David Knight - 6th Oct 2008

The new video for Wild Beasts' marvellous, re-released Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants is MVA-nominated OneInThree's twirly dazzler, which kicked off BUG 09 - the latest compendium of music video creativity at the BFI Southbank - a couple of weeks ago.

It's based on a MC Escher lithograph - itself inspired by the Droste Effect, where an image contains the same image continues down to infinity - that even Escher found too confusing to finish.

And it really does get more impressive every time you watch it.

The making the video for Wild Beasts' Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants

In 1956 Escher attempted to create a picture where there was a continuous frame linking the large image and the next smaller image in a spiral. He created a spiralling grid and used that as the basis for the unusual lithograph 'Prentententoonstelling' - 'The Print Room' - which depicts a young man viewing a print on a wall of a gallery. But as he follows the image of the print he finds a repeated smaller image of himself standing in the same gallery. The centre of the image is an unfinished blank space, where Escher signed and mono-graphed the piece.

The Leiden University & the University of California at Berkeley initiated a joint project to decode the math of the drawing and attempted to develop a more satisfactory way of filling the 'hole' in Escher's drawing. As a result of their research they developed a formula which could complete the drawing. Josh Sommers translated this formula into MathMap - a program that allows one to distort images on a pixel-by-pixel basis based on instruction specified in a simple programming language.

Mathmap was designed to apply the effect to single images so we developed a proprietary method to be able to run batches of images through the program. "Unfortunately the batch limit was 40 frames before the application would crash, and in order to complete the video, we had 15992 frames to run through," say Ross and Bugsy. And apart from a grade & online at The Mill they did all the VFX themselves.

"The shoot was relatively simple, with a very light crew, shooting on the RED camera with DoP Dan Trapp - who needed the full 4k resolution for the post process. The location was The Roost in Hackney, being one of the rare sunny days of the summer, Dan used natural light where possible and augmented where it needed to create a natural look for the daytime section of the promo.

"We edited the promo in Final Cut Pro with the R3D proxy files to create an off-line that was agreed by the band and commissioner. Then we added a five second handle to the front and back of every shot, which meant we had over ten minutes of footage to grade.

"We then used the Final Cut Pro 'XML to Crimson to Red Cine' workflow to conform the promo as 4K 10-bit DPX's (660 gigabytes worth) before it was graded in Baselight by James Bamford at The Mill. James did a beautiful and subtle grade that really enhanced the atmosphere of the promo. This was then output as a 4k tif sequence back to a hard drive so that we could start the effects process.

"During the day shift two work experience students from Central Saint Martins, Abbie Stephens & Richard Holden, prepared the images in After Effects and applied the 'Droste Effect', which Ross then started compositing into the final promo. Bugsy worked the night shift tending the farm.

"After 1080 computer hours, over 400 crashes and two terabytes of data, spread across seven hard drives, the final compositing could be done. The 'Drosted' images were brought into After Effects, re-conformed and animated to zoom in time to the beat. The transitions were then hand animated and the stills added into the mix before OneInThree headed back to The Mill, for a DCP and sound lay.

"The final promo is a four minutes long journey through time and space. The effect is so intense we were initially concerned that it might be too much to watch for four minutes, but it seems the reverse is true."

David Knight - 6th Oct 2008

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