Most music videos aren't finished in HD, but then again, most artists aren't as adventurous as the Beastie Boys. For their new music video, "Ch-Check It Out," off of their forthcoming CD To the 5 Boroughs, director Nathaniel Hornblower (aka Beastie MCA, aka Adam Yauch) turned to Northern Lights Post (www.northernlightspost.com) and HD editor/effects artist Ross Shain to both finish the clip in HD and also handle the extensive visual effects compositing the project demanded.
"It was important to the Beastie Boys to have a 24p HD master because they are not only interested in the technology, they have interest in preserving their work for years to come," explains Shain. "The historic Beastie Anthology DVD released in 2000 maximizes the format's capabilities with unreleased remixes, rare footage and even user selectable camera angles. If footage from 20 years ago is being re-released, it only makes sense to finish new projects on HD. To their credit, they realized whether it's for HD broadcasting, creating a PAL version for European broadcast, progressive streaming on the Web or for a future DVD release, having a 16x9 24p master is the way to go."
The song "Ch-Check It Out" is a blast from the past, with Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA mugging for the mic and weaving through a rumbling bed of throwback breakdance beats and distinct old-school feel. In typical Beastie Boys fashion, the video is a bizarre mixture of hip hop humor and visual non sequitors. The clip begins with a parody of TV show Star Trek with the Beastie Boys dressed as Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy, beamed into the streets of Manhattan's Lower East Side.
From there, the video moves briskly into shots of the band being attacked by bread-wielding German tourists and fish-throwing old ladies as they try to film the video. Another surreal sequence finds them dressed in safari garb and fighting off alligators as they speed through the Florida everglades on a seemingly out of control fanboat.
Shain explained that the video was shot in several formats including 16mm, 24p HD and NTSC stock footage, all of which had to be converted to HD resolution. "We had preliminary discussions with both the producer Samantha Store (of Chelsea Pictures, New York) and freelance editor Neal Usatin about the workflow and what would be required to offline and online this project in 24p."
In addition to finishing in HD, Shain also handled all of the video's visual effects and the compositing of 15 greenscreen shots. Shain used the Avid DS|Nitris (www.avid.com) system to create the Star Trek beaming effect. "The goal was to stay true to the low-tech look and feel of the original Star Trek episodes.
Nitris was also used for all the compositing for the fanboat scenes. The boat and Beasties were initially shot against a greenscreen and later composited into background plates of the Florida Everglades. In addition, because the boat used for the greenscreen shoot didn't actually have a fan, Shain created and animated a fan blade that was then composited onto theboat.
"Shots of the Everglades were shot in 24p HD and that footage had to be married to the 16mm footage from the greenscreen shoot," explains Shain. "Besides creating the boat fan, I also added motion blur and camera shake to make the scenes feel realistic. Those scenes also required a lot of motion tracking to make sure the movement of the water splashes and the boat itself were synced correctly. The combination of the motion blur and tracking gave the scenes a 'shaky high-speed feel', as if the camera was mounted in another fan boat."
Shain used the software particleIllusion from wondertouch (www.wondertouch.com), a stand-alone particle effects application that runs on Windows, to create the animated water splashes, mist and particle effects.
"Ch-Check It Out" isn't the first time Ross has worked with Beastie Boys. In fact, his relationship with the band goes as back to the early '90s when Shain had his first editing job.
"My first job after graduating college was editing a New York public access show called Rappin With the Rickster, which was hosted by Ricky Powell, an old friend and roadie for the Beastie Boys," recalls Shain. "Through my work for the show I met Adam, and ended up editing 'Slow and Low' - a song filmed in concert that was featured on their 1992 video compilation called Skills to Pay the Bills. It's funny when I look back on it because back then we were using the most primitive editing systems, and now here I am some 12 years later working with the Beastie Boys again, only this time in High Def."
For more information about Northern Lights Post, go to their Website at: www.northernlightspost.com.