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In Baby, the ambient bird sounds inspired director Joanna Nordahl to take to the skies, creating a landscape-promo filmed almost exclusively using a drone. 

Four Tet - an electronic/alt-rock artist - is known for being experimental, and when Joanna Nordahl got a chance to direct a second video for him, she knew immediately what she wanted to do. Tapping Andrés Aguilera Morillas to capture the footage, Joanna relied on his expertise  to help make the promo immersive, beautiful, and fantastic. 

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, take a look below. Watch all the way through, or else the interview will spoil one of the best parts.

Four Tet – Baby

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How did this idea take shape? 

Joanna Nordahl: I directed another video for Kieran (Four Tet) called Teenage Birdsong that we shot at his magical audio/visual live shows at Alexandra Palace in London last year. That video featured the very special night out through the eyes of two young vlogging women (artists Josiane Pozi & Constance Balaam) as they were attending Four Tet’s big gig, and in the end, the two heroines were actually be-winged, with these huge birds’ wings coming out their backs (design by Emma Lewis, at Electric Wings), as if the night had transformed them.

We wanted to showcase our beautiful home, and maybe, hopefully, make people appreciate it.

At the time, Kieran and I discussed that the ending of that video should be that the young women would literally take off and fly away from the venue, but we couldn’t make it happen then. So we had the idea of making a follow-up video in the back of our minds for a while, but wanted to make sure it felt as immersive as the first music video. 

In December, Kieran played me Baby, the amazing track from his new album, and I noticed that it featured these subtle bird sounds in it. Coincidentally I’d recently seen young Spanish drone pilot Andrés Aguilera Morillas’ work on Instagram, and it had completely blown my mind. It was like ”that’s it." 

I sent a clip to Kieran and he loved the idea. I reached out to Andres to pitch the concept and get him onboard. We had a great creative vibe and started having these long Skype chats on how to make the video, what types of shots and locations would be needed, what the style of it should be, how to stay away from it feeling too tech or "droney," and feel more like an organic and immersive flight that would gel with the song.

Click image to enlarge
Above: Screenshots from Baby

Can you describe the filming process? 

Andrés Aguilera Morillas: I use a custom made racing drone, specially built to be able to get the movements of the video, as those are impossible to replicate with commercial drones. Most of the clips are actually first takes, because you don’t want to risk the drone too many times on some places where it would be unrecoverable.

In the end, it always comes down to working with great people and allowing everyone to do their thing.

Joanna: Andres collected most of the footage on solo journeys  - allowing us to showcase many corners of the planet, which of course felt really exciting and definitely a condition for the scale of the video.

 

You captured almost everything in-camera. Why did you choose to go with ‘real’ footage rather than special effects?  

Joanna: I really like when music videos move outside what we expect from them visually and emotionally, and in this case I wanted it to feel more like Planet Earth than a promo. But also to feel like something you could play as one of those 10-hour visual backdrop at a rave or live gig, like a trippy immersive infinity loop. Considering Andres’ shooting style is so amazing, we didn’t see a point in adding any artificial scenes. We wanted to showcase our beautiful home, and maybe, hopefully, make people appreciate it.

The production was very non-traditional, but that’s usually the case with music videos. 


What challenges did you encounter as you filmed? 

Andrés: It’s always the same problem, you don’t want to loose signal with the drone, so your position while flying is key. You can completely get blind in a split second. Also, what you see while flying it’s a very low resolution, interference-filled image, so you cannot see much detail!

 

How did you capture the hawk?  

Andrés: The vulture flight was very challenging; we went for it with a very low noise drone so I could get close to it. With regular drones you can disturb them really easy and it’s not advisable.

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Above: Some BTS photos from the set

How did you find these locations? What were some of your favorites?

Andrés: Some of the places are pure luck and others are well-planned places I already knew about. My favorite location was the big waterfall. I was actually on holiday in Indonesia and I brought the drone with me to the waterfall expedition just in case I was able to fly it there. The end result was incredible!

I really like when music videos move outside what we expect from them visually and emotionally, and in this case I wanted it to feel more like Planet Earth than a promo. 


The scenes through the buildings were amazing! How did you manage to get those movements?

Andrés: Buildings are nothing different in terms of flight but they give you a lot of possibilities if you can go inside, so you need to find the line (flight route) that really makes the building shine. Excavating the most interesting line possible, in the fewest takes, with that wow-factor to create an immersive flight takes a lot more planning.

Click image to enlarge
Above: Screenshots from Baby

How did you choose how to stitch these locations together?  

Joanna: I’m always very involved in the editing process, it’s my favorite part of the production when editing to music. For this project, I attached my dear friend Robin Tumpum Peters who is excellent at both editing and VFX which felt very important as we would need to not only work with clips that looked pretty, but that would also make sense in the transitions. 

 Most of the clips are actually first takes, because you don’t want to risk the drone too many times on some places where it would be unrecoverable.

It was a kind of reversed process at times – to find clips that would transition well and then work our way back. The production was very non-traditional, but that’s usually the case with music videos. We also had an ongoing dialogue with Andres about filming certain lines from each location. I really liked that, as it allows us to be free in expression and to experiment. 

Working with Kieran is amazing, he is very open-minded throughout the entire creative process and contributes great ideas. In the end, it always comes down to working with great people and allowing everyone to do their thing. We had all of us trusting in the shared vision.

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