If Frank Sinatra was alive, December 12th would have marked his 100th birthday. For this occasion Universal Music released a movie featuring the legend made by filmmaker Basti Hansen to promote the “Ultimate Sinatra CD Box”. Here is the cool thing, Basti did not want to use the ‘same old’ footage that have been seen-to-death again, and given complete creative freedom from Universal Music he created “a fun experience” from old Sinatra photographs. We asked Basti to share his thoughts about making the movie.
Working for Universal Music on this Sinatra movie was a pretty fun experience. I was given pretty much complete creative freedom which opened up so many options for me. It means you can play around, explore and try new things. Of course in the end you have to have something amazing for your client, so it’s kind of a fun pressure. The only constraints that I was given is that I had to work with this set of old photos of Sinatra.
I put on Frank Sinatra really loud and tried to soak up the atmosphere of the old photographs, trying to image how it must have been to be in that room while they record. I thought how cool would it be to dive into a photograph and all of a sudden things would start to move. This is when I realized I don’t want to show the photos in the video, I want the viewer to be in the photographs and that I could do that using the Parallax effect – rebuilding the atmosphere and depth.
How did you select the photos?
I was given about 30 high resolution scans of old medium format photographs. A good Parallax effect has some prerequisites, like the ability to separate the background and good separation of one or more subjects. Between the ones I liked and the ones that made sense to work on, I was left with 10 photos which composed the final edit.
How long did it take to complete the clip?
Each photo had to be processed individually. It has to be separated into layers, animating the layers with After Effects and finishing up in Premiere. The scenes have between two to five moving layers + Particle Systems and additional Dust layers to convey the feeling of depth and “being in a room”, plus the slight puppet animation of the characters. All and all it took me between a few hours and a day and a half to finish each scene and about a week to finish the entire movie.
What does the process looks like, how is it different from making/editing a movie
Working on a Parallax piece is more like working on a movie than editing an image. I tried to build an atmosphere in the clip so the order of the scenes as well as individual camera moves are orchestrated to provide a coherent feel. There are many decision that are similar to those of a director and a DP: how the camera moves, how many dust/particle to add to the scene, who is moving and how, how long is the camera move and how does it fit the score.
At the end, it is important to remember that it is not about the Parallax tool but about creating an atmosphere, and this is a lot like making a movie.
What tools did you use to edit the clip?
I used the Adobe CC suite: Photoshop for isolation and layering, After Effects to create the 3D environment, Particle Systems, animating the layers and the virtual camera, and Premiere for putting it all together. I would usually start in Photoshop and then import the PSD layers into After Effects, then send the entire composition to Premiere to edit to the music that I mixed in Audition. Here is the cool thing though. It takes a lot of back and forth to fine tune and time things right on a project like this, especially in the end – the beautiful thing about Adobe’s tools are, when I made a change in Photoshop it was immediately updated in After Effects therefore in Premiere which makes it really fun tools to work with.
Thanks Basti, Hope to meet again at Sinatra’s 150th birthday.