All posts in Mark Romanek

B&W Strikes Again: U2 Music Video, RED EPIC Monochrome and Mark Romanek

U2 Invisible (music video shot on RED Epic Monochrome)

Bono in mono? Apparently so! Irish rock legend (and sellouts?) U2 have a new song called INVISIBLE. And they got the mighty Mark Romanek to direct it. In black and white. On seven, yes, seven RED Epic Monochrome cameras! (I had written earlier about Romanek’s return to music videos after a 10-year sabbatical with JayZ’s PICASSO BABY, shot by Jody Lee Lipes. In keeping with Romanek’s growing obsession with multi-cam or—if you want to get all philosophical—capturing the ephemeral nature of an artist’s performance, no less than eight cameras were utilized on that project!).

So what’s special about INVISIBLE? Well, a couple of things. For starters, Philippe Le Sourd is the man responsible for the beautiful cinematography in this music video; an important fact that seems to have been lost in the ebb and flow of the Mark Romanek lovefest (don’t worry, I’m a fan!). Many months ago on CineBlog, I had discussed Le Sourd and his collaboration with Wong Kar-wai on GRANDMASTERS, for which he deservedly received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography. Will he win? Whatever the outcome, it is a surety that more mainstream directors will be pinning for this talented French cinematographer, who rose up the ranks up from Darius Khondji’s camera assistant in the 90s to director of photographer with his breakout film A GOOD YEAR directed by a guy called Ridley Scott…

Philippe Le Sourd (cinematographer)

Philippe Le Sourd (cinematographer) on the set of Wong Kar-wai’s GRANDMASTERS

The second thing you ought to know about INVISIBLE is how it was made. Philippe Le Sourd and Mark Romanek used seven RED Epic Monochrome cameras to capture U2’s concert performance in pristine black and white and do justice to Marshmallow Laser Feast/ Prettybird’s light concept. Image wise, the Monochrome’s low-light capability and higher *practical* resolution did the rest. Eh? I will now explain the confounding details to you eager tech-heads!

What is this new RED EPIC Monochrome camera?
The 5K EPIC Monochrome has a 14-megapixel black-and-white Mysterium-X CMOS sensor with a 5120 x 2700 pixel array that is rated at a native ISO 2000. In comparison, the color version of the RED EPIC is rated at a native ISO 800 (which basically means that the EPIC Monochrome is over one full stop faster than its ‘color cousin’). The Monochrome can capture 24fps up to 5K, and 5K frame rates up to 120 fps. Frame rates expand to 300fps in 2K mode.  Continue Reading

Hip Hop and High Art Collide in Jay Z’s PICASSO BABY by Mark Romanek

Jay Z and Marina Abramovic (PICASSO BABY)

Once upon a time Shawn Carter aka Jay Z contacted his 99 PROBLEMS music video director Mark Romanek for PICASSO BABY, the second track from his new album MAGNA CARTA…HOLY GRAIL.

Romanek whose work in the music video realm is the stuff of legend—Nine Inch Nails’ CLOSER and Johnny Cash’s HURT—had not directed a music video in ten years. You see, he’s been busy making feature films (ONE HOUR PHOTO and NEVER LET ME GO) as well as turning them down (WOLF MAN and CINDERELLA which Kenneth Branagh is now directing).

Having reinvented the music video in the 90s and early 2000s (and gotten kinda bored with it since), Mark Romanek was not interested in directing just another music video. But what of his buddy Jay Z’s predicament?

Mark Romanek (director): “When Jay said, “I’d like to do a music video for this song,” my reaction was kind of twofold: I wanted to work with him again, because we had just made the Samsung stuff, but I didn’t want to make a traditional music video because it felt uninteresting to me. So I was trying to think of something that would feel more of the moment—more spontaneous, more uncontrived—and I presented this idea to Jay of this performance-art piece in the mode of The Artist Is Present.

Music video, art film or performance art? 
PICASSO BABY is inspired by performance art pioneer Marina Abramovic’s intense and spiritual THE ARTIST IS PRESENT. Romanek sought Abramovic’s blessing before commencing work on Jay Z’s own performance art. In fact, so flattered was Marina Abramovic that she not only granted her consent but also showed up during the Jay Z shindig, along with a slew of celebrities including directors Jim Jarmusch and Judd Apatow; and actors Alan Cumming, Taraji P. Henson and Rosie Perez.  Continue Reading