David Knight - 29th Aug 2008

Actually this celebrated team-up (that also happens to include Dom and Nic's producer John Madsen and Virgin commissioner Carole Burton-Fairbrother) goes back quite a few years - ever since Setting Sun way back in 1995.

But more recently there's been the CADS' best video-winning Believe and then last year's Salmon Dance, both superbly entertaining, and both including marvellous CGI created at Framestore CFC.

And now the team is back in place for Tom and Ed Chemicals' Midnight Madness -the single that's launching the new 'greatest hits' collection.

It's more brilliance, with the songtitle aptly represented by a gold-suited goblin who springs from a refuse bin round the back of the London Astoria, then proceeding to scale the building and do all kinds of stuff thereafter: leaping from wall to wall Spiderman style (which mostly looks real) and ridiculous contortions (some of which look which suspiciously non-CG too).

This time there's more than the exceptional fusion of live action and CGI. This time it is a case of 'how the hell did they do that'

So Dom has kindly explained all below...

Dominic Hawley on making video for The Chemical Brothers' Midnight Madness

"It's hard to follow up Believe and Salmon Dance as they were really successful, and we were very pleased with them. We went into this latest one with that on our minds, and knowing we had less than half the money and half the time to do it. It would have been quite easy to not take this on but I am extremely glad we did.

"The project started as always with the Chems sending us the track, the budget and time scale. Given the limited budget and time the idea had to be of a certain nature. There wasn't enough of either to do a more cinematic narrative as usual. With these constraints set the idea came very quickly and almost flashed into mind fully formed.

"The initial image was of a dancer dressed as a goblin in gold lamé climbing out of an industrial bin on the stroke of midnight ready to have three and a half minutes of energetic fun before getting back into the bin for the end of the track.

"Even the setting (behind a theatre) was part of that initial thought. We had scouted those kinds of locations in the past for previous commercials and in fact had shot a scene from a Supergrass video in that same area. The idea comes from the song title and lyric and the reason for the goblin was two-fold. Firstly they are a nighttime creature of mischief, and secondly in the gold stretch bodysuit there is the look of an old raver that hadn't stopped dancing since the late Eighties.

"The original thought was to do the whole thing as one shot with two or three dancers and the DV camera being passed from operator to operator and using a crane to follow the goblin up the side of building. But in the end it seemed like a lot of unnecessary effort and money we didn't have to do it as one shot. So a new strategy was taken which was to still do it as a true circuit in real time, but to have cuts but only when needed.

"We still used three dancers who all were cast for their different skills, casting in London and Paris (because the French have some amazing street dancers). We cast one (Liverpudlian) guy, Daniel Ilbacca, for his acrobatic free running skills, the second (Belgian) guy, Bruce, for his mad popping style and the third (French) guy called Lilou - he's a break dancer with his unique style and contortionist skills. We also had a fourth dancer who was computer generated, thanks to our friends at Framestore.

"Again Framestore did an amazing job without getting paid and created a 3D goblin dancer that had to seamlessly join with a real one. There are two sections with the 3D goblin: the first from the roof of the car to the roof top; the second is the jump from the roof to the window ledge.

"The jump to the chimney is for real. Daniel the free runner could have done the whole thing for real but we couldn't afford to go down that route of making it safe as it would have escalated the production scale to a completely different level. We did film him doing the jumps and moves between the air con units and the drainpipe in the gym, then the animators copied his movements to make it convincing.

"We got a choreographer (Supple Nam) on board early on and he was great. He is really into street dancing and led the auditions, then we worked together closely on the rehearsals and choreography. We spent about four days on total on rehearsals and could easily have used more time if we'd had it. We sourced all the costume materials ourselves which was fun trawling around fabric shops and desperately trying to find a 4 way stretch lycra with gold hologram sequins. We managed to get the last 12 meters of it in the country!

"It was really fun being so hands-on because you end up feeling you really have seen all the options - although its a lot more work. As we were shooting with only existing lights and a few battery-powered ones, choosing the right fabric was essential. We went out and did some camera tests in the location and the gold sequins won outright.

"The mask was made by David Coulier who we've worked with before. He is a top man and mainly does feature films. We had worked with him before, when we made the Bluetones look really really fat. We wanted it to look like a dancer in a mask not a real goblin, otherwise we would've taken a prosthetic route.

"It was all shot in one night around the back and inside of the Astoria Theatre. The route is real - we didn't cheat anything, except one flight of stairs was taken out to help us get to the stage for the right point in the track, but that was planned. It is exactly how long it takes to do that circuit from the bin back to the bin and I am glad we stuck true to that part of the idea.

"We had to deliver the video by a certain date and that only gave Framestore a week and a half to do all the animation, lighting, rendering and compositing. However after delivery we discovered we were able to take advantage of Framestore's generosity and the teams commitment to quality for another two weeks to get it to the point where both they and we wanted - hooray!"


Production CompanyFactory Films
ProducerJohn Madsen
Director of PhotographyJohn Lynch
CommissionerCarole Burton

David Knight - 29th Aug 2008

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