Description image

Watch 'I'll Be Home for Christmas,' a Single Steadicam Shot 120FPS RED EPIC Music Video, Plus BTS Clip

12.28.12 @ 1:29PM Tags : , , ,

While some of you may still be in the holiday spirit and enjoying time with family, we’ve got a music video from Sufjan Stevens that may or may not make you feel just a little different about the holiday classic “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Filmed in 120fps on the RED EPIC, the video took 1 month of preparation, 3 days of set building, and 35 cast and crew members — all for a total filming time of less than 1 minute. Click through to check it out, plus a nifty behind the scenes video of the entire thing in real-time.

Here is the behind the scenes video:

While this probably isn’t what most people think of when they hear the song, the visuals complement the song perfectly. The video is straight out of a dream, or maybe a nightmare, depending on your point of view, and the slow motion of the RED EPIC makes those brief moments last for that much longer. The video was directed by Aaron and Alex Craig, who run We Are Films out of Brooklyn, NY. They’ve got quite a few interesting productions under their belt — check out their reel here:

The song is available on the Silver & Gold album from the label run in part by Sufjan Stevens himself, Asthmatic Kitty Records.

What do you guys think of the music video? Do any of the symbols mean anything in particular to you?



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 77 COMMENTS

  • ThunderBolt on 12.28.12 @ 1:52PM

    Amazing video, well thought out.

    • Gary Simmons on 01.6.13 @ 12:59AM

      Are you kidding? First Santa cutting a deer horn then 3 out of 5 around the coffin were looking straight into the camera the second policeman turning the light off and on girls popping balloons I could go on. What about any of that is well thought out. This is a bad example of visual story telling in my humble opinion there was no story other than a little girl seeing several inane XMAS references that made no sense at all. Where is the story? the only thing accomplished is showing they can do 120 FPS big deal. It was very boring and not entertaining at all. This is the first time I have been very critical about any of the films shown here and I am still a beginner compared to a lot of people so I try to shut up and observe to learn but I have to say this is not worth while other than visually it is acceptable the cinematography is good enough but not stunning. There was far to much money spent on this production fro the results all because there is no story to support the title we didn’t learn anything other than the camera can do an okay job at a high frame rate in subdued lighting. Sorry but that is this mans opinion.

  • Ilyes Griyeb on 12.28.12 @ 1:57PM

    Completely boring.

  • Shooting-wise it was fine. However, take away the slow-motion and it’s pretty much devoid of anything except a few random set pieces thrown together. This is another example of slow motion as an over-used gimmick. Considering how much work went into this, one would hope for it to leave the viewer with more to take away from it. Would of been nice to have a stronger narrative that had something to say.

    • Take away the slow-motion? Isn’t that like saying “take away *sci-fi* from Star Wars and it’s just another boring movie?” The whole concept of the video was built on slo-motion.

      I took a lot away from it, not just disappointment that it was in slomo.

      • Perhaps you didn’t understand my comment. I’ll try and be clearer – one of my problems with the video is exactly as what you celebrate as being good about it… “the whole concept of the video was built on slo-mo” My point exactly. It’s a gimmick and a tool in the filmmakers arsenal and a creative crutch. One should never build a piece around something like slo-mo. Build it around an idea, a feeling, a character, something human that we can relate to and engage with. Slo-mo is not one of those things. I feel the same way about this video as I do many Hollywood blockbusters. All flash and VFX wizardry with no substance.

        • Let me respectfully disagree, Neil. The slow-motion contributed vastly, I thought, to the dreaminess of the video, and I think it’s obvious, between the music and the visuals, that this sought to evoke the almost-reality of a dream or nightmare, or at least the memory of one, with its strange images drifting in and out of the darkness. Done at 24fps it would have lost a lot. Also, and this is just me speaking, I think creative types of any sort should be extremely wary of phrases like, “One should never…” To me words like that are too dogmatic and they rarely bear out in practice. I find it particularly unhelpful with music videos, too, which thanks to their brevity and nature allow artists far more room to move than they would when making, say, a feature, which must hold an audience for much longer and so benefit more from sticking to established principles. Meaning, in this case, I think music videos are precisely the sort of thing one can build around a technique (I do think there’s more to this video than just the technique, but even if there weren’t I don’t think it would be a problem). In any case, just my two cents.

          • you still didn’t get his point actually :)

          • I’m siding with Neil on this one. I’m not knocking the fact that they put a lot of effort into this: they did. But effort does not automatically make it good. It is a pretty empty, boring piece.

