Any time you see something with a lot of Web buzz, you expect someone to be negative – and perhaps that’s healthy, having someone to play devil’s advocate. But I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed by the rants over on First, Chris Vinnicombe said watching the video was like “being spoon-fed a large helping of bathos with a boredom chaser.” (Ouch.) I’ve always been intrigued by the range of emotional responses – boredom included – visual can prompt. Like any expressive medium, it’s as easy to elicit hate as love, even with the same work.

But now is calling in the “expert” to complain more, and, oddly, because they just don’t like the aesthetic:

Is Radiohead video “half-baked”?

3D World magazine editor says the video’s raw data is “a bit like serving the eggs and flour instead of the actual cake,” and says the work to distort the data further is “not really that groundbreaking,” though he does give it credit for being Radiohead-esque. Now, maybe this is the fault of the ad campaign and Web buzz, but I never really thought the “camera-less” angle or the newness was so important, so much as the increasing aesthetic of digital rawness in visuals and the fact that the code and data are open. Indeed, I think the video will be more of a success if the fan-made videos wind up going beyond the original. We’ll see.

Even as a blogger, I find the obsession with “newness” in general to be blown a bit out of proportion. A technique is a technique; it’s usually not until a technique becomes old that it reaches its full potential. (See: photography.)

If nothing else, the negative reaction demonstrates some of the gulf between the live visualist/generative graphics scene around tools like Processing, and the “serious” / pro 3D scene involved in industrial work. By contrast, different music communities are often more aware of the aesthetic interests of each others’ output (not that music doesn’t have plenty of divisiveness all its own). But perhaps “industrial” and “art” producers can do more to share what they’re doing.

  • Snore.

    you're right peter, the ONLY interesting thing is the fact that data is open source and some other people will probably do some interesting things with it. Memo put his processing templates up yesterday, as well as an example vid.

    I was unimpressed with the point cloud data concept the day that they released it… point cloud has been a standard render mode in jitter forever, as well as being one of the default modes in 3L. Here's the post i made on the House Of Cards release date, along with a few examples of a head in 3L…made at least a month ago, which gives a user vastly more control over the appearance in recreating this style outside of processing:

    Example # 4 is the most relevant in the point cloud fog of discussion.

    Again… if it was anyone other than buzzmasters radiohead doing this, the world wouldnt have lifted an eyebrow… there's tons of open source projects (duh) of waaaaay cooler stuff in just about any render language your heart desires. A gazillion cooler bits of late night redbull fueled brain fart strings from 18 year olds that dont even speak inglish and dont post to any of our normal forums… guys in finland…hungary… holed up in brazil… they coudl care less whats happening in the inglish speaking world, and distribute their stuff among their own fellow "barbarian" linguists. Man, almost every Demo Scene live coding event has better stuff wrapped up in 18k packages than House of Cards.

    But hey, its THOM (the cool bono) THORPE'S HEAD.

  • Well, no, that's not what I'm saying — only that to me, "newness" is not a prerequisite for something being interesting. I think the design work they did is really compelling, and Director of Technology Aaron Koblin has managed to get plenty of ink on projects he's done *not* involving Radiohead. Anyway, I think the enthusiasm for Radiohead — the fact that people dig the music — is fine. Hype may well get amped up so high that people miss the point, but the basic impulse to me isn't so far off.

    To me, the video is compelling; that's just my opinion. I like some of the simplicity of it; it works for me. The fact that it's part of a larger body of work doing this kind of stuff doesn't make it less valuable. It is too bad that people aren't aware of the greater context, but that's an issue bigger than one Radiohead video.

    Also, am I missing something? I believe you can modify how point data is rendered in Processing using OpenGL. It's not terribly well documented, but you can work on the level of OpenGL by instantiating a GL object. (In fact, it might be worth someone — ahem, even me — going and writing a library to assist with that.) These are OpenGL / GPU features, not specific to any one software environment (Processing, Open FrameWorks, 3L, etc.).

