April 2nd, 2014

As a fan of progressive rock musician Steven Wilson for over ten years, Mill 3D artist Hassan Taimur jumped at the dream opportunity to add some visual effects to ‘Drive Home’, the second music video by Jess Cope for the album The Raven That Refused to Sing.

The melancholy lyrics of 'Drive Home' come to life in the tragic supernatural story directed and animated by Jess Cope.  The video was filmed using two distinct animation techniques according to the Making Of: “Part of the film is made using painted cut-out puppets, animated on a glass multi-plane. The rest of the video is shot using stop motion puppets and sets. Everything in the video was painstakingly covered with torn up newspaper print.”

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The Process

Hassan began by going through the storyboards and running tests. Once the desired result was agreed on, it was then applied to the actual shots. The effects work focused on creating fire, explosions, dust, smoke, clouds, water rays and water caustics, along with some 2D cleanup.

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The Challenges

Working on something that’s stop motion in nature was a new challenge for Hassan, having primarily worked with live action plates up to that point. In the end it came down to treating the stop motion plates as live action. Hassan says, “Many of the effects were centered around the character, so a lot of tracking and translating a 2D plate into 3D space had to be taken into consideration since I had virtually no depth info.”

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While the fire and explosions were fairly simple, Hassan still had to explore stylized rendering since everything in the video was super stylized. Water rays and caustics were mainly achieved as a 2D effect as it was much faster and more efficient while still achieving the distinct style.

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Since this was a personal “passion project”, working at home came with its own challenges. Hassan shares, “I was using off-the-shelf software with essentially no pipeline and tools that I usually have access to in a studio environment. Sim and Render times would often be brutal as my home computer was not nearly as powerful, forcing me to keep things simple and create efficient workflows using only the tools available from a standard 3D package. I can certainly appreciate proprietary tools and pipeline now.”

The Reward

The best part of the whole experience was an invite from the director and producer to visit their amazing home in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Hassan says, “I got to see the beautiful English countryside and go see Steven Wilson and his band perform at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. I witnessed the video being projected on the back screen in sync with the live performance which was quite a spectacle!”

Hassan also got to meet Steven Wilson at the after party and hear how much he loved and appreciated the video and all the hard work put into it. “At the end of day, I was really happy to have worked on this video and I compliment Jess Cope and Tom Kaye for being true leaders and amazing artists to have lead this ambitious 8+ min piece from scratch to an awesome looking video for a beautiful track.”

Watch the video below and check out the "Making Of" with director Jess Cope from Owl House Studios.

Credits: Director Jess Cope, Producer Tom Kaye, Music Steven Wilson, Original Story Hajo Mueller and Steven Wilson, Original Illustrations Hajo Mueller, Video Stills Property of Owl House Studios