        • I think I agree with you. From a technical perspective I thought it looked great and gave the desired feel of a dream/nightmare. I just don’t think their was any point to it, it didn’t connect at a personal level. I want to feel for the character, try to understand them and how they see things. What they are feeling? Why is she dreaming about those things? What do they mean? Those are questions this video really failed to address and because of that it seems like it had a much greater potential that it didn’t reach. Just an opinion mind you.

  • unimaginative boring and blah:)

    • Unimaginative. Hilarious.

      • good god, Jonas, why can’t you just accept that most people have a different opinion than you have?!

        • Most people? Three people are most people? Again, hilarious. I guess I just get tired of people making glib, knee jerk comments when people make beautiful art that take a lot of time and effort. Things like film are entirely subjective, so to simply say “unimaginative boring and blah” is a waste of everyone’s time. If you don’t like it, fine, go somewhere else.

      • Ilyes Griyeb on 12.28.12 @ 4:16PM

        Yes, truely unimaginative, a bunch of clichets filmed in slow-motion. In french we call it a “cache-misère”, a “misery-hider”. You have a problem with my opinion ? Is this director a friend of yours maybe ? You’re just as ridiculous as the video is, empty of sense. See you

        • I have no problem with your opinion; my problem is with your delivery and attitude. “You’re just as ridiculous as the video is, empty of sense.” Thanks so much for your contribution to this discussion and in turn filmmaking in general. I trust you will go far.

    • pretty much nails it for me.

  • Beyond lame. Waste.


      We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers… whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don’t have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!”

      • Jeff Akwante on 12.28.12 @ 3:11PM

        Whats wrong with his comment? That is his opinion.

        • Actually he is right. Sorry. Ill tone it down. My comment added nothing to the thread. Just tough to keep my mouth shut when there is so much other talent out there worthy of a post. Cheers.

          • Jeff Akwante on 12.28.12 @ 6:53PM

            Idk, I like when people give feedback, even if it is negative.

          • Thanks for saying so, Jordan. And I have NO problem with people voicing their opinions, but if someone truly doesn’t like something for whatever reason, I just hope they’d be more constructive or detailed with their criticism (which I think you get, and again appreciate you saying so). This is supposed to be a forum where filmmakers and enthusiasts discuss their opinions and contribute to a “greater good” by sharing experience and thoughts… hopefully the posts can reflect that spirit instead of being more like typical YouTube comments.

        • It wasn’t constructive. It was more of straight complaint than a criticism.

  • They had a month of prep and 35 people at their disposal and this is the final product? Wow. I think the slow-motion one shot dream/nightmare idea is a good one – but this is just really boring, visually.

    • “but this is just really boring, visually” Again… hilarious.

      • Peter Kelly on 12.28.12 @ 3:41PM

        Just because someone disagrees with you doesnt make them wrong, I found this pretty dull and boring considering the amount of prep and work involved, it seems most people commenting here did too.

      • LOL, cry about it.

      • Did you work on it or something? it seems like you are getting too offended about what other people are saying…

        • Not too offended (and didn’t work on it), I just get sick of people on a “filmmaker forum” behaving like YouTube trolls. If you didn’t like it, be more specific about why or what you’d do differently. Of course people have different opinions, *especially* when talking about something as subjective as film and music, but don’t just say “stupid.”

          FWIW: I think the ultra slo-mo contributes to the dreamlike state of Xmas and the way the song sounds, and the fact that it’s a *single* shot timed to the full length of the song (but played at around five times the length of the actual shot) and carefully choreographed for each vignette the camera hits at a certain time, it’s something we haven’t seen before (thus original and interesting).

          • I agree Jonas, and think you’ve made your points really well. It;s about the level of conversation it would be nice to promote and take part in at NFS.

            I think it’s quite a beautiful piece with a lot of hard work and skill, but unfortunately it didn’t hold my interest either. My thoughts were, inherent to the location limitations and slow mo that the pacing/transitions were problematic… at times just too long and slow. I also felt the lack of a “closer” relationship to objects and events made the experience more emotionally passive. Then add that articular score which I think doesn’t quite gel with a little girls wondrous journey and it didn’t quite click for me. But still a quality piece of work.

  • I’m a big fan of Sufjan Stevens and even bought this box set, but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I don’t really like this video. The set design and lighting are beautiful but something about the execution just never engaged me. It’s a good study though, because I love when I have to strain to figure out what didn’t work for me in a project that obviously has a lot of good stuff going for it. That’s learning. Thanks for the post.

  • This is essentially how the first scene of Hugo is. One shot, Steadicam in slow mo. No org was complaining about that.

