FAMILY Guitar Playthrough Premieres on Heavy Blog Is Heavy by Nicolas Cusworth

I don't write too often here about my goings-on over at Heavy Blog as the kind of content I produce over there generally doesn't intersect too heavily with what I do here. Given that I do produce some pretty nifty videos for them though, I figure it's worth mentioning here as well.

I had the opportunity to work with the Brooklyn progressive stoner group FAMILY last month on a guitar playthrough for their track "Precedent" after they saw what I did with Binary Code. They were specifically interested in the same kind of guitar-stacking that I featured in the Binary Code videos, which is relatively simple except for having to mess around with the camera angle enough to get the guitars laying flat in-frame.

Nothing else too fancy here aside from a special little piano cameo I squeezed in at around the 4-minute mark. The most headache-inducing aspect was just the lighting and preventing glare off of the bodies and headstocks of the guitars. Just a neat little video I could throw together in post in a couple of hours. Still, it's an effective little twist on the standard guitar playthrough, one I hope to continue using into the future!

And if you like what you're hearing, be sure to check out FAMILY's latest album, Future History. It's great!

The New Newness + Summer Wrapup by Nicolas Cusworth

I've transgressed again and haven't updated here in a bit. Much of that has to do with what I've been doing since my last post though, which has been some working on several projects that aren't ready for public consumption yet, some traveling, and, most pertinent to this, freshening up this website from top-to-bottom. So let's break this down the best way I know how - in list form!

1. The Two-Year Facelift

I've updated this website occasionally with new videos since originally launching it in 2014, but between using the same, increasingly outdated reel for months and some other things that were in need of updating, I figured it'd be a good time to do a mini-overhaul of the place. So, here's a brand new, slick site design/layout featuring full background video on the landing page, new navigation and portfolio layout, a new showreel (embedded below and featured now on the About page since the landing page video functions as a soundless and more-relaxed version of it), and freshened-up information where needed.

Putting together this new reel and taking stock of all that I've done the past couple of years has really given me an appreciation of all the amazing people I've had the opportunity to work with. I love nothing more than to produce great work for people who are doing great things, and it just so happens that so many of these people are very good on camera! I can only be so lucky to continue working with them and others.

Finding the time to take care of all of this while working on other projects has been difficult, but it was a very necessary update, and I'm pleased with the results. Hopefully people looking at this place will agree!

2. Coast-to-Coast

Summer in NYC is barely tolerable under the best of circumstances, and this one has been especially egregious, so I'm very happy that I've been able to spend a couple of weeks outside of it and able to make use of my camera throughout it. First, more locally, I returned to my hometown in central NJ last month for our annual 5th of July (yes, the 5th) fireworks. Anyone who wants an explanation on how I shoot these can look at my entry from last summer for a primer. This year I got a little more experimental and played around with ways to further manipulate the image in-camera and got some interesting results!

Shortly prior to that I trekked out to California and visited Yosemite for my first time. Having grown up on the east coast I'm just not used to the kind of landscapes a place like that has to offer, and I was pretty much spellbound my entire trip. I decided to put my Syrp Genie Mini to the test there and take as many timelapses of the area as I could. Avoiding tourists was impossible, but I don't mind seeing the human element interact with the landscape in this case. I would have also made most of these plenty longer had I been by myself, but I was already stretching the limits of what my travel mates (my exceedingly patient girlfriend and her very easy-going parents) could tolerate.

Finally, I just returned from my annual trip up to the lakes of New Hampshire for a capital-V vacation, in which I was mostly submerged in large bodies of water. I still managed to take a few photos though, as I wanted to try using my Sony a7s (which is my primary video camera these days) more for photos (which I usually reserve for my Canon 5DmkII).

Places pictured include the Kirkwood Gardens in Holderness (playing around with my prism again), on top of Mount Percival and Morgan around Squam after a morning hike, a little cove on Little Squam right by the house where we've discovered a loon family lives, one night shot off of the dock from our house, and then one up in the Franconia Notch.

Somehow I managed to get a couple of shots here of the Perseids a couple of nights ago, but after making a big late-night trip further north in the mountains specifically to take Perseids photos (less light pollution), I came up utterly empty (photo from where we eventually wound up included for posterity). Frustrated doesn't even begin to cover it, but I guess there's always next time.

3. Everything Else

I unfortunately don't have too much to show of other work I've done the past couple of months in spite of being quite busy. I did have the opportunity to work with Fairchild Books on a series of videos showcasing different careers in the fashion industry, one of which you can view in my portfolio now under Educational.

On the Heavy Blog side I also had an amazing opportunity recently to sit down and interview Toby Driver of the incredible Kayo Dot to talk about their new album Plastic House On Base Of Sky. Definitely worth a watch and listen.

I should have plenty more coming along soon, including some great work with the Autism Science Foundation, the Vital Opera company, and some more playthroughs and music videos. More posting to come more regularly (and not as long), I promise!

