Setia Negaraku (Repost)
Updated: Mar 2
This is a repost from my old blog of a video that I shot and edited (and kinda directed) with my friend, Vale to commemorate how we were feeling about the post elections of May 9th.
Watching the video again today (https://youtu.be/z5yNV66Ieko) brought back some feels and I thought of this post too. So here it is:
When I was first called about this project. Vale V Wong asked me to shoot & direct or suggest someone who could.
I thought about it for a few moments. Then I decided to say, “Yes.”
At the time of me writing this, the video on Facebook has 81,011 views and counting.
#longpostahead : Do read on for more of how I got involved and what the process of creating this simple piece of truthful expression came about. :)
At the time of his call, I knew I was about to face an irrationally busy time at work. The ‘better judgement’ side of me kept saying that I should pass this on. But I wanted to know more. I asked and he told me what he had in mind. I listened and I was intrigued by what he wanted to do.
Basically, he wanted to reinterpret this old goldie ‘Setia’, mash it up with our national anthem, ‘Negaraku’ and gather a bunch of ‘unknown’ singers to sing it.
Now I knew it was going to sound awesome. I’ve worked with Vale before and listened to enough of his works to know that this was going to sound good. But he was looking to me for ideas on how to make a good video representation of this endeavour. Without financial resources to throw behind it.
Allow me to digress a bit -
After #GE14, I felt like I too, wanted to do something to represent how I felt as a Malaysian. Confession: I am one of those people who didn’t think I would ever live to see this sort of change in Malaysia. I wouldn’t say that I am apathetic or anything like that. In fact, I feel that the biggest strength of most Malaysians is our ability to adapt, survive and even thrive in any type of conditions. We don’t need ideal conditions to make the best of things. We just do.
But, there are certain things in life that I didn’t think would ever change here. Politics was always part of that pool of things that I thought would never change. Not without severe consequences.
Maybe me saying ‘yes’ to Vale despite my ‘better judgement’ was my way of trying to punish myself for my own lack of faith in my fellow countrymen that we could instigate a change without causing a massive social-political upheaval that would result in civilians getting hurt or worse.
Back to Vale’s phone call -
After hearing what the project was about. I saw a pretty clear picture in my head of what could be done. There were many challenges. We had limited time in the studio and all the singers were doing it out of love. So he didn’t want to take advantage of anyone’s time and I was of the same mindset.
Despite the challenges, I knew this was something that could be shot on smartphones or professional DSLR’s and would still work. I have been on my own journey of experimenting with making content using only mobile devices. I’ve also been producing a tonne of ‘vox-pop’ & almost ‘docu-like’ content for Clients over the years.
To me, only 2 things were important for this video to work -
1. The song : Which I knew Vale & team would knock out of the park. So I had no worries there.
2. Capturing human moments of everyone when they are singing and some moments of when they weren’t.
So Vale and I gathered a few people who were willing to shoot and off they went.
How did we shoot this?
Nicholas Chin shot the musicians the night before the singing, when Vale gathered them to record the music. All Nic had were some random ‘action cams’ and a Nikon P7800.
And on the day of the singing -
Joylene Ling brought a couple of Canon DSLR’s.
Kenny Gan brought his Samsung S7 Edge + Smartphone gimble.
Kenny Gan brought his Samsung S7 Edge + Smartphone gimble. Ryonn Leong & Joel Wong shot on an iPhone X, helping me to capture random interviews with the people throughout the day with the main intention of getting ‘real moments’ of joy, laughter = basically true human expression as a nod to how they were feeling about being there that day.capture random interviews with the people throughout the day with the main intention of getting ‘real moments’ of joy, laughter = basically true human expression as a nod to how they were feeling about being there that day.
I shot on my Nexus 6P propped up on a mini tripod which I carried around - unfortunately, there is no image stabilization on my phone - so almost all of my footage was too shaky. Lesson learnt. Get a gimble if I want to do this more often.
If it wasn’t for the willingness of these amazing group of humans to just pick up and go shoot based on the very little info I gave them, there was no way I would have been able to put together the video the way that I did. So thank you!
There’s a point that I want to make here. I was only able to pull off this shoot, despite minimum planning & resources and be quite confident that I could edit something together because:
1. I understand the process of recording a song and what Vale was up against putting everything together.
2. I was pretty clear and had full trust that as long as people showed up and were unafraid to laugh, smile or speak - I would have excellent footage to use as cut-aways during the edit.
3. I didn’t check on anyone’s footage on the day. I just gave each and everyone a general brief and got out of everyone’s way. Trust in the people working with me is very important.
How was the editing process?
This is a passion project. Which means, I didn’t have the resources to allocate proper time or money to hire professional editors. So I took it upon myself and my basic skills of editing to do it. I spent every available ‘free time’ I had when I was in front of my desktop, at home, to work at it.
Ultimately, I edited 4x offline versions before doing 2x online versions which took a span of 13 May to the day the video went live on 9 July 2018.
First, I waited for the song to get mixed: We had shot 3 takes of the whole group singing the whole song, accompanied by the minus-one. I knew that this would form the ‘base’ of the entire edit.
The plan was to sync that bit to the studio recording and then pick ‘choice’ moments of when the singers were singing and when they were being interviewed + shots of the musicians playing as cut-aways.
Sounds simple but to find truly good moments to cut-away to that fit in the moment - suffice to say this was not an easy task and took many hours.
While experimenting with the above, there were at least 4 offline cuts where the cut-aways were actually quite random. Every cut had different arrangements of cut-aways.
Sound : Because the shoot was quite ad-hoc. The audio syncing was a worry for me. It took a bit of effort but I managed to do it. The idea to use the minus-one which Vale worked around with for the recording worked!
The hero is the song & the people singing this arrangement - This was the main thing that Vale and I agreed on from the very beginning. Once we had this single mind, the rest just needed the hours of finding the right shots to put together.
How to release the video?
Besides being an Actor, I am a Producer and over the last 5 years, my day job has been consulting Clients on digital content. From concepts to strategic amplification & boosting. Vale and I spoke about the various ways of how to share the video at some considerable length.
I tried to repurpose & apply what I would advise low budget marketing campaigns to do for #SetiaNegaraku.
But it didn’t seem to sit right and Vale agreed. So we decided to stick to the heart of what the project is about -
“A bunch of Malaysians coming together, singing a song to represent how they feel right now, as Malaysians.”
Thanks to Vale for approaching me to do this and for all the talents who agreed to let me & the team shoot them the way we wanted to without any form of protest whatsoever. Thank you for reading this. Thank you for watching the video & sharing it. And here’s a final shout out to all who were involved in the making of this video: Music Arrangement: Vale V Wong & Loh Ui Li Music Programming: Loh Ui Li Producer and Director: Vale V Wong Asst Director: Cheryl Tan Composer (Setia): Tok Mat Strings: Andrew Filmer, Andrea Sim, Joshua Sim Editor: Michael Chen Videography: Michael Chen, Joylene Ling, Nicholas Chin, Kenny Gan, Joel Wong, Ryonn Leong Sound Engineer: Bot Hong Singers in order of appearance: Haly Rahman Vale V Wong Raden Ahmad Zairudi Anthony Siew Happy Azzad Anuarudin Sia Cheong Long Reney Marlini Samantha de Lune Anne-Marie Abraham Elly Peh Siti Darlina Ibrahim Anrie Too Cheryl Tan Aishah Soraya Abby Amran Jollene Tan #SetiaNegaraku