Remake of Vogue Music Video by Madonna
I re-made two previous music videos for fun (In the Navy by Village People and Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice) and entered them in the 2005 National Video Test and was awarded runner-up prizes. This time, the television show called me prior to announcing the 2006 competition and asked if I was interested. Of course I was and I thought I needed to raise the bar. I needed to challenge myself and my team. I chose Vogue.
Remake of Vogue music video by Madonna for 2006 National Video Test competition for Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, sponsored by Oreo.
To recreate as accurately as possible the music video for Vogue with a very limited budget and using performers who are not dancers or actors.
I put it to my friends who quickly volunteered. I then spoke to my workmates and cast “Madonna” and “the Maid” (my usual group are mainly males). The difficulty was that the guys did not think Vogue was funny enough, and I was taking it all too seriously. I had wanted to film something like Vogue for many years and this was my chance. I convinced them to do it.
We spent a few nights watching the original video over and over and cataloging the characters, costumes, sets, props, lighting and camera moves. We then spent some time practicing the dance moves to see if we could do them, or whether we needed to modify them to suit our predominantly desk-bound and inflexible bodies! We then spent some time working out how the sets and props would be realised. I have listed these below.
I needed a studio, which I do not have. I spoke to my grandmother who has a large garage and convinced her to let me use it for a few weeks. It was full of junk so it took a couple of days to clear out.
The garage has a single large door and an I-beam supporting the cement roof, parallel to each other. We found some long pieces of wood and connected the ends of the roll-a-door to the I-beam, to make rails, but so the door could still open and close (it is the main entry to the garage). We then added a cross bar which could move up and down the rails. Onto this would be attached the curtains, drapes, lights, blue-screen and other bits and pieces as needed.
We spent a couple of weeks finding the costumes in costume shops and from bits and pieces borrowed from friends and family. The original video is a masterpiece of lighting, camera moves and choreography. This was a seriously difficult video to recreate. Here is a list of the sets and props and how we executed them:
- Arch/ Overhead lights: computer generated and lit to match, inserted using a blue-screen.
- Sky background: I took an 8 megapixel image of the cloudy sky at sunset and keyed it in using a blue-screen. The image had to change position to suit different shots and perspectives, and had to move with some tracking shots.
- White background: keyed in over blue-screen.
- “ Bath scene” background: I took a close-up of a tile that had a similar texture and keyed it in.
- Feathers: I shot two small feathers from an old feather duster up close in front of a blue-screen.
- Picture frames: Most of these were computer generated. I put pictures of Madonna into them as a link to the original video. They had to move with tracked shots and be lit appropriately.
- “Elevator Doors” background: These were computer generated and the lighting moved in the animation to give the effect of perspective when the actual camera moved.
- Cat on plinth: The plinth was computer generated and animated to rotate slightly as the actual camera moved. The cat on top is a photo of my kitten, Cleocatra, which I mapped onto a cylinder on top of the 3D model of the plinth.
- The lounge/divan thing: I have a 4-piece bridge/boardwalk which I put together into the shape of a lounge and covered with a white sheet. Not exactly comfortable but it did the job.
- Stage-light: This was made using a large tub on top of the tripod dolly. I put some foil inside it to catch the light and cling-wrap over the open part to make it look like a lens.
- Easel: This was knocked together from some spare pieces of wood.
- Light sconces: I used the furry lining of some wall planters which were nicely textured and which were very light and easy to attach.
- Walls: I used some old doors I had and removed the handles and stood them together.
- “ Bath ”: The doors again, rearranged with a “shelf” screwed on.
- Staircase Railing: My dad had a railing he had never installed at home, so I borrowed a few pieces and stood them together. It was very flimsy! I cut up some foam to make the corner decoration.
- Mirror: This was an actual mirror (broken on one edge!) which my grandmother had lying around.
- Lattice: Computer generated into the background.
Here is a list of some key shots and how we executed them:
- Introduction/picture frames: Most of these were shot against the blue-screen with the picture frames and statues composited in later.
- See-through blouse shots: The small table, statue, fruit bowl and “Madonna” were shot in front of a blue-screen, with a pole in place for the plinth and the cat. Track markers (ping pong balls) were placed on the pole and the blue-screen and were tracked to allow the “elevator doors” and the cat and plinth to move with the actual camera. The ping pong balls were painted out (rotoscoped) once the tracking information was obtained.
- Lattice window shots: This was very difficult. The camera moves in a wide arc and Madonna has to move across the lattice window and sky background. Again track markers were used and the lattice animated slightly to twist with the shot. The lamp I used had a blue shade which caused problems because it keyed out when the blue-screen was keyed. I created a flexible mask which I used to exclude the lamp shade.
- Close-up over moving drapes in the background: Madonna lay down on parts of the bridge stacked up about half a metre. Her head and shoulders stuck out from the bridge so we put a narrow plank under her head and neck to support her. This shot took about 2 hours to do! I then put a step-ladder on top of the bridge, straddling her, and set the camera on the end of a monopod and positioned it horizontally so it looked straight down at Madonna. The background was a blue-screen, and was keyed out and replaced with a crumpled sheet, which panned using a motion setting.
- Head-stand/splits: One of the male dancers does a headstand type move. He actually stands on his chest with his legs in the air and does the splits. We tried this but my little brother is not as flexible as the guy on the original video and it was looking like his back would break. So he lay down on a blue-screen draped over a box and assumed the pose and moved his legs in and out. I filmed it from above using the step-ladder and monopod again, and then filmed the background and then put it together in editing.
- The rotating chair: The chair in the original video is a standard four-legged chair which rotates on a turntable, so I could not just use a rotating office chair. We set the chair up on stacked parts of the bridge and put it on a board with 4 wheels attached. We then put a rubber pad in the middle between the board and the bridge to try and keep it rotating around the same place. Two of the guys then spun it around with the chair and my brother on top, while I moved in using a dolly. The background was tracked and the sky inserted.
- Guys posing: The quick cuts of the guys at the end involved setting a single light directly above and slightly forward, with a black sheet background. One of the guys got hold of a powerful fan which was used to blow their shirts as they did their moves.
- Finale: The final shots involved everyone! The fan was used to blow everyone’s hair and costumes, and it was shot from several different angles.
After all the shooting and editing (including one re-shoot), the video was cut together and lip-synced to the original music (part of the competition rules – not allowed to change the music or words) and then turned black and white. It looked excellent!
I sent it in and was contacted to say I should watch on Saturday night as it would be shown on national television. Little did I know that we were chosen as the winner! All of us were recognised and congratulated for weeks after! There was even an article in our local paper.
About The Author
Tibor Csapo has been making films and related multimedia since 1987 when my father bought a video camera. I promptly clocked up many hours with it until it wore out. Since then projects have included short films, animations, documentaries, wedding videos, birthday videos, tributes, music videos, parodies and education videos.
With each project, I aim to expand on the techniques and concepts used in previous projects, and I am always striving for better and more challenging work. In 1998 I started using the name Downstairs Studios, because my work area was downstairs. Being a non-professional outfit, I work with very small budgets but with an eye for detail, replacing money with extra time to achieve the right look.
Some of my work can be seen on my site: www.downstairsstudios.com.au.