Aardman Animations has produced an epic and evocative set of videos for a BBC Radio 2 play celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon album.
Dark Side, which will air on August 26, is a fantastical and psychedelic radio drama written by Tom Stoppard, based on themes from the album, and Aardman has created a three-minute promotional film as well as an extended looped film to complement the audio experience online.
According to its director Darren Dubicki, the trailer aims to encompass the underlying themes of the drama and album – greed, conflict, consumption, humanity and madness. It features images juxtaposed with lyrics and dialogue from the play.
“I spent time absorbing the rich detail from the Pink Floyd album, their art and the drama script,” says Dubicki.”What was fundamentally important to us was that we retained a consistent visual tone that echoed the imagery created over the years for the band. The insanely surreal and powerful artwork created by Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis has always had a strong distortion on reality. Their sense of space and twisted context make for some uncomfortably beautiful art. This tone has been consistent for decades and we wanted to honour this with our contemporary digital, and analogue, slant on the style.”
Dubicki formed ideas through a collection of symbols, referencing some of the cyclic metaphors contained within the album, such as the moon, sun, tides and life. There are circular motifs – sun, moon, eyes, clocks and jet engines.
The jet engine was also used as a metaphor for escalating mental issues, adds Dubicki. “As an object of immense power it’s also prone to immense fragility.” The artwork prism became a key motif in the films. “It was the perfect basis for us to explore, as the shape is a building block for computer generated images. They appear throughout the films in various forms, all echoing the underlying symbol of the album and the event.”
For the film accompanying the drama there was a concern about its design being too linearly linked with both the album and the drama narratives, which could make the looping images jar with the dialogue. “So we created a separate series of clips which were considerably more subdued and abstract in terms of pace and detail.”
The trailer is produced through a collage of digital imaging, CGI, studio-based effects and hand-crafted elements. It is realised in a combination of techniques including motion and depth filming. Dubicki explains: “We incorporated this digital technique to create images that suggested fragility – having character action feel like live action but have the effects fragment the characters in haphazard ways, giving some uncontrollable results. And when combined with the atmospheric environments, we achieved a set of intriguing visuals.”
The technique is studio- and computer-based, and is born out of the realm of home gaming consoles and motion sensors, he adds. It works on collating depth data with live action images. It was also important to the director that the imagery didn’t look overly slick and CGI heavy, so much of it was shot in traditional studios to maintain a more hands-on and physical sensibility (see behind-the-scenes shots of the production below) – one of Dubicki’s kid’s figurines was even used to symbolise the common man.
The overall effect is visually lavish, as well as engrossing, paying tribute nicely to Pink Floyd, Thorgerson and the Hipgnosis creative legacy.
“It is a montage of graphic ideas, which to me best reflect a scale and tone in keeping with the album,” says Dubicki. “A lot of my work is textural and layered, and I wanted each key moment to feel illustrative and tactile but not too realistic, even though the technology could achieve this. In doing so, I think we achieved an interesting slant on reality using digital and traditional film techniques.”
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