KT Tunstall’s latest video, Saving My Face, is a post-production heavy promo that was helmed by Prime Focus London’s new visual effects artist, James Maclachlan.
Directed by Black Dog Films’ Chris Bran, the video sees Ms Tunstall in transit between city and country, the latter being where she can unleash her sentiments through her guitar. There are moments marked by stills of the singer, where she has been caught by an invisible camera flash which creates a ghosting effect. We also see her being haunted by slow-mo flying debris (shot using the Phantom High Speed camera), which turns out to be splinters of her signature glittery guitar.
Every shot in the video required some form of visual effects, whether it be complex compositing or adding flying glitter elements. This explains why the production required 14 days of solid Flame work. The main challenge was the shots were KT is frozen in time.
The team researched various ways of how to visually illustrate the balance between the photo-realistic and ghost-like looks. These shots show KT Tunstall frozen and fading whilst the camera moves on until it catches up with a second image of the singer, already singing the next verse. This meant that all these shots had to be perfectly ‘stitched together’. The ideal way of achieving this perfect match would have been through motion control, an unaffordable luxury on promo budgets.
James found himself lining-up, compositing elements, retiming, stabilizing and tracking shots that had been filmed by steadicam. There were mismatches between the various plates and takes, but these were rectified by reconstructing the camera moves where necessary.
James supervised the two-day/night shoot on location in and around East London’s 3 Mills Studios. He oversaw capturing of all the plate shots, as explained above, but was also responsible for making sure that elements would work properly for the scene where KT Tunstall appears to be looking down from above water. Here, the singer was shot on a rostrum using steadicam on a ramp. The water elements were shot using tanks on set and later composited in the Flame suite.
But the real thrills came when James helped out with exploding a dummy guitar. He also acted as 2nd unit director on many of the guitar elements shot on the phantom camera so that Chris Bran was free to continue shooting KT in performance shots for the rest of the video.
PFL’s VFX artist, James Maclachlan, said: "Chris Bran was so well prepared. He came to us at an early stage of the production, armed with animatics and boards, which meant we could concentrate on offering more time-efficient shooting alternatives for some of the effects shots. The whole production was well-structured from the start, so it all went to plan. Working with explosions was the best part, though. Who wouldn’t be entranced by blowing-up guitars?"