I had the pleasure and privilege of working as a design director on the music video for Eric Prydz's "Generate". This psychedelic plunge into the surreal was directed by the visionary Gmunk, and masterfully captured by expert cinematographer Joe Picard. Delightfully overwhelming the senses with an eruption of light and energy, It feels like the perfect accompaniment to this utterly energizing track, and was a truly rewarding and unique experience to be a part of. Not only is every shot a jaw dropping spectacle, but the fact that every second of it was done practically, with no CG whatsoever, pushes it far beyond your typical EDM experience. This entry chronicles the various practical visual effects that we explored to create such an otherworldly experience.
The perf (perforated) tunnel is essentially an 8 foot hexagonal tube, open on both ends, with a pattern of holes cut into the sides. It came out of the idea to use the magic and brilliance of volumetric light to create a surreal and overwhelming physical environment that evoked depth and motion. We started by running some tests in 3d, and went on to build several smaller prototypes out of peg-board, testing them with a small fog machine and hand held shop lights. Even with these crude materials, the test footage was impressive and we knew we were on to something. After a few more tests, we were ready to build the real thing...
For this we had the privilege of working with Kenny Johnson of Four Quarter, an extremely talented carpenter and craftsman. He was super helpful and generous, and totally essential in bringing the design to life. With Kenny’s help, we carefully drilled (by hand!) a pattern of holes, alternating in size, into the walls of the tunnel along a spiraling path. When hit with lights and fog, the result was a stunning geometric matrix of intense light beams sweeping past the camera, as well as an intricate pattern of glowing points along the interior of the tunnel. This effect was made all the more dramatic by the sphere lenses, crazy optical filters, and expertly executed camera moves.
The Cubes are a modular 3D LED installation developed by the team of geniuses known as Symmetry Labs. The cubes can be built, like legos, to form surfaces and shapes. They are designed to be a “light instrument”. The algorithms that run on them have a wide variety of parameters that can be tuned live to compliment music and achieve color and emotional palettes.
For the Generate video we used them in a few entirely new ways. We rigged them from the ceiling and used a camera equipped with a variety of lenses including a sphere lens that stretched the cube geometry semi-spherically. The motions of the camera through the structure gave us a variety of different effects as we manipulated the patterns running on the cubes to achieve aesthetics specifically for the video.
The second approach was even more involved and technical. 5 cubes were spray painted jet black and the LED strips were flipped to only face internally. Then 24 18’’ convex mirrors were placed in the open faces of the cubes. The distorted, infinitely repeating reflections of the LED patterns resembled an enormous real-life fractal generator. Combining this with the sphere lens and fluid, kinetic camera moves resulted in an incredibly intense and immersive experience. This same set up was also used but with external spot lights blasted into the tunnel between the mirrors, creating an entirely different but equally impressive visual feast.
While many of the visual effects on this project operated on a grand scale, this technique bright things down to a smaller and simpler level. Its foundation consisted of pointing the camera downward into a deep glass hemisphere. With this set-up in place, we tried several approaches to generating visuals, each of which provided unique results.
First was lining the interior surface of the glass with a layer of translucent gel balls, each about the size of a marble. A retina screen was then placed directly beneath the glass, on which we looped a variety of graphics. The effect was a beautiful refraction and distortion of color and light through the balls. Subtle camera moves were all that were added to derive stunning visuals from this approach.
In addition, we removed the retina screen and used combinations of handheld lights shined upward through the balls, creating yet another unique experience.
I must admit, one of the most fun and exciting parts of the shoot was our final experiment in this series, in which we literally got to play with fire. Flipping the set-up over, so that the camera now shot up at the glass from below, we employed a buffet of combustibles, such as sparklers, black powder, and green fuse. This created a gorgeous fiery display that thrashed around inside the glass as we captured it in beautiful slow motion.