For UK indie band Sykoya’s new animated music video, director Patrick Louwerse had 3,500 illustrations made. His animation team? Himself.
The video for the track Rising Up follows the story of a little bird whose habitat has been destroyed. So it sets out on a journey to find the source of the pollution.
Inspired by the current political climate, as well as humanity’s rampant destruction of nature, Louwerse single-handedly illustrated all 3,500 frames using a technique similar to Crayon Etching. It’s wherein the creative makes a layer of light colours then adds a second layer using a black crayon. The image is then carved or scratched using popsicle stick.
The technique is often used in children’s art classes, but Louwerse’s work is no child’s play. The result of his effort is incredible and the aesthetic perfectly communicates Sykoya’s socio-political message.
We recently caught up with Louwerse to know more about the making of Sykoya’s Rising Up music video. Check it out:
What was the inspiration behind your animation for Sykoya’s music video?
“First of all, I got the track from Sykoya together with the lyrics and the message that they would like to share. The song is an expression of their anger on what happens in today’s world. In their own words:
“’I wrote the song in response to Trump getting elected and so it has a lot of political undertones to it, which we would love to include in the video, but we don’t want it to be too in your face. We’d love for it to be slightly more abstract or weird with some political or social commentary undertones’.
“I liked the idea but my approach would be to show a larger problem and not only an elected president. So I focused more on power to corrupt mankind and ravage nature.
“So I started to look at possibilities to use my illustrations and animations and combine it with media clips. I first noticed the interesting build-up of the track and had some ideas about a mythical journey.
“I also felt that there was room for a big contrast in visuals because of the electronic part that appears on sec 0:27 and thought that that was a good moment to introduce the first media clips.
“I started the story with a hero that would go on a great journey to seek for the origin that is polluting its world and endangering its species. And then it struck me that these media clips would flow, like a river, through a world and would be polluting its surrounding and its inhabitants.
“I felt I had to make these world problems more non-specific and as one visual element and therefore I came up with video glitches to tie all these clips together in one stream. I could use these glitches as a full frame image or incorporate them in the landscape.
“A big inspiration for this was the Inferno chapter in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here you see Satan’s body divided in two parts where the lower part is dangling from the ceiling in a cave and the upper body part is above ground devouring souls. This set up became the key construction for this world.
“Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son was also an inspiration. But more as a pose when we first see the fat king on his throne, opening his mouth and widening his eyes.
“Another big inspiration was the image of dead birds with plastic bellies, this haunting image struck me and I needed to incorporate this in the video.”
Please take us through your creative process. What tools did you use to make the animation? How long did it take to finish?
“The next phase was the design. I came up with a bird. I call it a paradise bird, which would represent both animals and humans. I came up with a simple style of animation which was inspired by crayon scratching.
“Crayon scratching is a technique, which all kids at some point will do, where you cover a canvas with numerous colors and then cover it with black crayon. Then you’ll scrape out a drawing which will be visible.
“The color tones in the lower part of the world has lots of blues and the upper world is filled with gold tones. The lower level is also designed with clean round shapes, these round shapes become more distorted when the bird reaches the origin of the glitch pool. These round shapes slowly change into straight lines when we reach the upper side of the world.
“The upper side of the world would have a simple designed ‘Art Deco’ feel that has some elements of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
“The production process of this video starts with a hand-drawn sequence of 12 frames per second. These drawings are then scanned into the computer and digitally inverted so that black pencil lines become white and the white background becomes black.
“Then the chosen colors are placed behind the white lines just like crayon scratching. The whole image sequence is then composited with Adobe After Effects. The media clips are made with a technique called ‘datamoshing’. This process actually destroys frames within the clips so that one clip will flow into another one. It’s a time-consuming process where you beforehand don’t know what the actual outcome will be.
“To have a sort of character development I started with clean animated lines in the beginning of the video and I slowly began to draw with thicker and loose lines to let the audience feel that this journey would become harder and harder. Near the end of the video we see the hero with very rough lines, he’s battered but also burning with energy.
“The production of this video started right after Christmas and I finished it on the 15th of March.
What were the challenges you encountered in creating the music video?
“The main challenge of this video was doing it all by myself. I couldn’t take a break otherwise I’ll fall behind on schedule. I started early in the morning, around six, with the drawing part and then around the afternoon I would be compositing the shot.
“And later that evening I would pick up drawing again until night time. And right before bed I would make little sketches for the next day so that I would know what to do.
“With this video I wanted to surprise myself and keep things fresh and therefore I didn’t make a storyboard, I just had a beginning and an ending. And that was also a big challenge because it created lots of opportunities to make mistakes, which is nasty with this deadline.”
What was Sykoya’s response to seeing the animation?
“Sykoya was very happy with it, but I involved them in a lot of phases of the process so I showed them a version in the beginning, middle, and end. So it wasn’t a total surprise for them.”
What type of impact would you like this music video to have on Sykoya’s listeners?
“The first impact I would like it to have is that it elevates the track and the lyrics. So that they love the track instead of liking it. That the audience slowly enters this world and follows this character towards the very end. And I hope that the audience feels what’s going on and that it’s not some fable but todays crazy world.
“It was very important to me that it would balance between a coherent story and an abstract film because it could otherwise easily turn into a cartoon or easy bash on Trump. Therefore, I kept it somewhat in the middle and gave the audience enough information to follow the story. Also, the media clips are well disguised making you feel the images instead of seeing them.
“It was worth the stretch making 3,500 drawings and staying inside for weeks on end. I’m very happy with the result and I already started on my next animation project.”