Inside Speech Graphics' 3D-animated Kanye West Black Skinhead interactive video

Scottish animation startup Speech Graphics teamed up with Nick Knight and DONDA to help create Kanye West's controversial new interactive video, Black Skinhead.

Directed by fashion photographer Nick Knight, Black Skinhead is a three-minute-long 3D animated video for the single from Kanye's album, Yeezus. Viewers can speed up or slow down the video using the +/- slider, and can capture screen grabs of the video to share on social media.

In order to achieve this, Speech Graphics used audio-driven animation technology to animate Kanye. The company analysed the voice track from the single to replicate the muscle movements that Kanye would have been doing when he produced the sound through a 3D facial model of the musician.

Speech Graphics CTO and co-founder, Michael Berger, has said that the company was given an exceptionally tight deadline for the project, but that he “just could not say no to this amazing job.”

“We knew that bringing the voice to life would be critical to capturing the intense power and energy of Kanye West,” Berger continues. “When we animate speech we actually animate most of the face because the skin moves, right up to the eyes. We even had his ears moving with the jaw motion. But our biggest challenge was to make Kanye's face move naturally over the famous gold and diamond grill on his teeth.”

Gregor Hofer, Speech Graphic CEO and co-founder said: “This has been an extraordinary project to work on. To make the most famous face in Hip Hop rap has been a surreal experience and the media furore has added to the intensity of working on the project.

"It just doesn't get any bigger. This project has given us the chance to really show what our technology can do. We are hugely excited about what the future holds for us and proud to work with such an artist." 

Kanye West is known to have a passion for technology, so much so that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was one of the first people to see Kanye's new baby earlier this year. He has, on multiple occassions, also compared himself to the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.


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