May 4, 2017

Watch: How Michel Gondry Pulled off All Those Insane Effects in 'The White Stripes' Videos

This video essay reveals some of Gondry's most tantalizing in-camera and After Effects secrets.

Michel Gondry and Jack White are a match made in music video heaven. Each artist features such a unique voice within their medium, that when the two media collide, there's no other word to describe the outcome but "magic." As a master of illusion, Gondry's oft-used forced perspective technique shows up in some form throughout all five of their collaborations

As we see in Film Radar's detailed video essay, the two artists share some stylistic tendencies as well. Perhaps most important to each is their flair for authenticity. Both White and Gondry are strong believers in the use of restrictions and minimalism in their work. Gondry constructs entire sets around an effect, rather than creating them in post, and White forces himself to simplify his songs as much as possible so he can write more of them. As White asks in the video below, "What good can come from comfort?" 

Film Radar goes into depth on three of the pair's collaborations: Dead Leaves on the Dirty Ground, Fell in Love With a Girl, and The Denial Twist. Two of these songs are off the album White Blood Cells (perhaps my personal favorite) while one appears on Get Behind Me Satan (Film Radar's top choice.)

Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

This video truly showcases Gondry's low-tech innovation. As they filmed each scene, he placed a projector at whatever angle the camera stood. This way, the projections played against the walls of the house as they were shooting, eliminating the need for Gondry to go in later and add some overlay effects in post.

Fell in Love With a Girl

This is probably The White Stripes most iconic videos, if not one of the most iconic music videos ever. Half of the project was done in stop motion with Legos, and the other half was done with post-production tools.  Film Radar goes into detail about how you can actually achieve this look with your own footage, using the Mosaic effect in Adobe After Effects. And if you happen to live in Nashville, Tennesse, you can check out the original Lego set from this video in a glass case housed at Third Man Records.

The Denial Twist

Personally, I would have chosen to round out the essay with a different choice (The Hardest Button to Button is one of my favorite music videos ever), but instead we get an in-depth peek at how Gondry likely went about getting that weird stretch effect in The Denial Twist. We're all familiar with the scaling tool in After Effects. If you click off the option that keeps everything in scale, then you're free to distort your image as much as you want. This particular video was filmed all in one take and, to add to that warped feeling, the sets and props were designed at odd specifications. This was a tactic made famous by Gondry in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.

...and here's The Hardest Button to Button. Just because.

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