Unexpectedly mellow and melancholic, "Fireworks" is the lead track off the new album 'Blue' by Echo Bloom. In this exclusive interview, Kyle Evans of the band and filmmaker Gregg McNeill tell us about the cool handiwork behind the LomoKino music video and discover the twosome's modern love for analogue!
Hi, guys! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
GREGG: My name is Gregg McNeill. I’m a Filmmaker, Photographer and Storyteller for Big Baby Production Ltd. My vocation and hobby have joined forces to destroy me. I moved from the US five years ago to a tiny island in the Highlands of Scotland.
KYLE: My name is Kyle Evans. I’m a musician recording under the name Echo Bloom, based in Brooklyn, New York. I’m a Libra and like long walks on the beach… Wait, this isn’t that kind of interview. I like to make things with my hands – music, video, code, and writing.
Why do you still shoot film?
GREGG: I’ve been an analogue shooter for more than 25 years. I’ve shot analogue stills in every format from Minox to 4×5, as well as 16mm, Super 16mm and 35mm and Super 8mm motion picture film. Some of my favorite images come from the simplest analogue tech, like Holgas and hand made pinhole cameras.
As a capture medium, film simply cannot be beat for it’s exposure latitude and, in particular, it’s retention of highlights. The look of film, both black and white and color, lets me express the emotion of an image without a computer getting in the way.
I also like the permanence of the analogue technology. Film cameras were (are) built to last. Many of the cameras in my collection are over 30 years old. My main go-to 35mm cameras are the Nikkormat FT and the Pentax K-1000, as well as the Canon A-1. I also use my 1950’s Minox B every chance I get. I once shot some great 16mm footage on a hand-cranked cinema camera from 1902! Digital cameras from even 10 years ago are little more than paperweights today.
KYLE – A lot of people talk in quasi-mystical terms about analog gear, and I think most of that kind of format worship is counter-productive. I prefer working in analog because it encourages more authenticity. Your mistakes end up getting preserved more often – mostly because they’re a lot harder to remove! But those mistakes – the random flubbed note or the unexpected lens flare – give something this randomized sense of humanity that’s sorely missing from a lot of digital products. It makes everything feel like it was made by an actual human.
What was the inspiration for this LomoKino music video?
GREGG: We were looking for an organic and naturalistic look for this music video. I didn’t think this could be achieved digitally. We considered several analogue options like Super8 and hand cranked 16mm. We settled on the LomoKino after looking at some footage and figuring out a way around some of the less desireable effects of the camera. Most of the early LomoKino footage was handheld and not so fantastic. I reasoned that if we used a tripod and faster cranking, we could get the effect we were after.
KYLE: The album the song is on is called ‘Blue,’ and falls into the genre of orchestral folk. There are lots of guitars, banjos, and string quartets – almost no digital stuff at all. When I started the project I put post-it notes on the wall with adjectives that I used to maintain consistency – the ones that ended up staying on the wall were ‘handmade’ and ‘sacred.’ I was keen to find media that would mirror these artistic themes, and when Gregg came along the LomoKino, I knew we had found it.
From planning to post-production, what was the analogue filmmaking experience like?
GREGG: The technical challenges we faced were pretty huge. First off, we wanted to get as close to a synch sound film as possible. We slowed down the song 300% and broke it up into 7 second chunks, slating each numbered take, 1 take per 35mm roll. Kyle had to learn and perform the slowed down version of the song. We played it back on a computer that we brought to each location.
I only ever had 1 film choice in mind for this project, Kodak Portra. The latitude and forgiveness of this stock was essential for the changeable Scottish weather we would encounter. It was a bit of a challenge to find more than 150 rolls of this Kodak stock in the UK. We eventually sourced all of the stock from Silverprint in London. The shoot lasted 5 days on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Some of our more challenging locations required hikes of an hour of more. The abandoned Lighthouse was a great location, as well as a Chapel ruin from the 1200’s.
The 3 main vocal sections of the song were set in specific locations. Each location would have a different look, determined by the type of shots we used. By changing the position of the camera after each take, I created “dolly” and “crane” moves, one move per location. We shot more than 150 rolls of film for this project. Managing that much film was part of the challenge. We had Portra 400 as well as Portra 160. I added an old pro-pack of Portra 400VC I had lying around as well.
The challenge came in post, when I had to manually adjust the speed of each clip to best match the audio clip. The Final Cut timeline became pretty complex. Jack Quick at LomoLab London was Utterly Brilliant! He worked his ass of to get our footage back to us in a reasonable amount of time. He was also able to do a special transfer for us that omitted the half-frame, so the footage was smoother and less jumpy. The whole story of the production and post process can be read here.
There are 2 effect shots that I’m particularly proud of. The idea is really simple and the result was amazing. The double exposure shots of Kyle were achieved by shooting two separate takes and layering them in post. Kyle would walk forwards for the first take and backwards for the next. The backwards walking shot was reversed in post, sped up or slowed down and layered over the forward walking shot.
KYLE: From my side of the camera, I can add that it’s damn hard playing a song back 4 times slower than it was written. Also, as each take was very brief, it took some focus to get in the right frame of mind for each take. But I had it easy – Gregg did all the heavy lifting.
Describe the LomoKino in five words.
GREGG: Simple. Iconic. Ephemeral. Eminently Filmic.
KYLE: Direct. Immediate. Click – click – click.
What’s the strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic/Lomographic encounter that you have ever had?
GREGG: I was shooting at Edinburgh Castle with the Minox and had a discussion with a guy who refused to believe I was shooting film. He insisted that it was a digital camera and that I was rude for not telling him what kind it was. Some people’s kids…
KYLE: It had to be when I was making the trip over and got stopped at customs. A very skeptical British customs agent made me take the LomoKino out of my bag and prove it wasn’t a danger to the United Kingdom.
What is your dream LomoKino film project?
GREGG: I’d like to shoot a piece with the LomoKino and intercut it with Super8 and Hand-cranked 16mm.
KYLE: I’d like to do a music video where we would film three performances of the song in real-time, and cut back and forth between the three cameras frame-by-frame (1-1, 2-1, 3-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-3, etc.) to create a big running montage.
Any future plans with your LomoKino? Any upcoming projects? What’s in the works and what’s on your mind?
GREGG: I’m shooting a documentary called Medicine’s Dark Secrets in June. It’s about the history of modern surgery and the stories of the people who died at the hands of those early surgeons and became body parts in Forensic Collections. I plan to use the LomoKino to film some of the B-Roll sequences and re-enactments, along with some Super8 and 16mm. Using analogue in this way will really help those bits stand out from the interview portions and craft an overall vintage look to the film as a whole.
KYLE: We’re distributing single frames of film from the shoot with the deluxe LP of the album! Also, we’ve got a concert film we’re in post-production for right now, and we’re going to include some LomoKino cuts in there to mix it up a little.
Your advice to future LomoKino users?
GREGG: Have a plan. Have a tripod. A storyboard is your best friend. Be prepared to throw out your plan and your storyboard, but always keep your tripod.
KYLE: Don’t be afraid to experiment! We had some fun results taping various lenses and filters over the lens to make interesting effects. Also, make sure you’ve got a backup camera.
Enter a new analogue dimension with the LomoKino. Lomography’s own 35mm analogue movie camera allows you to capture action and immortalize your story on film! Shoot 144 frames on any 35mm film and create your own cinematic masterpieces. Want to watch your movie the old-school way? We also offer the LomoKino and LomoKinoscope package!