This past Friday, Australian dance-rockers, Cut Copy, shared a music video for Free Your Mind cut, "We Are Explorers" in which a pair of glowing, 3D-printed figurines explore around a city at night, picking up discarded objects along the way. The imaginative video (above) was not only entirely made using a 3D printer and stop-motion animation, but the band and directors (Masa Kawamura, Qanta Shimizu, and Aramique Krauthamer) decided to make the piece an open-sourced, downloadable project through BitTorrent.
The directors told The Creators Project, "We wondered what would happen if we made all the files open-source and whether the 3D printing community would take them and make something of its own."
Since not everyone has a 3D-printer at hand, The Creators Project is giving away three sets of the 3D-printed figurines seen in the video, courtesy of high-tech, prototyping group, NextFab. Re-mixing the video and creating your own narrative is highly encouraged--stop-motion enthusiasts take notice.
For a chance to win, email your name and zip code to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: We Are Explorers.
Take a look at the video above, and continue reading to get an inside look into how the directors melded old school stop-motion, CGI, and 3D-printing into a seamless project, as well as why the glowing characters were inspired by nuclear meltdowns.
The plastic duo may be miniature, but their adventure is a sprawling escapade through a vibrant world. The directors told The Creators Project they wanted to make a 3D-printed music video for a while, but when they heard "We Are Explorers" they imagined tiny characters on a major adventure. "We hoped to make trivial objects and environments turn into larger-than-life hurdles and triumphs," they said.
While the short film's narrative may feel like a love story, its inspiration comes from a grimmer reference point. "We had imagined the main characters were glowing because of some nuclear meltdown," said Aramique.
He continued: "Qanta Shimizu and Masa Kawamura, my two directorial partners, are from Tokyo and have been surrounded by all the news around the nuclear meltdown. So we imagined a post-apocalyptic type of meltdown in LA where these two characters had to just grab whatever they could to escape the city. They didn’t care where they were going… just on a journey to the morning and out of the dangers of LA."
The video's concept began with storyboards before the characters were designed using Cinema4D by Mau Morgo. The 3D protagonists were then brought to life using a Stratasys 1200es Printer with a UV reactive filament, so when the crew filmed the figures using a blacklight, they glowed in the dark.
The creative team originally debated whether the main characters would look human or not. "We had ideas of aliens, robots, and even walruses," they told us. "But at the end, we circled back to making it a human couple to make the story more emotional and relatable. We knew the limitations in the resolution of the 3D printer for figurines as small as we wanted, so instead of aiming for them to be realistic, we went for a low polygon look. Their unique hair styles were added at the very end to give them a distinct difference."
Each frame of stop-motion included a different figurine, prompting NextFab to print roughly 200 characters to make filming possible. The figurines were used in groups of eight for each type of movement, so each running sequence, for example, was designed as a loop so the eighth figurine transitions into the movement of the first. "Every action was be reduced to 8 frames to fit perfectly on the music's BPM rate," said Aramique.
"Once we had all the figurines printed we realized the music video was only the beginning," explained the team. By making the piece open-sourced, the directors hope a creative dialogue between fans and the artists emerges that extends the video's narrative into new dimensions: "Even if people just print the eight figurines that make up the running sequence, there's so much they can do and so many places the story can go."
Regarding the future of 3D-printing in music videos, the directors told us, "Once you realize that any 3D model in Cinema4D can easily be 3D-printed, the sky is sort of the limit. You can imagine any animated world, design all of the frames, print it, and shoot it in the real world...There's no line anymore between the animated CG world and the real world."