David Knight - 18th Dec 2007

BUG is a regular event of excellent creativity in music videos at the BFI Southbank, but even if the next show featured videos made for losing finalists of X Factor, it would still be worth attending because of its host, Adam Buxton.

As half of Adam & Joe (his TV show with Joe Cornish in the Nineties was about a decade ahead of its time) and these days as a comedian, writer, blogger, and maker of genius comic shorts to be found on YouTube, Adam Buxton is almost indecently talented. And he loves great music videos - which makes him a knowledgable as well as funny host of BUG. Even his interviewing technique is improving.

But we had little notion of his sideline in 'helmet-cam' production until we saw his and Garth Jennings' video for Radiohead's Jigsaw Falling Into Place. This was made as part of a Radiohead webcast on the Radiohead website to celebrate the completion and release of their new album In Rainbows. Buxton and Jennings shot lots of video of the band performing songs from the album, and other things (to be found on YouTube of course) which are all intriguing.

But Jigsaw is something very special: firstly, a live performance by Radiohead captured at very close quarters on video is rare enough, but the nature of how its captured simply makes it one of the most absorbing and visceral performance videos ever seen.

And it's all to do with the helmet-cams, which each member of the band are wearing during the performance, as Adam explains:

"The helmet-cam is something I made a couple of years ago to shoot some bits for my comedy night. It's a mini-surveillance camera mounted on the front of a bicycle helmet which makes the head of the wearer appear stationary while everything around them slides around nauseatingly.

"It's a technique that's been used a lot, especially memorably in Mean Streets, but it always occurred to me that the helmet-cam might be good for some kind of music video. So when I found out we were doing the Radiohead webcast I got to work making five new 'units' for the band. A bike helmet is ideal for mounting the camera because you can strap it on tight enough for it not to wobble too much, but it has the downside of making you look like a bit of a prat."

Which of course would be a major stumbling block with most bands, whether they happened to be one of the world's biggest or not. But Radiohead are not most bands.

"I showed them the video I had made with the helmet-cam and they liked it, so they were up for trying it themselves. They initially assumed that the helmets themselves wouldn't be visible but I thought it would be good if they were. I liked the idea that the helmets made it clear how it was being shot and made the band look a little daft - I sprayed the helmets silver for added daftism. I knew that despite all that they would still look cool! After all, it's Radiohead and they're performing an amazing song, they'd look cool if they were dressed as cocktail waitresses - to me at least." Not only that, the whole thing only took twenty minutes to shoot, and was edited in a matter of hours. "When Garth and I had hooked up all five helmets in the band's main studio and checked they were all recording, we got everyone in and ran through the song a couple of times. That was it. After supper Garth and I loaded everything onto a laptop and it looked great.

"We stayed up til 2.30am chopping the footage from the five cameras together and when we were finished it looked pretty good. In fact we were very pleased. Me and Garth did an unironic high five. We just made a Radiohead video! Not only that, it's the first video to feature the whole band since Street Spirit and it cost £400 (for the 5 bike helmets and cameras)!"

Although initially intended only for the In Rainbows webcast - and there is so much else worth checking out from that, including a brilliant appropriation of the climax of Seven for 15 Step - the helmet-cam performance of Jigsaw has been adopted as the official video when the album is released as physical product by XL in the New Year.

"The response has been overwhelmingly positive, mainly because people enjoy seeing the band doing their thing I guess - Phil Selway's drumming especially is a treat to watch," says Adam. "You probably couldn't get away with a video this lo-fi too many more times, but when you're a band like Radiohead it's nice to go back to basics once in a while - for band and fans alike I think."

David Knight - 18th Dec 2007

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