Monday, 17 February 2020

‘NOISE’: from NIGHTWISH, Finland's hottest music group

sent me the link to ‘NOISE’ - the video he worked on. I wasn't prepared. It opens with a man in a hooded robe carrying a baby. What follows is a dark, dystopian eye-popper. The hooded characters are the chorus (at least that’s my take). The action: a dancing frenzy of fantastical social media users, including kids. They’re taking ‘look-at-me’ selfies. ‘Noise'  gives us a surreal,  powerful peek at the black side of SoMe. You know it won't have a happy end, but you can't stop watching. The collaboration between the director, Stobe Harju and the metal symphonic band is seamless and brilliant: the music tells the story, the visuals show us who we are. ’NOISE’ has had over one and a half million views since it was posted in early February 2020. No surprise. It hits a nerve.

The complicated action, shot in front of a green screen, had to be coordinated in the edit. The video had a big-budget and it shows. The frenetic action mirrors our narcissistic addiction to SoMe. And our compulsive need to star in our own movie.  The chic, bizarre costumes for ex. a wire frame from a 19th-century hoop skirt, worn by a woman is a cage for her child, punctuate the story. Some characters pop out, especially the old man scarfing pills. It takes more than one look to take it all in.

Eki will write how the video was made. But 'NOISE' hit me in the gut. SoMe and we humans are joined at the hip. That CPs are designed to be addictive is a given. And we’re hooked. Kids especially - teenage girls average 100 texts a day, boys 60. Professionals* who work in media have written and lectured about the dangers. The Characters in ’NOISE’ are oblivious of the havoc and damage they are doing. The kids are their victims. The video tells a universal** story. It’s a cautionary tale. The end is a shocker. You won't forget ’NOISE’, even if you try.

*Sherry Turkle, media professor at MIT, Cambridge, Mass: ‘Reclaiming Conversation’ (check her talk online: ‘Connected but alone’)

**5.7 billion CP users

PS: Eki and I made an anti-CP rap video: ‘Gotta Get In Touch’

Sources: Eki, internet

Next week:  TRUMP: hil-HAIR-ious & EVIL


Well, glad you liked it. As far as the story and message go, it's, of course, open for everyone to make their own interpretations and discoveries. And in Nighwish's case, the fans dissect these videos to the smallest of detail - they find most of the easter eggs in the video - as well as some that were not even intentional ;-)

There are literally dozens of youtube reaction videos out there now, that shows a fan's reaction to seeing the music video for the first time.

As is usual for Stobe's music video work, the resources were again stretched to the max, even though the budget was decent in Finnish terms. These music videos are a labor of love for him, and it shows. We were still fine-tuning the shots the night before the release - almost three months after the shoot.

Technically, the video was just as ambitious as it is storywise: the whole thing was shot on a greenscreen stage with a computer-controlled camera crane, which allowed us to do complex camera moves repeatedly and with precision, and have the performers isolated so that they can be composited on top of other imagery.

This is how people can show as multiple "clones" in the shot - we were doing the same shot over and over but with the performers in different positions in each take. The crowd of hooded SoMe cultists was actually just four people - we multiplied them using the same technique. For example in the scenes in the Mona Lisa gallery, there weren't dozens of extras, but rather just four, cloned all over.
The backgrounds are 3D animation and matte paintings, created mostly by Janne Pitkänen and Stobe. And that's pretty much the whole post-production team - the three of us spent many sleepless nights working on the project - each at our homes, connected by a chat. A video about social media, made via social media. There's the irony for you.

The real camera movement was tracked to match it with a virtual camera in the 3D space. This made sure the digital sets lined up with the actual footage we shot.  

I was on set as a VFX supervisor, trying to make sure the video was shot in a way that the post-production would be doable, but most of my work was done in front of the computer in the months following the shoot.

I did the backdrop for just one scene, the one with a mountain of boxes. My main responsibility was to composite the shots, bring all the individual elements together to a coherent whole, a single hopefully believable image. The greenscreen mostly took care of isolating the subjects so that they could be dropped on top of the computer-generated backdrops,  but in some cases, they had to be meticulously painted frame by frame, a task called rotoscoping (thanks to Stobe for taking a lot of this burden).

All this complexity was made even more difficult by the rather extreme technical quality specs used in shooting and editing the video. The camera originals were shot at 6K RAW - essentially, every shot consists of frames that are equivalent to 6048 pixel wide high-quality images from a still camera. For each layer, for each second, we shot 50 of those. The footage was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio to allow freedom to move the frame up and down if necessary in post.

The final master was done as a 2:34 widescreen crop, at a lower UHD (4K) resolution with a high bit depth - lower, but still four times more pixels to process than in regular FullHD. And as such, the shots were extremely slow to process - especially as there could be a lot of layers on top of each other, that all needed to be filtered for noise reduction, chroma-keying, spill reduction, color matching etc.

I have a decently fast computer with 16 cores and 64 GB of memory, but it was strained to the max with these files. The render time alone was likely weeks in this project - and that's not including the time spent rendering the 3D backgrounds. The director, Stobe Harju, did the final color correction for a look - usually, that is simple and fast to calculate, even real-time, but this time just the final beauty pass for this 5 and a half minute video took in the order of a full workday to render. I'd estimate the whole project used something in the order of 5-6 terabytes of data. That is a LOT for a 5 -minute video.

The crunch to make the video happen was somewhat insane, and like many times before, we decided that this is the last time we go through this hell. Ever.

We'll see. The decision hasn't held so far ;-)

Here's some earlier music videos by Stobe that i also worked on:

Nightwish: Islander
Poets of the fall: Locking up the sun

Poets of the fall: Carnival of rust
Poets of the fall: Lift
Lovex: Guardian angel


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