Pushing Boundaries with Marilyn Manson
Wolf, Jennifer, American Cinematographer
The music video for Marilyn Manson's "Slo-Mo-Tion," directed by Manson and shot by Alan Lasky, utilizes motion effects captured in-camera to create a dynamic look that pushes the boundaries of digital cinematography. Shot primarily on P+S Technik's PSCam X35, the video is a literal realization of the song's refrain, wherein Manson chants, "This is my beautiful show, and everything is shot in slo-mo-tion." Manson worked closely with Lasky, who also served as the visual-effects supervisor, to create the complex motion effects, many of which depended on sophisticated motion-vector analysis and complex mathematical algorithms.
With an undergraduate degree in film from New York University and a master's in media technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lasky has consulted for a number of camera companies over the years, including P+S Technik and Dalsa. A veteran of music-video cinematography, he first collaborated with Manson on "No Reflection," the first video from Bom Villain. "The great thing about working with Manson is that he is not afraid to utilize all of a camera's potential functionality," Lasky says. "What's more, he'll always say, ? want to push it way, way, way, way further.' Once we decoupled ourselves from the standard model of rock-video production, we were able to push the technology and get into an experimental side of filmmaking that is fun and exciting - and kind of dangerous, too.
"What's really cool about the X35 is that not only does it allow you to capture up to 500 fps with a full-frame sensor and global shutter, but it also enables you to shoot time-lapse, alter frame rates, do speed ramping, and change and manipulate the shutter in really interesting ways," Lasky continues. He notes that Manson dislikes using greenscreen and common compositing techniques. "He loves image processing and would much rather get it in-camera. He's about manipulating images, not assembling them."
Using a style known as glitch art, a technique related to data moshing, Lasky and editor/visual-effects artist Richard Piedra applied optical-flow analysis techniques to material captured with the PSCam X35 in order to create artifacts within the footage. "Basically, you take an image-processing algorithm and destabilize it in order for it to do something that it was never designed to do, " says Lasky. "Once you knock the foundation out from under the fundamental algorithm, the resulting imagery is the embodiment of what we call the glitch. The visual artifacts that result from the destabilization of the algorithm can be very interesting, and they're something you couldn't get any other way. We wanted to fundamentally destabilize the optical-flow analysis and the timing interpolation in such a way that we could get these artifacts that might look really cool."
Lasky shot the material at 6 fps with a 360-degree shutter, capturing the footage to solid-state drives as uncompressed QuickTime 10-bit files using Blackmagic Design's Hyperdeck recorder. The images began to blur, becoming "jerky and strange looking," he says. "The camera was essentially allowing us to manipulate time. We shot the material and then brought that footage in for some fairly sophisticated motion-vector analysis. Then we took that output, the underlying motion-vector map - in other words, a mathematically derived vector map of the motion of the pixels in the frame - and started experimenting. "
When Manson saw the results, he suggested shooting some of the images using ultraviolet light. "We had no idea if that would work at all," Lasky recalls. "We didn't know the UV cutoff point of the sensor or the phosphor levels, so we had to go in and run some tests. …