Weird and surreal doesn't even begin to describe this animated video for Crookers' Able To Maximize, created by animation team Plastic Horse.
Paul White ft. Danny Brown ‘Street Lights’ by Plastic Horse
Plastic Horse are a very talented pair indeed. Based in Haggerston, they specialise in hand-drawn animation with a lovely textured feel. They seem to have a penchant for progressive beatmakers and have made promos for the likes of Crookers, Nochexxx, Débruit and Lukid. And this is their second video for arguably the UK’s most unique and progressive beatsmith Paul White, following The Doldrums last year, a surreal journey through underwater maths and swimming floppy disks.
With Street Lights Plastic Horse have taken their skills as animators to the next level, visualizing Detroit-based Danny Brown’s hardhitting rap in an ever-changing stream of imagery, using a style which reflects street art from the beginnings of the hip-hop era.
Their aesthetic marries perfectly with Danny’s leftfield rap style and Paul’s dusty sound. Natalia Maus
How did your relationship with Paul’s label, One-Handed come about?
It came about by simply contacting Alex Chase to say we’d like to make him a video. He probably gets lots of e-mails like that and may get more now we’ve said this but luckily he replied with some kind words and remembered us down the line. When ‘Rapping with Paul White’ came out he messaged us and we ended up making the music video for Paul’s track ‘The Doldrums’. That was our first collaboration.
Was there a brief for this video or were you given creative freedom?
We were given free reign to come up with an idea. Everyone just felt it would be nice to have Danny in the video in some way. We liked the idea of making this video feel connected to the last one we did and so tried to maintain that seamless ride through the scenes that gave the previous video it’s character.
This track is a lot grittier and lyrically paints some bleak, dark pictures so that is why it made sense to rough up the images with layers of dirt and grain rather than use playful clean illustrations like last time.
Visually we tried to capture the darkness, things not being what they seem, forms distorting. Tales of Detroit remembered through a dream or nightmare, flicking in and out of adventures like an old light turning on and off.
We wanted Danny to feature in the same way… appearing and disappearing in the shadows like a ghostly narrator.
As a duo, what is your work process and how do you end up with these seamless visual journeys?
Usually we divide everything up pretty evenly. We start by transcribing the lyrics if there are any, or brainstorming around the atmosphere and feel of the track if it’s instrumental. We then scribble out a storyboard and run it past whoever it’s for, alongside some mocked up frames reflecting the final style.
Once this is approved, we draw out a list of what needs to be done and split it between us. Things do vary from time to time, sometimes one of us handles all the illustration and the other handles the animation but usually it’s half and half. We tend to do edit and post together.
The seamless journeys have probably been quite a recent development. It is almost a bit of a challenge to try and animate your way between scenes rather than using cuts or fades. We started getting interested in that approach by watching amazing animations by Vince Collins and the unnerving and surreal quality it seems to offer.
Did you use any new techniques in this video that perhaps you haven’t used before?
We’ve been photographing surfaces and textures for a while now, building up an archive. This was the first time we’d tried to animate them and work them into a video. We worked over the top of the final animation building and layering texture loops to degrade and eat into the illustrations.
Is it important for you to hand draw?
It’s not really that important to hand draw, we just try to work in a style that suits the music. For us this track wouldn’t have suited anything other than scrawly, dirty imagery. Even though it may feel hand made, our work is completely dependent on the computer and things don’t come to life until they become pixelated. That’s how we animate, colour and often draw.
Recently we’ve been working on a number of projects using 3D software and mixing animation and video. Ideally we want to work in as many different styles and techniques as we can. Our ideas just seem to involve a lot of the human element at the moment.
What else are you up to at the minute?
We’ve built about 10 minutes of animation for Nochexxx featuring all the tracks from his new album ‘Thrusters’ and we’re currently working on videos for The 2 Bears and The Heliocentrics which should all be surfacing in the next couple of months. We’ve also just finished an animation for ‘Pattern Power’ an event curated by Patternity celebrating stripes.
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