In the early days of MTV, at least when it came to hair metal, it seemed all a band needed to make a music video was a few cans of hairspray, a fog machine and some suggestive silhouettes dancing in a window. Not true in the video sphere of today's bands, who have moved entirely online and employed a variety of high-tech, interactive gimmicks to capture that elusive comet of marketing gold: the viral video.
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Already ahead of the curve with their interactive, geo-tagging video for "The Wilderness Downtown," indie mega-darlings Arcade Fire have once again raised the bar. The video for "Reflektor," the first single off the band's new album, allows viewers to generate content and manipulate onscreen effects with their smartphone, as if it were a paintbrush.
Here's how it works: Users link their smartphone to their Web browser - preferably Google Chrome - which syncs the the computer's webcam to data from the phone's accelerometer and gyroscope. By that connection, and Chrome's ability to process accelerated graphics, the phone becomes a tool that triggers a variety of visual parameters embedded within the video. Holding the phone near the computer and waving it or tilting it unleashes bursts of sunlight or brushes new footage across the screen.
The video is a collaboration between Vincent Morisset, a pioneering interactive video director, and the Data Arts team at the Google Creative Lab in San Francisco, headed by Aaron Koblin.
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"What we did was take a bunch of video that we put into an HTML5 video playback. We used a technology called Web GL, which is hardware accelerated graphics," Morisset said in a short behind-the-scenes clip explaining how the video was made. "We're able to take the data from your phone's location to affect shaders and change the actual look and feel of the video itself."
Morriset said he and his collaborators wanted to do away with using traditional keyboards and buttons, in favor of "getting lost in the experience and forgetting what you're holding."
Arcade Fire will release "Reflektor," their new double LP, on October 29.