Noah Harris’s video for Julio Bashmore’s new track Peppermint (feat. Jessie Ware) is a sexy and stylish piece of stop motion animation. Beautiful to watch, it was hugely complicated to make, as Harris explains to CR…
CR: What’s the concept behind the video?
Noah Harris: The base concept is the evolution of a loop really. The film is a 3D visual sequencer where individual looping elements sync perfectly to specific parts of the track. The film kicks off with a piece of graphic design, printed and foiled on paper, where five symbols represent the five sounds in that part of the track, I call these symbols amoebas. These 2D symbols then evolve into three dimensions (first life), and an illustrated diva is born who sings the vocal refrains (sentient life).
The overriding clap track is represented as God – a disembodied pair of marble hands that appear to have been hacked off some classical statue, flying fast over the clouds, a nod to the maximalist rave flyers of yore (hands in the air anyone?) It made me chuckle throwing quasi-religious references in there amongst the core concept of evolution. The sequencer evolves throughout until we get to the last section where the sounds are represented by inane looping objects encircling the demented love child of God and the diva…
Whilst stylistically the film occupies its own space, I referenced the work of Jeff Koons in selling the idea – big, shiny, sexy, sleazy, surreal pop with a little bit of chintz thrown in for good measure. The track, and in fact all house music, embodies this idea of evolution really. The track is based around a sample of early 80s disco queen Karen Young, but Julio has recreated it with vocals from Jessie Ware, there’s evolution right there.
CR: How was it made? What techniques did you use?
NH: The film is largely stop frame animation. Whilst my intention was for the film to be an incredibly precise piece of graphic design, I didn’t want it to be clinical. It had to have an organic edge, imperfections and errors included. The track is very precise and regimented yet it also connects strongly on a human level. It was important to me that the film reflected this, hence shooting as much as possible in-camera and animating by hand. The first section of the film was printed on paper then animated under a rostrum camera. Quite a bit of the stuff that follows is 3D printed, all the lip sync and many of the loops. The 3D printed stuff sits nicely with found objects trawled from car boot sales and junk shops, which brings a really unique aesthetic. Alongside this there is some more traditional modelmaking – the marble ‘God’ hands for example, which were cast from real hands by Amalgam in Bristol. And of course there’s a little bit of CG in there too.
CR: How long did it take to complete?
NH: It took a very intense ten weeks. Making the film required a full-on but methodical process. We designed and animated the whole film in 2D first to ensure that all the visual sequencing with the specific sounds was frame perfect. Then this was painstakingly rebuilt in 3D to form our working animatic. Then of course we had to create it all again for real…. Although this seems like a slightly perverse way of going about things – making the film three times effectively – it does make sense, the film is really a huge piece of graphic design and required immense attention to detail throughout the process. Elements of the animatic were then developed to be 3D printed – the girl, her lip sync, loops like the jumping dog and the black shapes flying through the air etc. We shot for 14 very long days straight, and then only had just over a week to put the film together in post.
CR: What were the most challenging aspects of making the video?
NH: Each part of the film threw up its own challenges. I really wanted to involve the illustrator Gerrel Saunders (Gaks) to bring the girl to life in the first part of the film. I love his style but it’s very detailed, which isn’t ideal to develop into animation. We went through a long process with Gerrel of finding a way to simplify the imagery of her liquid gold lips in order to animate, whilst retaining the essence of his original illustration. That process took a long time and the painstaking animation of just that element went on throughout the production really.
The art department, Stripeland, had a really tough time, not only in dealing with my slightly OCD approach to working (the first section has to be printed on Colorplan etc!) but generally in trying to bring this idea to life in a limited budget. The entire film has a very specific look, so there wasn’t any real opportunity to cut corners. The actual shooting of the film itself wasn’t straightforward – whilst I think it’s very important to allow stop frame animators the freedom to bring their own style to the table this needed to fit into a very rigid structure of timing, and it’s testament to the animator’s patience that the job ended without me having been punched in the face once.
And then of course there is the post-production. Whilst much of the film is shot in camera, it’s often shot as several elements or layers that make up one shot, so these all needed to be put together after the event … 82 shots to post in a week? Seems impossible, and without calling in all manner of favours from the majority of Soho it wouldn’t have happened. In terms of the whole process … whilst I’m really happy with the end result … I’m seriously glad its over!
Director: Noah Harris
Production company: Blinkink