Wake The Town
Stuck in Motion
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

A Guided Trip Through Oscar Hudson’s Mind-Bending Promos


The innovative Pulse Films director lifts the curtain on his most extraordinary music videos

A Guided Trip Through Oscar Hudson’s Mind-Bending Promos
Oscar Hudson is a director’s director. Mention his name to someone in music videos and you’re likely to hear about specific shots that blew people’s minds or satisfying details that make you want to go back and revisit some of his work. He’s partial to a how-did-he-do-that? moment.

The Pulse Films director’s mad-inventor approach has resulted in a swift rise in his profile. In 2016 he won the Best New Director award at the UKMVAs. By 2017 that accolade evolved into Best Director outright.

More than intrigued by the filmmaking magic that went into his filmography, LBB’s Alex Reeves took a deep dive with him into six of his best music videos.

Bonobo - No Reason

What was the idea?
The first thing that fell into place for that video was the very fundamental concept of a series of repeating rooms - the same space repeating over and over again and getting smaller and smaller. I think it was born out of the idea of making use of the size new small film cameras. There was a moment where we were considering shooting it on drain cameras, but we ultimately went for a more cinematic approach. I think it was probably the right move.

It’d been an idea I’d pitched a couple of times in a loose form and it never really stuck. I always knew it was quite a weird idea to explain and I didn’t feel like my treatments were quite capturing it. Ultimately I got a friend to do me a little animation, which really did the trick.

In the process of pitching it on the Bonobo track, this whole hikikomori [theme came through. It was just the perfect story that we could build into the general conceptual approach.

How did you do it?
The idea we were trying to achieve is a logical one - wanting to push a camera through a series of small spaces and through that being the ultimate goal you just come at it and think about how you’ll achieve it. How small can we make this camera rig? How can we get it to glide along the floor? Then all the other million details on top of that!

We did some research and development on our camera rig and ended up coming up with this clever system of using something that’s pulled from underneath the ground by a wire and is flush to the ground.

Even the Japanese setting - one of the reasons why we were so keen on taking it in that direction was the interior design of Japanese rooms is all very minimal and square and geometric. It allowed us to recreate furniture in ways that were realistic. If we had to make 16 shrinking Chesterfield sofas that would be really hard, but we made 16 simple, low, wooden tables and futons. So all of that tied into the approach.

What was the biggest challenge?
Something that really stands out from that project rather than anything else I’ve done is how interconnected every aspect was to all the other aspects. The concept fed into the design which in turn fed into the camera move and the camera moving system relies upon the floor. Every bit of it needed to be completely interrelated to every other bit, so it’s hard to think about it as separate challenges. 

If I was to say something it would either be getting someone to let me make it in the first place. And the camera rig definitely took a lot of thought or development to get right.

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
Maybe a sense of satisfaction. There is something nice about repetition and being this crazy simple thing. Or just looking down the corridor. The video doesn’t communicate this really, but when you stood at the end and looked down at this corridor and through all the doors it was very bizarre to see.

What moment in the finished film are you particularly happy with?
More than anything else I’ve ever done - there’s not so much action. It’s purely this idea of repetition and development and progress, so it’s an overall thing. I could say it’s nice when the camera goes really close under his bum or something, but it’s not so much a moment. The whole thing works in the context of the broader video.

Something I really enjoyed about making that video was the attention to detail that went into some of the shrinking props. I love the little kettle. All of the stuff is hand crafted and there’s a little blue jacket that hangs on the back of each door and tiny shrinking plants and little magazines that themselves contain references to the themes of the song and the video. All of that - the sheer attention to detail that went into that. And the physical things that you have left over afterwards, there’s something really special about them. It’s a big part of the film.

Young Martha - Homie

What was the idea?
I’d been experimenting with the idea of cameras that swing on big arcs. I’d strap my iPhone to a bit of wood and was swinging it around off a nail. In the process I discovered that it was nice when it went the full way round. That’s where this particular kind of looping camera came from.

The thought that followed that was that the problem with this is you’d spend a lot of time looking at a ceiling, so we’d better put something interesting on the ceiling. And that’s where the upside-down, gravity-shifting set idea comes in. 

Those were the first steps of that video and then everything else comes from the brief that they wanted to make something a bit trippy, where Carnage and [Young] Thug were going to look like bosses - this decadent video where they’re the bosses of the mansion. I wrote this funny cartoon horror film that would play out within that format.

How did you do it?
We built quite a simple camera rig that allows the camera to spin 360 degrees on an axis. That was controlled by a motor so it would move at a consistent speed. 

We built two sets - one regular and one upside-down - that were identical otherwise and then stitched together the two sets because the camera’s moving at the same rate so you can join the shots up and create this gravity shifting of people on the ceiling and people on the floor. 

What was the biggest challenge?
We made the video right after the infamous Young Thug no-show video and we had to deal with a lot of people on all sides worrying about him not showing up at all. We had to have all these plan Bs in case we didn’t get an artist on set. In the end he did show up of course and by all accounts we got the best behaviour you can expect out of Atlanta rappers.

