Behind the Scenes: Happy Music Video

A fellow staff member at my school had a great idea to help celebrate our graduating grade 8 students: make a music video to Pharrell’s “Happy”.

After a few hours of initial planning, we set out to film all the scenes we needed for the video in two days. I’m not sure who had more fun – the two of us doing the filming or the students. For all involved, it is certainly an eye- opening experience to see just how much planning, setup, crowd management and rehearsal goes into filming – all before you’re even rolling! Once we got going, every scene had a minimum of two takes but usually more. Some of our actors and actresses were more outgoing or shy than others but everyone did a great job.

I did most of the camera work. We filmed using my Canon 1D mark IV, the 24-105mm f4L IS USM lens and a monopod. Sometimes we used a rolling office chair as an improvised dolly. We initially wanted more “walk and talk” (or should we say “dance and sing”) shots than we ended up having; however, time and space constraints meant it was a lot easier to be immobile in most scenes. Filming in a variety of locations meant challenges with lighting and needing to do lots of camera settings changes. We opted to use all natural light for ease of filming though, in retrospect, certain locations could have used some additional lighting if we had the luxury of more time to do so.

Editing was done with iMovie on a 21′′ iMac. I sometimes edit on a MacBook Pro but for serious editing – especially a music video where syncing audio with video can be tricky – the bigger screen of a desktop computer really helps make the job easier. For some sequences (like the opening of the video), I would lay down a master shot that lasted quite a while and then overlay cutaway clips but for most of the video it was just cut after cut (and there are a lot of them!). The trickiest part with iMovie was that tweaking the duration of shots early on on the video then impacted all the rest of the shots that came after it. I’m not sure if editing with different software or with a different technique would have helped but I ended up editing linearly as much as I could to avoid the issue. We started editing whenever we had a break during our two days of filming so that we could be sure we were getting what we needed. Editing stretched into a third day that was mostly dedicated to that task – but also to capturing a couple last shots of people that were tricky to schedule or anything that we noticed we still really needed after editing was well underway.

In the end, we were so happy (no pun intended) to have a video that showcased our amazing students as well as various locations around our school. It debuted at our grade 8 graduation ceremony, was also played at our end of year school wide assembly and now lives on to be replayed as many times as desired on our YouTube channel. It was such a great bonding experience and a great souvenir for such a wonderful graduating class. 

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