RED EPIC Footage Dubbed to VHS and Back? Hip Hop Music Video Blends Old with New
I may be alone in this, but I often wonder about pretty wild and crazy sorts of technical things (many times involving VHS tape — don’t ask :). For instance, I’d be curious to see how RED holds up transferred to that good old home video workhorse format, or maybe how VHS-shot footage looks blown up to HD or even 4K (I may or may not be joking about that). I simply have a fascination with this type of thing, and as such, I was very excited about this find! Director David M. Helman has overseen the creation of a Joey Bada$$ (with Chuck Strangers) music video which blends RED footage that was dubbed to VHS, recaptured, stretched, then composited back over the original shots — creating a time-bending nostalgic-but-new feel. Read on to watch the video, and see what this stuff looks like!
Before you watch, be aware that this is NSFW language in this video — furthermore, if you’re not a fan of hip-hop, chances are, you won’t dig the song at all, either — but even if you may find some things about the musical content a little offensive, I think the piece itself can be separately appreciated for its aesthetic:
Helman discussed the motivation for this process in an interview with Video Static:
Joey is clearly influenced by the ’90s boom bap style, so when I was digging around for ideas, I started looking at old Wu-Tang and Gang Starr videos on YoutTube. I was inspired by the nostalgia I felt when watching these VHS recorded videos that somebody uploaded to the internet… But I really didn’t want this to just be a novelty / nostalgia piece… That’s where I chose to keep it widescreen and how we ultimately came up with rotoscoping Joey & Chuck. I knew I didn’t want to use an After Effects plugin, or create the analog aesthetic in post, because it just looks terrible.
Helman then enlisted the help of friend and VFX artist Andrew Finch. Upon picking his brain, a workflow was devised to accomplish the footage’s trip to and from the analog world. HD versions of the footage were transferred through a capture card, itself outputting right into a VCR (or “VHS player” to some of the younger generation), then those tapes were recaptured back into the digital domain. The method of upconversion of the recaptured footage isn’t clear, but it may simply have been scaled in After Effects — which the team also used to stretch the 4:3 frame back to 16:9 to match the source footage. The vital rotoscoping steps were then completed in After Effects as well, masking out all but the desired part of the frame (usually, a single moving subject), plus feathering for seamless integration, to reveal the VHS layer beneath.
A reddit thread on the subject revealed that this process made the production’s lifespan take about 3 months of work. Some of the commenters there don’t seem to appreciate the execution of an undoubtedly interesting idea, but I disagree — I think the results are totally fascinating, and represent a creative convergence of the aesthetic which lo-fi dinosaur formats create with the hyper-present clarity and quality of modern acquisition systems. All of which sounds like tech-talk, but I think this a great example of the marriage that tech and art can have with each other. The tools are subservient to the tale and its mood or style — but can reinforce or even create the style with the right choice (and perhaps a bit of elbow-grease in post)!
Did you guys find this to be as interesting — not to mention just-plain-cool — as I did? What sort of potential do you think this type of thinking has for inventing new ways to texturize the frame, or embody a mood via aesthetic? What other examples can you think of for choices like this, and do you feel that this case was more justified than some of those?
- Joey Bada$$ ft. Chuck Strangers — Fromdatomb$
- Joey Badass on Twitter and Tumblr, signed to The Progressive Era
- Video Static Interview with director David M. Helman
- Reddit Discussion