Making of | Polyphia, Ego Death

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When we learned that the new Polyphia song would feature Steve Vai, we wanted to make a music video that built to something epic.  Tim Henson was interested in shooting on a rooftop, so we found in a rad location in downtown Los Angeles, where we would film the climax of the song. From there we worked backwards.

The song was broken into 3 sections, so the band wanted to break the video into 3 separate vibes – each guitarist would get their moment to shine – which meant three different locations. So we decided to start in a modern white room for Tim’s part (the basement), followed by a warehouse with lots of natural light for Scott’s part (the ground floor), then we would end on a rooftop with Steve. We like the idea of moving up from underground and all the way up to the roof as the song progressed. 

One of the most challenging parts of working with this caliber of band is the scheduling. It’s not easy, but we threaded the needle and found a day where everyone would be in LA. 

We kept our crew size modest so we could be nimble and move quickly. We chose locations that would allow us to either use natural light or a simple lighting set-up. We wanted to capture as many takes and angles as possible. Shooting three locations in one day in Los Angeles in the summer is a crazy idea. But we are a bit crazy, so we went for it. Besides, there wasn’t another option. It had to work. It was a wild day, but everyone came together, worked hard and we got it done. 

The end result is something we are really proud of, and a lot of people have seen it and love it. 

We shot the film with the RED Komodo, Zeiss Contax MMJ cine-modded lenses on a DJI Ronin RS2. The lenses we shot the most with were the 18mm, 21mm, and 35mm. 


Location 1 | Section 2

We started our day with the second section of the song. This was Scottie LePage’s time to shine. In the warehouse, we added haze to compliment the hard morning light. 

We had three set-ups to capture in three hours. We started with Clay, the drummer, playing on the edge near the windows, beams of sunlight cutting through the window. We transitioned to Scott on his throne in the middle of the room. We finished with the band. We shot non-stop, only breaking for lens changes or water (it was hot in there, and the AC was not doing much). Once we wrapped, we moved to the rooftop location. 

Location 2 | Section 3

This rooftop location was all about the reveal of the legendary Steve Vai, and the climax of the song. 

We only got one or two takes of each angle before we had to move on. After every cut, Tyler Kalberg (DP) and Ali Armano (AC) would take ND out – lightning quick – so we could get to the next take. It was a mad dash. And we barely made it! 

The final take of the final shot was a perfect way to end our time at the location with Ivan from Brasstracks sitting on a ledge playing the trumpet as the song ended and the light left the sky. 

Location 3 | Section 1

We ended the day on the first section, which was challenging because of the energy levels of the band and crew after a long day. We were at nine hours as we loaded in. And the space was smaller than expected. But we started lighting, as the band changed into wardrobe. 

To light the space, we bounced two Aputure 600 off the ceiling to spread the light out evenly. We had three set-ups to capture in two hours, including load-in and wrap-out. It was tight.

The opening shot was going to a simple set-up with several angles of Tim and Scott playing together, but to mix it up (and save some time), Tim, Scott, Tyler (DP), and I came up with a fun shot that would open the video in a single shot. 

The shot began with Tim alone on the couch as we push into the otherwise empty room. As we get into a close-up, we pull back to reveal Scottie on the couch next to Tim. We turned a scene that would have had five to six angles and probably have taken 30–40 minutes. Instead, we got it done in about fifteen minutes and were able to move on to the next set-up. The rest of the shoot had its challenges, and we needed a few breaks to reset, but in the end, we got what we needed. As we were wrapping out, everyone was tired but in high spirits – we knew we had something cool in the can, and when we released the final video, the response was better than we expected. 


Director | Caleb Young

Producer | Alyssa Von K & Caleb Young

Director of Photography | Tyler Kalberg

1st AC | Ali Armano

G&E Swing | Martin Gradek

PA | Siobhan Younger

Colorist | Julien Scherliss 

BTS Video  | Shot and Edited by the talent Alana Lopez 

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Steve Vai and Polyphia filming Ego Death music video Polyphia See Details
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We’re going for the emotions. Joy, sorrow, laughter, love - we want it all. And we want to work with people that understand that language. Partners who will challenge us to be better and push us to grow, so when we share it with the world, we've made something that matters.