Moving Image Archive

I was just looking back at some of my early attempts at making music videos.

March 23 2009

I got my first job in 2001 with Neo Records, The dance label that Eddie Gordon was running from some offices down near Chelsea Wharf.

Hayes Hickman
was looking after a single by Bass Toy and he liked my pitch, which was an animation of some girls running (the song was called Runnin’) around a haunted house encountering all manner of ghosts and ghouls.

What I remember about this video is that it was a really quick turnaround, two weeks I think, and it was just me working on an old Power Mac that couldn’t
preview in real time. Luckily I knew a dancer, Justine Sheriff who did loads of dancing to the tune that I filmed and hurriedly rotoscoped into loops.

The chorus sounded a bit like a 30’s pop tune so I found a bit of footage of a flapper girl and made her into a ghost who appeared in the house.

The label were really open minded about what I did with it and it worked out for them as they released the single just after Christmas when there wasn’t much going on and it reached number 13 in the UK singles chart. It got aired on MTV quite a bit and a few people saw it which was nice.

When I look at it now it looks like something that was made in a mad rush, on a shonky old Mac, by someone drinking too much coffee and Redbull to stay awake all night. But I learned a lot.

A few months later Neo asked me back to make something for a Rhythm Masters single from the Disconnect Your Head album , which is a great album by the way. They’d done a cover of Ghetto by the Philadelphia All Stars and the label wanted something a bit “urban” to go with it. I went out and bought a VHS of a breakdancing championship and rotoscoped a load of guys spinning on their heads and stuff and comped it with some animated graffiti and collage of cityscapes.

The Rhythm Masters had done a video for their previous single, Undergound with cartoon faces super imposed over their live action faces because they wanted to be anonymous. Neo wanted to carry this on in the Ghetto video so there are a couple of sequences where I have the guys recreating a dance move from West Side Story whilst wearing their cartoon faces. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Flash was a godsend around then, it was when people were realising that you could use it for making video, not just SWF’s for the web, and you could experiment with tweening and get all kinds of effects with it. I didn’t know character animation so it was rotoscoping all the way, which was really monotonous but it was a good way of getting things made on the cheap.

So the single wasn’t released in the UK in the end, due to some contractual wrangle but it worked out for me as somehow Blink TV saw it, maybe Eddie Gordon showed it to them, I’m not sure. Blink TV were producing the visuals for Kylie’s Fever tour and they wanted some breakdancing stuff so then I was in to the live show visuals for a bit.

I also did a couple of videos for Cheese burger at this time (2001)

Id seen some animated club visuals I liked during a night out at Lokota in Bristol. It was some motion graphics that gave the illusion of moving along a road in Tokyo or somewhere and thought I could put my own spin on it. So I changed the Japanes neon signs to American neon signs which illustrate the lyrics.

In the next video I used tattoos as a motif (2002)

Then in 2004 there was this video for teen rockers Driven To May. In a strange twist on rock aspiration Toby, the singer, was living with his mum in a Tudor farmhouse in the Surrey countryside.

We started by filming the band playing in a field behind the house and the band thought it would be good to try filming there after dark. So Toby’s mum went down to the local garden centre to buy some big outdoor candles to light the shoot whilst we waited for nightfall. We went straight through the track maybe 2 or 3 times in candlelight before the boys’ bed time and the footage came out pretty good. The track was called the Optimist so I used an Orange tint on the live stuff and the animation.

Back in 2006 I made a Music Video for Manga from the Shaanti Collective in Birmingham, the track was called The Kalyan.

Ben Whitehouse and Ben Pritchard had desks at Flynn Productions and they produced it from there. I think I answered an ad or something like that. There wasn’t much money of course, so I didn’t want to spend weeks on intricate animation. I figured the best way to get it done would be to film someone dancing and miming to the lyric and add that in to the animation.

Manga had great connections for dancers and performers through the club nights that Shaanti put on at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. So I went up there for a couple of days and filmed Leena Patel, who is now a choreographer for Essence, and Nanoo who volunteered to come over from Geneva to dance and mime the lyric.



The Custard Factory is in a nice old industrial bit of Birmingham and there are a few exterior walls there painted in flat colours that worked like green screen backdrops, almost. Leena and Nanoo then bravely and enthusiastically danced in the street with the track playing on an old ghetto blaster.



The vocal is a sample of Lembher Hussainpuri singing in Punjabi. I was curious to know the lyric in case it could add something to the visuals. Manga couldn’t translate it so I took the CD down to Tooting to see if anyone down there could shed any light on it. A Sikh guy in a phone shop told me it was an old folk song about the freedom fighter Bahgat Singh who had been hanged for shooting a British soldier in the 1930’s. I didn’t wan’t to get to political but I thought we could use the look. All the pictures I found of Bahgat Singh had him looking pretty dapper in a trilby hat.




Despite all the energy and enthusiasm from all concerned it went downhill a bit from there. Manga wasn’t around much and instead of being done and dusted in a few weeks it dragged on for months and the vibe went. Still, I really enjoyed working with everyone and I was really impressed with the Shaanti Collective.



Between 2002 and 2004 I was commissioned to make live show and concert visuals for Blink TV.

The concerts were big touring shows for David Bowie, Kylie, Westlife, S Club Juniors and American Idols. There was also an interesting project to make catwalk visuals for Italian fashion house Costume National. The Commissioning Producer at Blink TV at the time was Marcus VinerTom Colbourne was Creative Director.


