Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Radiohead Video Claims It Uses No Cameras, But...


(Above: a shot from Radiohead's new "House of Cards" video)

Radiohead claim their new video for "House of Cards," available here, uses no cameras. Let's first recap what cameras are, then talk about their process, and, if it still seems necessary after both of those discussions, talk about why "no cameras" may not have been the best choice of words.

A camera is a device that collects reflected light, then structures the collected information into a two dimensional portrayal of three dimensional space.

The device used for Radiohead's video, as explained in the behind the scenes clip here, is a device that collects reflected light (in this case an array of lasers), then structures the collected information (using computers) into a three dimensional-seeming two dimensional portrayal of three dimensional space.

So in other words, the "non-camera" used here is still basically a camera, but saying "a music video made with no cameras" sounds better than "a music video that uses fancy new and complicated cameras."

The whole thing also reminds me of this Polyphonic Spree video, a music video made with "no video whatsoever." In actuallity, it's just succesive still images shown quickly one after another to create the illusion of motion. Or, wait, that actually sounds a lot like the definition of motion pictures.

In both cases, the processes are noteworthy for being creative approaches to film, the former reaching forward to 3-d imaging and the latter reaching backward to the early days of film, but both using different types of cameras, despite being hyped as camera-less. Another lesson in never believing the hype, I suppose.

Don't get me wrong, both come out looking pretty cool.

But here's the fascinating part about Radiohead's video: granted the whole thing had to be created from a giant data set, one that could be used for many possible applications and visualizations. As a result, over at Google Code, Radiohead have released their entire data set from which their video is constructed. The data set is available for free, and now anyone can use the data to construct their own version of the 3-d imaging video. Best part is, people are actually doing it!

NOTE: Stereogum brought this video and its circumstances to my attention.

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