    The amount of time put into that video is evident with the sets and lighting and timing of everything. I thought it was well done considering it was an ambitious one shot. Each room had so much going on. I thought it was great. Imagine the rigging that was done to hide every light in that whole wide take looking into multiple rooms. Kudos to the filmmakers for not cranking out another cliche music video.

    • “The amount of time put into that video is evident with the sets and lighting and timing of everything……Imagine the rigging that was done to hide every light in that whole wide take looking into multiple rooms.”
      So the amount of time, effort and rigging equals……good?

      • domenic barbero on 12.28.12 @ 4:02PM

        What i said was its evident the spent a lot of time on it. And in my opinion its very well done for what it is. that was a large task and they pulled off what they were trying to execute very well. Good is subject to your own thoughts. it was shot well, lit well, directed well, production design was great, had insane amounts of variables, the timing was on cue, and it had story, if you will, to it. In my mind, it had much more going for it than it lacked.

        • Yes, I agree “good” is a subjective term.
          But you have to understand my confusion in your original post. You site the time and effort that the filmmakers put into this project. But despite all its technical prowess (in my opinion) that doesn’t necessarily translate to the final piece as being “good”.

    • Jesus… you compare this to “Hugo” ? Wow…

  • Even if I imagine the rigging and amount of work, I still don’t connect to it. I actually don’t like that argument at all when it’s about valuing creative work.

  • domenic barbero on 12.28.12 @ 3:42PM

    i guess its all about how you interpret creative. to me there are several layers of creative while still being very simple

  • Didn’t understand it. Disappointed by it. But liked many of the visuals. And glad to have seen it.

    If I never again in my life see another balloon popping in slow motion, I don’t think I’ll have missed out on too much.

  • Trying to take all these details in one long shot, does not just mean a great effort, but we are in front of talented and creative director, i’m Impressed :)

  • Some of the visuals were interesting, I love single takes but like some have expressed it wasn’t too interesting.

  • Christmas Unicorn on 12.28.12 @ 7:09PM

    For those that think this is boring and unimaginative, or even that the slow-motion made the video, think again. The slow-motion was used as a story-telling tool and it was effective. Actually, it was brilliant. But the video is far more than special effects. Listen to the entire 58-song album by Sufjan and if you still don’t understand the (quite overt) message of the video, then I think you are too unintelligible to appreciate anything truly creative and should go back to mindlessly celebrating. Merry Christmas everybody.

    • ever told a joke, noone laughed, so you tried to explain why it actually is funny…just doesn’t work ;)

    • Andy Kaufman or is it Tony Clifton humor saying the opposite to everyone else to fire up the masses. The video and music deserves a Donkey Award. Pssh.

    • If the filmmakers need you to listen to a 58 song “album” to “get” their 4 minute clip… well… it’s an even bigger fail.

  • Clayton Arnall on 12.28.12 @ 7:11PM

    What would be great for this site is some kind of twitter or facebook integration required for comments. Or some other way people wouldn’t be able to comment without putting their actual name and reputation behind a comment.

  • If the point was to just connect a bunch of cool slow-mo shots together into one sequence I think each room could have featured something that utilized slo-mo better, like something that has a lot of motion, when slowed down looks interesting. The shot with the cop turning the light on and off for example, not much happening there that utilizes 120 fps very well.

    • You mean like the feathers falling? Or the balloons with glitter in them popping? Ot the light going on and off (which you mention)? Or the wood splitting? This is to say, every vignette except the first two (creepy santa and the vampire funeral/feast) has an element of what you say is missing. Just sayin’.

  • Spike Jonze. Bloke running for a bus on fire. Now that is slow motion.

  • Nothing special, lighting wasn’t the best either. One months planning for what? And it’s boring also..

  • Zzzzzz…. deja vu back to film school in the 80′s.

  • Was rubbishingly boring and annoying to watch…

  • Impressively underwhelming, and not just conceptually. The comparison to Hugo (2011) is a non-starter. Mediocre lighting, soft focus, and the Steadicam work was nothing about which to write home. Horizon, horizon, horizon– and this was clearly not a deliberate creative choice.

  • What a waste of a great camera, crew and setting…… they forgot they need a good idea first…

  • I completely agree with Neil (third comment) and others who don’t think the slow-motion helps that boring and awkward video. The song is beautiful but it doesn’t work.

  • Dana Yurcisin on 12.29.12 @ 7:21PM

    Yeah, wow. I hate to just echo what everyone else and their mom is already saying, but jesus, that was very boring. It was just kind of things, in some arbitrary order, that the director (writer?) thought might look cool, but don’t resonate as a whole at all. Maybe it did for some people, but I took absolutely nothing away from this.