The David Bowie visuals were for his Reality Tour in 2003. There were three tracks and an intro. For the intro the band played along with an animation of themselves jamming in the studio to open the show. Most of the visuals I did for Blink TV were done in a sort of rotoscoped style, partly because the screens available at the time were quite low resolution and partly I suspect, because Blink TV weren’t sure if I could do anything else as the music videos Id done up to then were all based on rotoscoping in Flash.


Bowie wanted to incorporate archive video of the New York dance troupe La La Human Steps who had used his music in their show, Human Sex in 1985. It was to be the background visual for the track I’m afraid of Americans. I found some sections of the footage that would work as loops and sequences and rotoscoped the dancers dressed in red, white and blue. I then added some figures that worked with the lyric, such as Captain America and a teddy bear and animated them so they could work in time with the keyboard part of the track.



Kylie’s Fever Tour was in 2002 Blink TV asked me to make some animated inserts for the track Country Style.

The theme was sort of New York break dance to go with the riff from the song which references Malcolm Mclaren’s Buffalo Gals. I rotoscoped some video of the London Breakdancing Championships, then there was some footage that Blink TV shot in the studio of break dancers filmed from overhead that I rotoscoped to look like Keith Haring paintings. I then added some Flash tweening to build up the sequences of dancers and graffiti.


Here are some images from the Wembley Arena show in May 2002

Westlife’s Unbreakable tour was also in 2003 and the theme was comic book super heroes.

The brief was to make a set of still images that could be mixed live at the shows along with  some animated sequences of the group in super hero mode. I took on more of a directorial role and trusted the character design and the animation of the band members to John Sunter.





Some of John Sunter’s character designs for Westlife. Below is a shot of one of the shows with a montage of  still images on the screens.


In 2004 there were two catwalk films for Italian fashion house Costume National.

The first film is a narrative about Costume National founder Ennio Capasa dreaming up his next collection. He wanders through a magical dreamland where he meets people wearing the beautiful clothes that will make up the collection. The film was ued at the launch of the collection in Milan.


The second film for Costume National had a narrative about life in clubland. Below is a composite image of the posters that were pasted up around Milan to promote the launch of the collection.


Also in 2003 was the S Club Juniors UK tour.

The brief from Blink TV was to create an animated sequence to fill a break in the show whilst the group were off stage changing for a 50’s medley. The idea was to present the group as if they were being profiled in a teen idol magazine of the period.


I invited Michelle Saloman to undertake the difficult task of creating character designs that a bunch of precocious teenagers would be happy with. I later heard that the group were so pleased with the designs that they had their cartoon selves mounted on the commemorative plaques of the tour.





Old Reel

This Showreel is a bit out of date now ( yes, Flash tweening!) but it gives you an idea of the sort of lo-fi approach that I like.


Here are a few things from the drawing board.

When I was at art college Jeff Keen came in to show us some of his films. It was really inspirational and when he had his retrospective at the BFI last year I thought I’d make an homage to his 8mm work. It could be a starting point for a music video, the audio is an extract from a Lightning Bolt track.

In the clip below I wanted to use the echoes in King Tubby’s Badness Dub to inspire events and abstractions in the animation, I used a fictional title sequence as a vehicle.

The next clip is an idea for a music video that could work just as well as a sting or channel ident, the audio is an extract from an Anti Pasti track.

Rob Wakeman, the drummer from Salad, gave me a CD of some of his solo tracks.

I thought I could use the track Buckwheat to continue my research into animation that responds to events in music. Here’s an extract of the resulting single camera move around a virtual cityscape.

Soap Box


David Mitchell’s Soapbox is a video podcast that is embedded on the Guardian website amongst other places.

Its made by Channel Flip and I worked on this episode with Mat Laroche.

David Mitchell’s rant is about how he prefers VHS to DVD and dislikes digital technology in general.

( I agree with him about VHS, especially if its something shot on Film from the 70’s as DVD can sometimes take the “life” out of the image)

Mat came up with the idea of the test card motif and I built a sort of 3d version of the one with the girl playing Noughts and Crosses with a soft toy.





Here are some stills from David Mitchell’s Soapbox, Series Three. I was working with Jamie Lennox, Content Director at Channel Flip.

The Hotel Advertising episode. That’s the one where David Mitchell delivers his rant from inside a minibar.


The Sustainability episode. Beautifully designed and very functional.






Climate Change Doubters. Set in a greenhouse! I think Jamie actually asked me to set it in a shop but I got the wrong end of the stick somehow.





Good Cake Bad Cake: The story of Lir, directed by Shimmy Marcus through Zanzibar Films in Dublin.

Irish rock band Lir came close to success in the 90’s but didn’t quite make it and finally got into legal difficulties that almost stopped them playing altogether.

Or as the synopsis puts it  “By 1987 U2 had conquered the world with their album The Joshua Tree and Ireland became the focus of the world music industry as A&R men, in search of the next U2, flocked to Dublin. At this time, five teenagers from Donaghmede were building improvised instruments and playing gigs at their local school and shopping centre, dreaming of the big-time. They are LIR“.

Anyone who has been in a band that didn’t quite get there can empathise with the trials and tribulations of being on the road trying to get a record contract.

Lir never toured Britain so there isn’t much footage of them around, some stuff from Irish TV and some home movies of their US tours, so Shimmy Marcus asked me to make some graphics and animated sequences to fill some visual gaps in the story.

The main motif we used was a lined notebook, like one the band used for jotting down lyrics and ideas for songs. Hand drawn graphics were then animated on to the notebook pages.



The band’s logo is a butterfly so we used an animated butterfly to illustrate the band traveling around the states.


Here are some stills from sequences made to represent some of the live shows and venues that weren’t caught on film.