Award-winning production company Pomp&Clout has made music videos for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Diplo, Lil Wayne, and Alt-J. Founder and director Ryan Staake talked to us about what makes his Bushwick-based company tick, his go-to gear, and his predictions for the future of cinema (hint: it doesn’t involve cameras).


KitSplit: Tell us a little about your work and company.   

Ryan: Pomp&Clout is a production company and design studio based in Bushwick. We work mainly in Music Videos, Commercials and New Media / Interactive projects. Our roster of directors have created videos for a diverse range of artists such as alt-J, Major Lazer, Lil Wayne, Diplo, Future Islands, Danny Brown, Blood Orange and more. Recently, the advertising world has come knocking, and we’ve been doing much more commercial/promo work for clients like Balenciaga, Duolingo & McIntosh.

KS: Why did you two start working together? 

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Pomp&Clout founder Ryan Staake with DP Mike Simpson at the VMAs

R: Well, Kevin and I are brothers, so we’ve known each other for quite some time. I founded Pomp&Clout as a one man operation and have since grown it into a small operation with a dedicated staff including Kevin (Producer), Aaron Vinton (Creative Director), Pete Puskas (Lead VFX Artist) and Ryen Bartlett (Director’s Rep). Currently, our director roster includes myself, Alan Del Rio Ortiz, Jay Buim and Anthony Sylvester.

KS: How would you describe your style?  

R: As a director, I think I’m known for taking kind of left-field approaches to my concepts, and normally incorporating a visual/thematic element that runs throughout the piece. I got into video through graphic design and animation, and as such, my work tends to rely heavily on these elements. For Pomp&Clout as a company, I think we’re known for a generally bold approach, doing things in a generally different way than most other production companies.

KS: What have you been working on lately?

R: We just put out a big spot for a Chinese dairy company starring Jay Chou and a bunch of huge domino contraptions. Currently, we’ve been wrapping up a music video I directed in Long Beach for Clams Casino & Vince Staples, designing titles/graphics for a new show on Adult Swim, delivering a music video our director Alan Del Rio Ortiz directed for Fetty Wap, finishing a VFX heavy piece for an EDM trio, writing a spot for a large tech company, and creating a VR game.

KS: What piece of yours are you most proud of? 
R: Personally, I’m still the most proud of my Diplo – Set it Off infinite pole-dance video. I did all the VFX myself over the course of a 2 month marathon. 

KS: Can you tell us a little about your process?

R: When writing a concept, I normally listen to the track way too much. I try to pick up on a central idea within it, and imagine a concise visual/thematic representation of that idea. When putting together the actual treatment pdf, I tend to tweak a lot of my reference images in Photoshop, as it’s hard to find the exact images I need. In some cases I’ll hire a storyboard artist to help with putting together images for a treatment if the content I need his super specific. Once a treatment is approved and greenlit, I try to maximize my pre-production time by visualizing as much as I can before I arrive on set or at a location scout. I sketch, diagram, 3D model, do quick camera tests, mockup vfx in after effects—basically I use whatever tools I have to employ to gain a more accurate understanding of what I’m going to do once we’re on set and the clock is ticking. I’m normally very involved in the post of my projects, so once we’ve wrapped on set, I have a very specific idea of what I want to do in post, and my team and I at Pomp&Clout jump right in and begin to put all of the elements together. Once we wrap post, we tend to bring on a talented colorist to add a final level of polish and finesse. Lately, we’ve been working with David Torcivia (an independent colorist) and Mikey Rossiter or Josh Bohoskey at The Mill.

KS: Can you give us a general overview of the gear you typically use? 

R: We use a wide range of tools. I would say we generally shoot on RED as the massive resolution and raw color data is incredibly beneficial in post. We occasionally shoot on Alexa as well other cameras when necessary. My videos have made use of MoVI stabilizers and steadicam a lot lately, as I think the shot can look quite similar to a dolly shot, but without the added complexity/time of dolly track, etc. We also shoot with our 360 Heros 10x GoPro rig for 360° video projects. When 3D scanning, we use an iPad with a Structure.io scanner. We also have a FLIR thermal camera, VHS camera, couple Super 8 cameras… we try to keep it eclectic.
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On set with producer Laure Salgon and DP Mike Simpson for the Alt-J music video Left Hand Free.

KS: What is your most-used piece of gear?
R: Honestly, boring answer, but my Mac Pro. It’s definitely the backbone of my process, and there every step of the way… concept, production, post and delivery.
KS: What’s your favorite piece of gear?
R: The unsung hero of our process is our Small Tree Titanium-Z 16 10-gigabit ethernet Server. It currently has 40TB of RAID storage, and allows all of our machines to connect simultaneously and edit 4k, 5k, 6k RED raw footage at the same time. It sounds like a fighter jet when it turns on and runs all the fans at full blast, which is a plus.

KS: Can you talk a little about what inspires you?

R: I’m really inspired by people creating work with new tools, technologies and approaches. There’s definitely an increased chance for failure when you take this approach, but personally the idea of doing things the same way over and over, and following the tried and true approaches and losing that spark and excitement is so much more terrifying.

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KS: What’s the best piece of advice you got when starting out?
R: I got some healthy second guessing from people when I decided to leave Apple and strike off on my own and start a production company, and I think that negative reinforcement created a fire in my belly to prove people wrong and persevere through the struggles of independence.
KS: What advice would you offer to other folks just starting out?
R: If making music videos, make your first piece for someone with a pretty solid online following, and make it for free… This will allow you to get a project for someone with a good amount of recognition which you can use to build relationships with other artists and labels.
KS: Closing thoughts? 
R: The future is camera-less… As Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality mature, volumetric 3D scanning will be the norm, and fixed perspective media will be a thing of the past. Unity & Unreal are the Premiere & Final Cut of tomorrow.

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