TikiKiti Awards: June

And all too soon, we find ourselves in the month of June. Our TikiKiti Quest to catch up to the present day in pursuit of video excellence rolls on! Tickets please!

Perhaps in anticipation of hotly contested political races to come, the voting for the Barclay Trophy, our award for best Unofficial Music Video of the month, has become extremely competitive. This time around we had a tie for first place and fourth place, so we will be featuring six videos instead of the usual five. Hurray for Bonus Content!

1. Director: Román Reyes
Artist: Oh Wonder
Song: “Technicolour Beat”
Category: Performance

One of the coolest performance videos we’ve seen. Roman Reyes has a deft eye for angular intimacy and his dancing muse brings every moment to a simmer.

1. Producer: Miguel Angel
Artist: Brockhampton
Song: “Sister/Nation”
Category: Narrative

At first glance, this would appear to be another variation on the ever-popular video theme of bad boys being bad at nighttime. Migeul Angel masterfully enhances the action with cinematic flair and drama, and gets committed performances from his youthful squad.

2. Producer: Nassift Visuals
Artist: Ft. Illenium
Song: “Leaving”
Category: Abstract

Extraordinary composed parkour choreography that fits the tear-jerk tune like a tailored glove. It’s a bracing mix of reckless energy and ultimate precision.

3. Producer: Szymon Wiktor
Artist: Clean Bandit
Song: “Symphony”
Category: Narrative

A confident, highly competent production from Szymon Wiktor that demonstrates abundant vision and finesse.

4. Producer: Yannick Walters
Artist: Red
Song: “Imposter”
Category: Narrative

A taunting ghost fills him with rage. And just like that, he’s lost the game. A tightly wound and surprisingly effective narrative by Yannick Walters and his team.

4. Producer: Luke Covert
Artist: The Wild Wild
Song: “Wake Up”
Category: Performance

Sound and solid performance editing by Luke Covert, but the real star of the show is the ruined school location and the bittersweet memories it inspires.

Coming up: A deep-dive feature on the winning videos from May and June. What was it about these shorts that added up to a winning formula? It’s not always always the flashiest extravaganza with the trickiest camera angels. Until then, keep ’em coming!

TikiKiti Awards: May

Is it May already? Wow, this year is just flying by! Let’s synchronize those calendars, shall we?

This brings us to the latest Top Five, which includes some seriously cinematic efforts in the Narrative category.

You know the drill: Five artists are honored, and the monthly high scorer may select the coveted Barclay trophy or a gift card as a testament to their vision and skill. More about the awards.

And to our five May creatives, we’re just doggone thrilled to showcase your incredible work. Encore!

1. Director: Roma Kong
Artist: Lady Gaga
Song: “Bloody Mary”
Category: Narrative

Possibly the most sophisticated video we’ve seen in terms of production values and high-stakes concepts, Roma Kong has the visual sensibility to be a big name in any number of fields.

2. Producer: Sarah Maggic
Artist: Stephen
Song: “Play Me Like A Violin”
Category: Narrative

Domination, submission, and identity are some of the thematic forces at play in Sarah Maggic’s well-executed short.

3. Producer: Anna Hicks
Artist: Guap
Song: “Yaeji”
Category: Abstract

We dug this strobe-soaked club-thumper that reduces the mating dance to its most essential impulses, some of which may be in direct conflict.

4. Producer: Yap Manloong
Artist: Paperplane Pursuit
Song: “Who’s Gonna To Stop Me”
Category: Narrative

Evolving, growing, and reshaping itself before our wide eyes, Yap Manloong’s video is a wonder to behold. Uncanny animation and a playful spirit permeate every frame.

5. Producer: Maya Cooper
Artist: Baz Luhrmann
Song: “Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen”
Category: Narrative

Words to live by. A fascinating deconstruction of a graduation speech loaded with intuitive narrative imagery.

Let’s make a pact: You keep sending videos and we’ll do our best to give them the attention they so richly deserve. Aloha!

TikiKiti Awards: April

Here we go, a fresh batch of UMV’s piping hot, straight from the oven.

We’re not April Fooling you, we’re still a little behind the times. These five videos came up tops for the month of April.

To briefly recap, five artists are honored, and the monthly high scorer may select a unique trophy or gift card as a testament to their skill and creativity. More about the awards.

And to our quintet of April video artists, well done!

1. Producer: Andrey Gorlachev
Artist: Emika
Song: “Sleep With My Enemies”
Category: Narrative

Wow! This cyber-surveillance creeper from Andrey Gorlachev eerily captures the times we live in, as mounting paranoia and a lack of privacy inspire outbreaks of desperate dance. Rich in detail and masterfully presented.

2. Producer: Jonathan Brent
Artist: Jai Paul
Song: “BTSTU”
Category: Abstract

A near sensory overload as modern man, depicted here as a featureless mannequin, attempts to reboot the system. Moments of clarity are rudely jarred away.

3. Producer: Paula Averkamp
Artist: Patrick Watson
Song: “Lighthouse”
Category: Narrative

Memories or just a Virginia Woolf dream? Paula Averkamp’s cinematic Day at the Beach reverie is radiant and ravishing, with a bittersweet undercurrent of innocence lost.

4. Producer: Leon Falon
Artist: Aphex Twin
Song: “We Have Arrived”
Category: Abstract

Call it a barrage collage. A short circus, maybe. Anyone suffering from Seizure Disorder should look the other way.

5. Producer: Ginie’O
Artist: Switchfoot
Song: “Skin and Bones”
Category: Véreté

A beautiful cache of Paris travelogue footage in the hands of Ginie’O tells a thousand stories at a thousand different tempos.

Thanks again on behalf of TikiKiti for the amazing gallimaufry of musical shorts. It is the wind beneath our wings.

Keep the videos flying!

Artist Profile: Joseph Hyrkas

As the quantity and complexity of Unofficial Music Videos continue to evolve right before our blinking eyes, the cats at TikiKiti want to ensure that proper attention is paid to the burgeoning ranks of creative artists that manage to blow us away on a daily basis.

Joseph Hyrkas directed the most recent video to take home the coveted TikiKiti Award for Excellence. Set to the song “Falls” by Odesza, Hyrkas has conjured an absorbing black-and-white reverie about love and loss.

The winning filmmaker was kind enough to answer a barrage of questions about his production, process, and past.

Can you tell us about your film and production background? Are you a pro, student, hobbyist?

Definitely not a hobbyist, not quite a pro, but certainly always a student.

I’m 30 years old and currently operate an independent videography/post production business out of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Most of my work affords me the opportunity to travel making music videos, promotionals, and commercials.

Describe your conceptual process in regards to the Odesza “Falls” video.

I start by creating a rule set with limitations, which I then cling to like a religious fanatic! The goal was to keep it simple, intimate, sincere, and emotional. In every single case I start with asking how and why.

How do I visually represent a character’s emotional state of mind that is cyclical, divisive, and potentially self-destructive? How do I interpret that through framing, movement, perspective, and editing patterns? What is dictating that cut?

If we do cut, whose perspective is it? The character’s or the viewer’s? When is it objective? When is it subjective and why? If any creative decision that follows can’t answer or support these questions, then it’s not worth pursuing.

Doing something “cool” for the sake of it often leads to dead ends. In my experience, having that crucial foundation in place helps free up an actor and helps them cross a chasm of confidence to lay their soul on display for all to view. At the end of the day, the question really should be, “did you feel anything watching it?”

I love the stark tones you get in the video. What inspired you to shoot in black and white?

I could say, “Well, color is emotion. Anyone that far down the emotional rabbit hole clearly wouldn’t see the world in color!” But in all honesty, the tight shooting schedule didn’t afford us the luxury of proper lighting and production uniformity.

These constraints backed us into B&W photography for simplicity’s sake. Deciding on that tranquil hue of B&W early in the process eliminated a whole slew of problems from the production.

What was your gear setup?

Another self-imposed limitation was to use very little gear for this project. No dolly, drones, toys or gadgets. Just a single BMC (rarely two for safety). Breaking out the occasional ND, LOW CON filter, tripod and available light. If we couldn’t make this work emotionally with one camera than we weren’t doing the job correctly.

I love the discipline of committing to a particular frame size and focal length. For post-production we used the always reliably buggy, but equally efficient ADOBE PREMIERE. The goal in post? Manipulate time, action and emotion like a rubber band. Compress when it’s convenient and contract when it’s necessary.

Who are some artists (any discipline) you admire or are inspired by and why?

I’m sure recently obsessing over [French-Canadian filmmaker] Denis Villeneuve [Sicario, Blade Runner 2049], and his devastating masterpiece Incendies (2011) didn’t dissuade me at all. If you haven’t seen it I insist you drop everything and watch it now.

In this case, I was certainly taking my marching orders from storytellers who are not afraid to squeeze mileage out of seemingly mundane situations. Reynolds Woodcock ordering that absurd breakfast in Phantom Thread, anyone?

Do you have any sage advice for the young and hopeful?

I can only preach what has worked for me. All I can say is maintain vigilance, persistence, and patience, followed by more patience. Make every single mistake you can imagine, you’ll still be alive at the end of the day. Tell a story only you can tell. And while you’re at it stick to your intuition.

If you find yourself having conversations about what other people may think, just know deep down that it if means something emotionally to you it will mean something for others. Creative Darwinism will win out. Chic and fashionable will not. Never ever chase trends because something is in vogue. It’s not about world domination, start by making people “feel” first.

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TiKiKiti Awards: III

Once more into the fray…

Time marches on, which brings us to the month of March, and a whole new assemblage of Unofficial Music Videos for consideration.

In case you’re just joining us, five artists are honored, and the monthly high scorer may select a superb trophy or gift card as a testament to their skill and creativity. More about the awards.

Now, on with the show! Meet our Minds of March!

1. Producer: Joseph Hyrkas
Artist: Odesza
Song: “Falls”
Category: Narrative

Deceptively simple and deeply sincere, producer Joseph Hyrkas relies on soulful lingering shots of a beautiful woman to tell this tale of heartache.

2. Producer: Aaron Vizcarra
Artist: 2PAC & LA
Song: “Vicca Street”
Category: Abstract

The wonders never cease in a kaleidoscopic slice of cyber surrealism from producer Aaron Vizacarra and director Stephen Gillis.

3. Producer: kayanoel
Artist: Julie Aznar
Song: “In the Middle of the Night”
Category: Performance

Commitment, clever choreography, and breathtaking location photography are on display in kayanoel’s moody performance piece.

4. Producer: Naomi Kirk-Muir
Artist: Mother Mother
Song: “Happy”
Category: Narrative

Heck, it’s hard (probably impossible) to be endlessly happy. Naomi Kirk-Muir cuts to the heart behind the masks we have to wear in this somber collage.

5. Producer: Obiet Mantovani
Artist: The Chainsmokers
Song: “All We Know”
Category: Narrative

Again, simplicity and lack of pretense carries the day in a stirring story of rocky romance.

Slowly but surely we are creating a structure and process for emerging video artists to exhibit their work. We’re pleased to see so many fresh and fantastic approaches to the form, as it gives us plenty to talk about.

Till next time! Keep those videos coming!

The TikiKiti Awards: February

And the hits keep coming.

In a valiant attempt to sort through a massive stack of entries in record time, we’re now ready to recognize the Top 5 Videos from February of this year.

Perhaps at some point in this timeline, we’ll be all caught-up, but sadly we have not yet been replaced self-charging, super-intelligent robots. It’s in next year’s budget, and we remain confident that human error will soon be a thing of the past.

As always, five artists are honored, and the monthly high scorer may choose an enviable trophy or gift card as signifiers of their superior work.  More about the awards. 

Cue the fanfare, here are the Top 5 Videos of the month (February), in order from first to fifth.

1. Producer: amzproductions2010
Artist: X
Song: The Have Nots
Category: Narrative

A deft and multilayered approach to the narrative genre, the team at amzproductions2010 delivers a stylishly fascinating depiction of a compartmentalized human psyche. Bonus points for good taste in classic L.A. punk.

2. Producer: Erin McAuley and Charlie Jennings
Artist: Dua Lipa
Song: New Rules
Category: Performance

Producers McAuley and Jennings maintain visual symmetry with a brisk editing pace and an impressive array of carefully crafted images.

3. Producer: TinyComet Films
Artist: Alan Walker
Song: The Spectre
Category: Performance

It’s a terrific dance performance, but the folks at TinyComet Films effortlessly fashion a cinematically rich post-apocalyptic canvas for the choreography.

4. Producer: Finlay McDonald
Artist: Mura Masa
Song: Love$ick
Category: Narrative

Risking possible damnation by inspiring teenage actors to drink “booze” and monkey around in church, Finlay McDonald is clearly a fearless filmmaker.

5. Producer: ChewValley Media
Artist: Lorde
Song: Team
Category: Narrative

Cops and robbers, chase scene, and a “crime doesn’t pay” finale. The ChewValley Media crew displays ample camera chops and editing precision in this dancing delinquent drama.

Stuff We Like: Technical Prowess

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It’s time once again to tip our TikiKiti caps to some exemplary work that’s come our way recently. We share because we care, and considering the blazing originality of these Unofficial Music Videos, you should care, too.

Both of our featured video artists are mega-skilled practitioners and their works rival anything put out by highly paid pros with rock star budgets.

When we first saw this fan-made video for Prodigy’s “Hotride” we were gobsmacked, which is not an expression we throw around lightly. (It’s not allowed.) Everyone assembled agreed that the artist SapBap had produced one of the finest UMVs we’d seen in a very long time: thoughtful, exhilarating, and hypnotic.

Shot with a SonyRX100mV and shifting between hyper-speed night-driving and super slo-mo tracking shots of people walking to work, SapBap wields uncanny technical prowess to create a mesmeric canvas of absurdly dignified creatures on the go, forever compelled to move forward—for some undefined reason.

Particularly effective are the shots of commuters looking off at some distant landmark that commands their attention beyond matters of the mundane. SapBap’s ability to capture the eye-lines of his subjects creates infinite possible scenarios. Dreams put on hold or abandoned altogether in the face uncertainty and fear seems to be the message, but obviously that’s just one interpretation.

Needless to say, we’d be tickled to present more of SapBap’s work, and are currently working on securing an interview. Stay tuned!

The Lighter Side

Abstract whimsy is a tough nut to crack in the confines of a music video, but it can be done. Witness a pair of videos by JLShope, a video artist with an abiding love of Dayton, Ohio indie-rock gods Guided By Voices.

The lyrics of GBV singer and songwriter Robert Pollard, are artfully rendered sketches peppered with seemingly nonsensical observations and roughly chiseled into a legit rock anthem that seldom eclipses two minutes.

In “My Valuable Hunting Knife” JLShope gleefully mutates livestock to a catchy pop tune about how fetishistic consumerism is a lot like falling in love. The animation has a delightfully unpredictable energy that should resonate with any Monty Python fan.

JLS performs similar animal protean chicanery in another GBV-inspired video for “Kicker of Elves,” which is worth tracking down, as is just about anything associated with Guided By Voices.

In “Touch Me In The Right Place at the Right Time” from Pollard’s 2011 solo album Space City Kicks, JLS presents a short film about the joys of foreplay, shot in black and white, and reminiscent of an old health education reel—except the action is deliberately cheeky and nearly naughty! (Won’t somebody think of the children?)

In any case, the video is tightly shot and edited, and exudes a playfully understated sexy charm, like a vintage screwball comedy. As cinematic glimmers of the past fade away on a daily basis, we should do all we can to preserve the memories of the most valuable ones. Lord knows, we’re doing our part.

Like SapBap, we’re anxiously trying to track down JLShope for a possible feature. Hello? You guys out there? Phone home!

How we curate videos

The Beginnings

TikiKiti started out with just a couple of friends talking their passion: music videos. We all have lots of experience in film — we’ve been making films and teaching filmmaking for years. 

We discovered that some, if not most, of the best video on YouTube were done by independent producers making fan-made videos (this is our primary focus and tend to stay away from the professional production and the official videos). As we shared more videos we found others who enjoyed these videos as much as we did. The next thing we knew, we had started a YouTube channel to showcase these videos.

As TikiKiti grew it became clear we needed some criteria for the ratings we were giving. This was how we developed the different categories and the ratings scale that we use today.

The Categories

When a video is put into the judging queue we break them down into categories and genres. This allows us to rate them easily. We review approximately 250 videos a day. So breaking them into categories helps the process go more quickly. 

Of the 250 videos we see every day, 20 to 30 are queued up for the judges to watch and analyze. If you’re wondering, we usually have around 4 — these are musicians, film makers, media journalists, and combinations thereof. 

 

The video categories

Narrative: The Narrative is the basic story-telling type of video. Although many producers tell a story with their videos, it is the style we use to categorize them.  Performance, abstract and vérité videos can also have elements of a narrative. What separates them is that the story predominates.

Abstract: This is very much what the title suggests; a series of visuals put together in an abstract way to illustrate the music. The abstract video can also have elements of a narrative or a performance video. Again, it is the predominate motif that defines the video.

Performance: The Performance video is a dance video, or a band playing, or someone lip-syncing. Mostly, it is the performance that defines the videos style. What separates a performance from a dance-cover is the production quality and editing. 

Dance Covers: This is pretty much what it says. Unlike a Performance video a dance cover is usually an individual or troop performing, minimal production and editing. We do not rate the production quality and editing of dance covers.

Mashups: The mashup is a video set to music and made up of clips from a variety of existing videos — often referred to as found-video. Some mashups includes hundreds of edits. The better ones can be very complex. A narrative can be created in a mashup with the right source material and editing. We usually do not rate these for production quality because the visuals are not original.

Vérité: The vérité video is often called a “day-in-the-life” video. This includes videos from someone’s vacation or just videotaping the day and putting it to music. Still, the better vérité videos include elements of a narrative, and rely much on quality editing techniques.

We also include Animé (AMV) and Machinima in our video queue but we neither rate them nor comment on them. We just like following them because we like them and enjoy how the technology that makes them as improved.  We plan to rate these in the future.

 

The Rating Scale

Ratings are continually evolving. Currently we rate each video on three criteria: Production, Creativity & Performance, and Editing. Additionally, we break down each category in a series of attributes. These attributes are what we look for when we watch and rate a video. We give each video a score based on the quality of each of these attributes. The following are the attributes we use.

1) Production:

  • camera moves
  • cinematography
  • lighting
  • production design
  • special photographic effects
  • use of locations
  • use of sets

2) Creativity & Performance:

  • acting
  • costumes & backup
  • creative dance moves
  • dancing
  • lip sync
  • lyrical interpretation
  • music interpretation
  • overall creativity
  • use of abstract imagery

3)  Editing:

  • color time/editing
  • creative editing
  • cutting to beat & motion
  • fast-paced cutting
  • image-replacement editing
  • post-production effects

We enjoy sharing our results with the producers of the videos we rate. We comment on those videos and include the attributes you see above. We have developed a complex system that allows us to manage all of the videos we see, rate, and comment on. Time permitting, we make more original and personal comments. 

We also have what is called the “Editor’s Choice.” This selects the best videos we see every month and groups them for an additional revue at the end of each month. From these we select the top five videos for recognition. The best video from each month will be awarded a Barclay. You can view award candidates here: https://www.tikikiti.com/blog/index.php/awards/.

As always, we welcome feedback. Evolving our rating system is helped by your feedback.

The TikiKiti Awards: Round 1

It’s awards season at TikiKiti and we spent our spring break wading through thousands of indie music videos that found their way to us (a combination of whizzy algorithms and occasional dedication). The goal here is to recognize and encourage video artists and establish a site where new works can be displayed and discussed.

Our panel of judges has deliberated heatedly and at length over creativity, editing, and overall production quality, and reached their decision.

Five (six) artists will be honored, and these high scorers will receive an enviable trophy or gift card as tokens of our esteem and appreciation.  More about the awards. 

Without further ado, here are the Top Five videos (six actually; there was a three-way tie for fourth place) for January 2018. We’re a few months behind, but we’re aiming to get up to date in a quick-bunny hurry.

Superb work, people! Take a bow and a victory lap.

1. Producer: Ch4rlie97
Artist: Caravan Palance
Song: Lone Digger
Category: Narrative

A strong narrative concept, supple camera, and unexpected editing choices made the exhilarating “Lone Digger” the top vote-getter this month. Kudos Ch4rlie97.

2. Producer: MangoWatch
Artist: Michael Jackson
Song: Blood on the Dance Floor
Category: Performance

The commitment and choreography are first-rate. The attention to detail, the costumes, and performance really bowled us over. Paging Doctor MangoWatch!

3. Producer: Utkarsh Chaturvedi
Artist: Massive Attack
Song: Teardrop
Category: Abstract

Visually arresting from open to close. The pace and variety of imagery is spellbinding. Well done, Mr. Chaturvedi et. al.

4. Producer: VelvetAnt Films
Artist: Dezlooca
Song: Cannibal Lectures
Category: Mashup

Video artist Chad Shepp continues to astound us with his arsenal of found footage and editing finesse.

4. Producer: Alfredo Fortunato Films
Artist: Demi Lovato
Song: Sorry Not Sorry
Category: Performance

Spirit, swagger, and genuine joy are abundant in this high-energy entry from Alfredo Fortunato Films.

4. Producer: Sebastian Linares
Artist: Bruno Mars + Cardi B
Song: Finesse
Category: Performance

These guys are having fun but their dedication to the choreography and the project itself is 100 percent. We salute you, Sebastian!

Artist Profile: Chad Shepp

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It’s always gratifying to witness a video artist develop from fledgling stylist into a legitimate expressive force. Chad Shepp, 24, hails from Hamilton, Ontario, and wants to be a filmmaker.

An admirer of singular talents like Sam Raimi, Stanley Kubrick, and Quentin Tarantino, Shepp has created dozens of unofficial music videos under the moniker VelvetAnt Films, a Youtube channel with close to two thousand subscribers.

Shepp tailors gorgeous found visuals to a wide variety of emotion-soaked tuneage, demonstrating an unfailing eye for color, movement, and mise-en-scene.

“The thing is, I use videos from public domain sources,” Shepp writes. “I take the videos and splice them together.” Armed with only Windows Movie Maker and a mind keenly tuned to words and melody, the young Canadian scours the internet for images that inspire him to create his captivating video collages.

The footage he assembles is always powerful and evocative, even if it didn’t come from his camera.

Shepp initially got hooked on video by Twenty One Pilots cover of the Elvis Presley hit, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and from there he’s been a veritable Energizer bunny, producing more than 200 videos.

“What hooked me about the song is the calming effect,” Shepp notes. “It swishes over me when I listen. It’s a beautiful song and speaks to me personally. The song seems to sum up something in my life I can’t explain.”

Musically, Shepp is all over the map, from crooners like James Blunt and Ed Sheeran, to hip-hop heavies like Eminem and Tyler the Creator, to respectable old farts like Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Young.

“I love all music, but my favorite is rap and folk,” Shepp explains. To the best of his knowledge, none of the high-profile artists to whom he’s paid video tribute have seen his work.

In “Magdalene” by British folk duo Bear’s Den, Shepp tweaks the colors in a desolate townscape that seems to have been ruined in some kind of disaster.

Though he artfully ducks questions about his current state of mind (and where he finds his footage), Shepp says he definitely sought a post-apocalyptic vibe that is at odds with the song’s quiet intimacy.

“It took a long time to make that one,” Shepp admits, revealing a key element in his process. “Figuring out what song fits the video takes time.”

As an artist, Shepp is certainly capable of frenetic cutting and loading images into a visual trebuchet to bombard the senses (his editing on Machine Gun Kelly’s “Wake and Bake” comes to mind). But his latest work has a slow-mo, languid quality full of longer takes that makes for a more consistent mood frame with deeper resonance.

“Yes very much so,” Shepp agrees, when queried if he’s more drawn to long shots and continuous action these days. But don’t expect this fascination to last forever; Shepp is a restless artist always on the hunt for fresh inspiration.

And us TikiKiti cats will be here to keep you posted on all his latest developments.