Geo Week News

February 3, 2011

Just like Radiohead, only not

I think a lot of people in the industry have seen the video for Radiohead’s “House of Cards.” Made with laser scanners and the stitching of point clouds, it’s got an ethereal, dream-like feel that goes wonderfully with the languid delivery of lead singer Thom Yorke. 

It’s probably the best mainstream tool for laser scanning awareness, actually. For those who haven’t seen it, it looks like this:

Not bad, right? It’s been seen 12 million times, so something about it must be okay. Originally posted in July of 2008, many people at the time were wowed by the technology.

Now, at least two blogs – Fast Company and Crunch Gear – have noted that another indie-style British rock band has done something similar. 

The band is Echo Lake and the song is “Young Silence.” The filmmaker is a guy named Dan Nixon, who also runs a rock club and a record label. First, let me show you this new video, just posted this week:

Echo Lake – Young Silence from Dan Nixon on Vimeo.

Not bad, right? Definitely not quite as good as the Radiohead video, and the music isn’t nearly as good by my book – just a little too aimless and needlessly noisy – but it’s pretty good. 

So, why do you care? Well, this second one was made with a Kinect and seven weeks of work on open source software. The Radiohead one was made with Velodyne scanners, GIS, and a fixed scanner (I think a Leica) and what was considered the height of experimental technology. Who knows what software they used. 

I think, conservatively, you could say that the Radiohead video used hundreds of thousands of dollars of technology. I think, realistically, you could say that the Echo Lake video used about $50 worth of technology. 

Here’s the making of video for the Radiohead piece, so you can get an idea of what they were working with:

What’s crazy is that lots of people are equating the two out in the mainstream. Look at the comments on the Vimeo page for the Echo Lake video. 

One guy comments: “House of Cards by Radiohead much?” He thinks Echo Lake is ripping Radiohead off! As though this tiny little unsigned band has the same resources and is just stealing an idea. Like, oh yeah, we can bang out a full video full of laser scanned point cloud data, too. No problem. 

And I love Dan Nixon’s response:

It uses the same basic idea yes (although I hadn’t seen that video in full until yesterday). What the House of Cards video did (from what I can tell) was use two different techniques to measure data and then map it in a point cloud. What this video does is use the Kinect to get that depth data and then map it into a point cloud. Which, from reading about the technology involved in that Radiohead video, was a whole order of magnitude cheaper. 

So yeah, depth data mapped in a point cloud is the same. They also did some really cool things with particle effects too I noticed. I did some stuff with how the point cloud’s points are coloured. 

Not only does he claim to have not seen the Radiohead video, which I guess I believe – why would he lie about that? – but he actually thinks Radiohead’s way is kind of a pain in the ass!

As the Fast Company piece notes, this is just an amazing example of how fast technology moves. What was only available to the biggest band in the world, what was a completely cutting edge and impressive idea, just two and a half years ago, is now basically free and being tried out by a young filmmaker just trying to do something new and different. If this isn’t evidence of the explosive nature of the 3D market, I don’t know what is.


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