Blind has creating an elegantly stunning black-and-white music video for the Cinematic Orchestra's cover of Jeff Buckley's Lilac Wine. We sat down with director Vanessa Marzaroli to find out how it was created.
The video was created for an online celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr Martens, the shoemaker beloved by indie kids and punks. The Dr Martens 50th birthday microsite features 10 modern artists covering 10 alternative music tracks from the last 50 years. Each is accompanied by a music video, of which Lilac Wine is the first.
DA: How did the song lead to the concept behind the video?
VM: "It really felt like a love song to me. Whenever I think of love songs, I think about someone writing in their journal. With that said, I knew the piece needed to feel organic and handwritten.
"I used the written words as a launching pad for the concept in which beautifully hand written words and flourishes would blossom into small vignettes and stories."
DA: What was your initial concept behind the video and how did you develop this?
VM: "Since I knew I wanted the piece to be some sort of a love note, I knew the concept would involve written words. However, I didn't want just any written words, I wanted beautifully crafted penmanship.
"I've always been inspired by calligraphy. A style of calligraphy called Spencerian Script came to mind and it was a perfect fit for the project. Spencerian calligraphy is notable for its beautiful flourishes, flow and movement, giving it a lot of potential for this concept."
DA: The aesthetic for the video is truly beautiful. What were your influences for this?
VM: "Studies of people practising this penmanship style influenced the aesthetic tremendously. One of the penmanship exercises I observed was the creation of bird illustrations, which inspired some elements of the video."
DA: How do you sustain interest using black-&-white over four minutes?
VM: "We sustain interest by ensuring that every frame is eyecatching and beautiful. It's very important to create strong positive and negative space when dealing with just black and white.
"We also incorporated continuous perpetual motion and subtle elements of surprise to keep the viewer engaged."
DA: How was the animation created?
VM: "We always start a job with storyboard frames followed by a comprehensive design exploration.
"We started the animation process with an animatic that we timed to the rhythm and pacing of the song. We blocked out the shots and transitions using the storyboards and the musical track. We then had to translate and digitize the detailed calligraphy, artwork and character designs using high-resolution vector art that would preserve the quality and integrity of the intricate line work.
"We then took that information and started bringing those worlds to life using various 3D programs (Cinema 4D, Maya and 3DS Max). We built and rigged the character models in 3D using very smooth geometry and flat cell-shading to preserve the analogue nature of the piece. Some of the background pieces were built using 3D geometry, while others we composited using flat cards.
"After the animation work was done in 3D, we composited the plates using After Effects -- applying different particle, lighting, atmospheric and other subtle effects that would give an otherwise flat world, depth and life."
DA: What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome this?
VM: "One of the biggest challenges was to create a captivating world, including characters and scenarios that would keep the audience engaged and enchanted; since we were working with a song with very little tonal variety and a slow tempo. Another challenge was staying true to the visual concept of Spencerian Script. We had to walk a fine line and find a way to make 3D and digital animation seem human, organic and analog.
"The detail we had to achieve on the calligraphy in particular was very challenging. Lastly, ensuring that the team members were utilizing consistent techniques and styles so that the piece would feel seamless proved to be challenging. Our team members were working with different platforms, so that itself was also a challenge."