It is always an honor to work with Wayne Hsu. He is an amazing artist and is not only a gifted singer songwriter but also has an excellent ear as a studio engineer. The three of us won a trailer contest for the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival with Wayne scoring the music for our little 60 second animated film.
Last March, I gave a call to Wayne Hsu late one evening and said, “Hey, do you want to shoot a Music Video tonight?” Hey said, “Yeah, sure. You want to do it now?”
It was already 10pm at night and I said, “No, I’m thinking at about 1am in Chinatown in front of the arch.” It was a very chilly night but he enthusiastically agreed since it was just around the corner from where he lived. I was itching to do a few tests with some c-mount lenses a newer industrial lens, a Computar 25mm f/1.3 and an older Kodak Cine Ektar 25mm f/1.4. I wanted to compare these lenses and see how well they work with just street lights and the light of the traffic driving by at night.
The concept was simple. I had Wayne sit on top of my Subaru Forester and we parked far enough so that he would be elevated above the traffic and we could see the Chinatown Arch in the distance. One of the challenges is that in order to shoot him I needed a rig that I could hold steadily on the back bumber of the car. A tripod would not do since the bumber was about six inches wide. To make this work I used the indiSYSTEM indiRAILSpro MP which is part monopod, part camera rig, and part follow focus. It fit very nicely with me standing on the back bumper of the car.
Rather than do a MV where we were syncing to the studio recording of the song I wanted to keep the real elements alive on the streets of Chinatown and just show the beauty and simplicity of his playing. I wanted Wayne Hsu to play live acoustic. Wayne is so good playing live. And in the “LIVE” I wanted to keep the environment a part of the piece so whatever happens in the moment happens. If we have a truck barreling down the road or loud late night pedestrian traffic so be it.
The results were very beautiful. This year the Chinatown Arch dawned new lights .So from the distance as Wayne played, the Arch was brilliantly lit as a a backdrop to his playing. Both c-mount lenses really gave this piece character. The Cine Ektar 25mm was a touch sharper and had this unusual crescent shaped lens flare from the street lamp right above. The Computar 25mm lens being the faster lens was able to do very well in street lighting soft and low contrast working very well on the evening city streets. One stupid mistake I made was that I taped the lav to Wayne’s shirt and you could hear the rustle of the shirt brushing up against the mic. It’s less noticeable as the song progresses but it is very pronounced at the beginning of the song. Next time proper, lav clip or vampire clip is a must. Other than that issue, we are really happy by the way the footage turned out.
Please visit Wayne Hsu’s site. His new album will be coming out very soon:
Computar 25mm f/1.3 lens
Kodak Cine Ektar 25mm f/1.4
Sound Devices 552 Mixer/Recorder
Director: Gary San Angel
Assistant Director: Serena Perrone
Camera Operator: Rocky Kev