  • I wish all of the people posting glib comments like “rubbish” and “annoying” and “waste” and the like would post some of their *what-I-can-only-imagine-must-be-transcendent* works for the rest of us to see.

    • that’s not the rules in a democracy pal, and you can thank god, or whoever is responsible, that it it’s like that.

    • Why? What difference would it make?
      See, I’ve never agreed with the logic that we have to do better in order to criticize.
      I’m not a musician, but I know when one misses a note. I’m not an athlete, but I know when someone screws up a play. I’m not a politician but I know when one is being incompetent.
      I can be the worst filmmaker in the world, but that doesn’t make my criticisms any less valid than anybody else.

      • It do think it WOULD however make people less apt to simply say “stupid” instead of thinking about what or *why* they are saying something. Again, internet troll behaviour verses thoughtful forum discussion.

        • Look man, I’m with you kinda, but you’re falling into the same trap as being too aggressive at passive aggression… you’re jumping down every person’s throat who’s being critical, why so defensive?

          I get this all the time with Sufjan Stevens, one of my best friends and I basically got into a shouting match because I said I didn’t like “Age of Adz”, all of a sudden I was lumped into “You’re one of those hipsters that’s buying into an overdone folk genre and you only like ‘folky’ Sufjan…” WTF, Sufjan has every right to do any kinda music he wants but I’m not going to listen to it out of devotion. The fact that we were shouting at each other over a musician was awful I know but we shout over everything so NBD.

          If you like Sufjan, you’ll probably like this video, if you don’t like him you probably won’t like this.

  • Really annoyed by the cinematography. I found myself struggling to see what was going on at certain points. If you’re going to light it, light it!

    Greatly appreciate the effort but it became boring to me while waiting for the actress to get into the next room. It was so damn dark in sections, we couldn’t see any of the supposedly awesome set design. It certainly would have made “waiting” less tedious because we’d have something to “study”.

  • First time on this site, and first time posting. I find single shot videos very interesting, creative and obviously a lot of work. I’m not particularly a fan of the content of this video, but I’m also not particularly a fan of Sufjan Stevens. His work is generally pretty weird and out there. I saw him in concert once and the man had on giant butterfly wings. So while this was shot well, lit well (I think it’s meant to be that dark) and probably flawless to what they were trying to accomplish, I didn’t feel connected to it, but I think that’s part of the point as well. I think a lot of people feel disconnected around the holidays and that might what be what he’s trying to accomplish. I like the idea and the execution. Would I do something different? Absolutely because I’m not a fan of this content but I do find it interesting and even now I’m racking my mind trying to interpret Sufjan’s meaning behind these symbols when in context with this song.

  • LAME!!! I agree with Neil and many others on this. Big deal, steadicam, slo-mo, Red Epic.
    I’m not hating, but I honestly don’t get it. If its art for art sake, fine whatever, but even that really requires a 35 man team? Come on.
    A lot people say well I think he’s supposed to make you feel disconnected and blah blah blah.
    You can go into it as much as you want, the art, the meaning…. its still lame.
    Everyone has their own artistic approach, opinions, philosophies, but this video is NOT GOOD.
    I’ve seen wedding trailers that have more emotion and substance than this, and we all know what we think about wedding films.
    If he was going for an annoying, mediocre, boring slo-mo feel that just doesn’t even meet the depressed, dark, ominous line, then he accomplished his goal.
    Again, LAME, not saying I could’ve done better, maybe I could’ve maybe not, but LAME

  • Shane Barett on 01.3.13 @ 5:53PM

    Lot of work, well executed TECHNICALLY… but there was absolutely no emotional connection for me with any of it.

    Many others have said it was “boring” and I’ll completely agree with that… but to me I find “pretentious” to be a more accurate vibe that I get from it. Very VERY pretentious.

    I think it was a good effort and decent execution, but of an extraordinarily weak concept.

  • Bad, boring and full of errors. Cinematographer sometimes go away…
    It’s a pity…

  • Steve Grant on 01.10.13 @ 7:22PM

    It seems I’m in a minority of one here – but I enjoyed it. I thought the lighting was very well done, and the concept itself was delivered well. Accusations of ‘lame’ and ‘boring’ are surprising.
    My criticisms would be the inactivity of Santa after his initial shot, and exactly the same with the lumberjack who split his log and clearly had no idea what to do next. The constant movement of the girl is what provided the continuity, even when she’s out of shot you have the sense that she is still in motion. So when she stops and waits at the final room, this valuable continuity is completely broken and to my mind, that’s a major mistake.
    Technically I thought it was very strong, and it was certainly visually interesting, but the faltering continuity loses it points.

  • If you want to get a great deal from this post then you have to apply such techniques to
    your won blog.