Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Split Screens

Music videos are expensive, so it seems logical that record labels would not want to pay for them twice. But yet they do. A couple times a year, labels choose to re-shoot entire videos because they are not happy with the clip they got the first time around. Obviously this happens only for artists and/or songs the labels are really high on. This includes big stars like Kanye and Pharrell but also baby artists that the label wants to support (because they have signed them to big contracts, because they have powerful managers or simply because they like their potential).

Here are two different versions of the video for the song "Angel" by Pharrell of his 2006 solo release. The first version was never finished, as you can tell by the time code in the corner and the unfinished post effects. I believe this was directed by Little X, or Mr. X as he sometimes goes by these days. The clip seems fine, but obviously the label (or the artist or the manager) was not happy. I'm not sure why, since I was not involved in this project, but it could be something major (We wanted dance numbers) or seemingly minor (The artist looks too old/fat/tired). The reason they re-shot this particular clip is even murkier when you see the "new" version they did.

This is the version that got released to music television, directed by Hype Williams. Why go to Hype when you didn't like the X version confounds me. These two videos are not significantly different. The lighting and colors and hoochies are new - but why pay so much more for a whole new one? I don't know. The labels paid big bucks to get Hype, and then the video got very little run on TV anyway.

Up next is a video by "Mr. Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" himself - Kanye West. In 2005 he released a song called "Heard Em Say" and he originally commissioned Michel Gondry to do the video. Kanye pretty much makes his own decisions on videos and I have heard (though I have zero personal knowledge of this) that Kanye spends his own money on videos and then charges the labels to use them to promote his music. (This is actually something I want to write about more, later on.)

Kanye shot the first version with Michel Gondry in NYC and Gondry did his stop-motion child-like wonder thing. Gondry is one of those guys who is very respected, especially amongst the white, film-school kids who comment on websites like antville and other places. There is a cool article here about the process of Gondry making the video. The final video, in my opinion, is an "okay" version of the Gondry thing - not great but certainly in the wheelhouse of what one might expect when you give the Frenchman some money.

Now, while this video is being finished - stop motion animation means a long post process - Kanye decides he wants another video for the track. Why? I dunno. Maybe he didn't like the look of what Gondry was doing. Maybe he thought it was taking too long and radio was already playing the single so he couldn't wait. Maybe he realized that French storybook visuals might not play in the hood (though, who in the hood is into songs with Adam Levine on the hook, I'm not sure). In any event, Kanye does a new version of the clip with a simple b/w performance and animation by Bill Plympton.

When video production companies and directors wonder why the labels cannot come up with more money to do a two-day shoot instead of a one-day rush-fest for some artist - they all remember that the labels spent twice on clips like these.

Are the "new" videos better than the original ones? Are they worth the dough? What do you think?

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