Usually in this semi-regular series, I’ve gone back a few years to older projects I’ve produced. But this is a recent project that I shot in mid-September 2010, which has also turned out to quickly be one of the most popular videos I’ve done, thanks to Keith’s amazing talent really.
Keith Medley is a unique individual. He is a creative force with many dimensions; as a craftsman, luthier, musician and composer. Plus he’s a pretty cool guy to hang with! When I met with Keith to discuss producing this video, my thought was to create a video that expressed the beauty, power and complexity of Keith’s one-of-a-kind Medley 27-string guitar that he designed, built and taught himself to play. To simply hear Keith’s music from his 27-string is fantastic, but to really appreciate it, people need to see him play it. He is truly a one-man band!
To put the focus on Keith’s hands and his guitar, I envisioned a stark, high-contrast, black & white look inspired by Ansel Adams as much as anyone else. I needed an indoor shoot space with complete control of lighting. The location was at Stacey David‘s garage/studio. Stacey is an amazing artist in his own right as a custom auto designer/builder and host of his very popular show “Gearz“. Keith and Stacey are friends and Stacey generously offered the use of his space and lighting equipment; a perfect arrangement for this project! To start on shoot day, all we needed to do was push some hot rods out of the space and setup! Since Stacey produces his show here he has full grip/gaff equipment, which helped me try different setups quickly since I was working alone.
On this shoot, I used my Canon 7D DSLR shooting from sticks. My main lenses are my Leica-R’s that I retrofitted with Leitax adapters for the Canon mount. These are lenses from the early 80’s, all manual, great classic optics. The ones I used were a Summicron-R 2/50mm and Elmarit-R 2.8/28mm. I also used a Lensbaby on a couple shots, but the Leica’s were the main ones. I also used a GoProHD for the brief inset headstock POV shots; we actually rigged up a mount to clamp on to the bass string headstock area of Keith’s guitar. I like the perspective and geometry of the shot from that unique angle.
Shooting took several hours, we basically had a total of 5 hours of time in Stacey’s place including setting up all lighting, backdrop, moving cars around, setting-up Keith’s sound system to monitor audio, etc. When we were ready we kept shooting takes with very brief setup changes, no time to waste! Later when I digitized footage and started rough editing I knew we had what we needed. Most of what I do is music-related and being a musician myself results in me being very critical and particular about making sure visuals and audio are in perfect sync. I tried to make it simple, elegant and compelling. The energy of Keith’s song and performance has a flow with the edit pace picking up towards the end to keep up with Keith’s hands flying all around the instrument!
The goal was to immerse the viewer in Keith’s music and his 27-string creation; a work of art unto itself! I think we pulled it off.