Award-winning director Greg Jardin’s was set in motion while he was still in film school at Florida State University. The Problem With Fiber Optics, his 20-minute romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist, opened doors at studios and agencies in Los Angeles. Soon, he found himself moving there to be represented by Radical Media, a global transmedia company. 

While he continues to work on personal film projects like Floating, which was released in 2014, Jardin primarily directs music videos and commercials for Radical Media, including a stop-motion tribute the late Joey Ramone. Recently, he directed, edited and created the visual effects for the music video, “Two Minds,” a single off the UK band Nero’s latest album Between II Worlds. I talked with Jardin about everything from how he concepted and shot the video to how he used Cinema 4D and After Effects for VFX. Here’s what he said. 

Q: Have you worked with Nero before?

Jardin: No. This was my first time working with them. I got the job because I did the “Gibberish” music video [for Max, featuring Hoodie Allen] for the YouTube Music Awards earlier this year and the commissioner who hired me for that also asked me to pitch on the Nero video. (Check out the “Gibberish” behind-the-scenes video below.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the static woman?

The static woman’s glow can be seen on the guardrail as she walks over LA’s sixth street bridge. 

Jardin: I had already made the static woman, so I sent over my test. I knew the song would be “Two Minds” and I had an idea that the story would be anchored around the static woman who is looking for something and uses TVs as teleportation devices. They’re music is kind of retro-futuristic and they liked the idea. 

Q: Can you explain the story the video tells?

Jardin: I went back and forth with the band on the plot of the story and it changed a lot. It ended up being a story about a real woman who has telekinetic powers and some mysterious agents transform her into a static woman. She looks for her boyfriend and finds him and he realizes it’s her. The agents are chasing her and at one point, she meets her boyfriend in an alley and they fire their weapons at her but as she’s lying on the sidewalk her boyfriends bends down to kiss her and they literally melt into one giant person. It’s like when you’re dating someone and you’re super in love and there’s that notion that, metaphorically, you’re kind of melting into that person to become something greater. This is a visual representation of that idea. 

Q: Talk a bit about the shoot and the need to do a lot in post with the static woman and her teleportation scenes?

One of the most labor-intensive aspects of the project was painting the actress out and adding the static woman in during post. 

Jardin: We initially wanted to shoot in Asia, ideally Tokyo so we could get this kind of crowded otherworldly look. But it turned out to be a logistical nightmare to try to do that so we just decided to shoot in Los Angeles. We did a lot in post to make it look like a pseudo futuristic world, and it must have worked because a lot of people have asked where we shot it because they can’t tell even though it is the LA skyline with a bunch of buildings added. We shot with a Red Dragon camera over two nights and we had to cover about 12 locations. It’s the fastest I’ve ever shot anything. 

Five different rope lights blinking independently were wrapped around the actress to help create effect of the static woman emitting light.

Flicker and static effects were added to the static woman in After Effects to soften her edges and make it appear as if bits of electricity were coming off of her. 

One of the main things we had to keep in mind on set was that the static woman was always emitting light. To show that, we had our actress, who was wearing a white unitard with rope lights wrapped around her, stand in for the static woman. We only had the actress in the shot when she had to interact with someone or something. In the street scene where she walks up to the breakdancing dude, the static had to appear on him so we filmed her lights blinking on him and then replaced her in post. 

The static woman character was rigged and animated in Maxon’s Cinema 4D.

We tracked the shot, inputted the information into Cinema 4D and I animated her skin with static texture. I added a blue glow and motion blur in After Effects and then, to soften her edges, I added a lot of displacement and put on a static mask so only certain bits were being displaced at certain times. Then, I added what looks like horizontal lines coming off of her; it’s a jittery effect that I added using fractal noise and turbulent displacement and then keyframed manually so it would appear like the jitter happened only every now and then. 

Q: How did you handle the scenes where the static woman teleports in and out of the TV screens?

TVs in the video were nonfunctional and had static comped onto their screens.
Jardin: Those scenes where she runs away from the agents and jumps into screens were hard to shoot and do in post. There were three steadicam shots and nothing really happened on set when she jumped into the TVs, someone just help up a light stick to make it look like there was a light close to the TV. Sometimes we did shoot her running around the room but other times we just used lights on sticks to simulate her light. The scene where the TV levitates over her head was all done in C4D.

Those scenes were all shot at the Herald Examiner building, a location that has been used for a lot of shoots but is about to be torn down. One floor has six different rooms and all have different looks. We shot in the day but we were able to make it look like night by turning the exposure way down and putting a really bright light outside the window to simulate moonlight. 

Q: What are you working on now?

Jardin: I work through Radical Media mostly and I’m always pitching tracks for music videos, but I do some TV commercials too.

Meleah Maynard is a freelance writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.