A few week’s back I was invited to attend a video shoot with the Maccabees as part of VEVO‘s In The Dark series. Billed as a technical first involving the Kinect and a technocrane, the fruit of that evening’s labor is the video below, which features footage of the band, intercut with them morphed into abstract shapes as they play music from their latest album.
Directors Jamie Roberts and Will Hanke conceived the video, with animation by Jamie Child and James Ballard, while James Alliban aided with technical support. Unlike previous Kinect videos, this one features not one or two, but ten Kinect cameras (seven facing the crowd, three facing the band), each one attached to a MacBook Pro. The setup also included an Alexa camera and a programmable LED rig.
All this gear was used to turn the band and the audience watching them into 3D silhouettes for a live musical performance that mixes the digital innovations explored by the creative coding community with more traditional filming techniques and animation. The visuals come in about four minutes in, displacing the band into a familiar virtual landscape to anyone who’s seen Kinect videos before. “The Kinect lends itself to a certain visual aesthetic,” said the directors on email, “We built the whole piece around how they are positioned and the ‘look’ of the data they produce. We wanted it to feel more like an experiment or an installation than a traditional gig with huge moving lights and smoke. That all seems a bit Alice Cooper now.”
They describe it as an “experimental music session,” where the usual footage of a band playing instruments is given a digital twist using the motion tracking system. It’s an ambitious setup and using ten Kinect cameras doesn’t come without its problems, but overcoming these challenges, like bridging the gap between the Kinect data capture and the post process, was all part of the journey.
They saw the experience as R&D, giving them inspiration for future projects, while also allowing them to experiment and augment a live performance with techniques that hadn’t been tried before. “We wanted to explore this format and try and produce a film that is much more engaging than simply watching a band perform, shot with multicam. Live from Abbey Road and the like are great, but the traditional performance film has become ubiquitous, and it seems a shame that a live performance is seen as boring. If I want to watch that format, I’ll go back to the Old Grey Whistle Test, the first and best. There’s huge scope for creativity in this area and we wanted to reflect and explore an element of that in this film.”
Images: James Alliban