    It wouldn't make sense to use fancy rendering in the example code here, in that I believe you run the risk of requiring OpenGL extensions, OpenGL 2.0, etc., which wouldn't run on some hardware (like the crippled non-Pro MacBook graphics card).

    But, yes, it's worth checking out all the work Aaron Koblin has done, and that'll certainly be the broader context of any conversation CDM has with him.

  • @ peter

    Byno means is this a criticism of Aaron's work… he's a great artist, with, as ou mention, a large body of work. It's nice that something like processing is seeing a wider audience (like the mainstream video viewing public's), and that it's possible for a heavyweight band with a huge following"known" for its use of front edge tech and concepts to bring that to them. That's not really the point of my statements. I cont take issue with you, (or anyone) liking the video, or being impressed by it.

    What i take issue with, is that if Radiohead hadn't have "done it" (they didnt, Aaron did), the blogosssssphere woudn't have paid ANY attention to Aaron's work. I mean, come on peter, you check vimeo pretty regularly, you, and jaymis post interesting examples of peoples work in this "space" (3d, software environments, etc)… but outside those of us in your community, and the rest of the community that syndicates cdm, does the rest of the world pick up on the latest cool 3d patch, sketch, rawcode, software environ, etc?

    i mean, we all know, we all read the same feeds, and watch the same sites, and sniff the new ones that pop up daily… whenver there is something cool, one or the other site picks it up, republishes it, and if you miss it on this one this week,its on that one a week later or whatever. But none of it HITS the consciousness of everyone like that exept for when it is RADIOHEAD… or bjork… I mean, Ninja Tune has been supporting all the best visual artists for yeaaaars… and all those people are still crying for attention.

    Clarification on the other point that i was trying to make, is that after you play around with Thom's head …. um… how does the normal mortal acquire a STRING of 360 degree scv point cloud data…

    So basically, most anybody who is going to work with the data, outside of a Radiohead fan, is someone who knows or assumes that the likelihood of their work getting seen will be higher if it is a remix of RADIOHEAD data. Its not a criticism of any visualist who does that, the reasoning is fair and consistent. The way i see it, basically RASIOHEAD, a "credible" band, is co-opting the community. Who ends up getting the credit? RADIOHEAD. All the headlines screamed across the internetz "Radiohead new video, house of cards..etc" BFD. If the headlines said "Aaron Koblin's new processing sketch", no one would have paid any attention.

    I take no issue with what your opinion is. We regular readers also know that cdm delves deeper into the artists than the msm. In the end, it's google, and radiohead that got a ton of free publicity

    And no you're not missing something about changing how the point data is rendered.. that's exactly what Memo's example does.

    Looking forward to see your gl library, and while you're at it, could i get a csv string of your head with the .zip file ?

  • John Stevens

    Aaron didn't do this, it was a team at a post production house called syndicate. From my understanding it was Aaron who advised and bridged the gap between film makers and the engineers that helped capture the data. Aaron's roll, although very important was really to do with the back end release of the visualizer and data release. Also, when a comment made about it being around a long time, this may apply in your world but maybe not the the mass audience, that i think is why it's getting a lot of attention.

  • @ john:

    thanks for the clarification… 🙂

  • @John: Indeed, credit (or criticism, if you like) should go to the whole team: Director James Frost and DP Von Thomas, both regulars at Zoo Films, I believe (who have done some other great work). Aaron Koblin was Director of Technology. That is his code in the example and I believe at least a significant amount of his code in the actual rendering, though presumably not the capture. (I'll ask. But as I said, I'm just as eager to talk to Aaron about his other work, too.)

