Lost and Lookin’ in NYC


This animation started life as part of a VJ loop for the Secret Garden Party. Inspired by Jorgen Leth’s The Perfect Human, it bagan as an experiment in simple video manipulation.

Jorgen Leth's The Perfect Human

Isolating the original footage took a bit of time as the footage was black and white and bleached out, meaning keying it took a few rounds.
I then set about stylising this dancing animation using trapcodes form. Adding glow and then using particular to give the appearance of him slowly dissolving.

Sequence of transformed images

Whist doing this I came across some footage by ThrashLab of New York City, empty and void of human life. This was found at the same time that the East Coast of America was getting battered by Hurricane Sandy. The idea of this desolate metropolis with its sole inhabitant “The Perfect Human” jiving away without a care in the world seemed like a pretty surreal juxtaposition.So I set about merging the two. After all I’m not a documentary film-maker, and my animations are usually sprayed onto walls in the wee hours to nocturnal deviants and their bleary eyed psyches.

Empty NYC

The idea was never just to re-use the footage so I set about warping, distorting and adding hidden messages throughout. I was reading George Orwell’s 1984 at the time so a few quotes came to mind, “War is Peace”, “Freedom is Slavery”,”Ignorance is Strength”. Adding to this theme were images of A Clockwork Orange (where Alex is being brainwashed) and other propaganda footage, all intertwined within New Yorks displays of material lust.

Stills from video, manipulated using "Trapcode Form"

It was while I was playing with filters, arrangement, blurs and other effects that the music came to me. It was a remix of Sam Cooke’s Lost and Lookin’ by Blockhead that kept popping into my head. The melancholy feel of the track mixed with the carefree dancing of the perfect lightbulb created a great sense of benevolence about the character, an almost out of this world sense of searching for truth and goodness, within the empty streets of NYC.
I added particles floating from this “being” to give the impression that this was not an infinite knees up in New York, but rather a transcendental flyby that was slowly weakening and making him fading away. Lets face it, E.T and Orson Wells had pretty much defined that any extra terrestrial visits were destined in failure.

Now that this animation had taken a turn toward the sci-fi, I started to use trapcode Mir to create the skys, broken into fractals and cut into the skylines.

Mir sky

The final touches to this story, if you want to call it that, (which I do, since I made it) was to add the pyramid.
“A pyramid” you ask!
Yeah, I just got hold of Element 3D, a plug-in from Video Copilot and I was itching to give it a test run. Following the theme of this traveller searching an eerily deserted cityscape, I thought he needs a ship. To land in, to help him look around and to generally float about being all 3D for shits and giggles. I don’t proclaim to be a 3D designer, so it’s best to keep this shit simple. I could have added textures and all that, but since our hero is basically a jiving set of lightbulbs, I guessed he’d have a minimal form of transport (An interplanetary equivalent of a fixie). No gears, you hear…

Elements 3D and the floating pyramid.

Anyway, if you got this far, thanks for reading. And here’s to the world not ending today.



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