Chris Milk is best known as the director of The Wilderness Downtown, a surprising innovative interactive video designed to show off Google's Chrome browser and based around the Arcade Fire track We Used To Wait. His latest project is another interactive music video, this time for Danger Mouse and composer Daniele Luppi's Spaghetti Western-inspired concept album Rome.
3 Dreams of Black (Google Chrome required) doesn't have the geo-location wow factor of The Wilderness Downtown, but it charts a beautiful interactive journey through a landscape where painted brushstrokes meet digital game graphics.
This promo for the track Black, which is sung by the beige-voiced Nora Jones, is again built for Google Chrome and featurese continually-morphing creatures -- created by digital agency Mirada -- spread life or destruction.
3 Dreams of Black is part of an ambitious transmedia project being launched to support the Rome album. Utilizing the interactivity of WebGL, a new technology which brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the web browser, 3 Dreams of Black reveals the lucid dreams of Temple, a girl born after the apocalypse. Or something.
"This project gave us a great opportunity to push the storytelling experience into new, non-linear directions," said Javier Jimenez, co-founder of Mirada. "It was clear after meeting with Chris that 3 Dreams of Black was going to break a lot of ground in how fans interact and engage with artists and music."
The 3 Dreams of Black story is told as a visual experience through three dream worlds. Rich 2D drawings and animations are interspersed with interactive 3D sequences in which viewers can take control with their computer's mouse and guide their journey through the unfolding narrative. After the song's finished, viewers can continue exploring the 3D world, or create their own relics using a 3D model creator, with some of the best creations integrated into the experience to become a part of the overall project.
Mirada was brought into the project by Milk to conceptualize, design, build and animate the visual language of the project. This included art directing the look of the worlds and creating the stylized assets for nearly 50 characters. These creatures include 'Life Animals' -- including deer, rabbits, dogs, butterflies, and 'Black Animals' -- such as bears, scorpions, tarantulas, and buffalos. Working closely with North Kingdom, which handled the web design and back-end programming, Mirada's creatures are a constantly morphing herd guided by the viewer's cursor. At different points in the song, the herd comes into contact with its environment, whether it be city, countryside or desert, and destroys it or populates it with plants, trees and other forms of life -- interactions Mirada also designed and animated.
"Mirada breathed life and energy into these strange low polygonal creatures," said Chris. "They really helped make what was a digital abstraction of an animal feel organic and alive."
Concept drawings for the 'Black Animals'
Mirada's team handled extensive R&D, studying animal run cycles, herding behavior and patterns, and programming this information into the creatures. The 'Life Animals' exhibit an elegant, fluid movement, while 'Black Animals' race across the screen aggressively, striking at the environment in hard, fast motions. Because the animals change seamlessly from one creature into another, Mirada also programmed morphing attributes into the herd.
Colour swatches for the 'Life Animals'
"We were challenged with having to squeeze Chris' incredible vision into a real-time engine that can run smoothly on 'my mother's laptop' and fit in a tiny download size," says technical lead Andy Cochrane. "The constant focus was on simplicity with the appearance of complexity. It had to react to the viewer in real time, so characters were kept relatively small, run cycles were 30 frames or less, and behaviors were driven by extremely simple calculations. At the end of a project, it's always easy to forget all the minute technical details that go into attaining the final result, but in this case the details are what make the project so special. It's a sum of its parts."
Danger Mouse and Luppi joined forces in 2005 and have gone to Rome nearly every year since to record instrumentals from classically trained Italian musicians, some of whom played in the original soundtracks of Spaghetti Western classics directed by the legendary Ennio Morricone. With the soundtrack complete, Danger Mouse and Luppi enlisted Ex-White Stripe Jack White and Norah Jones on vocals for the resulting album Rome, which comes out on May 17th.