Olathia, The Forest Witch BTS

So a few months ago my friend Chris Emig of the killer Cleveland metal band Olathia contacted me and said that she wanted to shoot a new music video for her original number The Forest Witch. Being such a cool chic and an absolute gem to work with, I was of course all in. The concept was some creepy witchery elements along with some non musical acting and a performance segment shot entirely in the deep woods.

The location was awesome and especially cool because it was at my cousin's place, The Woods Barn & Garden Center. After a location scout, cast selections and schedules aligned, we picked the date.




The song intros in with an in-van perspective as the van breaks down. Here I had a 24" LED tube fixture magnetically fastened to the roof to provide a little more in cabin light. I was in the back shooting forward with my camera mounted up on the gimbal. Tight quarters here so I went with the Sigma Art 28mm. As we brought the vehicle to a smoking broken down mess, courtesy of a cleverly hidden smoke bomb, a quick swap over to the 50mm worked well and I went with some slow motion walking segment into the woods for added drama. A quick overhead shot with the drone for an aerial viewpoint was added. Of course right when I needed it, the drone required a firmware update that rendered it's flying distances and height to 200ft. Aggravated, I shot what I could and moved on. Lesson learned. Ultimately the aerial footage did not make the final cut at all. Bummer.


We started production at around 10:00am and rolled out when it was pitch black. That's a wrap.



There were (3) casted witches and we used them in many scenes. They were great and I think they had a great time flexing their acting chops. Most of their scenes I used a massive diffuser to calm the splotchy sunlight down coming through the tree leaves. Fortunately since I didn't have an assistant on this set, there were tons of super cool people to lend a hand holding up a this small windsail. Some of these scenes required blank static footage for overlays and transitions that I shot while on a tripod. Props were many including, a dog, smoke bombs, feathers, jewelry & mortar & pestle. There were a few scenes where I added the Dutch tilt in post for a disorienting feel. Fair amount of post editing was done for effect for their cuts with speed ramping, surgical frame edits & more. All the witches were a blast to work with and were very patient as the scenes were prepared.  


There were also miscellaneous tree and foliage footage that was shot while walking to emulate a person walking through the woods. I also used a tripod mounted slider for some manually operated slow and smooth creeper type shots of both the forest ground and canopy.



This was a bit tricky as this was at the very end of available daylight so we had to work very fast. Some scenes here depicting the group walking lost and fearful of what they're getting into. Here we decided to do a trick shot (1 of 2) ala 'Jacobs' Ladder' with a creepy fast shaking head. We ran through it a few times knowing that I'd have to speed it up in post to get the effect (along with some other trickery). My neck was virtually hurting watching Joe doing the head shake in real time. I felt bad asking him to do it again....and again. He was great & I think it turned out pretty cool and it added to what was happening to these poor lost souls. We shot right up until dark where my acceptable ISO limits were capping out on my camera. The Canon R5 with LOG3 did excellent with such low light levels. 


Camera / Technical  -
Canon R5
DJI Mavic Air II Drone, 4K 30FPS
Format - 4K DCI 4096x2160, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 59.94fps, 120fs, ALL-I 10-bit, S-LOG 3
Rendered to 4K 30FPS
Ronin-S gimbal
Sigma Art 28mm f/1.4 and Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 lenses
Location - deep woods
Principal shoot & B-roll - 12 hours



This was a long, hot and sweaty job with a pretty big crew. We planned to shoot this in a day so we all had to keep track of the time. Bug spray, extra drinking water, Ibuprofen & vitamin B12 came in handy. This was a physically challenging shoot but when everyone was in the zone, fatigue just took a back seat to creativity and putting together something unique. Everyone was super pumped and in the zone. We went through 5-6 takes on the full length of the song with each and every take Olathia's musicians performed like it was their first. Just rock solid & in the pocket. Fast tracking with the gimbal was at times a little dicey getting tripped up on plants and deadfall. Chris's vocal lip sync was really super tight with the original material and made for much easier post sync. Her artistry & intensity is simply electric. Terry's bass playing & performance was killer as always with his ever fierce face stomping demeaner. Joe's crazy high energy drumming delivered the goods riding on wild hair swings and pained grimaces. Dylan's skilled guitar work was borne on a wave of absolutely non-stop hair flurries and sweeping guitar haymakers. These are musicians that make it easy to get good performance footage. Metal all the way.


It was a bit of a challenge for me to shoot in mid day sunlight and almost complete darkness and maintain a unified 'dark' feel to video. Rather than go for a typical high contrast super black metal vibe, I went with a low contrast, low highlights approach. This gave me the ability to more balance the entire video for a dark feeling without blowing out the lows & highs. A middle gray card was used for a global exposure setting. In the end, the grading went green, orange and a slight blue in the shadows which I think went well for an overall moody & filmic look. The Canon R5 clog3 is quite the rockstar as far as low light and shadow detail. Such an excellent camera.


Olathia's new 'The Forest Witch' full lnegth music video. Stream in 4K.   Olathia at Bandcamp

Trick shot (2 of 2) was during a part of Dylan's lead where I ran a 360 rotate with the Ronin-S gimbal. I think it turned out nicely and played well with the madness that was happening in the video. A camera move that you definitely have to plan & practice. Being deep in the woods it was a bit tricky getting gear and cars on site but combined with the use of a 4 wheeler to get back and forth it worked out nicely & was greatly appreciated. We had a generator to power a PA for audio reference and sync. All lighting for the performance portion was using natural light, bounce and diffusion and thankfully as the time went on, the sun light hot spots were minimal through the trees. We started production at around 10:00am and rolled out when it was pitch black. Principal photography done. On to proxy file conversion and post-edit. That's a wrap. 


Many thanks to all that were involved in this challenging but completely satisfying outdoor shoot and to Olathia for letting me get funky with them. Thanks to Adam Begin Photography for the snapping of some bts images. Special thanks to my cousin Alisa and her husband Dan for the gracious use of their excellent property at In The Woods Barn & Garden Center and for the well needed food and refreshments afterwards. Cheers!


- gabe



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