We Are Explorers: Cut/Copy Releases 3D-Printed Video Bundle
February 21, 2014
Cut/Copy’s new video, directed by Masa Kawamura, Qanta Shimizu, and Aramique Krauthamer, marks the start of a participatory 3D-printed narrative.
Cut/Copy’s Free Your Mind is a Summer of Love record: rooted in the rise of 60s psychedelia; inspired by the birth of 80s rave. It’s about open-eyed, wild-eyed experimentation. And it reminds us of a not-so-distant past when music was an experience, more than a stream. The album launched in billboards and pressed vinyl. For a time, the only way a F.Y.M. song existed was in its physical form. Thinking about the films that would go with the tracks begged a question.
How do you make the visual, real? And then:
What if we 3D-printed a music video?
For “We Are Explorers”, the band, with directors Masa Kawamura, Qanta Shimizu, and Aramique Krauthamer, prototyped the physical video. Shot in stop motion, every frame is 3D-printed. And like any song, it’s only a starting point. How the world hears and feels it is up to you.
In partnership with Cut/Copy, we’re releasing the new “We Are Explorers” video as a BitTorrent Bundle. Download the Bundle, and unlock the film, a frame-by-frame guide to stop-motion shooting, plus copies of the 3D print files for each character in the film. “We Are Explorers” is a journey into the big and unknown. It starts with you. Share your films, ideas, and storylines with the band using the hashtag #WeAreExplorers.
You can get Free Your Mind on iTunes.
We caught up with Cut/Copy, Masa and Aramique earlier this week, and talked about the philosophy behind Free Your Mind, the digital-physical object, the subversiveness of positivity, and the virtue of the timbale solo (note: timbale > guitar).
BitTorrent: Free Your Mind is inspired by the Summer(s) of Love (the 1960s version, and the 1980s version; part psychedelia, part rave). Why did these moments feel right?
Cut/Copy: I’m not sure it was a conscious decision in the beginning. We began using a lot of gear from those eras in music (certain drum machines, synthesizers and organs), and that started to shape the sound of the songs a little bit. A lot of those different types of sounds (808 drum machines, 303’s, hammond organs) are forever tied to those movements, but we wanted to take the songwriting in a more contemporary direction.
BitTorrent: These periods are about counterculture, and asking questions. What parallels do you see between then and now in music? In culture?
Cut/Copy: What interested us was this idea of coming together. A sense of euphoria. We thought it would be interesting to write a really positive-sounding record. We kind of thought there was a subversive quality to that.
BitTorrent: “We Are Explorers” is one of the record’s standout tracks. (Generally: it’s also something we wish people would say more.) What’s the story behind this song?
Cut/Copy: Thanks for the kind words. I guess this is probably the most direct song on the record. The pure pop moment. A lot of the songs on F.Y.M. are quite sprawling and epic in arrangement and production. We thought that needed to be balanced out with more concise pop moments. The timbale solo is a reference to that Bar Kays track, “Holy Ghost”. There’s an epic percussion breakdown in that song, and we thought it would be interesting to have a moment like that in Explorers. Better a timbale solo than a guitar solo, right?
BitTorrent: The feeling behind Free Your Mind is also how you’ve approached distribution. What’s your philosophy when it comes to releasing music?
Cut/Copy: There was something interesting in the idea that the only way these songs existed was if you physically had a copy of the vinyl we pressed live, or if you stood under a billboard in a remote location. Even if this was for only a short amount of time. We always intended to put these songs out digitally.
“We decided pretty early on when we were making the record that we were going to release music to the world in a different way. There is something of an anti-climax to working on a record for year only to have it just go up on a stream somewhere. It dissipates so quickly. We liked the idea of doing real world events and having a tactile quality to it.”
We also liked what a billboard represented. It’s like this outdated mode of advertising and putting them in different locations and landscapes around the world made each billboard unique. For example, the person listening to the song and reading this billboard in the middle of desert in Australia would have a completely different experience to the people experiencing the song and billboard in a densely populated area in Mexico city.
BitTorrent: What’s the concept behind the “We Are Explorers” video?
Masa Kawamura / Aramique Krauthamer: The idea started with “What if we 3D-printed a music video?” Both Masa and I have done different kinds of stop-motion and we had been discussing the possibility of creating a narrative where every frame of movement was 3D-printed and shot in the street. When we heard “We Are Explorers”, we immediately began imagining this story of tiny 3D-printed characters running through the streets of a major city on an epic journey.
BitTorrent: Each figure in the film was 3D-printed, then shot using stop motion. What was your process?
MK / AK: Once we had the idea and storyboard figured out, the next step was designing our two characters. Mau Morgo designed them in Cinema4D. Meanwhile, Qanta Shimizu, the technical director on the project, figured out exactly how many figurines we would need print in order to accomplish every motion needed for the narrative. We worked with NextFab in Philadelphia to prep all the Cinema4D files for 3D-printing.
We ended up with roughly 200 figurines, and used them in groups of 8 for each type of movement. For example, the running or walking sequence requires 8 figurines and is designed as a loop, so the 8th figurine transitions into the movement of the 1st. We also printed the figurines with a yellow UV reactive filament and shot the figurines at night under black light flashlights. I think our director of photography, Sesse Lind, did an amazing job lighting each scene with a very non-traditional approach.
BitTorrent: You guys basically hacked / hand-built everything in “We Are Explorers”. Why was this important?
MK / AK: We wanted it to be tactile; to feel like a real adventure. We felt we could accomplish this by creating a tangible character that we would shoot outside on location in every place. The scale of the real world was always very important to the story in order to show this feeling of being tiny in a huge, overwhelming world. We also wanted to take the idea of being explorers quite literally for our process, and throw ourselves into a new kind of filmmaking adventure.
BitTorrent: Fans play a big role in the broader narrative started by the video. Why did you want to get listeners involved? Why did you want to work with BitTorrent?
MK / AK: Once we had all the figurines printed, we realized the music video was only the beginning. We wanted to find a way to give the fans access to the 3D files so they can print them and use them to create their own narratives of exploration. These little characters are explorers by design, and we wanted to help them see the world. BitTorrent seemed like the perfect place to give the public access to all of the 3D files.
“Our goal with BitTorrent is to hand everything over to the public: our storyboards, stop-motion technical plans, and the 3D files for every figurine. We want to see what they do with it. Even if people just print the eight figurines that make up the running sequence, there’s so much they can do and so many places the story can go.”
We hope people enjoy the film, the music, the figurines and the process that went into making it. Hopefully people print the figurines, play with them, shoot them, make new storylines we didn’t think of, take them to places we couldn’t, and share whatever they do with everyone so we can enjoy the process together.
About BitTorrent Bundle
BitTorrent Bundle is an Alpha project, made with and for the web’s creative community. Our mission is to help artists connect directly with fans, inside the content they share.
Each BitTorrent Bundle, like this one, created in partnership with Cut/Copy, allows artists to distribute content directly to the Internet. And each Bundle comes with a key. Fans can unlock artist content with an email address. The idea is to make each song a storefront, and each file more valuable, each time it’s shared. Got ideas for the next BitTorrent Bundle? Hit us up.