Video Chats: NORTON on "Young Rut" by PAPA

Posted by Doug Klinger on September 25, 2013 in Interviews

Staff Post


Combining VFX and puppeteering in the video for "Young Rut" by PAPA, director NORTON gives life to a pair of pants and a shirt who fall in love with each other. Drawing inspiration from Disney films, as well as from the work of animator Kirsten Lepore, NORTON gives enough character and personality to the clothes in this video that the viewer ends up really caring about them and rooting for them. We talked to NORTON about the video, his collaborators on the project, and the similarities between this video and his Killer Shoes short film. 

Doug: Where did the concept for this video come from?

NORTON: It’s tough to pin down exactly, but with cool ideas I feel like it’s always a weird light bulb moment when all these things you had in your mind collide and create something new. I was sitting at Bourgeois Pig, which is where I write sometimes, and I was blanking, but suddenly while looking at my tight shorts it clicked. I thought, “I’ll do a love story about clothes that want to let go of being tightly fit around people’s bodies.” The track spoke of running and letting go so that was the connection.

Doug: What was the process of bringing the clothes to life? Was it a combination of VFX and puppeteering?

NORTON: Yeah, we used both practical and visual effects. For the most part, whenever you’re seeing a wide shot, that was done with the cast wearing green suits and either the pants or shirt over it. Then we keyed out the green, in some shots tracked or 3D tracked and then put in the background plate and fill in the holes. The shirt was more complicated on set but easier in post; whenever we saw the shirt from the front, the wonderful puppeteer Catherine Adell - who blew us away at the auditions - built this special shirt rig that she would hang on her neck and put her arms through the shirt’s arms so that we just had to delete the green suit and do minor touch ups. The result was a fully shaped shirt, with the back intact and everything. With the jeans, we had to go in and add the parts that were occluded by the green suit, so the back (or side or front, depending on the shot), the cuffs and whenever a green foot would get in front of them. Sounds exhausting and it was. In tighter shots, we were able to get away with puppeteering, which meant we “only” had thirty VFX shots to work on. In two weeks...


Doug: You got a lot of FX help on this project, both on VFX and puppeteering - people from all over the world. How was that team assembled?

NORTON: I owe a lot to Guillaume Raffi for that. Initially, I had approached a big VFX house but they were like “you gotta do everything locked-off.” And I just turned to my producer (Joe Faulstich—who did an amazing job, by the way) and said “fuck that.” So miraculously, Guillaume showed up at Hello!, which is where the Doomsday offices are and asked if I needed help grading. And I said “I need help with VFX.” He is the EP at Nightshift LA, which is an awesome post house based in Paris but with offices in LA. He had a connection to a VFX company in India called Famous House of Animation and these guys ended up doing about 40% of the shots in the video. Those shots were some of the harder ones that required a Flame (which is a super high-end rig to do 3D compositing and other VFX). They killed it! I had committed to doing 50% of the shots, but I had the help of some of my VFX friends for the remaining shots, so in the end there were like 15 people in LA, New York, Paris and Mumbai working on shots. I have to mention my friend and Flame artist Kirk Balden who worked on a couple of shots. He also killed it and took care of the money shot that I had dreamed of, which is the handheld going around the jeans as they lose hope and kneel down in despair. I like having at least one shot that will make people go like “how did they do that?” and even though I had shot an alternate of it—which was easier because it was on sticks with a tilt down—I really wanted to have that shot in. And I’m happy it worked out. Nightshift ended up doing the color grade remotely at their Paris offices, which made me feel very fancy... The colorist, Gabriel Porier, did a great job. I’m very grateful for everyone who helped out and delivered beyond my expectations.


Doug: The clothes in this video have a lot of life and in the end you really start to care about them as a viewer. What are some of the ways you were able to achieve that?

NORTON: That’s great to hear. One big concern was definitely how do we convey emotion through these inanimate objects? It was crucial to do research and I watched a lot of examples from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Wall-E, Aladdin (specifically the magic carpet), and even Kirsten Lepore’s short film Bottle. I looked for the choices these amazing animators had made, how they translated emotion through a carpet or a blob, and their acting beats and pauses. Catherine and I met one day and talked about how to express certain emotions and I shared with her what I had learned from my research. She told me something really interesting, that one of the first things puppeteers do to give life to an object is to make it breath. And if you look for it in the video you’ll see there’s a lot of breathing and those nice beats and pauses that we were looking for. On the story side, I think it helped that I gave the characters their own arch in the video. She starts off being shy and scared and becomes more loose (like in the slutty bathroom scene) and adventurous along the way. And the jeans start off being cocky and adventurous but end up sacrificing themselves for the shirt; he (the jeans) is a dancer and gave a part of that up so that she (the shirt) could live. And that’s pretty heartwarming.

Doug: You have another video, Killer Shoes, that also features living apparel. Were you hoping people would make that connection? And have they?

NORTON: Initially that almost made me scratch the whole idea. Because a part of me thought: “no, I can’t do the same thing again, then I’ll be known as the guy that does the clothes-coming-to-life videos.” But then I read a great quote from Hitchcock that said: “self-plagiarism is style.” And that really solidified my choice to go with it. That and the fact that the band, manager, and label all loved the idea. But I was asked the other day if I was gonna turn it into a trilogy. Maybe I will. With a hat this time, maybe?

norton, papa, video chats, young rut

Doug Klinger is the co-founder/content director of IMVDb and watches more music videos than anyone on earth. You can find him on twitter at @doug_klinger.

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