The Making of The Music Video for “Troubled Son”
Daniel Glen Timms, a Louisiana-native recording artist now based in Nashville, discusses the making of his new music video for his song “Troubled Son” from his new album “Life’s An Illusion” on Blue Earth Records.
Besides writing, performing and producing his own music, Daniel Glen Timms also enjoys making his own music videos. He first began making music videos on his first album and having learned much about how to do it by just doing it, this time around he has created his vision of what the songs express in his new music videos.
Today, technology has given artists the ability to create music videos without breaking the bank. The DSLR high definition cameras that have come out in the last few years have really taken the quality available to a new level. Additionally, this high definition digital technology has caused the prices for used 35mm motion picture film cameras to drop dramatically and he was able to find an Arriflex IIC camera in good working condition. These German-made cameras use to be the standard for 35mm film and more recent motion picture film cameras are still based on the same design.
So, with his Canon T2i and Arriflex IIC in hand, he dove into creating his first music video from his new album for his song “Troubled Son.” He recently completed four new music videos for songs from his new album “Life’s An Illusion.”
For the “Troubled Son” music video, he had the images in his mind that he wanted to capture to help tell the story of this song. After finally finishing the album, for which he was in the studio for about 7 months completing, he took a breath and started thinking about how to approach it, while not spending too much money. Then he woke up one morning and a big snowstorm had turned the hollow where he lives into a winter wonderland. It was stunning to look at and it inspired him to start shooting that morning. If you watch the video, you will see how dramatic it looked and he thought it was perfect to express what he felt in the writing and recording of the song.
At that point the entire narrative of the music video began playing in his head. The first thing he wanted to do was to shoot himself playing in this wintry scene, then wait for spring and shoot the same shots with green grass and flowers. This to him expressed the lyric of the song in a most profound way. The problem with trying to shoot on such quick notice with the snowstorm and icy roads is nobody else was available that day to play the instruments, so he decided to film himself playing all of the instruments in the music video. By creating a composite video this could be done, but it did require a lot of effort to get right. For two days while the snow was still on the ground, he filmed himself in five different costumes, in different locations, with the various instruments at different angles. He said by the end of getting these shots, he was physically exhausted, but he was happy that he did it that way. He even set up the drums in the middle of the field and thankfully his drum set survived with no damage. After about 3 weeks, spring came around and the grass turned green and the flowers came out in all of their glory. Tennessee has some of the most beautiful wildflowers you have ever seen. He shot the same characters, at the same locations and angles, with the same costumes, in order to cut between the two and to have the dramatic effect of playing the instruments in the winter and spring simultaneously.
Another shot that he wanted to do was to have himself running through a field of flowers as the camera follows alongside him. This would be the shot that would go through the whole video. Getting this shot to look right posed several difficulties. The first being finding a location that would work. It had to be a field of relatively tall flowers and it had to be in a location where the 35mm film camera could be set up in the back of the truck while the truck drove alongside, while he was running. Additionally, the road needed to be smooth asphalt and not bumpy, and preferably in a place where there was not much traffic., as well as, having natural lighting that would work, and a good angle from the back of the truck. He drove for many hours around middle Tennessee looking for the perfect place to shoot. Then, on the second day of driving, he started driving down the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. Used by American Indians, “Kaintucks”, settlers, and future presidents, the Old Trace played an important role in American history. If you ever get a chance, Daniel states that you should drive, bike or hike on the parkway in the spring or fall, as the colors can be breathtaking.
He drove for about 45 minutes south of Nashville along the parkway and found a great place with all of the things needed to get the shot. He revisited the site the next day in late afternoon to determine when the window of opportunity would be for the lighting to be right, as there were tall trees on each side of the field and shadows formed when the sun went behind the trees, and the light during the middle of the day was too bright. He determined that there was about 20 minutes in the late afternoon where it would work. Also, by shooting it during the week, there was very little traffic and they could use the asphalt road of the parkway without any problems.
This shot of him running through the field of flowers ended up turning out great and he was very pleased with the film footage that he got and it ended up being something he could keep going back to in the narrative of the music video that was simply stunning on film. Although this shot also required a lot of time and effort, he thinks it was the perfect metaphor and those yellow flowers almost looked like Van Gogh had painted them. The quality of 35mm film is really unbeatable. He said that was the most he had sprinted that much in a long time, especially with a dark-colored heavy wool coat on which helped him stand out in the field of yellow flowers.
During the wait for spring to come, he did other shoots to help tell the story, as well. The shot of him standing on the old railroad bridge on the river with the cabin in the background was accomplished by doing much research online to find the perfect old bridge, including using Google Earth extensively. The train shots also helped keep the story line moving and provided him with more visually stunning footage for the music video. For this bridge shot, he finally found the perfect bridge online, which was about 90 miles from where he lives just outside of Nashville.
Daniel woke up at 3 a.m. in the morning and drove there with his camera to make sure he was shooting at twilight when the light is magical. After finding a place to park his car, he climbed two fences, walked across a cow pasture and down a river embankment in the dark to find a good spot to set up his tripod and Canon T2i camera. He climbed back up to the bridge and walked out to the middle and prayed that a freight train would not come around the corner, which would have left him with two options: to run along the narrow beam to get off the bridge or to jump into the river. Neither option was attractive, although it may have made great video footage. Thankfully, a train did not come and he was able to get the shot. When he returned home and downloaded the footage, he was stunned at how great it looked. The rustic old bridge really reflects the sound and lyric of the song. For the train shots, he wore his old letter jacket from high school to help portray himself as a young man. Several of the other shots in the music video were done at dawn when the lighting was divine and there was generally nobody around to hassle him while he was shooting. There are other shots in the music video with this lighting, as well. Tennessee is a naturally beautiful place and he tries to take advantage of the natural beauty that you can find there, when filming his music videos.
