Beast of the Air is a music video accompanying Tom Slatter's song of the same name. It's taken from his Album 'Ironbark'.
"The Beast of the Air is about hunting Sky Kraken from an airship.It's about the difficulties of defending one's livestock from such creatures, particularly in light of their bewitching tentacles and hallucinatory scent.
Yes, like all the songs on IronBark, The Beast of the Air is a narrative affair. I can't help it - I grew up listening to heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Megadeth all of whom wrote narrative songs about various sci-fi and fantasy topics which has led me to writing my own story-based songs.
Musically the album is a mixture of my folk, prog and indie influences, with a bit of metal here and there but lyrically it's all narrative, and all set in a steampunk world.
The album was recorded in my spare room with two cheap mics, a cheap and simple version of Cubase and a few free plug-ins. I still consider myself a novice when it comes to recording, but I'm certainly getting better at it, and this album is the best sounding record I've produced so far. I know it doesn't sound pro yet, but I'm proud of it.
Of particular note in the Beast of the Air is the wailing 'Kraken' sounds - these were recorded with my guitar by playing through a Sonuus G2M midi converter - something I used to play a lot of the synth sounds on the album.
Inspired by/Blatantly steals from: As well as ripping off Radiohead (a little), some of the arpeggios are very similar to a couple of Opeth tunes. Sssssh, don't tell anyone."
The video was shot on a Nikon D7000 DSLR. All the effects were created using Adobe After Effects. The video was shot in Hainault Forest in Essex, Windemere in the Lake District, my mum's garden and my front room!
I like the challenge of creating videos that (hopefully) look better than their actual budgets would indicate. I don't think Beast of the Air looks entirely 'professional' if that means anything, but I do think it looks better than you'd imagine a low budget video might. It helps that I have someone willing to run about in crazy costumes for me to film!
Tom's stuff is great in that each song has a narrative so I was able to simply go through the album and pick the one I thought would be most filmable. That was something of a relative term as Beast of the Air involves hunting sky kraken from an airship!
Luckily I'd recently got hold of some new effects software so that didn't seem quite as monumental a task as it may sound and we already had an airship from our previous video Spinning the Compass.
I wasn't entirely happy with the shots of the airship from Spinning the Compass so I wanted to have another go at it for this video.
The idea of the tentacles appearing behind Tom was probably the first thing we came up, that and the tower. The original idea was that the camera would zoom into the tower through a window where Tom would be playing a gig. We'd then cut back and forth between him playing and him running about in the forest fighting Kraken. Eventually he'd get in the airship and fly off to fight a big Kraken coming out the sky.
We also put together a few small vids.
We shot the first section of the video in Hainault forest in Essex. In this section Tom explores the forest and is stalked by a sky kraken which creeps about behind him before attacking en force. I'd initially intended to simply have one small flying kraken which we would initially see only it's tentacles, however that morphed into a giant set of tentacles emerging from the ground and attacking as well!
Here's Tom in costume with one of our tracking dots (or a tennis ball on a stick as they're more commonly known). I screwed up slightly as I used the stand for most shots and that's led to a fair bit of tricky rig removal. I should've just used a few tennis balls stuck on the floor. I've also found that Mocha (a motion tracking programme that comes with After Effects) is so good at tracking that you don't really need to use tracking dots at all! Still, lesson learnt.
The next stage was to shoot Tom and the model airship against greenscreen so I could composite the elements together and put Tom on board the ship. This was done in the illustrious setting of my mum's back garden!
Although I had a basic idea of how the end of the video would play out, there was a fair amount of experimentation here as I was basically creating the entire second half of the video in the computer. I knew that we'd have a set of huge tentacles descending from the sky. I definitely wanted an 'infinite zoom' with the camera flying and ending in a closeup of Tom as he prepares to shoot the kraken, but beyond that it was all abit vague.
To this end I filmed a library of shots of the tentacle I'd built, the airship model and of Tom performing various actions. I then locked myself away in a dark room for a month and tried to come up with something.
Most of the stuff with the tentacles descending evolved as I learnt how to use the 3D camera within After Effects. One thing I definitely wanted was a 'Battlestar Galactica' crash zoom / hand held shot as the ship flies over head ;o)
I was basically learning how to use After Effects as I made the video so alot of shots that I'd created near the beginning ended up getting dropped as I figured out better ways of doing them.
Here're some shots that I didn't end up using and a video of the tentacle I built. Although the tentacle is articulated it actually proved easier to animate the tentacle using some puppetry tools within After Effects. We only needed one tentacle, we just duplicated it many times and shot it from different angles.
The next section was to shoot some establishing shots in the lake district which boasted some more impressive scenery than essex! Luckily we were off for a holiday so I took full advantage and shot about 5Gb of footage. I'm sure some of it'll crop up in future videos.
The idea is that the tower has been 'steampunked' itself and so it's broken areas have been clad in brass panelling. The airship is docked at the platform that sticks out the side.
The chorus of the songs says that 'the beast of the air wails a sing, wails a song to keep us dreaming', so I figured that a sky kraken hunter might attract the beast by playing it's song back at it, to summon it from the heavens, hence the rather large megaphone attached to the top. These are attached to some steampunk gizmos to generate enough power to summon the kraken!
Anyway, that's it. I'm fairly happy with the end result. There're a few bits that could've been better but many more that came out better than I expected. Not bad considering I'd only had the FX software for a few months. Amazing what you can do with off the shelf stuff these days.
Looking forward to doing the next one...........
More info on my blog.