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!