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NXNEi Wrap Up — The Future of Music Videos
Panelists present four case studies on how interactive technologies are shaping the future of music video creation right now

Panelist Ciel Hunter from the Creators Project presents at NXNEi. Photo: Andrija Dimitrijevic
If a new slogan could be made for the culture of music videos it’s that the audience is the message.
Interactive videos, apps and installations have become an extended part of the creation of music videos where no longer are musicians reserved to the linear playing of videos on television. The audience is as much a part of it as an artful shot, a new technology, a character in the narrative. Dialogue surrounding new technologies and their role in music videos is extremely important especially when using them to extend the meaning or experience of a song. The Future of Music Videos panel at NXNE Interactive explored a few examples of contemporary musicians using interactive and digital technologies to enhance the video and audience experience.

Case Study: Young Empires — “White Doves”

Toronto’s Young Empires released the world’s first interactive music video under the direction of interactive agency Jam 3. Founder Mark McQuillan presented this case study for the song “White Doves,” which pulls more then 70 photos of your friends over the course of the video to create a customized storyline.  This is called motion trapped dynamic imaging. The video dropped at the end of May and created quite the stir, prompting massive lines at the band’s NXNE performance this past weekend.

“Interactive art is a profitable thing, but it’s also a labour of love. Its half experimentation half staying in business. Not every project is one where you can make money or experiment,” McQuillan said. He also mentioned that young bands considering the creation of a dynamic video should look at interactive agencies as well as their friends, recent graduates and people in their network.

For the interactive version of the video, click here.

Case Study: Passion Pit — “Take A Walk”

Ciel Hunter, head of the Creators Project at Vice, presented Passion Pit’s latest video “Take A Walk,” which debuted last week. The video used an RC controlled helicopter with a red camera attached to simulate a bouncing ball. It was directed by emerging filmmaker David Wilson. The interesting part about this is the Creators Project itself, which helps artists bring brands (Intel and Vice) into the creative process without losing the rights to their work. Hunter explains how the process has become democratized.

“This topic is really interested one for us because the renaissance of video — people are putting money into it again,” she said. “We’ve been interested in the different ways you can use technology to bring a track to life.”

The camera crew had to take the helicopter into the woods to figure out how to operate it. It was done in one day of shooting, but required extensive work in post to balance the shots. Now that the technology is becoming more accessible, Hunter says there’s richer footage for artists to play with — and possibilities bands may never have thought of before.

Case Study: Spiritualized — “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating in Space”

The Creators Project was commissioned for a series of events during last year’s Coachella. One of the ideas was to create a 3D version of a track via a light and sound installation. It was done in the form of a huge and dark room designed to mimic a cathedral. Five large windows sent beams of light with each one also an individual layer of the track, so that if you were to stand under it you would hear but one sound from the song “Ladies and Gentlemen, We’re Floating in Space” by Spiritualized. The masterminds behind it were Jonathan Glazer and J. Spaceman and the installation was so successful, it was later recreated in New York. 

“We wanted to re-envision what its like to be inside a track,” Hunter said. “You were meant to walk through each layer.”

Case Study: Arcade Fire  “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

Vincent Morisset is a bit of a hero in interactive music. He is a filmmaker and developer who first came on the radar when he designed Arcade Fire’s first website. But he also had ideas. He wanted to create a visceral video that was based on movement and dance and while he first proposed the idea to Bjork, he ended up making it for Arcade Fire’s track “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” This is a band already famous for interactive videos. The 2010 video for “We Used to Wait” pulls images from the viewer’s hometown via Google maps.

This time, Morisset wanted the viewer to physically be involved. “The idea is you’re invited to dance in front of your camera. The camera detects your movement and reacts to it,” Morisset said. The sensor allows the viewer to re-choreography inside the original choreography and control the pace of the video.

For the interactive video, click here.

What now?

“The traditional music video isn’t going anywhere. We create experiences that have both linear and non-linear points. We’ll still need content for YouYube. YouTube is still king,” McQuillan said.

The panel discussed various other ideas for interactive elements already in development for the future of music videos, including app design, video games, webcam technologies, social media and face recognition technology. Hunter encouraged bands to consider the meaning of the song and which interactive elements make sense for the narrative. Just because the technology is more accessible, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worth the time or money needed to use it. If bands are interested, the panel recommends looking into provincial and federal grants for both music and interactive arts. Try the Canada Council for the Arts, Factor and the Ontario Arts Council to start.

“The time is right for someone to release an album in an entirely new way,” Hunter said.


Sheena Lyonnais is Toronto Standard’s tech and business editor. You can follow her on Twitter at @SheenaLyonnais.

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