A Melancholy Story About The Demise Of Cassette Tapes

In ardent pursuit of his dreams, London-based artist Yibi Hu has come a long way over the past few years. The enthusiastic animation artist moved to London from China, where the industry is still green and developing, and co-founded M-I-E studio—a design company whose portfolio includes the 4D projection mapping we saw in this year’s London Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Yet besides all the commerical projects on Yibi Hu’s plate, he always finds time to construct deeply heartfelt stories, such as their lastest video Jammed. In memory of the days of mixtapes, Jammed is a short film that commemorates the shift away from cassette tapes in a fantastical and gloomy way. Using light and messy magnetic tape, the video was created using stop-motion and 3D techniques.

Concept drawing of Viewmaster.

We caught up with Hu to learn more about his inspiration and creative process behind Jammed

The Creators Project: How did the concept for Jammed came about?
Yibi Hu: The American singer Brandon Sheer contacted us last year and asked us to make a music video for his new single. He wanted himself to be inside a robot and travel around the world. At that time, I happened to have a Viewmaster on my work desk. I picked it up and realized that it looked just like a robot’s head. That’s how the Viewmaster came onto the sketch board. Viewmasters are often seen in commercial promotion events here in London. Perhaps because 3D image technology hasn’t found its low-end popularization, so cheap 3D image devices like Viewmaster still have vitality. Cassette tapes, on the other hand, have disappeared from the market in the wake of digital technology.

Concept drawing of cassette tape.

As I was sketching the initial story elements, the circling lines from my fountain pen reminded me of cassette tape. So I drew a cassette tape robot in one continuous line. Since all the music we listened to in our teenage years were on cassettes, and our “iPods” were all Walkmans, the Viewmaster robot’s body was naturally designed into a square Walkman.

When we finished the music video, we weren’t very satisfied, mainly because we didn’t have enough time and cost to reach a good result. With the singer’s permission, we re-edited the video and added in a lot more footage to construct a new story, which become Jammed

Jammed storyboard.

Jammed storyboard.

The video begins with the Viewmaster stepping into a dream-like world that feels a little dangerous. Can you tell us a little bit about the setting?
In the time of RCA tape cartridges, I would always see shinny magnetic tape strewn across the street like black spider webs. In the video, the world is like the cassette robot’s gut going out of control. I wanted the magnetic tape to take shape along with the sound elements, so I asked the sound designer to imitate the sound of tape for the soundtrack. My past memories are basically made up of the excitement of listening to, and sometimes the trouble of fixing, cassette tapes. I hope I can share this feeling with the people in my generation.

Creating stop-motion with magetic tape.
What was the biggest challenge while making the video? And how did you overcome?
There actually were no big challenges, its just like making a game. Creating stop-motion is time consuming, but you can treat it as a kind of meditation. Medition isn’t hard, but requires calm spirit and even temper, and the process should be enjoyed. Cassettes are an overtly light material, so we mounted the tape on transparent holders to make the animation. The biggest problem is perhaps managing our time to work on this extracurricular project. Everyone penciled in their time between work to complete this video.

Images courtesy of M-I-E.