Video Chats: Warren Fu on "Soothe My Soul" by Depeche Mode
Posted by Doug Klinger on April 12, 2013 in Interviews
Music video ratios usually range from 16:9 to extremely wide. However, director Warren Fu took it all the way past 4:3 and used a square aspect ratio for the sexy and disorienting "Sooth My Soul" by Depeche Mode. We talked to Warren about the concept behind the video, his new technique called "cropping," and the magic of Bing.
Doug: How did you get involved with the project?
Warren: My rep Nicole O'Connell sent me the track and brief with the note: "It's a good one." I had been completely booked on a few projects at the time, but I had to give it a shot. Although I'm not the biggest die-hard Depeche fanatic, they were one of the first "cool" bands I had ever heard outside of mainstream pop. My older and younger brother are both super fans, so in a way, I also wanted to do this for them. (Actually, I did it for me, so I could rub it in their stupid faces.)
Doug: What was behind the use of the square aspect ratio and how was it executed?
Warren: I had been looking at a lot of large format film photography and glass plate negatives at the time, and I think that influenced my decision to try out something with a different aspect ratio. The song felt like a return to form for Depeche Mode, and I wanted to bring back the "sexy" aspect of their music. So it's the opposite of a wide-screen epic. It's confined, intimate, and voyeuristic, as if you're watching something you shouldn't be.
Macro photography was used in creating a visceral experience. The goal was to make you feel the sweat, tension, and hair standing on end. I also liked the idea of things becoming abstractions when they are in extreme close up, and the use of black and white also helps confuse the viewer as to what exactly they are looking at. I had the shots spinning so that the viewer loses a sense of what direction is up or down, and having the equal square aspect ratio reinforces this better than a widescreen. We actually had a super extreme close up of an "innie" belly button with shadows that created the optical illusion of a nipple poking out. It made too many people uncomfortable and I was asked to take it out. I wish I had kept it in.
Wait what were we talking about? Oh right, square aspect ratio. In order to achieve this, I invented a groundbreaking new technique called "cropping," where you cut out the excess image after you've shot it. I plan on recycling the unused image for another video called "Soothe My Sides."
Doug: How involved were Depeche Mode in the overall process? Was there a lot of discussion with them about the elements that would be in the video?
Warren: They are some of the most easy going artists I've ever worked with. We pretty much stuck exactly to the treatment I wrote and they just let me do my thing. We actually only had the band for three hours the day of the shoot. They were doing an interviews simultaneously and were allotted one hour to shoot each band member. I think we ended up with just enough footage to work with. During post, they only gave us one editorial note, and then the video was approved. I think that might be a record for me.
Doug: I've heard that Depeche Mode, when performing in their videos, is insistant on actually plugging in and playing their song. Was that the case for "Soothe My Soul"?
Warren: I got word of that too, so we brought an amp for Dave Gahan to plug his mic into. He sounded great on set, and it helped to really get him into his performance. I might have to start doing that for all future videos.
Doug: Did you guys use this effect in the video?
Warren: Yes. Cornstarch, water, and a giant subwoofer. We ran out of time at the shoot, so my brother (who happens to be a photographer) and I actually shot some pickups in my living room. It's an extremely loud and messy science experiment. It took a lot of experimenting to get the right sound frequency for the non-newtoninan fluid to react in that manner. Thank goodness the world wide web has everything. You simply Bing the words "various sound frequencies" and Bing goes to work and gets you the results you need, fast.
Doug: Depeche Mode fans seem to be vary passionate about the band, did you personally get a lot of fan feedback about the video?
depeche mode, soothe my soul, video chats, warren fu
Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.
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