Video Chats: Thom Glunt on "The Mystery" by BADBOXES
Posted by Doug Klinger on March 3, 2014 in Interviews
Director Thom Glunt combines elements of noir and science fiction in the fantastic music video for The Mystery by BADBOXES. Centering around a robot with a giant helmet-like head, computerized face, and awesome motorcycle, The Mystery is a dark and eerie story that would make Orson Welles and Russell Metty proud. We talked to Thom about the video, creating the stimulation helmet, and the sax man.
IMVDb: The lyrics of the song have a very robotic, computerized sound to them. Is that where the idea for a character with a computerized head originated?
Thom: Yes, it is. I felt the auto tune effects applied to his voice had to be visualized, and it was great to have a valid reason to make a video about a robot. Seriously how did it take me so long to make a robot video?
IMVDb: How was the head/helmet made? Was the face displayed in camera or did you add that in post?
Thom: The Helmet was designed by myself and Chaz Vance. Chaz built it and worked out the fine details. He was incredibly resourceful and built the helmet up from a base of items that could be found at a local second hand store. He started with a baseball helmet, an old television, and a childs' Iron Man mask.
We had initially planned on shooting the robots face for the intro of the video practically. We had done some tests but it was clear that we didn't have time to problem solve all of the issues before the shoot so we decided to utilize VFX for all of the face replacement.
To create the effect we captured Harrison singing with three cameras and then digitally stitched the shots together to create a face texture. After the face was captured we modeled the face, added a pass of filters and effects to make it looks more like a bad CRT feed.
IMVDb: How does someone ride a motorcycle with a stimulation helmet on their head?
Thom: Very carefully. The motorcycle scenes are the last things we shot so we widened the eye holes in the mask to help broaden the drivers peripheral vision and then crossed our fingers. We had no close calls with the motorcycle but during the first take John Pope, (the DP for those scenes) almost fell out of the back of the picture vehicle tight butt holes for the rest of the night.
IMVDb: What was the process of building the robot corpse like? Did you guys use some actual robotics to get the hand to move?
Thom: We used the helmet from the rest of the video but the body was built from a modified womans mannequin (the only one we could find in time). We cut the chest out and used newspaper to fill out the body a bit. We then used LEDs and scrap wire for the damaged areas and for the hand we utilized robotics and wire for the movement.
IMVDb: Artists typically have varying degrees of success acting in their music videos, did Harrison Wargo have any issues playing his role as the face, or did he pretty much knock that out?
Thom: I worked with Harrison for about an hour to get the performance for the video. Its clear he wasnt comfortable in front of the camera. It took me a while to get him loose but he did a great job and was a pleasure to work with the whole time. He was very trusting and seemed to enjoy the process, he even came out to set to check on production and stuck around to help during the alleyway scenes.
IMVDb: Besides the face, what were your goals with the other images that displayed on the helmet? How were those images created?
Thom: In this fiction the robot is built to imitate human form but only in aesthetics, he takes in the data around him through different means. Since his face is a video screen the cameras he uses for seeing are located in multiple places on his body, not his eye sockets. A face is projected for the comfort of the humans he has to interact with, to him his face could be anything, so when hes away from people he projects these abstract images to express himself.
I though it would be a great way to express mood in the song and show more of the robots character.
These effects were 2d motion graphics animated in after effects by Kris Mortensen.
IMVDb: The black and white helps to give the video a great noir vibe that I really love. What was behind that decision to have the video in black and white?
Thom: The bands branding is this eerie B&W photography featuring a nude girl in the woods. It established a great mood going into the song. As my mind wandered and built this story it was always in B&W which quickly became a noir aesthetic due to my love of the genre.
The song feels like the 1980s vision of the future, that tone affected all the decisions I made in production.
IMVDb: The presence of the saxophone player adds an extra layer to this story for me, why did you decide to include that character in the video?
Thom: Since the song reminded me so strongly of the 80s I decided to explore some of the tropes from the time. One of those tropes was sexy sax, I wanted to feature the saxophone instead of letting it fall into the background and a sax man was the best way to do that.
He also provides the robot with one last moment of peace before his death. I still get a kick out him every time I watch the video.
badboxes, the mystery, thom glunt, video chats
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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