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How’d They Do It: The New Trust’s ‘Marigolds’ Video

Posted by on Apr 11, 2013 | Comments (0)

Santa Rosa trio the New Trust has released a stunning video for “Marigolds,” a song from their forthcoming fifth album, Keep Dreaming. The entire thing is one long, time-lapse shot of flowers sprouting, growing, blooming and then dying. Below, guitarist and photographer Sara Sanger describes the process of making the video, the challenges of photographing plants and why her sister probably now hates both flowers and photography.

The New Trust – Marigolds from The New Trust on Vimeo.

How long did this take to shoot, start to finish?

I started the photography in early November, and finished in March. Almost four months.

What was your setup and process?

I searched seed catalogs for dwarf variety marigolds, as most grow almost 12-18 inches tall and that wasn’t going to work out. I ended up planting a few varieties that I found that grew under 8 inches tall.

I started with a shallow Tupperware storage box, added some drip/soaker tubing underneath the soil, with a tube to get water under the dirt, as opposed to on top. I used a good tripod, a constant source of power for my camera (plugged in direct, battery wouldn’t last more than a half day), and an intervalumeter that was set to take a photo every 10 minutes.

Once the files were done, I found out that Photoshop CS6 has some pretty good basic movie editing capabilities. I was pleasantly surprised by the way that the growth and movement of the flowers moves along with the song pretty well. I had visualized that it might work out, but I don’t have any experience with time-lapse so I really didn’t know. I did not know that plants moved as much as they do, and was really happy to find a lot more motion than I had ever expected.

I shot about twice the amount of frames than I needed. Our song is 3:40, or 220 seconds, so for a standard 30 frames per second I needed 6,600 frames total. I was lucky I had shot more than I needed, since I have found the antique electricity in my house fluctuates pretty wildly—I had to sit and edit out frames that appeared to have less light or more light. Those few days staring at these flowers was hallucination-inducing.

What challenges did you run into making this video?

Some of the basic challenges about photographing from the top of plants are focus—keeping everything in focus despite the fact that the plants were destined to grow almost 8 inches from the start of the project, watering the plants without disturbing the photo too much, and having that many plants in the photo and hoping the composition worked out. Luckily, I have a tilt-shift lens, which let me make a tilted focus plane, so that from the dirt surface to 8 inches tall, despite the shallow depth of field, something would always be in focus. With a flat plane of focus, this really wouldn’t have been possible without adding a ton more light, and changing the depth of field to be less my aesthetic style.

Being a professional photographer, it is in my training to photograph at the highest resolution available to me, so even though I didn’t need to, I shot RAW files on a Canon 5D and even on that older camera, shot about 8GB every three days. Other than watering every day and changing the card every few days, it wasn’t a lot of work when it got started. Not that it was easy at all—within the first week, I’d accidentally bumped the tripod, and had to start over. On the last week, I utterly misplaced the second-to-last card, pretty much most of the cool dying part of the video, and had a totally panicked week of looking everywhere for it. I finally found it in the pocket of a pair of shorts. People who know me will find the fact that I was wearing shorts in late winter (or at all) very confusing. I was confused too; I do not remember wearing the shorts, but that’s what you get when you do photography projects before coffee in the morning.

The whole delicate do-not-touch setup was in my guest room closet, sticking out a bit, when my sister Danielle finally came home from traveling and had to live with it for a whole month. She lived in a room barely big enough for a bed, with the leg of the tripod sticking out into the room, clicking pretty loudly every ten minutes night and day, a light shining out from behind blankets hung over the closet doorway, and me checking in a few times a day to remind her not to bump into it. I’m sure it was really fun for her.

It may seem obvious given the song’s lyrics, but what was the inspiration for this video?

We were on tour in October/November, and in the van planning our record cover and other stuff when it occurred to me to try a stop-motion marigolds project. Lately, I’ve been really into gardening and plants, so it seemed like an interesting thing to try. There’s actually a lot of stop-motion plant stuff out there, but a lot of it is shot from the side of the plant, which from an aesthetic standpoint is probably more interesting than photographing a plant from the top, but for some reason the top angle appealed to me despite its challenges.

“Marigolds” was a song built from a bass part that Josh Staples had written a very long time ago. (The way he describes it, a very long Neurosis-obsessed 20 years ago.) I have no clue why he suddenly decided to put the song together with us, 10 years into our time being a band, but it worked pretty quickly for Julia Lancer and I. For this record we’re about to release, it was one of the last songs that we put together (some in the recording studio), so on the drive back from recording in Chicago with Steve Albini, it was one we felt pretty proud of, and were thinking about a lot. It was easy for me to come up with the idea, since Josh’s lyrics do lead to this pretty well. Another reason I still look forward to driving across the country is the amazing amount of time you have to think. I don’t think I would have had the idea if we didn’t have some longer drives.

Lyrics:
Marigolds

When I die, let it be in the field
This land’s been good to me
Let the next crop come through me

Let my flesh feed first the animals
Give the beasts their fill to start
Let the victor take my heart

With what remains, let the soil be fortified
Let my last cell decompose
To spring forth marigolds

How did you get that one flower in the center to so perfectly tell the story of the song?

As far as where the flowers ended up growing, I had little control over it. The one “late bloomer” yellow flower in the left center of the frame irritated me so much as I was editing, refusing to bloom right where I had the best focus, but any gardener will attest, you have to love the loss of control, or you just won’t love plants. I started attributing personalities to them as I was editing, going so far as to actually feel sad for them as they died. I really spent too much time looking at them.


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