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Director Jeremy Rall interview

Innovative, visionary and vividly imaginative describe the work of critically acclaimed director and photographer Jeremy Rall.

Born in Bay City and raised in Lansing, Michigan, Jeremy has gone on to direct a multitude of notable and award winning music videos working with such artists as Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Jay-Z, Chingy, Beenie Man, Talib Kweli, Kelly Rowland, Sean Paul and Floetry.

Jeremy's photography has been shown around the world in various galleries, books and publications, and was recently featured in the LAX 100x100 show and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles - Fresh Auction. Jeremy’s short film Keys of Life has garnered critical acclaim winning awards, including Best Short and Best Cinematography, in over 25 domestic and international film festivals.

Keys of Life was selected for the BMW Films / Urbanworld Black Film Restoration Project and more recently to air on BET ’s The Best Shorts Showcase 2008. Jeremy also produced a short documentary Stories of Work & Survival: A Public + Artist Project in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles on the creative process of activist / artist Suzanne Lacy.

R.Kelly - Radio Message | Director: Jeremy Rall | Shot on 5D & 7D

Alex Maragos: • So Jeremy, you're directing some of the highest profile artists in the industry like R.Kelly, Snoop Dogg & Jay-Z to name a few. What's your camera of choice for their music videos and why?

Jeremy Rall: Until a few years ago, I was shooting most of my work on 35mm. My first job digitally was with the RED. I shot T-Pain’s “Reverse Cowgirl” with the PHANTOM, utilizing it for performance and the visuals. I wanted to create a dreamlike state in super-slow-motion. Much of it was shot at 1600fps. The performance was even shot at 48fps. More recently I’ve been shooting with the RED MX. The latitude and range that the Mysterium X chip delivers is phenomenal.

Behind the scenes of R. Kelly's new music video Radio Message

• You shot R.Kelly's new music video "Radio Message" on 5D & 7D. Why you decided to go with HDSLRs instead of other cameras? How many of your music videos have you shot on HDSLRs?

I have been shooting Canon’s forever. My still photography package now is 5D, I have been a big fan of that camera since it’s inception. Since the 5D mark ii came out I was in awe at its video capabilities. I need to upgrade, it’s just that my 5D is a workhorse and shoots like a champ. Before the R. Kelly video, I shot a friends art installation on the 5D. It was pretty simple, looked great. R. Kelly’s "Radio Message" was the first music video I shot with the 5D and 7D.

I knew I wanted to really take the 5D mark ii through the paces and shoot a job on it. “Radio Message” had its challenges – multiple locations, interiors, exteriors, driving shots, cityscapes, etc. I wanted to be able to move fast from set-up to set-up, have multi-camera coverage on performance / narrative elements, all on a limited budget.

I had a conversation with my DP COLIN WATKINSON about shooting on the 5D and 7D, he had just finished shooting a Mercedes spot with them and we hammered out logistics. What sold me was our conversation at the driving shots and how we could mount 4 cameras on the car, drive our route. Stop and re-mount with ease. We were able to capture the driving sequences with incredible coverage in a short period of time.

R.Kelly - When a Woman Loves | Dir: Jeremy Rall | Shot on RED ONE MX

• What was your camera settings on "Radio Message"?

I believe we shot most everything at 24fps on 5D and 60fps on the 7D’s I’m not sure of shutter.

• Are you shooting with any particular picture style? For example Technicolor's CineStyle is a very popular style these days with a really "flat look" that gives you lots of space to work in post.

What I learned is with digital and in particular the Canon cameras is “what you see is what you get.” I went to the locations quite a few times with my DP COLIN WATKINSON and production designer Susan Linss to both assess the lighting, color palette and overall design. We actually used the monitors as our base grade. We would light it and tweak on set. I did take it into color grading at FIlmWorkers Club in Chicago with Tyler Roth. We worked on the Baselight System for our final grade. Overall the native h264 that the Canon shoots, builds in a lot of contrast and ultimately you have some, not a lot of latitude for adjustments.

• Do you think that your previous environment as a photographer helped you as a music video director? Is there any particular skills that you've taken from the photography world and you brought to the music video world?

Yes, as a photographer you learn to communicate with a single image. It’s all about creating a visual language that you develop to tell a story – the combination of angle, light, depth, etc. Most of the skills I learned through photography have carried over. Composition, lens choice and the relationship of subject to camera.

• A music video director must have the ability to tell little stories in a very short amount of time. What are the key-ingredients for a good music video?

Imagination, planning and vision.

Floetry - Say Yes | Director: Jeremy Rall | Shot on 35mm ARRI 435

Visit: Jeremy Rall | Jeremy Rall Blog
Read also: Camera set up of R. Kelly's Radio Message

Interview: Alexandros Maragos