    Michael, I agree, generally, with what you're saying. Of course it makes a difference that it's Radiohead. But that makes it all the more impressive that far more obscure names have hit the public consciousness, particularly in the last year. I talk to designers and visual people, people who know very little about technology, who have seen videos by Robert Hodgin or explored the Processing exhibition. It's clear that Joy Mountford did a huge amount at Yahoo's Y!Haus to evangelize this stuff, as well, after many, many years of obscurity, leading a team that not coincidentally included Aaron. (The Yahoo chapter is closed; the larger story is not.) Here in New York, there have been packed crowds at the ITP shows and lineups out onto the street for MoMA's Design and the Elastic Mind. I don't think that was a perfect show, but the point is that people were fascinated just to see this stuff. (In fairness, then instead of Radiohead's brand, it was MoMA's — but, then, once in the door, you just saw people's jaws drop at stuff we take for granted, because we've seen all these clips and know the artists.)

    I find star power frustrating at times, of course. I've got a sound installation in my back yard that I think a lot of people wouldn't have noticed had it not had David Byrne's name on it; that's too bad. But, on the other hand, I've seen all kinds of stuff hitting the mainstream that I would never have expected. It's always easiest to use celebrity to tell a story, but it's not the only way — even with the mainstream press. We don't always do it in a way that appeals to the larger world on CDM, but then, I think that's because we have just as much interest in talking to specialists and people learning their craft, to the people actually making stuff.

    There was a time when no one knew what a synthesizer was, until Switched on Bach smashed the classical music sales chart or Keith Emerson picked up a Moog. Those days are obviously over. As with the video, I actually hope that we're in a germinal time — that the best is yet to come.

  • pixelflip

    Behind the scenes:

  • John Stevens

    @ Peter, whist i agree with everything you say and a very good observation… isn't it just a casualty of the art world.. I mean nothing against Aaron, the guy makes amazing stuff, no doubt, and obviously contributed to this radiohead video in some way shape or form, otherwise they would not have credited him… but… as of the other artists you speak, they make amazing things.. i don't doubt that… it;s horrible to say but a case of PR. and as for MOMA, i agree.. wow.. i guess it's the best of the PR race. and Aaron got there first,, such is life.. not always worthy, but worthy of the prize.. and i respect him for that. He is talented and worthy, so i would say of James Frost and Von Thomas and everyone else.. since they pushed the medium to a wider stage.. surely they deserve respect and accolade for that. Now the job at hand is for someone talented enough to convince the powers at be to do it again, on a new level, and .. you know what?.. we get to speak of this all over again.. I love it…

  • I like the idea, the use of the technology, but don't I think the music goes with the imagery. There is a huge trend (well, always, I'll admit) to just have one cool thing BE the video. This one has LIDAR, but needed more going on. Maybe some actual band shots in between, or maybe LIDAR shots of alphabet blocks saying some words, or maybe some more scene changes. I did love that they put all the data out there.

    It also had a HUGE push from fourteen billion bloggers and news sites. What video could have lived up to the expectations all of this coverage created?

    I'm wondering what the tech was in the video for To The Music by Colder. Looks similarly data-created.

  • @pixelflip, think we lost something there.

    @Ian: well, that's always the mystery, isn't it, how to create a sense of synesthesia where you feel as though the music and visuals blend into one experience. A lot of music videos miss the mark. This one, at least, up for debate.

  • The subtext of that "Is Radiohead video “half-baked?" article is "We aren't actually capable of critiquing the video formally, so instead we'll ask an expert to address the piece tangentially and tack on an inconclusive ending".

    I definitely agree with exiledsurfer's comments about the radiohype though. 😉

  • cat

    @Ian the colder video (i think looks better anyway!) was done with a point grey stereo camera I think its the bumblebee, it works out stereo depth then creates a wireframe and textures for it. My feeling is that the feel of the song doesnt quite match the feel of the visual, but thats purely my opinion!

