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2k10 in Review: The Most Technologically Innovative Videos

While I’m anything but an expert in the field of technology and have only a superficial grasp on the continual innovations made within the realm of video production, I do have the benefit of having watched a few thousand music videos this past year. I suppose I’d like to think that what I might lack in expertise in one area can be compensated for by sheer volume in another. Along the way a few of these videos have stood out as offering something I’ve never seen before in terms of showcasing an unusual technique, innovative approach or remarkable concept. If you think the list is missing a video or two that you prefer over these options, that isn’t to say that I’ve left them out: I probably just missed them over the course of the year or simply don’t understand the process behind them. Please do me a favor and drop a mind bomb on me via Facebook or Twitter if that’s the case.

#7) Les Savy Fav “Let’s Get Out of Here”
(Directed by Luke Harris)

A projection-based video isn’t an entirely new concept, but the way in which director Luke Harris manipulated the subject, bringing the immobile animation to life, adds an entirely new twist to the idea. Originally releasing a video with the same footage earlier this year, Harris re-purposed the clip and dropped it in conjunction with Les Savy Fav’s new album Roots for Ruin late last month.

#6) Jon Hopkins “Vessel (Four Tet Remix)”
(Directed and produced by Bison)

In addition to embracing a technique similar to that which was brilliantly used in Thee Oh Sees’ “Meat Step Lively,” Bison explains the extensive production which went into creating the stunning “Vessel,”

We’d been looking into an old 3D technique called Anaglyph, which is the familiar red and cyan version of 3D that you used to get on the back of cereal boxes. The more we looked at various images that used this technique, the more we fell in love with the colours and decided that they should drive the aesthetic of the piece. In particular, we were intrigued as to what might happen if the two images were from drastically different sources.

The song is full of light and shade; with euphoric melodies and skipping glitchy beats. It seemed to us that themes of ‘duality’ ran through both the song and our visual idea.

We took those themes to our stylist, Justine Josephs who, along with our make-up artist Sally Marshall, created two opposing looks for our dancer, Claire Meehan. We spent a single day shooting in a South East London studio with Chris Nunn behind the camera and lights.

Finally came the edit and post-production process: We locked ourselves in the studio for two weeks working with After Effects. The process was pretty organic; we spent a week or so playing with the footage, developing different ideas and techniques, and then spent a further week moulding the disparate pieces into a solid video that ebbed and flowed in the right places.”

#5) FM Belfast “Underwear”
(Directed by DANIELS)

What’s so great about “Underwear” is how DANIELS (Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan) were able to use a limited number of tools and effects in unison to create such a moving visual standout. While techniques such as time remapping and overlaying are used, the video is hardly the result of new (or even relatively recent) innovations in videography. As Scheinert explained in an online discussion surrounding the clip,

Let me talk about the taffy effect on the bar guy. So I learned a lot about that effect after I did it. It’s called Slit-Scan Photography and it’s been around since the 60s. There are java scripts and plug-ins to do this effect. But if you want to do it DANIELS style, you slow your footage down, break the image into 359 layers, and then make each layer slightly slower than the next.

Five nights of shooting with 5D and 7D lenses using a few interesting techniques as well as a handful of green screen shots and topping it all off with a thin membrane of overlayed dust. Easy, right? You can download a brief behind-the-scenes video of the shoot at Motionographer.

#4) Belleruche “Fuzz Face”
(Directed by Jamie Roberts)

After first viewing “Fuzz Face” it might first appear as though the video’s production is quite similar to the ridiculously creative 3D plotting technologies behind Radiohead’s remarkable “House of Cards” music video. In reality, however, it’s not even close. From the group’s explanation of “Fuzz Face,”

Four and a half thousand photocopies, made in corner stores in East London, result in this original and distorted video for “Fuzz Face.”

Shot and directed by Jamie Roberts, who also produced the band’s acclaimed first single promo “Clockwatching.” This video takes the concept of ‘Fuzz Face’ and spins the band members through a weird process of digital and analogue distortion, resulting in each and every frame (all 4500 of them) being ‘fuzzed’ by being run through old photocopiers in call centres and newsagents on the Bethnal Green Road in the east end of London then the prints being reassembled into the final edit.

#3) Broken Social Scene “Forced to Love”
(Directed by MAKAPOON)

From the description of “Forced to Love” on YouTube,

This video employs cutting edge 3D rendering and looks like nothing you’ve seen before. It was directed by MAKAPOON (Adam Makarenko & Alan Poon) and produced by Geoff McLean (Vision Entertainment).

Poon’s explanation of the production,

It’s an experimental 3D scanning technology that detects the displacement of a grid pattern of any object in front of it. The data is then used to rebuild the object in three dimensions. Each band member’s performance was scanned using this technique and manipulated in the computer to create the effect you see in the final video.

#2) Darkstar “Gold”
(Directed/animated by Evan Boehm)

As explained by the Sembler team,

Commissioned by Hyperdub Records, we directed/animated/programmed the music video for Darkstar’s first single off their new album, “North.” Titled ‘Gold’ the video is an artistic representation of the concept of memetic contagion i.e. an idea as something that you can catch, that finds a host in the mind of a person.

3D Light Structuring: To create the 3D point clouds of Darkstar’s heads, we used Kyle Mcdonald’s open source structured light scanner. By projecting three phases of a cosine pattern across the faces of Darkstar we produced accurate 3D models of each member. With a bit of coding trickery, we then brought this data into After Effects to animate the individual points. Download the 3D Structured Light Scanner here.

Gold Code: Instead of relying on the usual package of particle software, we wrote our own. Written in C++ with openFrameworks, the aim was to give the ‘gold contagion’ a unique look and one that wasn’t out there in the usual After Effects/Cinema4D arsenal. Relying on lots of open source software ourselves, we figured it was only fair to release the code so other people could play around with it. Check out the processing app here.

Visible Human Project: So how to show the insides of Darkstar? The thought of building a 3D model of the brain occurred to us but we wanted it to look as realistic as possible. To do this we decided to source images directly from The National Library of Medicine in Maryland. A program they run, The Visible Human Project aims “to create a digital image dataset of complete human male and female cadavers in MRI, CT and anatomical modes.” Using the anatomical and MRI data sets we constructed traversal animations as biological stand-ins for Darkstar.

#1) Arcade Fire “We Used To Wait”
(Directed by Chris Milk)

While the video for “We Used To Wait” (aka “The Wilderness Downtown” project) might best be described as “an experience” rather than a simple visual accompaniment to the song, it still represents one of the most interesting steps toward offering something new in the realm of the music video. Creativity Online has a remarkably detailed breakdown of the video’s production, but if you’re looking for a quick and to-the-point informative explanation of what the video is, look no further than to Boing Boing‘s David Pescovitz,

‘The Wilderness Downtown’ is perhaps the best browser-dominating Net art piece I’ve experienced since Jodi.org’s best work more than a decade ago. An experimental, interactive film by Chris Milk, it’s a tour-de-force for the Chrome browser and a lovely visual poem to accompany Arcade Fire’s excellent “We Used To Wait” from their album ‘The Suburbs’.


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