Editing RHCP's Brendan's Death Song with Premiere Pro
COW Library : Adobe Premiere Pro : Debra Kaufman : Editing RHCP's Brendan's Death Song with Premiere Pro
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have had lots of hits and hit music videos, but making "Brendan's Death Song" had a special resonance for the band -- and everyone who worked on it. For the rock group, the song was homage to Brendan Mullen, a longtime friend of the band members. Founder of The Masque, a seminal punk club in Hollywood, Brendan also was one of the first promoters to give the band its start in 1983. When he died, the Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted to pay their respects and give him the send-off he deserved.
What could be more appropriate and heartfelt than a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral march, with the members of the Chili Peppers playing the song as they slowly make their way down the street to the cemetery?
They gave the job of shooting "Brendan's Death Song" to director Marc Klasfeld, founder of Rockhard Films, who has also directed music videos for Katy Perry, Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Nelly, Kid Rock, Sum 41, Avril Lavigne, Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley, The Script, Ludacris, Eminem, Enrique Iglesias, Justin Timberlake, and Jewel among others.
Before Klasfeld went on location to New Orleans to shoot the music video he called Bill Yukich, an editor he'd worked with frequently. "I was stoked," said Yukich. "First, although I'd worked frequently with Marc, I'd never worked with the Red Hot Chili Peppers before. Second, Marc shot the music video on location in New Orleans...with 16mm film. Almost everything I get lately is shot digitally, but I will always prefer film."
There was a third reason why Yukich was excited: "Brendan's Death Song" would also be his first chance to cut a project with his new editing tool of choice, Adobe Premiere Pro. Yukich has cut hundreds of music videos since the early 1990s, starting with the Avid Media Composer in the pioneering days of nonlinear editing. "It was 1992, and I remember the Avid was in a room under a tarp," he recalled. "Everyone regarded it as the magic machine. I stayed up all night teaching myself how to use it. It was a big step up from the other digital editing systems out there at the time."
Bill Yukich has cut hundreds of music videos since the early 1990s.
Yukich used the Avid Media Composer for 15 years, but switched to Final Cut Pro when Apple added a multi-cam option. Things went swimmingly for a while. "But when Apple came out with FCP X, I realized the company had abandoned the professional market in favor of the consumer market," he said. "I needed to find an alternative."
It can be stressful to use a new tool on a job, but Yukich said that using Adobe Premiere on "Brendan's Death Song" made the job easier and faster. "One of the best features of Adobe Premiere, hands down, is that I never had to do a tutorial," he said. "I jumped right in and it couldn't have been any better than that. I hadn't even looked at Premiere in 10 years, and I was able to just sit down and start cutting with it. The interface was familiar, all the tools laid out exactly where they should have been. I customized a few keyboard commands, but it was easy to sit down and drive the software...so easy, I couldn't believe it at first."
Because the music video is both a death march and a celebration of life, Yukich wanted to hold on a shot and allow the emotion and progression to develop, always a challenge editorially. "The good thing is that the software disappeared for me and I was able to just concentrate on the pacing," he said. "I really like using Adobe Premiere's timeline editing, which I find to be better than FCP's." Yukich also enthuses over the hover-scrub feature, which allowed him to easily see the bins and make thumbnails larger. That's not all. "There's another cool feature which is when I hover-scrub on the clip in my clip monitor, it's automatically also sent to the client monitor, so my client can see what I'm doing as well," he said. "I'm sharing it with the client at the same time, which is really great."
Doing speed effects on a clip in the timeline was a simple apply effect, and the synch remained perfect. Genius.
Yukich also was enthusiastic on doing speed effects on a clip in the timeline, a feature he also declared was superior to FCP. "Say I make the clip 450 percent slower," he said. "In FCP, I'd have to lock the channels and move the clip to an empty channel or it will knock everything out of synch. With Premiere, all I do is apply the effect and it doesn't change the synch of anything before or after. It's genius."
On "Brendan's Death Song," Yukich also used Adobe Prelude to ingest all the footage. "That was an amazing experience because the interface was really intuitive," he said. "I used it to break down and organize the footage, mark clips and make comments. The great thing is that it's not limited to the editor or assistant editor. The director, producer can also use Prelude to make notes and comments, make select reels, and that gives me useful information. Prelude has a lot of potential, and I'm introducing my clients to it. In the past, they'd have to have a copy of FCP and know how it works. Prelude is very easy for them to use."
The band wanted an organic pace to the video, which meant holding on shots much longer than one would typically do. It was classic old school editing, finding emotional moments and holding on to them, while still maintaining a nice flow.
Yukich returned to the main challenge of editing "Brendan's Death Song." "The band wanted an organic approach to the music video, so there was a lot of holding on shots past where you'd usually move on it," he said. "To maintain that organic pace for almost two-and-a-half minutes was fairly challenging. It was classic old school editing, finding moments that conveyed emotion, holding on them and making sure they all had a nice flow moving towards the end goal. The beauty was that, by using Adobe Premiere, I could just focus on editing and the technology just worked."
With the example of "Brendan's Death Song," the strengths of Adobe as a solution rise to the fore. Yukich relied on Adobe's complete suite of tools including Adobe Premiere Pro, Prelude and SpeedGrade, which provided a seamless workflow. It's telling that someone who has been in nonlinear editing since its earliest days is now an Adobe convert. It's certainly proof that Adobe Premiere Pro has come of age, and that more editors looking for solutions will gravitate to it.
Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Brendan's Death Song (Official Music Video Extended Version)
Title Photo: Brendan's Death Song | New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by David Mushegain