In January 2015, London-based agency The Mill came together with Virgin Records, directors Dom&Nic and production company Outsider to create a music video for The Chemical Brothers’ song “Wide Open” featuring Beck. The collaboration’s results are a mesmerizing optical masterpiece, three awards at Cannes in July, and 14 million YouTube views to date — 30 of which, I admit, might be from me.
More than being the visual counterpart to one of my favorite songs, I truly believe the music video for “Wide Open” stands as a testament to the brilliant media that technology and art can co-create.
Constructed as one continuous clip, the video paints a surreal story with stunning effects. In accordance with the song’s pulsating drums, the plot fluidly unravels as the dancer, Sonya Mizuno, glides across an empty warehouse — gradually morphing into a synthetic silhouette.
According to a press release from directors Dom&Nic, their vision was to “merge the mechanical and the organic, having been inspired by procedural cellular structures.”
Evolving Dom&Nic’s vision from an idea into a real, concrete music video was an incredibly complex process. To shoot in one continuous shot required meticulous tracking, 3D match-moving and animation. An utmost amount of precision was fully required at every stage.
Here is a simplified gist of how the video came to fruition: Following initial concept art, Sonya Mizuno was scanned in full to create an exact digital replica of her body. Set rehearsals with choreographer Wayne McGregor followed. Next, came motion capture: this stage saw Mizuno sporting a mo-cap suit and ‘witness’ go-pro mounted all around the set. The witness cameras were able to record the Mizuno from every possible angle, and this was done to provide as much reference for the animation team as possible. The Mill then used a LIDAR scan of the set (as to ensure they had a very accurate track and, later, to scan HDRI images) as well as bespoke in-house software written for the project. Clean plates were created for all 7,000 frames. Finally, came cleaning up and realizing captivating visuals that entwined with the iconic sounds of “Wide Open”.
Considering how The Mill was the seventh most awarded agency at Cannes this year, this may signal to other agencies that now is the time to take the plunge and utilize pioneering technologies to elevate their creative ideas to another dimension.
The rewards in artistically creating content with cutting-edge software are vast. To visually tell a story that has not been told before, and to make people feel a connection with it, is what I see as brilliant content.
It’s fitting that “Wide Open” should set the tune for this blog, as I intend for this to be a place where innovations in art and technology are celebrated.