Holy Hemiola, Batman!
50 years of music and film all rolled together in front of the cars that have become icons of super hero history. This is one of those projects we’ve wanted to do from the very beginning of The Piano Guys. We love super heroes, the dramatic music that has brought them to life, and the vivid films that have made them legends. We used piano, cello, handheld cameras, a radio controlled helicopter, and some scrappy special effect techniques in the most creative ways possible to emulate the three epic eras of one of the greatest super heroes ever created: BATMAN!
As we conceptualized this music video, we wanted to take you on a ride through time – first through the 60’s when the wildly popular TV show dominated the networks – the campy, melodramatic colors, gadgets, and the classic comic book components. To capture the character we actually built a super spiffy set to look like the good ol’ days of “atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed.” We used a 4:3 aspect ratio and retro color grading. We wrote the music so it was as groovy as possible – to push it over the top we added a 60’s beach bass part in the left hand of the piano. The piano used in this scene is a brushed aluminum/cherry wood Yamaha Neo with a clear plexiglass lid (there are only a handful in the world) and we painted “Jackie” (one of Steve’s stunt cellos) to match it. Of course, would this all be complete without a sleek, stylishly finned road ready replica of the 60’s Batmobile? This car would come all the way from Niagara Falls from Jett Yaskow.
Next, 1989 Tim Burton’s Batman movie (starring Michael Keaton) called for lots of brass sounds to pay tribute to Danny Elfman’s soundtrack (accomplished via layered tracks of steel and carbon fiber cellos played with a special technique – at times using paper underneath the strings), frilly woodwind-like riffs on piano and march-like percussion. For this section of the video we used a 16:9 aspect ratio and a heavy film grain added in postproduction. We filmed in a 100 yr-old, dark, abandoned warehouse that actually houses several hundred bats! The piano used is a 9 ft. concert grand – one of the most sought-after concert hall performance pianos in the world and certainly big enough to make even Tim Burton happy. The “batcello” was hand built by Gail Flynn – complete with a bat bridge, a cityscape stained glass front, a Batman scroll and even hand carved bat-shaped pegs. It was an indescribable feeling playing Elfman’s music on these instruments in front of a perfect replica of one of the most ominous automobiles ever built – the 1989 Batmobile!
Finally we pay homage to the most recent Batman series – the Dark Knight Trilogy (Directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale). Hans Zimmer’s music is the stuff of legend. We worked tirelessly to recreate his epic style of composition and full symphonic sound with piano and cello – writing fast, accented ostinatos and soaring brass-like melody lines. We mimicked the movie’s muted color grading and utilized anamorphic widescreen (2:34:1), snow candles (the same used in the last scene of the Dark Knight Rises), and drone flyby shots to emphasize the drama of the series – all in front of a replica of the unbelievably buff Tumbler! (Built by one of the coolest guys in the world: Dave Dickson – it took him three and a half years!) The piano Jon is playing is the same white piano we used in “Let it Go / Vivaldi’s Winter, but wrapped in carbon fiber for this scene. Steve is using a cello built of carbon fiber by Richard Stürzer (Ricci Carbon Instruments KG) .
In the end we combined as many elements as we could – musically, visually, and thematically. There are moments in our lives that we all feel something. Something that says in a whisper deep within us that life is more than super heroes and villains, legendary cars, more than movie theaters and concert halls. Even though we were simply recreating all of these components on the top of a building over looking the city in the middle of the night, we had one of those moments.
Thank you for watching! If you’ve read this far in the description then you probably know the answer to this question: “Why do we fall?”
Arrangement written and produced by Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson
Based upon: “Batman Theme” by Neal Hefti (1966); “The Batman Theme” by Danny Elfman (1989); “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” by Hans Zimmer (2008)
Mixed & mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studios in Utah
Jon Schmidt: Piano
Steven Sharp Nelson: Steel, carbon fiber, electric & acoustic cellos, cello-percussion, vocals, percussion
Al van der Beek: Vocals, percussion
Video produced by Paul Anderson & Shaye Scott
Helicopter footage – Chris Newman
Special Effects – Aaron Sorensen
89′ Batmobile & Tumbler – Dave Dickson & Herald Tapley
66′ Batmobile Car – Jett Yaskow
66′ Set Contractor – Jonas Sappington
Set Gaffer – Phil Shepherd
89′ Cello Fabricator – Gail Flynn
Carbon Fiber Cello – Ricci Carbon