Editor's note: check out this very cool music video followed by an in-depth breakdown written by Director of Photography Matt Aitia

How We Shot This Kendrick-Style Music Video

Find the Right Tone and Location In Pre Production

When our director, Sebastian Hill-esbrand, shared the track "Toronto Funhouse" by TyriqueorDie to listen to I immediately hopped on board, no questions asked. The thing with music videos, the song is really the anchor point of the video and the visuals come second. I immediately loved the song and wanted to be a part of the project.

Sebastian and I discussed the look and feel of the video through Moodboards and reference images which we found on Frame Set by narrowing the visual language we wanted to use. We were both on the same page creatively, and knew this song required upbeat visuals to go along with it after bouncing ideas. We discussed things like whip pans, high and wide angles, and expansive ways to capture Toronto in a unique way.

The nature of our creative meant a lot of location moves because of all the whip pans and shots needed to make the edit. A few weeks before the shoot we biked around the city trying to find unique locations and angles to capture the city in an original way. Location moves are always logistical challenges so we had to keep things nimble and it was important to have everything dialed in before the shoot.

During the scout I used the app Cadrage to input our camera and lens choice to find the right frame and angle. If you put the location scout photos and the final images together, you can see how similar they are.

I also used the app Sun Seeker to find the best time of day to be at each location to keep things backlit. I’m a huge advocate for figuring everything out in pre production since it helps the day run smoothly.

Build Your Kit With All Set-Ups in Mind

I pushed to use an FX3 since we had a wide range of shooting scenarios from run and gun, to hostess tray, to a low light rave scene. We wanted a fast lens for a shallow depth of field look, so we rented a single 18mm Supreme Prime since it’s a T1.5 and has full frame coverage. This was my first time using high end glass, and while it took a huge chunk of our budget it was a beautiful lens to use and made us efficient since we were limited to one focal length.

We kept things agile with a director's monitor and Teradek mounted onto a rod so Sebastian could see the image without being over my shoulder.

Nick, my 1st AC, also had a nimble wireless focus set up to be able to pull focus in various shooting environments like hiding in the back seat of a car, or being handheld without a stand to reduce our footprint.

Rolling With the Punches

Shoot a Music Video Like Kendrick Lamar With This Breakdown

We took a film school style approach of running around with a camera, telling security guards we were film school students shooting a project. Unfortunately, we got only one or two takes at some locations before we got kicked out. Luckily we had a concrete plan and knew exactly where to put the camera and the talent, so we were able to get what we needed quickly.

The shoot was scrappy with people wearing multiple hats, myself even operating the camera while holding up a 5-in-1 reflector to create some shape. Nick also doubled up as the Key Grip and mounted our hostess tray for the driving shots.

Even with such a concrete plan, things inevitably go wrong. We unknowingly planned one of our shots when people were leaving a finished Toronto Blue Jays game, meaning hundreds of people walking by as we tried to film. This was super stressful since people were stopping to take pictures and ask what we were filming, but it happened to be my favorite shot of the video.


Looking back, this project was raw which is what filmmaking is truly about. Being on set with good people, crashing on the directors couch, and just getting scrappy with things. I hope I never lose that fuel to just create something regardless of budget restraints or any other limitations.

I share my cinematography experiences like these through my YouTube and TikTok, hoping that my learnings from across my projects resonate with audiences similarly passionate as I am about filmmaking.

To reference Matthew Dick’sStoryworthy, I want my experiences to serve as a practical guide and I hope by sharing my processes I can help other filmmakers along their journey with a sort of road map approach, a map that might give other filmmakers a clue.

Almost like when hiking and coming across “a note in the logbook on a trail, a note that might give the next hiker a clue: ‘keep your eyes open for rattlesnakes by the bluff at the two mile mark’ or ‘there’s fresh water at the fire lookout if you’re running low’”.