Art By Numbers has been one of my favorite discoveries of 2012. Since I was first turned to them back in May, their album Reticence the Musical has had an endless amount of playthroughs. Their brand of technical jazz-fusion metal with splashes of circus, carried on the wings of Anthony James’ angelic voice creates a gorgeous spin on metal for a listener whose ears may be exhausted from the usual low and heavy.
‘Best Laid Plans’ always stuck out to me on the album because of its heavier focus on the jazz jam band style. I was so excited to see this was their choice for their next video because I really enjoyed their previous video for ‘The Man in the Box.’
The video opens exactly how I hoped it would. Slow crossfades carry you through dimly-lit shots of the band harmonizing and whistling the song’s intro. In this particular song, it’s easy to pick out each ingredient as its added and builds, and the video does a great job at following suit.
While the high-contrast, single-key lighting works well for the intro’s goals, I believe it falls short when the band is performing in full. From what I can tell, the entire video was shot with one light. I was a litte bummed when I realized the whole video would be this dark since the lighting in ‘The Man in the Box’ was the complete opposite.
Whether this was a budget or artistic choice for “Best Laid Plans,” I think some diffusion would have done the lighting well for spread. The high contrast can be a risky route if you are not precise with both the light and band placement. Thing is, they may have intentionally made it this dark to hide the location – you never know for sure. The problem with playing with this many heavy shadows without a backlight or rim light to form the subject’s figure is that you may end up with some dark, unappealing moments such as this:
This is where I believe a change in light position or some diffusion would appeal more. Even rotating the member slightly more towards the light could have avoided the fall into darkness that happens to everything but his face. It seems like a lot of videos that attempt the dark minimalist lighting fall short for this reason.
This single light problem also presents itself in the full band shots.
You can see that only two of the five members are properly lit. This becomes a bummer for people trying to watch a certain instrument or member and even more so for the band. They want to see themselves. The labels want to see them. The fans want to see them. They are the entire product.
Getting off the lighting, the editing is very well paced. As the song picks up at 2:00, the editing bounces along with it stopping only to spotlight each instrument’s snippet of a solo. The formula of the song creates great opportunities for each instrument to shine through and the editor did a good job at seizing each one of them. The color correction, if there is any, is pretty warm and flat. I may just be a sucker for a more surreal look, but it didn’t look like much was polished in that aspect. Like many things, it can come down to preference.
One last thing that really rustled my jimmies.
The entire last minute of the song was cut from the video. This is extremely tragic because the song’s finale is amazing. A lot of fans were confused and annoyed as to why the band or director made this decision. All I can find is that the video is shot for the “KROQ Radio Edit” version of the song. This confused me in a few ways…
Why edit a third of a song out for radio, anyway? I can understand chopping the fat off a 10-minute or 7-minute song for radio use, but why chop a third of a song off when it’s already an average length?
Also, why shoot a music video for that version? Since it’s a relatively simple set up, I think they should have just shot the remaining minute anyway even if it wasn’t planned for use. In that case, they could have at least released a “Director’s Cut” or “Full Song” version after the fact.
There’s probably some shady politics behind the whole situation, but that doesn’t heal the infinite bummers that were had by fans.
I know I wrote a lot about the lighting, but it didn’t bother me as much as my word count might reflect. I was very happy with the video despite the tragedy of its length. It’s a minimalistic video, but it fits the song well, and that’s all a successful music video has to do – whether they achieve it with simple or complicated techniques.
– Great intro.
– Well paced edits.
– Single, dark lighting.
– Last minute of the song was cut from video.