Snappy title right?

One of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog again was to record some new projects I already had in mind. it’s where I’ll reflect on the progress I make, what I learn, and eventually what I could have done better. And hopefully this may serve as a useful learning experience for others too.

Recently, I released some new music. As a solo musician, I’ve always wanted to do as much of the work as I can myself, whether that’s recording, art work, marketing or anything else. It’s not that I believe I could do a better job than anyone else, but my music serves as a point around which I can focus my other creative interests. It gives me an excuse to play with lino printing, make videos, or build stuff out of wood.

After releasing this EP, I had various ideas of how to create a video for a couple of the songs. One you see above (more info on that one, as well as the artwork for the EP here). The second video I wanted to do a little different. One simple idea was just to use some timelapse footage, but I have another song in mind for that.

So I came back to another idea of creating an animated scene. This felt even more right as the world sort of changed around me, and I wanted to capture the feeling in the song, and how it relates to the world right now.

But then I thought, what if instead of animated, it was interactive? What if, instead of being linear and static, I allow the user to explore the scene themselves? Perhaps a chance for those of us locked inside to go out and explore a new place – although whether it will be finished before the lockdown is yet to be seen.

I’ve certainly taken some inspiration from the likes of Three Trapped Tigers and Alex Kozobolis for this.

Three Trapped Tigers – a long time favourite band of mine – released an amazing interactive music video for their track Engrams. A 3D environment that reacts to the music, that a user can look around in their own way. Sadly the actual interactive experience seems to have disappeared off the web, but it’s been captured here:

Alex Kozobolis’ interactive video for Barcelona – produced by Studio ANRK – captures a beautiful scene and freezes it in time, allowing the user to look around and absorb it along with the fitting soundtrack. Check out the live version here.

Screenshot of Alex Kozobolis' "Barcelona" interactive experience.
Alex Kozobolis’ “Barcelona” interactive experience.

Working on a new music video seems like a perfect opportunity to explore some interactive work that I’ve been wanting to dip in to for what seems like forever. So what’s the plan?

The brief

I’m going to create a small, animated, 3D environment to accompany the track ‘The Moon and the Sea’ from my latest EP. The final object will be interactive, allowing users to look around the environment, and possibly alter the scene in some ways.

Some specifications

  • It must be browser based, and accessible from any device that can access the web (PC/Mac/tablet/smart phone)
  • For that, it must be a suitable format and size so that it runs without the need for a powerful machine
  • It must loop perfectly, completing one cycle in time with the music
  • There must be some options for the user to manipulate the environment somehow
  • It has to, you know, actually be completed for once

Some initial ideas

I’m kind of working backwards here. In all honesty I already know what I want to do; the idea came before the brief. So here’s what I’m picturing.

Initial sketches of my idea
Some initial sketches

Essentially, I’m going to make a miniature version of my own neighbourhood. The song is basically about sharing a home that turns into our own little world of solitude by the sea. A beautiful home, if not lonely and isolated – something I’m sure many of us recognise now.

It will maybe sit on an island, or within a sort of snow-globe, the building in which we live somewhat oversized compared to its surroundings. Between the houses I’ll place giant shells; reflecting the original artwork as well as how such places and memories are warped and shifted by our rose-tinted imagination.

As the music runs, the video will cycle from day, into night, and back into day again. The sun and moon will rise and fall, lights from houses and cars will turn on and off.

Speaking of cars, I might add a few cars and buses to the scene and have them drive around. I may add people too, but that might be too much (and really it would better reflect the isolation if there weren’t any.

The user will be able to rotate and zoom in and out. I may also include secondary cameras that the user can switch between, such as inside vehicles, or from inside the flat (although that might mean having to build interiors, which might be too much). I’ll also allow the user to shift between day and night using a slider to adjust the time (although this will only change lighting, not the actual timeline of the animation).

And I’ll throw in some seagulls for good measure.

I’ll most likely build the whole thing in Cinema 4D and Unity. It just so happens Unity are currently providing their full education suite for free, so I guess it’s a good time to get started!

If you’d like to see how this all comes together, be sure to follow the blog, or find me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where I’ll be sharing updates as I go.