March 29, 2012

B-Roll Adventures with Zack Rocket – WMC 2012

Shooting B-Roll can be a boring job sometimes but I really like the chance to get out by myself in alien cities and poke around.  Things just get that much more interesting when you have a camera on your back.  If you aren’t familiar with the term “B-Roll” it is defined as footage that may or may not be immediately useful but is generally collected to be used as stock footage.  When we planned out our trip to Miami we planned on making several video projects and needed B-Roll to provide supplemental non diegetic content between cuts, such as a girl drinking a cocktail, people dancing, locational shots and so on.  Basically I was tasked with filming things that are very “Miami Vibe” and are contextually relevant to the content of the finished video but make no sense alone when viewed alone.

Before I jump into the bulk of this story, first let me introduce myself. My name is Zack Rocket, I work as a Co-Producer on the video team here at UniqueSquared, and am the person behind many of the cuts you see in the videos. Local time was nearing 3PM Eastern Standard Time and my stomach was beginning to growl. I had been working on the Mobile Studio for the majority of the morning trying to get everything in order for WMC. Finally the time had come to go out around Miami with my camera and get some B-Roll. I loaded up a 7D on a Red Rock shoulder mount, grabbed a shotgun mic, an H4n, and plugged everything up with a Monster Cable that was far too long for my needs. I wrapped everything in gaff tape and set out to film the vibe of South Beach.

When I stepped out of the bus it was oppressively hot and humid, having gotten my bearings I remembered that there was a Sbarro pizza located about three blocks South of my location.  I began tramping up the road and snagged a few shots of palm trees and art deco buildings before I finally got to my lunch spot.  I got two slices to help stave off my impending starvation and to lubricate my mind for the craziness of the rest of the day, then things started getting weird.

I went outside to sit down and there was a car parked on the side of the road obstructing traffic with it’s hazard lights on. Inside was a european man and his two year old standing in the front seat.  I wasn’t trying to creep, but he was parked right next to my table, and I could see the gentleman reach into his pocket and produce some sort of hand rolled cigarette, “J,” and motion it to his lips.  He was literally halfway to putting the J in his mouth when a traffic enforcement officer tapped aggressively on his window.  The man jumped in his seat and rolled down his window palming the smoke in his far hand to talk to the officer.

It was at this moment that I thought I was about to see someone get arrested, but instead the traffic cop yelled at him for having a child in the front seat and hadn’t seen what was in his hand.  Apologetically the man grabbed his toddler and lifted him into the car seat in the back of the car. Right as he was about to secure the child in, the J slip out of his hand and landed in the car seat. He made a very mean face to his kid to keep quiet, and drove off about 30 seconds after that. It wasn’t until he was around the corner before I finally realized what I had seen, it was someone’s lucky day.

It rained a little bit so I was stuck at the pizza place for an hour before I set off down Lincoln Road, and grabbed a couple shots of shirts that said “Single and DTF in Miami Beach 2012” on some silky women.  I made my way to the beach and risked my company’s equipement by standing in the water to film the waves crashing beneath my feet.  After getting shots of flags moving in the wind and boats in the distance I was still a little uninspired so I set off down the boardwalk looking for something fun to film.  I heard a pounding four on the floor style beat and instinctively began making my way down the beach in search of the source.

Moments later I was in front of the National Hotel looking at a poster for a Paul Oakenfold and Nadia Ali headlined pool party.  I initially walked passed it because I assumed that it was a standard South Beach party. Being a working man, there are only so many $15 well drinks that I can shell out for before I start breaking the bank.  I was about fifty feet away when the devil got the better of me and I figured I might as well ask If I could gain access as a member of the press.  I needed B-Roll, and that includes sexy people dancing to house music, so what’s the harm in asking.  I went to a bouncer at the door and asked if I could enter only to find out that the event was $50 cover. I talked him down to $20 and some of my footage in exchange for a wristband and, BOOM, I was in.

Some DJ was banging out Deep House tracks and for the first two hours I worked the room essentially doing what all of the other party videographers there were up to, standing in front of people awkwardly for 15 seconds and then thanking them for letting you shoot them.  I noticed the other cameramen walking backstage so I followed suit and walked into the VIP to get shots from onstage and get in good with the bouncers so that when the bigger acts came on they would assume I had full access the whole time. Once I was done with the onstage shots I retreated to the VIP section for some Red Bull laced cocktails and rest my back from carrying all of the gear.

I love house music so much, that unless you also love house, you can’t fully appreciate the depth of my love.  What makes house cool is that it is codependent on dancing.  If you just listen to the music it can get you into a good headspace for sure but when you “Jack Yo Body” you can really find the groove of the song and to me, that’s when the magic happens. I knew I was in the right town when the DJ started mixing in “Street Player” by Chicago and proceeded to play a seriously old school remix of one of the most sampled tracks in electronic music. I danced alone for about two hours in my little sandy corner of the dance floor constantly with one eye on my gear and the other on the scene around me.

Marcie, a trance singer and producer of the radio show “Behind the Lyric” took to the stage with a mic, so I grabbed my camera for a chance to film snippets of her live performance.  She was out promoting her new single and after her performance, I serendipitously met one of her friends who offered to get me an interview with her and her producer.  I would by lying if I said I was prepared for an interview, but who would I be to pass up an offer to get with an artist and get them on camera.  After a “super ghetto rigging” of an interview setup by the pool, we moved the interview into the lobby, due to bad lighting, and interviewed her producer and herself about their history and production methods. She and her producer were super cool to work with and I headed back outside to take my seat in the VIP in preparation for Nadia Ali’s set.

Nadia was hanging out a little, but looked super busy, so I didn’t get to introduce myself before she took to the stage.  Her set can pretty much be summed up in one word, amazing.  Nadia Ali is a staple of the EDM world, one of the best female vocalists/songwriters in the scene, and it wasn’t until I heard her perform her original content that I realised that I knew her entire set by heart.  She sang her hits like “Pressure,” “Feels So Good” and my favorite “Rapture.”  At this point the sun had set, the crowd was illuminated by the stage lights, and the vibe was killer.  I got to get on stage and get some side shots of her performance but the best ones were hands down the ones I got of her up close right in front of the stage.

Once Nadia was off, the crowd was on the verge of going nuts for Oakenfold’s impending set, and I too was excited because I wanted to see him. Last year I tried to see him when he was in Atlanta, but I was turned away at the door because the club hit capacity.  Naturally I was stoked to see a legend and he took to the stage to do what he does best. I managed to talk to a person running lights and he told me that he was playing a 45 minute mix and crossfading back and fourth because he is notoriously bad at beat matching. I don’t know if that’s true, but for what little was happening on stage I wouldn’t be surprised.

After watching him dance around for a few minutes I got some stage shots of his hands on the gear, more crowd shots, and then quietly packed up my bag and slipped away into the night. When all was said and done I had about 25 gigs of data featuring great live performances, an artist interview, and everything I would need to create a Miami Vibe in our videos from the trip.  It started out as a quest for something to eat for lunch, and ended up with me being on stage for a Paul Oakenfold show. What a weird and wonderful way to spend a day at work.

Until next time,

Zack Rocket