SBTRKT's Extreme Promo 'Trials of the Past' Isn't One for the Faint of Heart

If you like your music videos light of tone and populated by dancing girls gyrating through candy coloured tones, then you'll probably want to skip Ross Anderson's extreme make over promo for SBTRKT's Trials of the Past. In fact, even if you do prefer films of a darker tone, I'd say this one's not for the faint of heart or something you want to pop on in the office and certainly not in the company of anyone you wouldn't take into an R-rated movie. If you're feeling brave, have a watch after the jump:

In order to win the commission for the promo -- which was original put out in the form of a competition run by UK music development agency Generator and the Northern Film & Media film project -- Anderson shot the first half of the video for free, using the Canon 550d (T2i) he already owned, with Magic Lantern, John Hope's Cinema Picture Profile and various, mostly vintage, lenses. Once the budget was secured, it made little sense to re-shoot as the footage and workflow held up so production continued with the 550D.

If you'd like to get under the hood (sorry couldn't resist!) of the FX shots in the promo take a look at these breakdown videos:

As well as creating some pretty ambitious effects sequences, Anderson achieved the gritty, cinematic look through grading and the use of a vintage 35mm pack from Cinegrain. He also used After Effects to track dust plates to the footage as well as incorporating rain plates shot against black screens into the stylised image.

When working with DSLR's I tend to light flat but precise - the footage is always intended to be graded to a more punchy 'look'. I find that way I get a lot closer to the image I want without sacrificing too much dynamic range in the mid-range and skin tone areas - so the film was never intended to look the way that I shot (I always wanted it to look dark and brooding)...

I guess some people will be happy with the colours straight from the camera, I however, find grading the most satisfying part of the process. It's when the final touch of the mood is created - it's a fairly long process of pulling the palettes to where I wanted them to be (a process begun in wardrobe, set, etc of restricting colours, complimenting colours, etc). I guess it's all subjective but I would certainly say the graded version is the more 'cinematic' version... It was a fairytale music video after all - not a reality tv show.

You can see a side by side comparison of the ungraded image and the ultimate look Anderson achieved in the video below:

Directly off the back of Trials of the Past Anderson was picked up by J6 Films for their roster of directors, supporting the argument for making a splash by pushing things to their extremes. What do you think of the graded 550D footage? Does the promo work as film in its own right, aside from its effectiveness as a calling card piece?


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Very nice video!
Yes, there's something gore, but I don't think that is more than what we're used to see on TV or in a movie.
Probably the violence is more psicologic than visual.

Very extreme and impressive use of a Canon 550D!
Well done!

April 14, 2013 at 2:57PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


SFX heavy guy gets signed to make commercials and music videos. Its only ok work - a lot of that plate work is average. And this is how you've ALWAYS gotten noticed. Nice of him to include the BTS. That's actually the resume.
BUT, love that he shows people there's life in cheap DSLR's yet. If you think the camera is your limitation - its not your limitation.

April 14, 2013 at 5:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


He's likely unsellable for commercial work. Which client would want such a gory piece as advertising? Unless he has more "traditional" ad pieces (I didn't check).
It's a great music video for all the limitations he had to face. Really well done effects for no budget. That said, once you hit proper commercial directing status, you usually work with big post houses (The Mill, Glassworks, etc.) and your ability to do the effects yourself does only help you conceive the piece.

It usually comes down to directing talent, creating mood and visuals and networking to be successful as a commercial director.

I hope to see more of this guy.

April 15, 2013 at 7:26AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Hey guys, thanks for the kind words. I wrote a guest blog over on Philip Bloom's site a little while back about the process of it all and it's production. The VFX had to be done fairly quickly (7 days) and there was only me doing them - so corners were cut a little on certain shots, but hopefully not too noticeably. What I really wanted to do was create a powerful piece beyond the FX where the mood and characters really pushed through. I really tried to get strong performances through the use of different music on set, etc and the actors involved were really dedicated and superb (Caitlin worked all hours and the barber, Diamond, was really just the barber who worked in the shop).
Even after being signed, it's still uphill struggle - I've yet to direct any music videos or commercials since this (it was shot in July 2012) and was a huge struggle to even get it released (it was banned by its funders for a while). But I do hope the break downs and stuff help other directors out there trying to work with the kit they already have access to.
My other work is available on my own site

April 15, 2013 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I saw the guest spot on Bloom’s blog, loved the video. Favorited it on Vimeo and posted it to Facebook. This is a fantastic video. I’m unconcerned about the small details that were rushed. The concept and art direction is what is so impressive to me. I love that smaller directors are beginning to have the tools at our disposal to create music videos that go beyond sex appeal or concert footage. Bravo to you Ross, and keep up the good work!

April 15, 2013 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

You voted '-1'.

This is so good that I'm actually discouraged by it. Amazing work.

April 16, 2013 at 9:10AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM