Daniel Wahlen is a freelance filmmaker who loves to travel in search of the world's best stories. This is his blog, where he expresses ideas, shares his creative process, and invites further discussion about film.

Rigoletto - Vandals

Who is this?

It was around New Years time, and I was working as a DP on a gig in Orlando, Florida with my friend Niki Penola. Our friendship initially began when we were in the same lighting class (I always envied her photography skills) and grew when we discovered a wonderfully similar taste in music. On this particular day we were driving to set when she played a song. It took only a few seconds before I asked, “Who is this? They’re really good!” She informed me that they were called Rigoletto, a local band from Chattanooga where we were both attending school.

A few days later my friend Ben Chase, who directed Missing Faces (the first short film I produced) called me up. We had continued working together since then, making films and hip hop music videos—but there was one thing we always wanted to do and hadn’t yet: a rock music video.

"Hey man, I’ve got a project I want you to shoot for me; It’s a music video for a band called Rigoletto.” I had just gone from randomly hearing one of their songs to prepping to shoot their latest music video.

Meeting the band

The first time I heard the song I played it on repeat—getting lost in the dreamy aura and explosive chorus. This was going to be big. I started brainstorming shots and eagerly worked with Ben on unifying our approach; eventually we condensed our approach down to two words: elegant and surreal.

The first thing I noticed when I met the bandmates was just how well they work as a unit.  Each member brought something unique to the discussion in their approach and consideration of different aspects of the video and what they were going for.

Good collaboration is invaluable. The band came up with the objects smashing and models concept, Ben refined it, and I proposed the slo-mo performance to add to the overall dream-like feel of the video.

The shoot

Two aspects of the production were very new to me. First, we had the band play the song at 2x speed so we shot all the performance stuff at a 48fps. When the footage was brought down into a 24fps timeline, we were able to achieve the slow-mo effect with the performance being in sync. I was very happy with how well this worked—many people haven’t noticed it on a first-time watch.

The other thing was an attempt at water-reflected lighting. Looking back, it is a bit more subtle than I would have liked, and so in the future I may try a larger basin or perhaps some gels instead.

I also discovered how noisy RED slo-mo footage can be. Many of the shots we took were at 300fps, causing the camera to punch in to 2K. This increased the noise in the image; thankfully most of this was able to be smoothed over using the FilmConvert plugin.

Any good project has a good crew behind it and I couldn't have been happier to work with such wonderful and talented people.

Also, the connection with Niki has come full circle now because she was the behind-the-scenes photographer on set that day and kindly provided the photos in this blog post. Be sure to check out her website!


I grew up reading Alternative Press magazine, and so when I found out that they would be featuring the premiere of the music video on their website, I was very excited. The reception has been good so far, with an especially glowing write-up featured at

Check out the video below and let me know what you think!