David Knight - 15th Dec 2009

It's been a memorable video campaign thus far for Depeche Mode's current album, and there's another mesmerizing twist with the promo for Fragile Tension, directed by Barney Steel (of the Found Collective) and Rob Chandler.

Barney and Rob accessed a custom application created from the open source toolkit Open Frameworks to manipulate existing live footage of the band and additionally-shot choreography, to create awesome real-time HD particle effects.

It's an expression of the struggle of humanity towards its ultimate destiny, conceived (as Barney explains below) over green tea and prawn toast.

Barney Steel on making the video for Depeche Mode's Fragile Tension

"At the initial pitching stage the only constraint was the pre-recorded concert footage of the band. There wasn't any footage of them actually singing 'Fragile Tension' so we weren't going to be able to have any lip-sync performance from David.

"The concept was thought up over a green tea at the local Vietnamese (paper table cloths perfect for brain storms). Our initial ideas promptly led to sacred geometry, 'Li' (the dynamic forms in nature), our DNA, the quantum, fractal-based geometry (from the infinitely small to the infinitely large) and the struggle of humanity to become what we are destined to be. This then lead to prawn toast and the interconnectivity of everything through the journey of atoms, born in the stars, constantly circulating through the objects they create. We got the bill and pootled off.

"We decided to use abstract dance choreography to create an artistic impression of the journey of humanity. This gave us a loose narrative to tie everything together but we needed to be careful not to drift too far from Depeche Mode's image.

"Dancers were filmed, and along with footage of the band, fed into a stand alone, custom application written in C++. The software analyses the video (using an optical flow algorithm) and in realtime generates visuals based on the motion. The software can create particles, geometry, fluid effects etc. all generated from and controlled via the movement in the video. While the software is running, the user is able to control numerous parameters and create different presets, to influence the behaviour and look of the generated visuals.

"Once happy with all settings, the application renders out the generated visuals to disk, which are imported as standard video sequences into after-effects for further compositing and post-production. The software was designed and developed by Mehmet Akten from The Mega Super Awesome Visuals Company and written in C++ using the open-source toolkit openframeworks and the computer vision library OpenCV.

"Using custom software to create the visuals allowed us to get the exact look we were after, without being constrained to the available software or plugins on the market."


DirectorBarney Steel (The Found Collective) & Rob Chandler
CommissionerJohn Moule

David Knight - 15th Dec 2009

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