Guitar World Premieres Guitar Playthrough Videos For Binary Code by Nicolas Cusworth

Last month I had the pleasure to work with Jesse Zuretti and PJ Spilletti of the excellent New Jersey progressive death metal group Binary Code on a couple of guitar playthroughs for their (then) upcoming album Moonsblood. Today I am beyond pleased to share those two videos, which were premiered by the indomitable Guitar World!

The three of us went into production on these with the same mission and mindset - that the vast majority of guitar playthrough videos out there are boring to watch and either look too plain or amateurish. That being said, unlike full-blown music videos where you're provided with much greater freedoms to make creative choices that are more visually-appealing, guitar playthroughs serve a very specific purpose. First and foremost, they must clearly display how the guitarists perform the song in such a way that someone watching it would be able to replicate it themselves if they wanted to. So the mission was to walk a fine line between legibility and creativity while also giving each of the two videos a distinct look and feel in their own right.

In regards to the first challenge, I decided early on that I wanted to use multiple angles and a mixture of locked-down shots, lateral tracking shots, and handheld shots, but make most of the framing very basic and straight-on. I used a track dolly (at least a very small part of it given that we were in a confined studio space) for tracking shots on both videos, though I made sure to keep the movements subtle. The guitar stacking shots were key in achieving that easy readability, though they were actually the most difficult to achieve as both Jesse and PJ remained standing and normally played with their guitars at very upright angles. It required a mixture of them lowering their headstocks as much as they could while still feasibly being able to play and some pretty wacky shooting angles (and holding the tripod down by whatever means possible to prevent it from tipping over) to get the straight-on look needed to make it work.

The easiest way to achieve visual distinctiveness between the two was with the lighting and color schemes. Nothing too fancy involved on that end - one tungsten light on either side (around 45 degrees) with a couple of different gels for each setup (red/blue and green/indigo), and a mellower LED hitting them straight-on (also pinned with a mild gel to cut the output further).

The other main difference between the two was a little bit of analog camera-trickery in the form of a basic glass prism. I've been playing around with creating interesting in-camera effects using one for a little while now after seeing examples of someone else using one in photographing artistic portraits. I haven't had many opportunities to use it on a client project though, and we all agreed it could add a little extra something special to "Dark Meditations," which features much more in the way of spacier ambiance. I love using the prism as an element of improvisational chance. You can never quite know what you're going to get, but if you can find the right angles the results can be amazing and nearly impossible to replicate in post.

Editing was essentially an extension of the distinctions made during shooting. "Immersion," which is the more conventional single of the two with sharp, precise riffs and melodies, features a lot of more rapid cuts on downbeats of 1s and 3s. "Dark Meditations" features a lot of crossfading and overlays with some more precise cuts thrown in the mix.

All-in-all, nothing too complicated or fancy here, which is just what a good instrumental playthrough should be. I'm very pleased with the results though and am grateful to have had the opportunity to put my own spin on this well-trodden type of media!

Harrison Scott Puts Some Skin In the Game in New BTS Video For "BloodSport" by Nicolas Cusworth

In the rich tapestry that is the life of a freelance videographer, you get asked to work on a wide variety of projects featuring many different kinds of material. Nothing demonstrates that more than the fact that I'm following a post about classic baroque opera with a video for a dark synthpop song that features a lot of skin.

This is my second collaboration of this sort with Harrison Scott, and if his previous music video for "Locked Up" was all about high fashion and gradually having a total mental breakdown, this one has a decidedly different bent. "BloodSport" takes the voyeuristic qualities of Snapchat culture to the extreme, blending it with some twisted sexual fantasy involving having a group of guys in their skivvies shaving Harrison's head, sharing a tub with him, and a lot more.

As always, Harrison is fully committed to his art and craft, and the resulting music video is really well-executed and striking. Harrison set out to make a statement about his own sexuality and not making an effort to hide it or tone it down for the sake of more mainstream sensibilities - especially when a similar video with a guy surrounded by scantily-clad women wouldn't register as anything unusual - and I think he and director Eli Schmidt really accomplished something that's provocative but ultimately tasteful and artful.

Opera and Broadway Collide In New Video For MasterVoices' Production of 'Dido and Aeneas' by Nicolas Cusworth

I owe a lot to the NYC choral organization MasterVoices (formerly The Collegiate Chorale). Even before I had my first full-time video production job years ago, they gave me the opportunity to produce promotional video content for them. We've been working together ever since, and I think it's safe to say that I've also upped my game and skills a bit since then!

They, too, have been going bigger and bolder with their productions over the years, and this year is no different as they're continuing their new series at NYC's City Center with Henry Purcell's baroque opera Dido and Aeneas, which stars Tony Award winners Kelli O'Hara and Victoria Clark. We had an idea to promote the show by bringing these two amazing performers (and good friends) together for a photo shoot and behind-the-scenes video that would give fans a taste of the music and of Victoria and Kelli's chemistry with each other. The result speaks for itself.

It was a really fun day, and I'm delighted and honored that I had the opportunity to meet and work with these two hugely talented women. And if you're interested in this show (which you should be because it looks great), you can still buy tickets for the two performances on April 28th and 29th!