  • @peter:

    i guess there always is some point where something new hits peoples consciousness (the mainstream) in any segment of life – tech, culture, whatever – and the closed communities that are around that particular segment are never impressed, since it's old hat. The term "state of the art" is misleading for exactly this reason.. there are always more advanced things going on simultaneously that arent ripe for prime time, but are ages ahead of "state of the art".

    i think the difference between the music video form and the live video form is this aspect of synesthesia… i dont really think that the music video form ever approaches thrue synesthesia, rather just a sort of "mdma" form of lsd. Videos can be synchronous with whatever audio track, but rarely is the mind tricked in to "seeing the sound" or "hearing the color".

    @ ian page nichols;

    i agree with you that the tech is pretty interesting – the thing is, i would have liked to have ssen peter grab that angle more here at cdm. Whats awesome about cdm is that it occupies the ground between hacking and commerciality, and contributors like jaymis who come up with cheap bullet cam solution hacks.. that's the kind of ground breaking stuff i like to read about here..the kind of things that are within reach if you are inspired to spend some time figuring out a low or no cost solution to achieve something that big money tech makes possible. And the radiohead vid doesnt fall in to this category, so here's the throwdown:

    What i want to read about is the hack for acquiring 360 degrees of point cloud data of WHATEVER (jaymis- you reading this, bullet cam man?), on cdm… the person who figures that out is a real star in my book.

  • I won't criticize the technology used for this project, because to me it sounds fascinating, still not sure how it works but that to me is the only thing that attracts me from this video.

    From the visual point of view, which is the one that people perceive more when watching this piece, is just ok. I think the fact that (like someone wrote earlier) this project got so much buzz, made people have really high expectations and in the end, it seems like an ok video, but (at least to me) it makes very little to attract me for the entire song.

    I'm not trying to be mean, its very easy to shut down someone else's work, I just think this looks like something that warp records could have done 6 years ago, (aesthetically speaking that is).

    Not too long ago Psyop released a video for converse and 3 big pop music artists, and although I didn't like the music either, the video just kept me interested from start to finish, and it was done all in post.

    On the positive side, I think this is a great start for the use of this technology, and I think soon enough we will see really amazing experiments.

    Again, not trying to be mean, and I do agree, when a project is hyped so much you are most likely to get a really hyped audience that are going to be expecting nothing but the very best, that's why sometimes is just better to get them by surprise, when they don't see it coming.

    My 2 cents

  • @cat:

    Ah, now I remember reading about that. That's likely why I downloaded the video. I think that one matches a bit more, but still, not enough going on in that one either. Not sure how my like of that track fits into my opinion about shots being too long, although I know that influences things.

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  • xpez2000

    How can artwork generate negative feedback? It's artwork – it didn't create itself.

    All of this negativity stems from a denial of envy from the success of other visual artists. A way to discount their success is to knock whatever it is they are doing.

    If you bring nothing to the table of poetics, then you will be disappointed every time. All of this criticism is more about the timeliness of technique and less about the philosophy of the mediated image with sound. It's simplistic tech argument that's lame.

    How courageous of James to ask Radiohead, programmers and technicians to venture into an untested realm of photography. Just to experiment and meld the results to a song.

    Success is a confluence of many circumstances that intersect at a given point in time. For this Radiohead video, the results were extremely fortuitous. Do they deserve the success, YES!!!

    The Radiohead video is unexpected and causes you see a very identifiable world in a compelling way. Visually, the cold data, used for benign spacial representation, became fragile and full of emotion.

    This video is destined to enter the pantheon of iconic music videos.

    No amount of negativity is going to stop that. Sometimes artwork becomes greater than the artists initial intentions.

  • xpez2000

    Also, without the amazing music, all you would have is a processing sketch.

    If you want Radiohead to serve your visual art needs so the headlines would read NEW COMPUTER ART BY BLAH BLAH then go out and become a famous artist, have millions of fans, BE successful on your own and maybe Radiohead would consider being a part of your work.

    Right now everyone needs to jump on their bandwagon because they are the SUPERSTARS.