Exploring the incomparable work of director Éli Sokhn and how they got a team of 100+ people on the same page across different countries
An all-star cast of EDM superstars, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, KSHMR, and Alok have joined forces with director Éli Sokhn for the official music video for ‘Reunion’, celebrating the 4th anniversary of Garena Free Fire – one of the world’s most downloaded mobile games.
“FILMING during Covid in 3 different countries is a logistical nightmare, but we created a beautiful solution around it.”Oz Ozmen – Head of Production at BADASS KID
It all started when the agency Y-IMAGE PARIS reached out to BADASS KID in LA through supervising producer Linda Chiu, with a really cool brief; Creating a music video and commercial hybrid that would announce the 4th year anniversary of “Free Fire” to the public. But there was a big challenge there.. It involved 4 of the world’s top EDM artists that were all in different parts of the world. And to add to the challenge, were closed borders because of the COVID pandemic, so traveling to film was not an option, and add to that, dealing with different timezones and different languages did not make the process any easier.
“My goal was to streamline the director’s vision to all the key players between Los Angeles, Belgium, Brazil, France & China. At the same time I was the lead producer for our Los Angeles show”Laith Souqi – Producer at BADASS KID
WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
Director Éli Sokhn had pretty ambitious ideas on how to tell the story based on the script that creative director André Almeida wrote. And let’s just say it contained plenty of seamless transitions that connected all the artists from different countries together, lots of VFX, and cool specialty shots fitting for a music video. So the producing team at BADASS KID had to get everyone involved on the same page and speaking the same language.
HOW DID THEY SELECT THEIR INTERNATIONAL TEAMS?
In a series of interviews, Y-IMAGE PARIS helped source and find top teams in Belgium and in Brazil, with the main team being headquartered in Los Angeles under BADASS KID leadership.
Cinematographer Doug E. Porter was relaying all creative and technical information to his teams in Belgium under the leadership of cinematographer Bjorn Charpentier and producer Laurent Dillen from Bozon, and in Brazil under the leadership of cinematographer Alexandre Baxter and producer Leonardo Veras from Quarteto Films.
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
To get everyone on the same page Éli and cinematographer Doug E. Porter shot-listed and storyboarded the script first, then they timed it shot by shot, going over lenses, shot size, camera movement, equipment needed, diagrams, and other notes they had.
The process was pretty tedious, and because of the possible logistical problems that may arise from shooting over 3 countries, the duo decided on filming the video on their phone based on the storyboards, and that was necessary to nail down the timing of each shot. In this video, you can see Doug use a probe lens on a DSLR to figure out and plan one of the shots.
The director then edited an animatic of the full video with accurate timing that would sync the music to the picture – You can watch it here
The storyboards played a major role in terms of not only nailing down the shots and the visual language but also as a communication tool for all the departments of the film, from camera, production design, and art direction, to wardrobe props and especially VFX.
POST-PRODUCTION, VFX & COLOR
Towards the end, the VFX team at Yhellow lead by Lorenzo Diego, who was also editor on the project, worked on the boards with great detail and delivered the shots so the team could finish the edit right on time for the launch of the campaign.
After that, the film was then sent to COMPANY 3 and handed to Tyler Roth for color grading. And the approach was to create a look that is grounded in reality yet feels cinematic and highlights the artists in their respective environments.
“STORYBOARDS WERE ESSENTIAL IN COMMUNICATING THE VISUAL LANGUAGE TO THE CLIENT AND MAKING SURE EVERYONE KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT WE’RE DOING”Éli Sokhn – Director at BADASS KID
The team then created a scout reference where they had stand-ins recreate the shots from the storyboards along with art direction notes from the actual locations.
“I HAD TO BE VERY SPECIFIC WITH MY TEAM BECAUSE THERE WAS A TRANSITION IN ALMOST EVERY OTHER SHOT”Éli Sokhn – Director at BADASS KID
REMOTE DIRECTING & PRODUCING
The team had to figure out a method that is efficient enough to translate all information with very minimal lag, and connect the main production team in LA with their secondary teams in Belgium and Brazil, and then connecting the agency in Paris and the client in China with them who were monitoring the shoot remotely.
Overnight shoots can be exhausting and the timezone differences were posing a serious challenge, luckily with plenty of Redbull and coffee the team stayed awake and delivered. Of course with the occasional meetings the director had to take between takes to stay alert. You can watch his important meetings here.
“Directing remotely is not a fun thing, but we made it work! there’s nothing as exciting as being on set AND feeling the ENERGY for better decisions “Éli Sokhn – Director at BADASS KID
In this production, each shoot had at least 3 countries involved; It wasn’t only Eli connecting with Brazil and Belgium, in LA we were connecting with other countries during principal shooting as well. During our LA shoot, we connected with our agency in Paris and client representative in China via zoom.
We wanted our client to see what the camera sees directly. For that we dedicated two computers to remote team members.
First computer was connected to the camera – we used a USB Capture card from Magewell that connected the SDI output of the camera to a computer, and over zoom, we selected that input as a webcam, thus enabling the zoom attendees to see the camera feed and on the other computer it was us, hosting our client.
Below is a diagram of how the producers set it all up
“It is always a pleasure to see how other production companies find solutions. We created a collaborative space for all the producers from other countries to get together and tackle things together. We were so lucky to work with our partners – whom went above and beyond to accomplish our visiON”Oz Ozmen – Head of Production at BADASS KID
And to end this article we’re going to leave you with this video that shows what remote directing is in action
Caution – watch at your own risk
Thanks to director Eli Sokhn for all those great insight! Don’t miss to follow him and to check the BADASSKID website, more will come soon!