Geo Week News

March 28, 2016

Beautiful Music Videos Made with LiDAR

Pacific Heights' Video
Pacific Heights' Video

According to Gizmodo Australia, this video for kiwi electronic artist Pacific Heights was “filmed” using nothing but 3D scanners. (As an aside—doesn’t “Pacific Heights” sound like the name of a teen drama on Fox?)

The song’s guest vocalist was captured with a Kinect scanner. Next, he was placed onto backgrounds—a forest path, a parking lot, a bridge—captured with an “industrial laser scanner.”

Surely, you’ve seen LiDAR videos before. As far back as 2007 (nearly 10 years ago), Radiohead used the technology for their “House of Cards” video.

More recently, media darlings ScanLAB projects worked with French-Cuban duo Ibeyi to create these haunting visuals for their “Oya” video.

When I see these three videos one after the other, it reminds me of a question artists and filmmakers are currently asking about virtual reality storytelling. What kind of effects can we create using the technology? How does it change the way we tell stories? In other words, does it have a purpose other than making things “look cool”?

When we ask the same questions about LiDAR “filmmaking,” it seems to me that we haven’t quite found our answers yet. We know the technology can make a person look as though he or she has been exiled into an empty, lonely space. Radiohead’s video also looks lonely, but plays the sadness from a slightly different angle: It looks like we’re seeing the world through the eyes of a sad robot.

Beyond that, it doesn’t look like we know much about how we can use LiDAR to tell stories. For now, it seems we’ll just have to settle for making things look really sad.

PS—If you like the sound of this Pacific Heights song, the vocals are a dead ringer for the singing of British electronic artist James Blake (a much more interesting musician). Here’s his lovely cover of Leslie Feist’s “Limit to Your Love.” (Sorry, I couldn’t find any James Blake videos made with LiDAR.)

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