Vanessa Dang

www.vanessadang.com

  1. My Latest Clip “Get Lucid”

    Just thought I’d share some thoughts and insights into how/why/where/when I made the clip to “Get Lucid”, a track penned and performed by the awesome Miss Little, starring the wonderfully talented Sally Horton.

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    You can view the clip here

    I came across the idea whilst I was in production with another dance clip, and wanted to do a project involving my friend Sal. Knowing that she does ballet, I asked her whether “underwater ballet” is possible. With her usual we-can-do-anything attitude, she said she’d love to try, and was excited about the prospect. Listening to Miss Little’s album "When Things Fall Apart and Into Place" I not only really related to the song, but thought it was highly appropriate to create and play with dancing visuals and colour.

    In general, for those technically minded, here are the specs:

    Camera: Canon 550D (with no Magic Lantern, just used in house manual settings), all in 50 fps.

    Lenses: Canon 50mm f1.8 for the Studio, Sigma 50mm f1.4 for everything else (except for underwater)

    Underwater Camera: GoPro Black (the latest edition)

    Days of shooting: 2 x 3-4 hour sessions for underwater scenes, 5 hours for Studio, and 8 hours for the City-scapes and indoor apartment scenes. So around 3-4 days of filming.

    Budget: roughly $300, which went towards studio hire, costumes and flour. No gear was hired (just borrowed the GoPro and a shoulder mount from generous friends).

    Edited in: Adobe Premiere Pro

    The Underwater Shots

    Red is my favourite colour, which dictated the dress. As I was researching underwater videos on vimeo, I found a clip that had a dark background, and the swimmer just popped. So I thought to recreate that, I wanted to use a pool with dark-ish tiles (and thankfully my friend Sam was willing to co-operate) against a vivid colour of the dress. The dress I found at Salvos for $12 (after ordering a couple of dresses on eBay that didn’t seem to arrive. Didn’t matter, they were only $12 too). 

    We did one test shot in a different pool to the planned location just to test out with shooting with the GoPro, then another session of filming in the location intended. All in all, each session took 3ish hours as Sal would naturally get tired from all the flips and swimming she had to do, as well as the chlorine going into her eyes. Yeah… I made her suffer a little.

    Because I wanted everything in slow motion, everything was filmed in 50 frames per second.

    Studio/Dust shots

    I also came across the image of the dust/flour following the movement of a dancer. There are a lot of creations of this in still photography on the internet.

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    And some may even recall a certain samurai ninja person doing something similar in Adele’s filmclip "Rolling In The Deep".  With these images I was inspired to do the same.

    I hired out Studio One @ UNSW for a day, and the lights set up were theatre lights. I originally had the thought of creating red powder, but after doing a test run and figuring out that it would take ages just to even go through one 2kg bag of flour, I was just kicking myself that I didn’t think that I could just use red gels on the lights in the theatre with the white flour I acquired. My lighting person said that to keep Sal visible, we needed a pool of white before we could have the red spread, which I didn’t mind because I thought it would be more impressive seeing the flour fly out a lot more.

    I bought 30kg of flour, and used around 24kg of it. Cleaning up wasn’t too hard, especially when there were many hands making lighter work. I also shot this in 50 frames per second and made sure the shutter rate was good so that you could see the flour. It turned out better than expected under the red gels, which was great. 

    Just be careful if you’re working in flour. Had read about issues from a rental company and The Colour Run, and luckily I used my cheap Canon 50mm 1.8 lens, however be warned it can get everywhere. Sal had so much flour built up in her pointes that it kinda broke off one of her toe nails! Granted it was bruised beforehand, but the flour aggravated it. :( The things we do for our art. :P

    Outdoor City Shots

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    So the three locations we shot at were Pitt Street Mall, Martin Place and Central Tunnel. We didn’t have any issues filming there (helped that it was only me and Sal and my small humble camera) and the lighting was pretty good in those locations. I got lucky with the back lighting from the cars in Pitt St, and it looked extra special with the mood lighting all around. 

    Sal got an offer of marriage from a random old guy. She said no, so he asked me. I don’t know what to make of it.

    What I learnt from this

    Film clips I believe are hard sometimes because you have to think more of the visual. Having been used to a lot more narrative driven pieces, this had to be thought out fairly clearly image wise. Editing can be tough because you have no linear storyline to follow through - anything can be an option. I think with the tools I had, and the resources I had access to, I did okay with what I got. Of course it’d be nice to use a high end camera, and colour grade it through Da Vinci, but honestly who has the time, money and equipment for all that unless you’re really in the industry getting paid to do it?

    I’m still learning heaps, and trying to churn out as many short films as possible. Not only to add to my portfolio, but with the practice I’m sure I can think of better and more innovative ways and ideas to present a story. Despite this being a visual and conceptual piece, I still wanted a rough storyline to go through.

    I didn’t think of it beforehand, but as I was directing Sal and my housemate Pascal for the opening scene, I made the backstory being that Sally wants to be a professional ballerina, but Pascal is telling her off for having such a crazy, unattainable goal, and her battle between doing things rationally and “getting a real job” against following her dream to be a dancer is what her anguish is all about. Hence people telling her to “Get Lucid” but not wanting to. Once I had that in my mind, it made editing it a bit easier - but not that much easier. :P

    It also helps to really, really enjoy the song, and not have a problem with listening to it over and over and over and over again. Pretty much I would listen to it on loop on my way to work, thinking of ideas and images and just getting the feel of the song. 

    If anyone has any further questions, don’t hesitate to email me (details on my contact page) and I really hope you enjoyed the clip. :D

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