That created a lot of anxiety, this unknown factor that probably never really was that unknown. It was one time he didn’t turn up on set. But that was a thing to deal with.

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
The memory of that shoot is being exposed directly to US rap culture. These guys really are proper rappers. They’re the rock and roll stars of today. We don’t really have those people who smash hotel rooms anymore in rock and roll, but these guys are that. They are everything they say they are in their songs. They’ve got the most insane jewellery and they travel around with guns and entourages and cash and smoke blunts all day. All of that. That was pretty cool. No judgement from my end but it was quite an experience to dip into that for a week or two.

What moment in the finished film are you particularly happy with?
I like the singing paintings. Some people never notice that but the paintings on the wall rap sometimes. 

I also just love all the bald butlers. I started a love affair with bald heads in that video which comes back in the Radiohead video and others to come as well.

Radiohead - Lift

What was the idea?
There was no brief whatsoever on this. No notes or anything. They just let me do what I wanted, which was pretty terrifying and remarkable. 

The concept, I went literal with it. I’ve always wanted to do something with lifts because they’re great. They’re the only room that has a door that opens onto different spaces. So I wanted to play with that idea.

It was quite a lot of pressure because I’d already made this 30-second blip for the previous album and so I was made aware that if I wanted this video I could have it. As a Radiohead fan it’s quite scary when you’re told you’re probably going to get something before you’ve even had the idea for it. It puts the pressure on for coming up with something.

I wanted to keep it in the same universe as the blip and this is what we came out with.

How did you do it?
The cuts are just in the obvious places. It’s just when it goes overhead. All of the long sequences are a single take. We did it by building a sliding set area outside the front of the lift and when the doors shut there was a frantic sliding of this L-shaped section of set - a new one gets pushed in and all the props go in really quickly and everyone jumps out, the doors open and it all looks really calm, Thom comes in and we do it all again. 

This video, more than some of the others, the in-camera craft is a bit more hidden. I want people to appreciate it.

What was the biggest challenge?
It was all in rehearsals and trial and error but it was definitely quite an operation and required a lot of hands to operate all the aspects of the lift, the moving sets, the characters and the camera crew. Towards the end when he goes into the lift and he’s there but he’s not there but he is there - that whole thing was a particularly complicated bit of dance because we had to walk in a whole lift in the seven seconds the door was shut. Then as the camera picks up the back door swings shut. The biggest challenge was just coordinating all of the action and choreographing it.

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
It was cool hanging out with Thom Yorke. That was a real pleasure for me to get to do something with him featuring in it. And perhaps more than that being given the opportunity to do something that wasn’t interfered with in any way. To be given that creative freedom by someone that you respect so much as a creative was an incredible thing.

What moment in the finished film would are you particularly happy with?
I’m happy with the ending of that video. I think it’s good.

Young Fathers - Holy Ghost

What was the idea?
The previous three videos fit together because they’re set within four walls. I had a feeling of wanting to do something different from those interior set-based things and try something completely different. But the same principles apply in terms of my tastes.

Young Fathers sent over a bunch of external reference imagery and wanted to do something in that universe. In my research into that universe I came across these super-long-range military thermal cameras, which are super cool. I’d seen them in Richard Mosse’s brilliant piece ‘Incoming’ at the Barbican. It’s a beautiful piece. 

Maybe even more so than the thermal aspect of the cameras, what I was interested in was the long-distance range. I got really into the idea of shooting a video from as far away as possible and letting the camera be a bit of a  character in the film, embracing the nature of its movements, zooming and electronic wobble. I wanted to try and do this surveillance-based ghost story or seance.

What was the biggest challenge?
In this case one of the biggest challenges was actually getting the camera. That was really difficult - to track down one and be allowed to use it. They’re not common and they exist within the surveillance universe rather than the film industry. The surveillance industry is this strange parallel entity where they speak a completely different language and work on completely different schedules.

One of the biggest challenges on the shoot was directing the set from 300-plus metres away. It was such a strange day. I was up at the top of a hill with Ruben [Woodin Dechamps] the DOP, the technician who was operating the camera and the 1st AD. And we were trying to operate a camera that functions a lot more like a calculator, trying to coordinate the actions of 50-plus people in the freezing rain. The fine tuning of where to get someone to stand from 300 metres away is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of walkie-talkie chat.

Getting people to lie down in the cold was very unfair. We had a lovely sunny week up in Scotland and then the shoot was the one day when it dropped by about 10 degrees and started raining all day long. Lying on the grass became the worst thing possible and that’s what half the video is. 

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
Just this strange sense of being on one side of a hill and so far away from everyone you’re trying to work with. I didn’t meet half the crew. I remember being in this pop-up tent on the side of a hill, my feet just frozen stiff, tearing my hair out trying to get stuff done. It was such an unusual shoot.

What moment in the finished film are you particularly happy with?
There’s supposed to be a sort of narrative but I think it gets lost because in some ways the aesthetic is so overwhelmingly engrossing that you’re not really looking for the story. It’s supposed to be the story of someone digging up dead bodies to bring them back to life. I think some people get that but most people just think it looks great. 

