Music Cinema – Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’

 

 

The music video world used to be where budding directorial talent cut their teeth. They had bigger budgets, more creative freedom, and the opportunity to access gear that was, outside of a professional context, completely inaccessible to amateurs. The democratization of film equipment changed that, but there are still some true auteurs out there who elevate the medium beyond just a vehicle for the music.

The video for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘HUMBLE’ is one such video. Pairing traditional hip hop tropes with overwhelming religious symbolism (a theme Kendrick has leaned on in the past, both lyrically and visually), this video stands out as, in my mind, a more substantial piece of art than the club-banger it is paired with.

Director Dave Meyer is no stranger to the medium. He has had an illustrious career that was atmospherically buoyed by perhaps the most visually stunning and memorable ad campaign of all-time: the silhouettes that sold Apple’s iPod.

 

Beyond the visual themes, it also features some sweet camera tricks, one of which I haven’t seen in a music video before. First, there is the (almost) cliche 360 degree “mini-world” shot, where Kendrick bikes around what looks like a tiny planet. That’s been done, though. The true stand out shot is the piece shot under the overpass. Using what I presume to be the ultra-cool “Bolt” High Speed Camera, often used for high-speed motion tracking, the director instead uses that tool to precisely track Kendrick’s eye-line, moving from shot to shot absolutely seamlessly. Without this tool, he would have to resort to cuts. You can check out the demo reel for the beast of a rig here:

 

It’s just really, really impressive.

Whether you’re a rap fan or not, it’s truly worth checking this video out for its stylistic flair.

WEX & Rippleffect

 

Non-profits will always be near and dear to my heart. I cut my teeth doing work with these organizations, who gave a young, inexperienced, eager videographer the opportunity to get his hands dirty, make some impressions, and try out techniques that may not have flown with agencies and corporations.

Whenever I get the opportunity to tie my work back to non-profits, I invariably say yes.

The stories are so easy to tell. They are stories of hope, of success, of grit and determination. They are stories of underdogs and overcoming tremendous odds. The are stories that always, always work. They hit hard, have true emotional roots, and have to the power to substantially improve lives.

Last week, I went out to Cow Island with WEX to film their work for Rippleffect, a fantastic local non-profit, which I attended nearly fifteen years ago, that brings kayaking and outdoor, experiential learning to students in Maine. It was a blast to spend a gorgeous day with a group of passionate people helping strengthen a program that I strongly believe in.

Check out their site, consider sending your kids, and maybe even donate!

What Should I Shoot My Feature On: An iPhone 7, or an Arri ALEXA?

Camera choice is a touchy, borderline political, topic in the world of multimedia production. For photographers, it’s the eternal “Nikon vs. Canon” debate. For cinematographers, it’s a little less black and white.

If your life even peripherally orbits the film and video world, you’ve probably heard or seen the opinions on either end of the tech spectrum:

Exhibit A: The “Stories Matter More Than the Camera” Angle

From this person, you’ll likely hear “you can shoot on anything, as long as you’ve got a good story!” They’ll point you to Tangerine, a feature-length narrative film shot exclusively on iPhone.

Exhibit B: The “If You’re Not Shooting ALEXA, You’re Fired” Angle

I won’t mince words: the Arri ALEXA is a top-tier camera, producing insane dynamic range, and whipping other camera’s butts when it comes to skin tones. What I WILL say is that no, you don’t need to shoot on it to create something beautiful.

That said, many directors won’t even hire you unless you drop that alliterative camera’s name.

The video above is basically a gross exaggeration of what cinematographers see when comparing cameras, blown out to the biggest visual disparity possible. If you’ve got a video nerd in your life, the iPhone footage and its flaws are as glaring as the ones they see between even higher end cameras.

That said, it’s a pretty cool look at how big of a differential there is in video quality as you step up from the low end to the high end of cameras.

 

United Way Day of Caring

For the last three years, I have been fortunate enough to take part in the United Way of Greater Portland‘s Day of Caring. The UW brings together employees from some of the largest organizations in Southern Maine to provide a day of community service.

In the past, we have served at food pantries, school supply distribution centers, and more, all in the service of creating a stronger community.

Each year, I have put together a video for WEX, one of the companies involved, that highlights the work they do and reaffirms their corporate culture and dedicated to community.

Give it a watch!

Why ME – Portland Greendrinks

Why ME – Greendrinks from Alexander Bertoni on Vimeo.

What do you get when you mix some of Maine’s premier brewers, eclectic venues, and the most important environmental non-profits in the state? You get Portland Green Drinks, a volunteer-organized monthly event that packs every house that hosts it. In the past, it has graced the halls of the Victoria Mansion, the verdant fields of the Audubon Society, and the sea-sprayed Ocean Gateway. This month, hundreds of Mainers packed a sun-soaked Thompson’s Point for what could be the farewell event of the summer for the incredibly successful venue.

Brewers as diverse as Baxter Brewing, out of Lewiston, Sebago Brewing, out of Portland, and Urban Farm Fermentery, out of (y)East Bayside, came out to provide drinks while people laughed, chatted, and learned about the Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust (http://matlt.org/).

If you get the chance, head on out to next month’s event, they are always a blast!

Music: “Floss Suffers from Gamma Radiation” by Blue Ducks

Sony A7r ii – Slog-2 60fps
Canon 85mm f/1.8
Sigma 30mm f/1.4

For more episodes each week, follow this account, or @bertonia_we on Instagram for updates!

Why ME – Elephant Mountain B 52 Crash

In January of 1963, a B 52 Stratofortress crashed into the remote Maine woods during a test exercise. Turbulence stripped the 360,000 pound aircraft of its vertical stabilizer, causing the plane to plummet into the heavily forested area. Seven of the nine crew died, six of them without being able to eject from the plane. The seventh struck a tree and died instantly. Despite the bitterly cold winter, the pilot and the navigator were able to survive thanks to the tireless work of nearly 80 rescue workers, who fought their way through fifteen foot snow drifts to reach the crew.

Today, flags adorn the wreckage strewn throughout the forest. Some of it was recovered as salvage shortly after the crash, but it has since been returned as a memorial and museum to the event. In 2013, the pilot even returned for the 50th anniversary of the event, he himself having spent only three months recovering before returning to active duty.

Music: “Warmer” by Andy G Cohen

Sony A7r ii – Slog-2 60fps
Canon 85mm f/1.8
Sigma 30mm f/1.4