Rho Stone’s Audiovisual Adventures: Dream Evil
Welcome to Audiovisual Adventures, where I pick apart videos the same way weird kids dismember insects they find in their yards.
Because this is the first entry, I’m working with a very simple video. I chose something so generic that whatever I can say about it applies to most videos being made these days. To select this video, I googled “cheesiest metal video ever” and it didn’t take long for “The Book of Heavy Metal” to appear before me.
Something to understand about music videos is that the band involved did not necessarily make any decisions. It’s another artist’s interpretation of the original material. Having said that, what kind of fucking material to work with is this? It’s the dumbest composition they could have thrown together. The lyrics may have been written by an 11 year old. Is Dream Evil making fun of me?
Dream Evil is metal “by the numbers” and this annoying trend is just growing bigger in the world of labels. I know this video is 10 years old, but there’s a new Book of Heavy Metal coming out every week. It’s all leather, spikes, “how I’m better than the rest of society because I wear a black shirt” anthems, and something something biker culture. All the meaning those things had is gone, and pretending you belong to something you don’t makes you, well, a poser.
It’s like executives are writing the music in their offices. They go and say “Yeah, sign a contract with the devil, that’s gonna fit perfectly with our angsty atheist teen demographic, also let’s paint everyone silver. I made a bet with Josh from accounting that we’d find a band stupid enough to do it” and then they do whatever executives do instead of bumping fists. Just because the means of distribution are prefabricated doesn’t mean the music should be as well.
Now let’s go into the video. Even with no artistic material to work with, this is the definition of mediocrity. Let’s start with the concept. When you make a video you tell a story. That’s the first thing you learn in Filmmaking 101. We have this idea in western culture that storytelling is explicitly something with a beginning, a struggle and a conclusion, and a plot ties all that together. We believe this because Aristotle said it a long time ago and everyone just rolled along with it, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Look at the cover of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son.
For a second ignore all you know about Iron Maiden and imagine you’ve never heard of them or their music. Imagine you found this album art at an art exhibition. Are you going to tell me that it doesn’t tell a story? A painting, instrumental music, colors, the way a room is lit, anything that makes you feel a certain way other than “meh” tells a story. People have been drooling like morons for centuries in front of the Mona Lisa because she has a weird smirk. That’s great storytelling. You don’t have to understand it the same way you understand an assignment and you can make your own conclusions by adding up your thoughts and experiences. That’s why book reports are full of shit; they force you to miss the point.
What is The Book of Heavy Metal’s concept? Beats me. Seriously, it’s Dream Evil on a mountain wearing stupid costumes. If you want your costume to be taken seriously you have to create an environment where it works. GWAR did it flawlessly. Dream Evil did not.
The only other thing that happens is that some guy appears in the clouds Monty Python style at around 1:40 minutes.
The song may be about wanting to be written into some heavy metal hall of fame, but the video is completely generic. Flush.
Take a closer look at the video. Let’s start with the background footage, because that’s the first thing I do whenever I sit down to work on a composition. You can do this video’s background yourself in basically no time, just grab a png of a mountain, make it black and white and get some sky footage to go along with it. Throw a lightning effect here and there so people know you’re epic because you stand around in a fake thunderstorm. Just made it myself with the stock windows meadow wallpaper (which I must admit looks very black metal in black and white).
I’m pretty sure Sweden or wherever they filmed this had some nice locales, but I guess filming somewhere else than a green screen would have taken effort. Check the left side of the sky at around 14 seconds into the video, they didn’t even attempt to fake it properly. Building places out of images, a process known as matte painting, is as old as filming and extremely useful (do you think those places in Lord of the Rings really exist somewhere in New Zealand as you were told?). But there’s good quality, and there’s this.
At least the members of Dream Evil were chroma keyed fine, but don’t worry, they fucked up with the camera work either way. See how the singer looks like he was filmed from below? Next time you see a political debate, you can know who the media wants to win if you notice how was the camera tilted. It’s an old as dirt trick: the human mind can be driven to subconsciously believe that someone is superior and to be trusted if they’re being looked at from below. Normally you do it so people don’t notice unless they’re looking for it, but Dream Evil blew it by making the dude look like he’s totally malformed. Also, these creepy close-ups don’t really help the band’s image.
I’d like to ask the people who work on these videos what’s up with the constant cutting to a single band member playing in stationary position while “looking cool”. There’s AV language devoted to that. Language they’re not using. It’s not even properly synched to the beat. These are beginner mistakes that you can excuse from dudes who make amateur videos, but this is a band that wants you to pay $13 for their shitty album. Do bands even NEED a video if no one’s going to make any effort at making it? Has the art of filmmaking been turned into a promotional stunt for the music, that’s now a promotional stunt for the show and the merchandise?
By the way, there’s a reason the sky fellow keeps holding his lightning that way.
You open After Effects and create a solid. Solids are “things” you create other things on.
Then you go to Effect>Generate>Advanced Lightning, and make it a “Two-Way Strike”
Then you add glow and there you have your motherfucking lightning.
I’m pretty sure you’ve seen this lightning around in a thousand videos. He keeps it in his hands in that awkward way because either they were too lazy to keep doing stuff with it or are not savvy enough to know you can edit that shit to make lightning bolts and stuff.
This video, and those who do this stuff, get 1,000,000,000/10 flushes. That’s a billion flushes.
If you want an example of a video with a similar premise done right check this one out:
They actually found a fucking mountain to stand on. The camera works with the band. The focus and colors are beautiful. Most important of all: THEY’VE GOT A STORY. They only needed some people in rags pushing around styrofoam while pretending it’s heavy in a Sisyphus kind of thing. But it engages your mind. You can make assertions out of it. The setting and the stones can mean something to you. That’s the point of making art.