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Friday, 29 October 2010 20:23

From Guns to Swords

Written by  John Law
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LightColumnGuns N’ Roses, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, John Mayer and Marilyn Manson are just a few top artists with music videos shot by Veteran Director/DP Vance Burberry. With hundreds of shoots under his belt, the cinematographer recently reteamed with former Guns Guitarist Slash to shoot a music video for the new single “By the Sword.”

“The theme for the video was that music survives, no matter what happens,” says Burberry, who filmed the post-apocalyptic piece over a two-day period at two California locations: the sub-floor of a disused Redondo Beach power station and the desert outside Palmdale. “It starts with these kids in the desert, survivors of some apocalypse that have no music or electricity, who open this hatch that leads them to the band playing.”

The British-born Burberry grew up in Australia and first made a reputation for himself with inspired concert-lighting concepts for bands like INXS and the Go-Go’s. “[Lighting has] always been my first love,” Burberry says. “I was fascinated as a kid with the whole craft of lighting design, and I started off in theater before I got into doing rock shows. And this [‘By the Sword’] video gave me a chance to really use a lot of moody, atmospheric looks that worked well with the music.”

The director and his team, which included Gaffer Marc Meisenheimer, spent one day on a pre-light at the power station where all the band performance footage was shot. “It was quite challenging, as we first had to cover up these huge windows –– a 100-foot by 50-foot space –– and then devise our lighting scheme, which used a very dark space with a lot of backlight,” he explains. “Then we used scoop soft lights on the floor for Slash and the musicians.”

Burberry lit the stage area with a mixture of space lights hung overhead and an 18K HMI for depth, with a set of Par cans to pick up the highlights. “I love being able to sculpt space with light, and being able to create a whole world with just a few lights, which is what we did on this video,” he notes. All the lights were provided by Scott Moody, another gaffer who works regularly with Burberry.

To capture all the action, the director shot mostly on film using multiple cameras, including an ARRI 416, ARRI 435 and ARRI 3C, which were each set up as a hand crank. He also used a Canon 1D Mark IV and shot the desert scenes with a 16mm Bolex. The video was edited and posted at MILKT Films, Burberry’s production company, with telecine done with Colorist Marshall Plante at Rushes.

“I’ve shot a lot of performance, so that side of it went pretty smoothly,” adds Burberry. “But it’s not like the old days where you had big budgets and a lot to play with on a music video. Today, working with much smaller budgets can often be the biggest challenge of the whole production. But we got a great-looking video and everyone was happy with the way it turned out. And although we shot it in 2D, it was just converted to 3D by PassmoreLab, the San Diego-based multimedia production studio that specializes in 3D production and 2D-to-3D content conversion, and will be played in cinemas in 3D, which is very exciting.”  

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