11 years after directing a fledgling Adele in the Rolling In The Deep video, Sam Brown and the now global megastar collaborate again for Oh My God. Sam Brown: The hardest thing on a job like this is knowing where to start at all, because the task seems so overwhelming. The trick is to start small. I began with little paper models that I made and filmed on my kitchen table with an iPhone, to nail the ideas and the flow and the feeling. It’s amazing how much you learn this way. James Sindle at ETC then did a meticulous job of translating this into a CG pre-vis. He has, amongst many other things, a natural intuition for camera movement that I relied on heavily because we didn’t have time to program anything on the day. This render became the map for every single element in the video. The production designers, Nu California, measured and marked it all out with tape on the studio floor; the idea being that, if we did the maths right, the move we plotted on the computer model would line up exactly with the subject on shoot day. Remarkably, it did. Every single element was shot separately, and Adele was never in the same room as anyone else. The complication is that you can’t fit a camera move this long into any studio; you certainly can’t light it, and there isn’t enough motion-control track anywhere in the world to film it. So, as many have reasoned, it’s actually multiple shots stitched together. We’re using the same length of track many times over with the visual elements and the lighting reconfigured again and again depending on which bit we’re doing. Every single element was shot separately, and Adele was never in the same room as anyone else. Giles Cheetham at ETC comped much of it together himself. I’m also indebted to Roman Vasyanov who pre-lit everything based on nothing more than thousands of colour-coded markings on the floor, transposed in a maddening mess on top of each other. It was a sublime feat of cinematography. You can still see the tape on the floor. I liked how it looked. You have to stick to the plan, and be very careful about the adjustments you’re making. Although there appear to be 160 people in this video there are actually only 20, replicated many times over (often in the same frame) and moving at different frame rates and tracking speeds. So the whole thing is like a mathematical problem. You need to keep close tabs on everyone’s movements and pathways so that nobody overlaps and the action flows. But there’s a difference between a shot that works technically and a shot that zings, and that’s where the expertise of my choreographers Megan and Taylor came in. They were able to determine that the hundreds of individual movements they’d choreographed were working in harmony, without ever actually seeing it.
Sam’s ability to consistently deliver beautiful and unique films has been recognised at the highest level in the industry. He started out in music videos and became one of the most sought-after promo directors in the world, winning armfuls of MTV, VMA & CAD awards. Sam’s videos for Jay-Z - ‘On to The Next One’ (100m hits), Foo Fighters ‘The Pretender’ (200m hits), Adele’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’, (1.7bn hits and a Grammy for ‘Best Video’) and London Grammar’s ‘Strong’ (50m hits) have cemented his reputation as a director who will continue to craft music videos which are always beautiful and always quite unlike anything else. He has created powerful ads for high-profile brands including Apple, Adidas, Audi, BBC, Guinness, Honda, Land Rover, Lexus, Lloyds Bank, 02 and Virgin. Sam’s work continues to be as eclectic as ever… the only similarity being exquisite photography and impeccable attention to detail. His awards include Golds at British Arrows, Cannes, LIA, Creative Circle and a best direction pencil at D&AD.