Work / Animation

Steve Smith’s music video for Moaning references the chaotic energy of 90s MTV idents

Sometimes it only takes a few seconds before we’re completely sold on a piece of work and that was definitely the case with Los Angeles-based animator Steve Smith’s latest video. We last wrote about Steve in February of this year where he explained how his work is inspired by “Home Depot and his dog, Shoe” and we’ve been hooked ever since.

“It was a complete stream of consciousness process with this video,” he remarks of his recent music video for LA-based band, Moaning. Friends with Sean Soloman and Pascal Stevenson of Moaning (which also includes Andrew MacKelvie), Steve was allowed to interpret their single Misheard. “There wasn’t an official brief but I knew Sean wanted something that was colourful and reflected some of my past work that I knew he enjoyed,” Steve recalls.

With this in mind, he set about evoking the energy of 1990s MTV adverts, but with a refined 3D approach. “I wanted it to feel like something you had seen before without directly referencing it,” he explains, “that’s how I feel about Moaning’s music, it feels of that era but has a fresh take that brings it into 2018.”

The music video accomplishes this wholeheartedly, opening on a series of objects appearing on screen from above, twisted and melted together and slowly rotating. Around the 30-second mark, a face appears in the mishmash of objects, singing the first verse of the song. This continues throughout the track, disrupted during the chorus by a series of rapidly changing cutscenes packed full of colour, objects and abstract shapes.

“A lot of editing and inserts you would see on MTV back then would just be rapidly edited collages of highly saturated everyday imagery,” Steve says, adding that in his version, “I establish a world with the slow pan for the verses and then reference the objects from that world with that MTV flash editing for the high energy chorus.”

These objects were produced by Steve at a rapid rate, because “I knew I wanted to create a lot of them so I could rehash them in the chorus”. After developing a colour palette that was “figured out along the way” he created visual elements to complement this. “With the wasps, I knew I wanted something that was a small yellow detail that actually exists because that helps bring some of the more abstract assets into a realistic world,” he adds. By mixing real-world visual assets with the more abstract and by changing pace throughout the video, Steve’s animation is hypnotising and jarring at the same time. Its colourful aesthetic, albeit more muted than some of his other work, perfectly references 90s MTV but in his slick, hyperreal and witty style.

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard

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Steve Smith: Moaning: Misheard