Irina Rubina animates freewheeling bebop rhythms for Miles Davis’ cover of What’s Love Got To Do With It

Irina talks about how her history with math, jazz and visual expression influenced this hypnotic video.

18 January 2023


Irina Rubina had quite an “entangled” path leading her to animation. After trying her hand at fine art photography and mathematics with little success, the soon-to-be animator and director stumbled upon short, mystical films online. She was immediately hooked. “How crazy is that we can set up and create the most impossible mysterious worlds and rules in a few film minutes or even seconds,” she says, recalling the wonder of her first encounter with the art form. As her technical eye developed while learning at Animationsinstitute of Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and GOBELINS, l'ecole de l’image, so did her capacity for wonder. “This magic of animation as a poetic experience is still something I am totally excited about and always aiming for,” she tells It’s Nice that.

That awe is on full display in her music video for Miles Davis’ cover of Tina Turner’s 1984 hit What’s Love Got To Do With It. The expressive visual language in the video is tethered to Irina’s initial love for animation’s interplay of elements. “Visuals, music, sounds and time can dance and interact with each other in so many unexpected ways, being able to create thousands of microcosmoses,” she says. In turn, her first project treads the line between analogue and digital, working with stop-motion and paint. “I really enjoy the fusion of analogue and digital techniques, especially if there is no clear border, and both worlds are merging together,” she says. “I tried to achieve a touch of analogue feeling through compositing as well.”


Irina Rubina/ iraru.films: Miles Davis, What's Love Got To Do With It (Copyright © Sony Music Entertainment, 2022)

While she listened to the song hundreds of times, Irina also took inspiration from two of Miles’ drawings: his sketch for the “star people” cover and one “detailed drawing full of different creatures, faces and lines”. The song itself provided “hidden layers” like the mention of a night which Irina says “connects the unconnectable – melancholy, curiosity, longings, surprises, fascination, being connected and disconnected at once”. The structure of the video followed the flow of the song. Irina admits that the mathematical part of her never quite went away and so she approached it with clerical precision – analysing each verse, the foreplay, the chorus and the distribution of beats. “I defined my own emotional and thematic focus, which I translated into the visual story.”

Irina stresses that none of this could’ve been possible without the hard work of her team. For example “for the creation of the main characters I gave key descriptions and emotions to the virtuous animation artist Lewis Heriz”. Tasked with concentrating all these loose notes into a single walk-cycle for each of the characters, Lewis graphed onto his own walk as a reference. “The result is just stunning,” says Irina, and we tend to agree. The project uses traditional frame-by-frame animation “analogue pencil-like look” but the magic, Irina reveals, came from the joint work with compositing artist Toby Auberg. The “small details, forms and squares got a special magic treatment", Irina details. “That's how our final – and a bit textured – look, with some shadows and glowy highlights, was born.”

Counting Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevich among her many inspirations, Irina also credits wild brainstorming sessions with animation artist Michelle Brand for making the project what it is. It is a daunting task to represent the work of Jazz visionary Miles Davis. Irina approached it with a novel blend of “perfect imperfection” and scientific precision. Using a sophisticated loop system tethered to the song’s rhythmical points, Irina stays in lockstep with the artist’s percussive medley.

GalleryIrina Rubina/ iraru.films: Miles Davis, What's Love Got To Do With It (Copyright © Sony Music Entertainment, 2022)

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Irina Rubina/ iraru.films: Miles Davis, What's Love Got To Do With It (Copyright © Sony Music Entertainment, 2022)

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About the Author

Roz Jones

Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That for three months as an editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design.

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