Long before we caught wind of Icelandic visual artist Harald Haraldsson‘s new sci-fi-styled commercial project Moments, we were already big fans of his work. One favorite was PRISMA 1666, a breathtaking interactive sculpture created in collaboration with Shanghai-based design studio Super Nature Design, which was based on Newton’s experiments with light and prisms. When we learned that Moments involved a gigantic robot arm, we had to investigate further.
Moments is a sleek, minimal video shot entirely on a smartphone, commissioned by Icelandic telecommunications company Síminn. Centered around a female model, the camera work was handled primarily by programmed robotic arm that followed her around, bending the viewer’s sense of perception. We caught up with Haraldsson to find out more about the creative process behind it.
Creators Project: What was it like to use a smartphone to film a cinema-quality commercial?
Harald Haraldsson:I just treated the phone as any other HD camera. The process was exactly the same as shooting with a larger HD camera, from capturing footage on set to post-production. There is no CGI involved, just normal editing and color grading. For me this was interesting, because mobile footage tends to be presented straight out of camera but nonetheless often compared with HD content that has been processed quite a bit, whether it’s a film, music video, or a commercial. For future projects, it would be interesting to augment the mobile HD footage with data captured simultaneously by the various sensors on the phone – lots of potential there.
People have made some impressive short films and adventure documentaries using smartphones, which seem to focus more on real life moments and sporty aspects to demonstrate the device’s strengths. How did you come up with the concept for Moments?
My aim was to focus on that particular moment when we are using our mobile device without thinking at all about the complex technology behind every process. In my mind nothing is more technical than rough industrial robots, so I decided to incorporate that into the project to represent and visualize this background technology we never notice. I also wanted to create these stylized settings in which the viewer would not expect this to be shot on a mobile phone, until of course the phone reveals itself in the mirror in the final shot of the video.
Tell us about your two robots. Do they have names?
They are used by Keilir, a local school just outside Reykjavik, to teach a mechatronics course. Previously, they were used to assemble cars abroad in Europe. We built the stage around the area where they are stored. The preparation took a few weeks and then we shot the video in one day. I named the robots Left and Right, but I’m not sure if those are their real names…
Is this your first time working with robots? Do you see yourself working with robots more in the future?
I did a couple of minor projects with robots in college, but this was my first time working with robots on a commercial project. For Moments, I worked closely with robot technicians from Keilir. I will definitely be working more with robots in the future. Won’t we all?!
What was the most challenging part of your creative process?
I guess it was choreographing the movements of the two robots and the person in sync with the music. It required some trial and error approach mixed in with programming. Also, during test runs we didn’t have the final mirror mount ready from the factory so it was pretty time consuming to install and uninstall the phone after each run. During the shoot, it was often challenging for the model to keep completely still whilst in frame, but she did a great job.
How did you work with Prince Valium to come up with the awesome soundtrack?
The music for this project is from Prince Valium’s album Andefni from 2011. I have actually been listening to Prince Valium for over a decade now, and I was thrilled to be able work with his music for this project. The rhythm and the atmosphere of his latest album turned out to fit the project perfectly. His sound also brings me back to the heyday of the Warp label which I listened to a lot as a teenager—Plaid, Plone, Autechre etc.
Any exciting projects coming up in the near future?
I’m moving more and more towards video as an output medium. My upcoming projects are sort of a hybrid of video directing and installation works. I feel very excited about stepping into the video world, mixing narrative with the flexibility and power of my favorite tool, openFrameworks (the greatest thing since sliced bread.)
Image courtesy of Harald Haraldsson