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Chvrches ‘Bury It’ Music Video – An Interview with Mighty Nice

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In 2015 Scottish synthpop band Chvrches released their second album Every Open Eye.  Bury It was a song from that album and Chvrches; collaborating with Hayley Williams of Paramore, released a Bury It remix – complete with a stunning animated music video  co-directed by Mighty Nice and UK comic illustration artist Jamie McKelvie.  The music video portrays the band members and Hayley Williams as animated characters, travelling together through a vibrant city skyline and moving objects with their telekinetic powers – which I could describe as Mirror’s Edge meets a much happier version of Akira.  The song tells a story about doing the right thing when it is not always an easy thing to do – and ‘rising above’ the urge to take the easy road.  Quite brilliantly this message translates literally through the characters’ actions, continuously reiterating that,

Sometimes taking the high road can be a superhero strength in itself.

The synthpop genre has much of its rooting in Japan and interestingly their is something very ‘anime’ about the visuals.  I can not describe the music video as anime, but there are certainly visual elements borrowed from this animation style which become apparent when drawing parallels with Akira and Mirror’s Edge (of course, many would say that Mirror’s Edge is not ‘true’ anime, but we can leave that  for another article!)  Whether or not this was the intention of the Band or the directors it is interesting to observe that the music and the visuals could both stem (at least in part) from Japanese culture.

The music video is animated in 3D with cel shader rendering (or to be accurate, the lighting is rendered through a cel shading technique) and it takes me back to the computer game Jet Set Radio where the term was first coined.  At this time, cel shading was really started to boom in popularity.  Since then, this rendering style has been used far more in games than in any other form of media.  Of course, games are the ideal platform for cel shading as the only way to achieve that ‘cartoony’, ‘hand-drawn’ look in 3D games is through cel shader rendering.

Bury It is fantastic example of this technique done right!

CHVRCHES: “Bury It” from Mighty Nice on Vimeo.

London based animation studio Nexus were introduced to Jamie McKelvie by British record label Virgin EMI.  McKelvie had previously created artwork for Chvrches’ posters and albums and the band wanted to retain this artistic theme in their latest music video ‘Bury It’.  Nexus director Mighty Nice were commissioned to co-direct the animated music video with McKelvie with the aim of staying true to this theme and essentially ‘bringing McKelvie’s illustrations to life’.

In a recent press release Darren Price, the executive creative director of Might Nice commented,

Depicting a band in animation is a fairly daunting task.  Translating illustration to animation is also never easy. Jamie McKelvie ’s beautiful, detailed still images are great, but tough to bring to life in an animated world. The piece also needed to capture visually the mood of the song whilst being true to the identity of the band. A further challenge was the super tight time frame required to make this three minute video; it required quick decisions from a small, talented army working furiously day and night in order to make delivery.

The team on the project were amazing. I enjoyed watching everyone work together; bouncing ideas off each other, and helping out where needed. The commitment to the art of the piece was extraordinary.  The studio was filled with energy and there was a fantastic creative vibe around the whole project

Co-director and illustrator Jamie McKelvie added,

Music has always had a big influence on my work, and making a music video seemed like a natural progression of that.  Getting the opportunity to work on this video with such great collaborators – Chvrches, Hayley Williams, and Mighty Nice – meant the reality turned out even better than I’d imagined.

 

Meet the Directors

Mighty Nice

Mightly Nice is a creative lead animation studio based in Sydney.  They are represented in London and New York by their sister animation company Nexus, whom they have collaborated with on numerous creative projects.  Executive creative director Darren Price co-founded the studio with Nexus, of which he was previously based as Head of 3D.

Since its inception, the Mighty Nice team have gone on to win many awards.  Their first short film Potapych: The Bear Who Loved Vodka for Channel 4 won ‘Best Animation’ at the 2007 BAFTA Awards in Scotland.  Since then they have gone on to win many awards in broadcast and advertising, including ‘Best 2D Animation Design’ for their SBS Idents at the PromaxBDA Awards in 2009.  The Girl Effect produced by Nexus and directed by Mighty Nice has won a plethora of awards, including Best Commercial at the Bradford Animation Festival in 2011!

Potapych: The Bear Who Loved Vodka

Potapych: The Bear Who Loved Vodka from Mighty Nice on Vimeo.

The Girl Effect

The Girl Effect from Mighty Nice on Vimeo.

Mighty Nice Animation Showreel

Mighty Nice Animation from Mighty Nice on Vimeo. 

 

Jamie McKelvie

McKelvie is an award winning UK comic illustration artist, known for his work on books, such as Long Hot Summer, Phonogram, and various works for Marvel comics – including Young Avengers, Defenders and the Xmen: Season One graphic novel.

He has also created artwork for some of Chvrches’ posters and albums.

 

CHvrches stills_00001

Q & A

We were able to catch up with Mighty Nice to ask some questions about Bury It.  Here is what they had to say…

 

How did the Mighty Nice team come about?  

