January 28, 2016

Breaking Down the Cinematography in Justin Bieber's 'What Do You Mean' Music Video

The day has finally come, as I assumed it would, that we, your trusty arbiters of indie film, are going to write an article centered on none other than -- Justin Bieber.

Okay, okay -- this post isn't necessarily centered on him, but rather the cinematography used in his music video for "What Do You Mean", directed by Brad Furman and shot by Joshua Reis. Matt Workman of Cinematography Database breaks down two different setups from the music video, highlighting some of the innovative techniques used by Reis that gave the video its distinct look. Check it out below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwcsulHU-Ew

And here's the original music video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK_0jXPuIr0

Matt focuses on the lighting and camerawork in two different setups: the exterior hotel scene at the beginning of the video and the interior hotel scene.

Cinematographer Joshua Reis uses some traditional high end lighting techniques to light a night exterior and some new innovative techniques using LEDs to light a small practical Motel room. Both scenes are visually tied together by a designed color theme.

Reis does some beautifully intriguing things with light and color in the music video -- the harsh shadows and the neon greens and reds create what Matt describes as a "modern film noir" look. But not only does it look good, it serves the story by connecting the subjects within the shot, as well as each scene to form a well-integrated piece.

Matt also mentions that Reis shot in an actual hotel room, which means that the look he created within that 12'x12' room was done practically. In other words, it wasn't shot in a studio where he could have complete control of the space, but in a pre-existing location with lighting limitations and obstacles he had to overcome. (Sound familiar?)

To get an idea of the lighting setup and the camerawork, check out this BTS featurette of the shoot:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EloWbPPdZLs

Matt was actually able to chat with Joshua Reis about shooting the music video, as well as a feature he shot with Furman, so if you're interested in learning more, Matt will have him on his Modern Cinematographer podcast later on this year.      

Your Comment

15 Comments

Love the lighting, color and cleanliness of the video, but I'm not sure why it deserves a video dedicated to its cinematography, it wasn't all that great IMO.

January 28, 2016 at 4:00PM, Edited January 28, 4:00PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
819

because all knowledge is worth study.

January 28, 2016 at 7:19PM

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I don't think it was all that fantastic either, but it's just another perspective. I mean it was damn good enough along with the music to make over 600 million views.

February 1, 2016 at 8:49PM

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Great series concept, but the narrative needs some work.

January 28, 2016 at 6:18PM

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Thanks. I learned a lot from this.

January 28, 2016 at 8:00PM, Edited January 28, 8:00PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
966

The lighting is pretty cool, and that twist in the end seemed straight out of Fincher's "The Game."

January 29, 2016 at 5:02AM, Edited January 29, 5:02AM

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Sebastian Kammonen
Filmmaker
357

I don't want to be a hater or so, but I have my doubts about this video clip. And it's not because it is Justin Bieber, I must admit his music is getting better in the past years, but there are a fewthings I don't like about this video clip. First of all I don't think the music matches with the video clip, while the music is about the question what The woman of the wants from the main character. If what do you mean refers to you want sex and out you don't, I would find it very shallow. The video clip only shows a couple in the motel playing around. And what the hell do these guys have to do with the story and then the party... I mean come on. Second of all, I really find The colors a bit blockbuster Hollywood style. Very nicethat's the YouTube dude showed us that green and red lights are the main elements in both outside and inside the motel, but what does it add to the whole film? The cinematography off the video clip is nice and tight, but not very special, right? So I don't really understand what The fuzz is about and why would even take time to break something like this down. I think a video clip like 'Without You' by Lapalux is far more interesting visually and in narrative then this clip. Anyone with me on this? If you haven't seen that video clip, you can see it right here:

https://vimeo.com/61089245

January 29, 2016 at 10:41AM

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Michiel Eskens
Director & Editor
221

Exactly what i thought while watching it. Video makes absolutely no sense especially when accompanied by the song. I hate to say it but the best part of the video was the song, I don't hate it, actually kinda catchy, and you gotta admit... Biebs is one good looking kid lol.

January 29, 2016 at 4:08PM, Edited January 29, 4:08PM

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Kaster Troy
Director, DP, Editor
819

I was refraining from commenting on this but, I agree, too. Don't see anything special in this video. Nothing really wrong with it, poofy hair, teenage sex and all. I really don't see how it warranted a 'breakdown', though. Why? So many other great videos out there.

January 30, 2016 at 10:57AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
830

This video is so bad I just want to vomit when looking at it...It's beyond terrible. Horrible script, directing, acting, editing & average cinematography. Actually the song is better even though it's still a low quality one...

January 29, 2016 at 8:02PM, Edited January 29, 8:02PM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1298

John Leguizamo was great! :)

January 29, 2016 at 11:54PM, Edited January 29, 11:54PM

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Darryl Gregory
Director of Photography
74

What I hate is that "The Cinematography of Justin Bieber "What Do You Mean"
video is protected from download...Really? I can download the Music video but not
breakdown from Matt? Really dude, you think your Sh*t needs protection?
I watch thousands of videos off line, I understand you "NEED" want the hit/play counts for your youtube channel but this is really lame...Laughable!

January 30, 2016 at 12:26AM

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Darryl Gregory
Director of Photography
74

You can delete my post above, Not MATT'S FAULT ;p

January 30, 2016 at 2:20AM

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Darryl Gregory
Director of Photography
74

If the speaker could speak a little slower non English listeners would understand more.

January 30, 2016 at 7:33AM

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First and foremost, the narrative, whats the motivation? I understand that its sort of a push-pull relationship that he's trying to convey, and that through this 'act' he is trying to "open her eyes" to show her that they have something special? But hell, I know that if I were in that situation I would probably be extremely pissed, and not immediately begin laughing and having a good time.

Secondly, this breakdown on average cinematography. It's like they saw the motel light and made an entire scheme out of that. It just is unmotivated, and doesn't make sense.

Also, big air bags like that don't take 10 seconds to inflate, it was clear that they weren't there before they jumped.

Anyone else feel they tried to copy 'The Game' 1997 and failed horribly?

January 30, 2016 at 3:08PM

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Alex Fagard
Filmmaker, Editor, Motion Graphics, Dabbles in VFX
22

I like this effect with the lighting, but I honestly think they did it much better in Daredevil's bar scenes. It's so similar, I wonder if those scenes were the inspiration for this.

January 31, 2016 at 3:47PM

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Derik Savage
Producer / Director / Editor / Camera / Colorist / Audio Engineer / Sales / Marketing
192