The band has made a handful of videos, some live, some produced, yet we’ve had none that closely link the video with the underlying story in a song. With Circuits, we decided it was time to give it a try. We had no idea what we were in for.
A little over two years ago, we sat down and fleshed out some ideas as to what we wanted to capture. We included our good friend Dane Fuhrman, who was instrumental in the process, contributing his camera shooting abilities in the mix as well as adding input. Mat helped direct the shindig, and captured a lot of the road shots with Dane, with Dadio (Chris Rickertsen) behind the wheel of the Fuhrman pickup truck.
The original idea was to run from Moberly to Holiday Acres lake, approximately 14 miles. The truck would go in front of Troy, while Mat and Dane would film the entire way, only changing tape briefly to capture what would be around 100 minutes of running. The tapes would then be sped up in editing, with the idea that those viewing the video would sense the urgency and repetition, similar to the fast pace and modern lifestyle today. We quickly decided against it, because the band collectively felt there needed to be some breathing room, otherwise people would get nauseous watching the video. So, a second idea emerged, which involved the same area, a similar idea, but a different approach.
At the end of May, early one morning, before dawn, we met up and made our way north of Moberly towards Holiday Acres using the backroads. The backroads would be the first portion of the filming. When we arrived, they dropped me off first (Troy) so I could get in place while Mat and Dane captured footage leading up to the point where I enter the scene. While the crew were gone, I noticed in the lowly lit distance what appeared to be a large cow, roaming free, out of the fencing. I was standing there in suit and tie, dress shoes, watching this cow get closer to me. A few minutes later, I was approached by a fellow with a cowboy hat, who simply asks me to help him corral this bull. Did he not notice anything strange about a guy standing in the middle of a gravel road, before dawn, dressed in a suit and tie? He came up to me and told me to wave my hands over my head and make some crazy sounds, and the bull will walk through the opened gate. So, I’m standing there thinking, “I’m going to die”, and “is this really happening?”. Thankfully, the guy knew what he was talking about, and when the bull came towards me, I waved my hands and made the noises and he turned and went into the opened gate. Lord have mercy, it worked! I was still in shock by what had transpired, but elated too that it was over and that somehow I lived through a scene in City Slickers. All this happened before daylight and before the crew made their way back up the road to where I was waiting.
The only script we had was a shabby piece of paper, transferred from a text document on the computer. I remember sitting down at lunch one day and chatting with Dane about it, before we took the idea to Mat. A lot of the shots were etched in my mind from repeating them over and over mentally, so when it came time to get the shots, I could remember what needed to happen next. While working through the planned shots, there were some visual elements that needed to happen, like changing layers of clothing, some continuity things, as well as what shots to get while the sun was still low in the morning hours. We really didn’t know how long it would take to get the footage we’d need to put the scenes together, so we shot extra. In theory, this is a smart thing. In retrospect, during editing, it can sometimes be overwhelming to sift and sort through. But it’s better to have too much footage than too little! Needless to say, there was a lot of running. We just didn’t know how much was needed to get the pieces put together. Running for an hour on pavement is one thing to reckon with, but running for nearly six hours, on gravel, in dress shoes, is an entirely different experience.
Chris, my Dad, developed some special talents during the filming. The foot-feed, the accelerator, was quite touchy. He needed to keep the juice just right in order to maintain a steady 10mph while I was running, so the cameras could get good shots. He drove in front of, beside, and behind me at various times while Mat and Dane snagged take after take, all while I ran my tail off with my tongue hanging out. Dad seemed to be really be enjoying it all, perhaps a little too much!
Some scenes came very easy and yet some barely came at all. I remember trying to get the scene right where we make a sharp turn at the end of the song. In my head it looked easy, but mercy was it hard to transfer what’s in the mind out into art. Thank goodness Dane and Mat are patient dudes, otherwise we’d never have finished the video. It’s the easiest thing to get a smooth shot right? It’s easy to hold a camera steady, just hold still, right? If only it were that simple. Wow, what an eye opening experience, ha! For as difficult as it was to run from sunrise until well after noon, it had to have been every bit as hard holding those cameras steady for that duration. We were all toast by the time the shoot was over. We piled in the pickup and headed for home.
The editing started fairly soon thereafter. We discussed different scenes we wanted to try to use, and how we wanted to video to look. I remember feeling like it should look otherworldly, but had no idea what that meant. The editing was slowed drastically when we began experimenting with different filters and effects. It’s a hole that you may never come out of once you enter. We knew we had some serious limits with what we could do, so we opted to keep it fairly simple (a joke, right).
A few of the filters that gave the video the look it has is the Invert effect, Solar effect, Soft Focus, and Color Corrector effect. Below I have some photos that show the differences, with and without the effects.
Fast forward a bit, and you have a video of a wildman running rampant up and down gravel roads for four and half minutes. It was interesting, but left you feeling dizzy. Not what we ideally wanted. So we played with some smoothing effects that would tame the motion a bit. That helped quite a bit, but it was still too busy. We worked some more and then we finally printed it and shared it with a few close friends. The response was mostly good but we still felt unsettled about it, especially me. So we dropped it and moved on with other aspects of life.
Fast forwarding again almost two years, and the idea resurfaces about releasing Circuits. I started squirming around again, uneasy about it. From that unease, we decided to add more depth to the story, and connect the dots somewhat. But how? Well, it was another good brainstorming session or two before we came to any conclusions. Because of many reasons we decided that the new part would be a ‘commander’ at the wheel, possibly controlling the actions of the subject. The devices, the machines, controlling those who created them. Or is the controller an entity beyond us that we don’t fully comprehend? We liked the hints that also left it open ended to interpretation. And who best to be in the cockpit than Emerald Rickertsen, our niece.
Capturing the indoor scenes was a lot less painful than the gravel road scenes. From the getgo, Emerald was excited about being ‘in the movies’, haha! Amy made a bargain with Em that if she did the shoot we’d buy her more time on Animal Jam. She was glowing at the idea of more Jam time. Our good friend from Woodcrest, Cindy Robb, supplied some amazing props for us to use during the shoot. We wanted something old school that might lend itself to a steampunkish vibe. Amy helped Em get all spiffied up for the shoot, and Mat and I placed tape over the brand labels of a bunch of the electronic components, so as not to distract in the video. Mat ran the lighting controller while AJ assisted in hundreds of ways with the look in each scene. There was one scene where something kept stirring up dust and we were like, what’s that? So they were going to fix but it dawned on us that it was actually very cool looking on video, so we left it alone.
Editing the old and new footage together wasn’t as hard as I would have imagined. Thankfully the shots were solid, with less motion (not being in a pickup truck), and less correction needed. We discussed brightening or changing the gamma to help a bit with the balance of the darker indoor scenes with the outdoor scenes, but in the end we left it because it seemed to be a nice contrast when viewing, and forces you to pay closer attention, and leaves more to mystery. The filters and effects took the longest, and editing in HD increased the wait time.
Once everything came together, it really felt solid. There was just enough consistency to appear scripted, yet it had enough left for the imagination to allow the viewer to fill in the blanks suiting their own situation or place in their life. We hope that you enjoy the video and we ask that you share it with your friends. Thanks for watching!