Ghost Funk Orchestra Honors Singer Songwriter Bill Withers with “For My Friend” Music Video

The 60-member band came together remotely to pay tribute to the late legend

Ghost Funk Orchestra’s “For My Friend” music video is a touching tribute to the late singer, songwriter and guitarist Bill Withers who recently passed away. Known for hits such as “Lean on Me” and “Lovely Day,” Withers’ friend and Ghost Funk Orchestra’s bandleader Seth Applebaum wanted to honor his friend by covering Withers’ classic hit “For My Friend.” The only catch was the 60-member band couldn’t meet in person due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions.

How do you bring 60 performers together virtually? Luckily Applebaum is not only a composer and multi-instrumentalist but also a freelance colorist and online editor, so he melded his music and production talents together to create the music video via a remote workflow. The music video features the band performing the song in an arrangement of tiles, at times highlighting certain sections (horns, strings, vocals, etc.), and at other times highlighting all 60 members at once.

Applebaum began by composing a track, which he sent out to the band. Each member recorded themselves at home using whatever they had at their disposal – cameras, computers, phones, tablets, etc. – as recoding live, even remotely, just wasn’t an option due to bandwidth restrictions. Applebaum received more than three hours of content in a variety of formats and relied on his at-home setup comprised of an iMac Pro, DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel for grading, and Sony Trimaster EL monitor that was being fed by an UltraStudio Express capture and playback device.

“I normally have an at-home setup for smaller jobs, although I currently have a few extra pieces of gear on loan from my main post house, Blackfin, to continue their projects through the quarantine,” noted Applebaum.

“I decided to edit the ‘For My Friend’ video in DaVinci Resolve Studio because I knew it would handle mixed formats well and allow me a lot of flexibility in terms of grouping clips, cropping and ultimately nesting and rearranging the sections as the song progresses,” said Applebaum. 

“After I collected all the materials, I went through and got them in sync with the reference one-by-one. I built out the giant mosaic with everyone first and rendered it overnight. Then I built out smaller groupings to highlight instrumental and vocal sections at different points in the song and made those into compound clips. With the mixdown of the giant mosaic taken care of, I could just cut between different compound clips here and there, fall back on the mosaic from time to time, and then overlay enlarged videos when I wanted to highlight a band member or section. I leaned very heavily on making compound clips so that it was easy for me to reposition rows that had already been cropped and lined up,” he added.

According to Applebaum, he’s found that DaVinci Resolve Studio tends to use his computer’s processing power more efficiently and effectively than other programs, which is why he chose it for a project with this many video layers. 

Applebaum also graded “For My Friend” in DaVinci Resolve Studio. “I decided not to go too heavy duty because I wanted to retain the character of the varied sources. Basically, what I did is matched the contrast for clips that may have been washed out or underexposed. Then I applied a global LUT from ImpulZ to tame the video colors and give the whole thing a tint,” he explained.

Applebaum mixed the audio in Logic Pro using a variety of third-party plug-ins from Black Rooster Audio, Waves and Arturia.

From start to finish, Applebaum turned the project around in just two weeks. “Even though we were restricted physically, technology was able to bridge that gap and bring us together virtually,” concluded Applebaum. “Bill was an amazing person and very talented musician, and I’m glad Ghost Funk Orchestra could pay tribute to his life and work with the ‘For My Friend’ music video.”

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