Having captured much footage of him playing the instruments in the snow, then spring, and the additional bridge, train, and field of flowers footage, he still had other shots that he wanted to get for the music video. If you listen to his song “Troubled Son,” it has a spiritual message in it and he had a vision of him playing his guitar in front of a large stained glass. So, he started searching all over Nashville at churches and other places, including Union Station downtown, to find a large stained glass in which he could stand in front of and play. This combination of requirements could not be found anywhere in Nashville. Although there were some beautiful large stained glasses at different locations in Nashville, they were all too high up to execute the shot properly. When he was in Europe before, he was lucky enough to visit many of the spectacular cathedrals there and this may be why he had this image for the song in his mind.
At that point he gave up on the idea for the stained glass and went forward with his other idea of a shot he was planning to do in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which is about a 4 hour drive to eastern Tennessee from Nashville. He realized that he would be going through Knoxville, Tennessee on the way, so he searched online for stained glass there, and lo and behold, he found a beautiful church in downtown Knoxville called St. John’s Cathedral. He called the church and made the unusual request to shoot in their cathedral for his music video. The kind lady said they had never had that request before and said she would ask the priest. She called him back and said that they listened to the song and it would be no problem. He asked her how much would it cost, and she said he could do it for free. He was elated and says he will be eternally grateful to the people at St. John’s Cathedral for helping him to get his vision into his music video. As the saying goes, it never hurts to ask and by doing so, it really fit perfectly with the lyric and looks beautiful.
Daniel brought along an assistant to help him with the shoot at the church and the Smokey Mountains. They woke up early and drove to Knoxville, this time with the 35mm film camera, as well. When they arrived at the church, he was thrilled that there were two large stained glasses in the cathedral that he could stand in front of and play. The stained glass and the cathedral were constructed in the 1880’s and it was beautiful. After much effort of getting the lighting right and footage that you can see in the music videos, they headed out to the Smokey Mountains. They arrived in the nick of time to get the footage in the music video just as the sun was going down. After completing these shoots, he drove back to Nashville and they ended up doing an 18-hour long day. The music video was starting to turn into a short film. However, from his previous experiences, he knew that having plenty of footage to choose from during editing makes all the difference.
He realized that he really needed the main performance footage for the music video to build around and he had all of the narrative footage he was hoping for to complete the video. So, he decided to set up a shot to be filmed in front of his old barn on his property. He had set up a photo shot, which became the image on the compact disc and the tray, where he had old signs, statues and other items to give it an earthy look, which reflects the nature of his music. He also shot his performance on the deck of his home. When he reviewed the footage, he got a kick out of seeing that one of his dogs and one of his cats were in the shot, almost on cue. He thinks his dogs and cats are ready for Hollywood, because they seem to understand when he is filming and they seem to like being in his music videos. Daniel said “Next they are going to want their own trailer and makeup artist.”
With a camera operator and production assistant, he set up the barn shot and filmed with the 35mm film camera, again. Since film is so expensive to shoot with, develop and scan to digital for editing, he had to get it right the first time. Thankfully, it turned out good and he was very happy with the footage. This was the first time he had ever shot with film and it was nerve racking to do, since you really don’t know how it turned out until the film is sent off to be developed and scanned. He said it was a thrill when it came back and looked great.
For the opening sequence, he really wanted to have a helicopter shot of a train and after a long search, he was able to find some great footage that fit perfectly. Also, the footage of him in the train looking out the window was shot on the Nashville Star commuter train. His friend and he got on the train with his digital camera and tripod and the train car was completely empty, which made it perfect for the lyric and feeling he was going for in the music video, not to mention the actual logistics of shooting with the camera. He ended spending about 200 hours editing all of the footage with Final Cut Pro on his Macbook Pro computer and it really came out the way he wanted it to and how he envisioned it before starting. Daniel said he has grown to love making music videos, as it is an excellent way to help get his artistic vision out there. For him, expressing himself as a recording artist and songwriter is what it is all about. It is also very rewarding when you can upload it to YouTube and people from all over the world can watch it and he has found many new fans this way. He’s going to be submitting it to GAC and CMT for possible airplay, as well. If you go to their websites and request that they play the music video for “Troubled Son,” it may influence them and he would be grateful. After completing the music video for “Troubled Son,” he has recently made three more music videos from the new album. He encourages you to go to his website to view them at www.danielglentimms.com.
For recording artists today and with the available high quality cameras at an affordable price, it really opens the door to create your vision to go along with your music, at least for him it does. It is, however, not as easy as it looks. This article certainly reflects the level of work that is required to produce a music video of this quality. He’s hoping to make music videos for all ten songs from his new album. He finds it is also a great way for people to connect to his music, whether they are from Nashville or Siberia, if they have internet access they can watch them. This is one of the best things going for a recording artist these days and he’s happy that he’s able to make music videos for his fans to see. With touring costs being so high these days, it helps and he find that it is another excellent way for him to get his music out to the four corners of the Earth for anyone who wants to hear his songs and see his music videos.
You can view the “Troubled Son” music video here, as well as, all of his music videos on the Blue Earth Records YouTube channel. He recommends watching the high definition versions. Also, check back soon, as he’s planning on making more.