Canadian animation/VFX house Crush has completed Hollow Man, a video for REM's single. Created in little over six weeks, the spot is a dizzying combination of camera effects and CG, with the visuals closely mirroring the song's lyrics and music.
Crush's creative director Gary Thomas says: "We first spoke to Michael Stipe at the end of February. He heard about us through the work we did last year for Doug Coupland’s new book, The Gum Thief. He wanted a video that was frantic and dense and not overly polished or fretted over.
"Michael has great instincts about what visuals are right for the song, but really allowed us to run with the clip, adding really good, insightful comments at the right times, even as the band began a punishing press tour to launch the new album."
The finished product is an angsty, contemporary video in which filmed elements are scribbled over by handdrawn and typographic lyrics, while tiny computer-men parachute from the sky or appear all over the screen like error messages.
"We took a page from R.E.M.’s approach to writing and recording the new record," explains Gary Thomas. "We wanted to take the “punk” aesthetic and represent it for 2008. We wanted to see the Hollow Man as a person (or in our case three people), as a digital avatar, or as a roughly drawn representation. We wanted the lyrics to stand out front, plain and confronting without losing their layers of meaning. We felt that the moment of understanding needed to feel like an explosion, and that dictated the rush of images, punctuated by moments of clarity (the falling man)."
The video successfully captures the paranoia, emptiness and claustrophobia of the track. "When we first started talking to Michael about the meaning behind the lyrics, the song really struck a chord with us," says Thomas. "We all fear losing who we are or getting so far down a path, either in career or personally, that we can’t get back. We wanted to build on that as our theme. The idea of isolation, the universality of that and to see how that moment of realization, the explosion of understanding changes your path."
He says that the creative process is one of the studio's strengths, and this video was no exception. "Crush works a bit like a band. We all have our roles but we collaborate, sometimes leading each other and sometimes following. The creative process was liquid and constantly changing. We knew where we wanted to go, but didn’t constrict ourselves early on, adding and subtracting until sometime around lunchtime on the day the video shipped."
He continues: "We started out feeling like typography was going to be the main device, then felt a hand-animated section would give it the humanity the words needed, then as we explored, thought a live-action representation would connect all the elements. The digital “avatar” came from comments about performing the song at SXSW, and it went on to becoming the symbolic heart of the video."
Thomas says that the video gave the team the chance to really play around and experiment: "We used every toy in the building, shot footage in Stephanie (our producer’s) apartment, in our grubby stairwell, just generally got back to a place where all creative people start and then slowly get away from, to try to make pictures work like music."
The finished video can be seen here.