Darren Price was once head of 3D at Nexus Productions in London. He and wife, Softly Dunstan had too many babies and required grandparents plus sunshine. Heading back to Sydney, but unhappy about losing touch with the UK, Nexus and Darren began Mighty Nice. Alongside wife Softly as art director, the team slowly grew. Initially working on UK work, we soon created some award winning local work and started to get noticed in our industry here. This kicked off the studio. Continuing to work for Australian, UK and American clients we have built up a great team and expanded our skills and capabilities, render farm and biscuit selection. Recently we have created a number of television shows and are always seeking new ways of applying our talents.

 

It literally looks like the illustrations have ‘come to life’ which is no easy feat, given the visual style.   What was the production dynamic like working with the illustrator Jamie McKelvie?  

Jamie was great to work with. He was very trusting of us and helped create a lot of the art. His initial input was to design all of the characters and provide us turnarounds etc. He knows the band quite well, and they trusted him to get it right. He also had a pretty clear idea of what would happen in the clip and when it would. Due to a tight timeline, he started storyboarding a certain section of the film whilst we boarded other bits. We sometimes overlapped and both tried a few things per scene or shot. We treated him as an off site director. He had limited time between his comic book duties though and so sometimes we had to leap ahead a few steps. Luckily he liked where we were headed. For the colours, backgrounds etc. we referenced some of his comics and particular scenes that had the same sort of feel we were after. It was part of the brief to bring McKelvie’s art to life and that’s what we were aiming to do. As you say, no easy feat.

 

The 3D animation in the music video has a 2D sprites look.  It is always great to see the visual potential of 3D expanded through techniques like this.  How did you achieve this style? 

Initially we wanted to use a well-balanced mix of 3D and 2D animation – so it would be indistinguishable which elements were drawn and which were 3D. In the end we leaned more heavily on the 3D with 2D mainly focusing on fx animation, the dog, dad and bus-stop people (toaster scene!). There was also a lot of drawing over and cleaning up of the 3D toon renders. Often this technique creates ugly looking shadows or linework. We had 2D animators taking these renders in and drawing and erasing to fix a lot of this. This is why a lot of the film is on “2’s”. Against a tight schedule, we chose better looking drawings over frame rate.

Also a lot of artistry went into the design of the colours and lighting. We painted up a colour board to begin with, painted nicely designed matte paintings and put a lot of effort into the final compositing to create a nice look and style.

 

Animation is all about timing, but did producing a music video present unique challenges?  

It was very challenging to create a fully animated clip like this in the time we had. A lot of music videos repeat footage, and have abstract sections. We didn’t really cut ourselves much slack in this regard and had a high shot count of distinct and complicated shots. At the same time, we wanted to do something really great and so pushed ourselves a lot. We had a great team on the production and everyone enjoyed making it.

 

I understand that you are currently in production on two animation series with BBC, Netflix, Channel 7 and the ABC Australia.  Are you able to tell us anything about these?  

 They are both on the air now, which is amazing! The shows are called “Bottersnikes & Gumbles” and “Kazoops”.

Bottersnikes is based on an Australian series of books first written in the 60’s about two types of crazy critters, the scaley, ugly, lazy Bottersnikes, and the squishy stretchy indestructable heroes, the Gumbles. At Mighty Nice, we were all big fans from our childhood and optioned the rights to develop it for television. We created an animation test and started to put the funding puzzle together. Luckily, we weren’t the only fans of the books. Production partners Cheeky Little, Cake, and also the BBC all knew the books well and also loved the series. Together, we got the show off the ground and ongoing we all share various aspects of production with the visual side of things resting largely with Mighty Nice.

Here, we designed and created all the global assets in Australia – the characters, sets, props etc. It was a great mix of illustration, model making, and 3D. We had high hopes of creating something unlike anything else on kids TV. Real and a bit dirty as opposed to shiny and clean as CG often is. We used a lot of physical models and photography to build the CG sets. A lot of the actual animation is happening in India and China via our other partners on the show, Kickstart Entertainment. Darren Price from Mighty Nice, and David Webster from Cheeky Little directed a lot of the episodes from Australia. The voice talent is a brilliant mix of Australian and British actors and the writing team are some of the best around. It’s a challenge to make 52×11 minute episodes, but also a wonderful thing to see it all come together.

“Kazoops” is aimed a younger audience. A pre-school show about imagination and music. Darren from Mighty Nice was one of the creators, and the Mighty Nice studio worked on the overall look of the show. Again we worked on it with some great people. Cheeky Little and Giggle Garage. Each episode features a music video that is a mixture of 2D and 3D animation – animated to creator and musician, Scott Langleys wonderful tunes. A lot of these were designed at our sister company Nexus Productions in London. These sections have so much nice design and visual interest. A show about imagination needed a bit more flexibility than what a typical CG series has – with limited assets and characters etc. Opening it up to mixed media and 2D animation allows more of a colour explosion! Kazoops!

 

‘Bury It (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore)’ is included in Chvrches’ album ‘Every Open Eye (Extended Edition)’ and was released on 29th July 2016 via Virgin EMI/Goodbye Records – visit chvrches.es to find out more.

To find out more about Mighty Nice please visit mightynice.com.au and to read more about the works of animation studio Nexus have a read of our prior coverage and visit nexusproductions.com

 

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