. I'm lucky to have a friend that is just down to create great looking stuff, and that is hard to come by so I don't want to take that for granted. I'm learning the value of shared benefit when asking for favors. The band gets an incredible video for promo, the location got some extra footage featuring their Ferrari, Matt got a new band/client in LatR to work with on live shows, and I got a great piece for the portfolio on my way to shooting more music projects. I feel like everyone was represented well in the pay-off, which is important. When you ask people for favors, be sure to do your best to include their final interest. 

Also, most creatives are in a similar spot: we all want great content and are usually lacking in available funds. My advice is to be proactive in supporting each other. Look for ways to help and be a part of something fun. I know from a musician perspective it's hard to continue pumping out content when you don't have budget, so on this side as a DP I can pursue bands to help out, and that feels great. Whatever that is for you, make a point to do it. 

Haven't seen the video yet?


Sean Waldron