How Yung Jake Made That Flawless Snapchat Music Video
Yung Jake is at the vanguard of Internet artistry, whose brand revolves around the creative utilization of online tools. From his meticulous emoji portraits to his augmented reality videography, he’s been on the cutting edge of the deepening digitalization of the music industry. This continues with most recent contribution, a Snapchat music video for his song “Both,” which is meant to be played through the app, simultaneously, on two screens.
The video naturally presents a number of questions, since on Snapchat, if a fluke arises in one of the takes, Jake and his team would theoretically have to start from scratch. How were the visuals “Both” composed so flawlessly? We got up with the video’s cinematographer, Ethan Palmer, for answers.
Working with Yung Jake
Yung Jake had an idea for how he wanted to approach this split screen, shot-on-an-iPhone video, but in my experience, there’s always a need for implementation when it comes to these concepts because they actually end up being complex. I’ve shot a feature film, called King Kelly, which is also shot mostly on iPhones and all in first-person perspective, so that was one of the reasons they contacted me to help. When I got in, Jake had a concept and a storyline, but we needed to figure out how to implement them and how to do cool things, visually. We started storyboarding everything and mapped out the entire thing, frame for frame. We figured out where the cut points needed to be and how much of it could be continuous—that sort of thing.
One Take or Nah?
It would be disingenuous to say we did it in one take; that’s not how we did it. But it was exciting for me to figure out where to put in cut points that felt very natural. I think doing any sort of music videos is challenging these days; there are a lot of budget challenges. It’s a reason why usually turn down music videos—traditional ones, anyway. With a case like this, it was a really interesting project because it was more intellectual and fun to do. The biggest complication was just carrying out our plan within the confines of production and dealing with lots of extras who were basically just friends of the crew. Execution was the biggest challenge.
We bought two unlocked iPhone 6s. A lot of what you see in the video is being shot simultaneously with the two phones, without any sort of stable rigs or anything; I was just holding them and filming. There are parts of the story that split off that show different viewpoints, and those were shot with just one phone.
But What if Someone Makes a Mistake?
There’s a certain amount of coordination that goes into it with rehearsals. What I liked in Yung Jake’s previous work and what I found in collaborating with him was that we both really liked the mistakes and interesting things that happened when we executed the video. Some things didn’t go exactly according to plan, and that’s what you end up seeing. I think that’s sometimes more interesting than what you have in your head.
Trusting the Process
When you sit down and conceive a plan for a video, you often fall back on cliche images and ideas, just because that’s what in your head when you pre-visualize something. I really like to leave the shooting environment loose and open to spontaneity.
There’s a difference in perspective when you think about The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity—horror films that are shot first-person. All of those films have this trope that there’s a camcorder or footage that’s been found somewhere by an editor, who then made a movie out of it. I like to think about moving beyond that to a new form of perspective: “fake user-generated.” It looks a lot like what everyone posts to YouTube, it’s got a consumer feel to it, rather than a professional feel, and plays with some of those ideas but tells a story in a more constructed way than your average music video.
Yung Jake’s Significance
I like Jake’s whole vibe; he has an interesting way of translating our digital, everyday life into artwork. I don’t think people are having this conversation with a lot of perspective, and I think he’s taking a really interesting approach that’s worth talking about.