If you’ve listened to the radio at all during the last month you probably noticed that Kanye West is riding high on the latest single from his 808s & Heartbreak album, “Heartless.” And, if you’ve spent any time in front of a computer screen during the last couple of months, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his brightly colored, Hype Williams directed video for the song.
(left: Kanye West’s rotoscoped alter ego.)
“Heartless” uses rotoscope animation, a technique performed by animators in which they trace–frame by frame–over live-action film movement. You’ve seen it in movies (Waking Life), you’ve seen it in iTunes commercials, and if you’ve seen Kanye’s latest video, than you should be familiar with rotoscoping.
Because I’m a fan of the technique and it’s trippy end product, I thought this would be as good of a time as any to list my favorite rotoscoped-music-videos.
Not in any particular order, here goes:
“Take On Me,” A-Ha
This is the measuring stick of music video rotoscoping. Because “Take On Me” was crafted in an age where we relied less on computers, you could tell there was some serious elbow greased used in the creation of this clip. Unlike much of the animation used in music videos from the 1980’s, “Take Me On” still holds up magnificently today.
“Destiny,” Zero 7
This ultra-chill song makes you feel even more relaxed after watching its music video. A clip focusing on routine, everyday events (passengers on a subway, a girl on a cell phone, little kids fidgeting around, etc.) has never been so interesting.
“Shoot The Runner,” Kasabian
I’m not going to lie to you, I liked the song long before I saw the video (so I’m sure there’s a certain bias). “Shoot The Runner” looks like an iTunes commercial, but because I don’t know what came first, I’ll save my finger pointing for another time. Inspired by iTunes or not, I love the look and color schemes of the clip.
“Shadrach,” Beastie Boys
One of a just a million reasons why the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique album was years ahead of its time. What hip-hop group in the late 1980’s would take live footage shot on surveillance cameras, have a surrealist artist paint over each frame, and release it as a proper music video? If you ever doubted that music video was fine art, give this piece a perusing.
“Go With The Flow,” Queens Of The Stone Age
If by chance you’re not familiar with Queens of The Stone Age, just know that they’re a band of big, tough, gnarly dudes. They don’t seem like the type of group that would be down for making an animated video, but it somehow works perfectly in “Go With The Flow.” The band gets to use their favorite color scheme (black and red) while they perform in the back of a speeding pick-up truck, which then drives down the highway right into the spread-legs of go-go dancer. No one said rotoscope animation couldn’t be a little naughty as well.