JMU’s all-female acapella group Note-oriety is still riding high from their cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts.”￼ Uploaded to YouTube on September 6, 2015, the music video is nearing 500,000 views. The video has gained attention from sites like BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and even a mention from celebrity Nicki Minaj. However, throughout all of Note-oriety’s well-deserved hype, one important contributor has often been left out of the discussion.
JMU graduate, Technology and Design alumni, and videographer David Bittner has humbly rejoiced in the shadows at the success of his recent production. “My goal was not to have people remember the name David Bittner, but to have people remember the name Note-oriety,” said Bittner.
Bittner, who has worked closely with Note-oriety in the past, spent over 75 hours creating the video. From the beginning of the idea for the video all the way to the video’s current success, Bittner and Note-oriety collaborated together for almost an entire year. Bittner worked directly with music director Zoe MaCrae, public relations chair Laine Hodges, and the soloists featured in the video.
Initially there were many concepts and ideas that the two collaborators wanted to try but many ideas often did not meet their goals for originality and staying true to their message. They wanted to clearly promote positive body image and positive mental health but the unanswered question was how to show all of that in a music video. “We would just sit and listen to the music and think about what we wanted to see,” Bittner recalled.
Zoe MaCrae, who came up with the idea to cover the song, said, “We felt the song had a powerful message and we wanted to get the message out to the campus and hopefully beyond.”
After over a dozen “late night Carrier sessions,” the idea formed to have students on JMU’s campus write a negative word about themselves to show how society perceives them and a positive word that portrayed how they wanted to be seen. Bittner suggested that the group also film at JMU’s Bridgeforth Stadium to show that they were trying to spread their message and JMU’s message like our sports teams and other organizations do.
After all the concepts for the video were finalized, it was time to start filming. Bittner recollects the many difficulties that he faced shooting the video. “It was really tedious finding shooting dates that all the Note girls were available and we often had to reschedule times at the very last minute,” said Bittner. “Also, it was difficult getting students to act naturally on camera so often times I just kept the camera rolling so I could capture those candid moments you see in the video.” Additionally, Bittner had to make the best out of some questionable shooting locations including turning a conference room in Warren Hall into a suitable shooting space. Altogether, Bittner shot almost 11 hours of footage total.
Bittner’s next task was to sort through the hours of rough footage and edit it down to the time of the song. As an artist, Bittner particularly enjoys the editing process but was definitely challenged during this production. Struggling to balance going to school in L.A. and editing other projects, Bittner had to channel energy he didn’t know he had to complete this project. He often spent hours at a time glued to his Mac fiddling with the features of Final Cut Pro X, the software he used to edit the video. Aside from using Final Cut Pro X, Bittner had to learn to use Adobe After Effects and Davinci Resolve to fix a substantial problem he encountered.
The marker that was used to write the words on the mirrors did not clearly show up in the footage. As a result, Bittner had to go into these two programs and meticulously trace the words so they would appear more visibly. “That was by far the most frustrating part of the process,” Bittner recalled. “It’s funny because it was just letters but they probably were the most important thing about the video.”
After finishing over 50 hours worth of editing, Bittner closed his laptop and immediately treated himself to the culinary perfection that is Taco Bell. Although it is too early in Bittner’s career to call this his magnum opus, it sure has been his most fulfilling production thus far. Throughout all of the setbacks, complications, and freak-outs, Bittner is grateful to have created something so special with some of his favorite people.
“The most fulfilling part for me is that it really ties in with what I want to do for the rest of my life. I love to tell stories and be able to share them with people. The best part was seeing the nation give Note-oriety the notoriety they deserve because they are such fantastic people.”
Since his graduation and his tenure as a member of the TAD video team, Bittner has worked on various other successful projects. Most recently he got a Job working for Discovery as a VR editor. Bittner is set to move to Silver Spring, Maryland in the next few weeks but it is safe to say this is not the last time the JMU community will hear the name David Bittner.