Given a completely open brief by Columbia Records for The Shins’ latest video, Half a Million, directing duo Lamar+Nik took the chance to make something they’d always wanted to make. “We always had this idea of a sticker trail being animated, but the surroundings remaining live-action,” explains Jesse Lamar High, one half of the duo. “We hadn’t seen it before, and there’s something really fun about taking mundane things and making them exciting. Plus it’s accessible to everyone. It’s almost as if you and your friends are going around one day putting stickers in unexpected places.”
The band was filmed on a white background in a studio in Vancouver, then the footage was edited for sign-off from the label, because beyond that point it would be difficult to change anything. Then every single frame of the video was printed on to sticker paper. “We began cutting immediately,” says Lamar. “Nik’s brother, mum, girlfriend and dad all helped cut stickers out, but for the most part it was just us cutting away.”
5,566 stickers were hand-cut from the 4,868 frames, with all the frames numbered and separated into stacks for each scene. Each stack was bagged, and then Lamar and Nik took five bags a day to a location (over 40 were used in total) and stuck the stickers down in sequence.
“For the most part it was just the both of us doing the actual stop motion filming because it’s so time consuming. The checkers scenes alone took eight hours. We arrived at the location at 6pm and left at 3am. Other than that, there were no real challenges besides being outside in 90 degree weather for the outside bits.”
What makes the video so tangible and satisfyingly lo-tech in comparison to other animations is the real-life environs. “We leaned more towards places stickers are, or could actually be,” Lamar says. “There are a handful of scenes, like the pool kick with Nik’s brother, that were stickers stuck down onto glass with green screen behind it. It was later composited over the footage. Otherwise it’s all real-life scenarios.”
“Our favourite part of the video is where James is on a brick wall and rips himself revealing another version of himself behind it. That was one of the more difficult ones to figure out and it came out pretty great.”