A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the mystical video for Brixton-born R&B newcomer Joel Compass’ debut track leaves the viewer near speechless. Directed by Ian and Cooper, “Back to Me” is a visual-pushing, vertebrae-chilling film that takes an already haunting song to new heights. The video was voted as Vimeo Staff Pick after its initial release last week.
The black and white video incorporates a glitchy movement in the background of otherwise-inanimate frames, creating an uncanny feeling perfectly suited to the chilling r+b track that tells the story of a less-than-stellar father and his son. After a heist goes wrong, the young boy is forced to deal with his father’s gunshot wound – and that’s where things take a turn for the witchy.
The innovative video was constructed with still images using the cinemagraph technique, where one motion is isolated and the rest of the frame remains still, a visual that has been seen as standalone GIFs (such as with the popular Cinemagraph App), but never strung together to create a narrative. The film was shot with the RED Epic Monochrome, which uses its sensor differently for black and white photography.
"The initial spark for the technique came from the lovely video commissioner Dilly Gent, who referenced La Jetée (a 1962 short film by Chris Marker composed from a series of still images) in her brief," says Ian Schwartz. "Cooper Roberts and I did a ton of research on cinemagraphs; what effects were possible, what kind of movement was most striking, etc. We shot-listed everything and specifically mapped out what parts of the frame would be in motion so that we could shoot it correctly. We knew it'd be a challenge to communicate story using only still images without the help of a narrator, so we also made a really rough animatic of the whole video, so we could test how it paced to the music and came together narratively."
"The shoot itself felt like part photo shoot and part cinema," continues Ian. "In each set-up, we'd have our actors pose, holding still in a certain position while we shot about 10 seconds of footage. Different shots required different post techniques, but in general the cinemagraphs came together in After Effects by layering a still frame over the moving footage and through masking, rotoscoping and stabilization."
The resulting film is stylized and eerie, forcing the viewer to slow down and experience the situation in an almost altered reality - much as it would have seemed to the young boy himself.
Artist: Joel Compass
Title: Back To Me
Label: Black Butter Records
Director: Ian & Cooper
Production Company: Prettybird
Executive Producer: Candice Ouaknine
Producer: Nathan Scherrer
DOP: Patrick Scola
Prod Designer: Ali Rubinfeld
Assistant Camera: Rachel Fox
AD: Patrick Munroe
Editor: Cooper Roberts
VFX: Ian & Cooper
Addl. VFX: Chad Goel for GlowGun
Colorist: Pat McElroy for GlowGun
Video Commissioner: Dilly Gent
Father: Jim Tavaré
Son: Nicholas Neve
Doctor: Veronica Bloom
Professor: Gene Alexander