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Berlin, Koblenz, Kassel 3D music video

CLIENT
Jean Michel / Eleganz Records

ROLE
Producer, Director and Animator

BRIEF
Create a 3D music video for Jean Michel’s track “Berlin-Koblenz-Kassel,” capturing the essence of his musical tour through these cities in a visually engaging, cubist style.

OBJECTIVES

  • Adapt to technical constraints with creative solutions
  • Design a minimalist, cubist visual theme for the entire video
  • Develop and implement ‘modulo snapping’ for dynamic crowd animation
  • Achieve a balance between artistic vision and practical production capabilities

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Won the audience award at the Bitfilm Festival in Berlin
  • Frequently aired on VIVA’s electronic music programs

SOFTWARE

  • Softimage 3D
  • After Effects for post-production enhancements

When Eleganz Records approached me in 2001 to create a 3D music video for Jean Michel’s debut track “Berlin-Koblenz-Kassel” with a tight four-week deadline, I was excited and daunted.

My toolkit? A modest Pentium 4, a Softimage 3D license from my previous job, and a then-top-tier FireGL 1000 graphics card with 8MB memory.

The challenge was to deliver a visually compelling narrative that matched the energy and rhythm of Jean Michel’s music despite the technical limitations. Inspired by Jean Michel’s tour through these German cities (Berlin, Koblenz, Kassel), we brainstormed and quickly realised that high fidelity was out of reach. Necessity led to innovation: I opted for a minimalist, cubist style, transforming everything from the DJ protagonist to the audience into geometric forms. This wasn’t just an artistic choice but a practical solution to my equipment’s rendering limits.

The real challenge lay in animating a vast crowd of cubist dancers. Imagine a 20×20 grid of cloned dancers, the maximum my PC could handle, each spaced 10 units apart. The key to creating an illusion of endless movement lay in a technique I called ‘modulo snapping’. In this method, the grid of dancers could move in any x/z direction. Once the movement exceeded 10 units, a modulo operation would snap them back, creating a loop. This clever numerical trickery gave the impression of a seamless, ever-moving crowd while keeping the animation within my computer’s processing limits.

The project demanded round-the-clock dedication. I worked tirelessly beside my constantly running PC, balancing rendering with scene planning and execution. Each step was meticulously optimised for time and quality. After Effects added the final magic, enhancing the visuals with vibrant colours and glow.

This project, which skillfully combined creativity with practical problem-solving and adaptability under pressure, is a testament to the power of limitations, innovation and dedication.

Its success was marked by its artistic appeal and resonance with a broader audience, as evidenced by winning the audience award at the Bitfilm Festival in Berlin. Further recognition came from its frequent airing on VIVA’s electronic music programs, showcasing how strategic thinking and collective effort can produce impactful and celebrated works in digital art.

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