Col3trane - Fear & Loathing / Britney

What was the idea?
This one had a little bit of a brief in that Cole wanted to do something ‘trippy’ (the song’s called Fear & Loathing). He had this idea about driving this car in the desert. I took that and put a twist on it. It’s an acid trip song really. Plain and simple.

There is a bit of a story. Because it was a double video, Cole and the other guy who carries the flowers are supposed to be appearing to each other inside each other’s acid trips. I don’t really mind if you understand that or not, but that became the idea of it at least.

How did you do it?
The contra-zoom effect when he’s sitting next to the rose bush is achieved as an animation technique, really. A contra zoom or dolly zoom is when the camera moves forwards and the lens zooms out. You get this trombone effect where the background shrinks or expands but the subject stays the same size. All we’re doing in this is a ginormous dolly zoom where it’s not shot with video but as an animation. 

We shot from 30 camera positions, moving back along the same line. As we moved back we zoomed in a little bit and went through lenses from 9mm through to 1,200mm. The camera moves back from that wide shot; we start out maybe 2m from him and end up being 120m or something from him. We got him to repeat the exact same actions at every camera position and then I could stitch together those frames. That’s how he’s able to move while he’s in this warpy universe.

What was the biggest challenge?
That technique was hard work. We’d done tests with a much smaller camera rig and lenses. It took time but you could do that as two people. Once we tried to step that up to big, fancy lenses, a heavier camera and a more stable tripod, it started to become really hard work and it took a long time to move all of this heavy equipment along. That was hard work out in the desert heat. 

Also, we shot in Kazakhstan (I know!). It was a pretty unusual place to shoot. It is such a big country so we spent a lot of time driving around in vans on bumpy roads between locations. It all came together very quickly and that was a challenge as well.

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
My enduring memory is also my favourite moment in the video, which is when everyone comes out of the sand. That was for real. We buried people in the sand and then they stood up. That was amazing to watch on the monitor. It was a high-intensity morning, building up to that shot and positioning everybody in the frame, slowly getting everyone buried and then I’d rehearsed the action with the few guys at the front and we thought we’d got it down. It was probably the biggest shot in terms of extras, bodies and sheer scope that I’d ever done. There was something really exciting about suddenly seeing all these people come out of the sand. It looked really cool. I got the tingles!

Loyle Carner (ft. Jordan Rakai) - Ottolenghi

What was the idea?
Loyle Carner approached me wanting to do this video. He had this idea to set it on a commuter train and had a few other bits and bobs he wanted to get into the video. 

It was really nice, actually, because we met up before we’d even spoken about anything. That never happens. It’s not really how it works. So it was nice to be able to talk and figure out where to take it and what to do with it. I went away and cooked up something that I felt worked.

I guess the idea is him falling asleep on a train and dreaming about being on a train. It’s as simple as that. But of course there are lots of little perspective tricks, playing with this concept of printed paper.

From a technical perspective a lot of the film revolves around the idea of recycling the image you’re capturing and putting it into the film again. You print what you’re filming and then incorporate that image into the same scene that it’s come from. And then you can use that as a way of flowing between spaces and cutting together shots.

How did you do it?
We had a big A0 printer on set. We used VFX in a couple of different ways, but it was always about printing the scene, mounting it on some card and using that printed image as a means of transition to move around the film.

What was the biggest challenge?
It was fiddly as hell. It was difficult to line up the paper with the reality so it blends together. From a 3D positioning perspective there’s only one way it’s right and it’s really difficult to get those things lined up.

Aside from it being a bit of a mindfuck, it was also quite difficult to envisage and storyboard because a lot of the techniques are quite hard to imagine until they exist. It was difficult to be sure it was going to work and be good until you’d actually done it.

Also we had so much potential that it was difficult to zero in on the final plan. But we got there.

What’s your enduring memory of making it?
Everything moving outside the train windows was done physically with miniatures and fast spinning bushes. We’d designed this extremely ambitious mechanised series of bike tyres that were all going to be hand cranked to spin at once. We’d been working on that for days to make it work and it was really fussy. I was starting to get really worried and then we suddenly had this flash of inspiration that we should use this electric hand drill. It was such a clever idea and suddenly it worked. That was a nice moment - this creeping panic that this aspect of it wasn’t going to work and then a eureka moment.

The other one is the shot we finished on is when it’s raining in the train and that was just a pretty fun period of chaos. It’s always fun doing something like that on set when you know you have one go at it and everyone’s freaking out because the studio’s filling up with water and everyone’s getting wet. It was a fun energy and then we got to wrap on it and everyone’s soaking wet.

What moment in the finished film are you particularly happy with?
There’s definitely a lot of detailing throughout. I think the bit I’m most happy with is when he’s first in the dream and then Jordan pops up at the window, reaches through and pulls the paper down. I’m really happy how that came out.

view more - Trends and Insight
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Pulse Films, Wed, 21 Nov 2018 17:19:54 GMT