Nicole Ginelli, a self-taught animator and illustrator based in Brooklyn, isn’t afraid of setting herself a challenge. When the record label Cascine approached her to ask if she’d be interested in creating a music video for the Seahawks track Eyes of the Moon, she instantly suggested an interactive 360-degree video – having never done a 360 animation before.
“I pitched the 360-degree idea immediately after hearing the track,” she says. “Initially taking in the lushness of the song, I knew I wanted an environment and an immersive rendering. The way the track evolves and the amount of space within it led me to picture this morphing, expansive arena.”
She has certainly achieved that goal. Nicole, who premiered the video two weeks ago at an event in New York co-hosted by It’s Nice That and Wix, was inspired by the computer games she played growing up in the early 1990s, like Spectre, for example. “I always associate this time period of the gaming industry as largely positive, encouraging subjectivity and discovery through abstraction,” she says. “I feel like ambient or ecstatic music relates as a similar mode of digital expression.”
She built out the scenes and camera movements in Cinema 4D and then edited everything together in After Effects. “Working in 360 degrees is fairly similar to a traditional 3D animation process and there are a number of helpful plugins for both softwares that render out 360-degree scenes,” Nicole explains. “These plugins essentially put a little Google Maps car within your scene that follows a traditional camera around and shoots 360 degrees. It’s super satisfying once you get it to render correctly.”
For Nicole, who has worked on several music videos in the past, including this masterful one for Elderbrook, the most important thing is always creating a video that matches the unique tone of the track. “Whenever I do work for music it’s most important to me that I communicate an emotional takeaway,” she says. “For an ambient song like Eyes of the Moon, I like to build an abstract narrative as I go along. I try to work fast and intuitively, matching the tonal shifts in the song.”
She has lots of forms and scenes storyboarded beforehand, but when it comes to movement and connecting scenes, “I’ll usually do that in the moment”, she adds. This is partly what gives the video the sense that it was, like the music itself, born out of organic and intuitive exploration and inspiration.
Watch the video closely (and use your cursor to shift the perspective) and you’ll spot a few shapes that appear and reappear. “Certain recurring sounds also became narrative characters that would reappear throughout the video as either a specific object, a type of movement or a transition,” says Nicole. “The appearance of certain symbolic shapes continually sync and correspond to these specific elements in the song.” It was a dream commission, giving her the “perfect catalyst to conjure some weird visuals I can’t imagine making in any other capacity”.
Seahawks is a duo made up of Jon Tye, head of Lo Recordings and the man behind Brain Machine, and the illustrator and DJ, Pete Fowler. Their knowledge of visual art and animation was invaluable for Nicole, as she was working on the video with an open dialogue with the artists. “They had great feedback to add in more disruptive elements to match the conceptual tone of the record,” she says. “For them, this track has a post-human theme and deals with transcendence. In the end, the video presents the viewer with a series of universes that are both relatable and foreign, a beautiful and strange simulation.”