Tycho: See - Practical Effects



Friend and design legend, Bradley Munkowitz (GMUNK), came to Michael Williams and I with a music video concept for the well known musician and designer, Tycho. Knowing our interest in creating design executed in the practical and physical world, Bradley offered us an amazing opportunity to let those passions shine. Mike and I spent months concepting, designing, and testing a variety of techniques to compliment the visual beauty of "See". 


The main character in Tycho’s “See” possesses a powerful ability to gaze into an alternate world hidden within our own. When she finds a mysterious tablet, she stares into it and beholds a stunning ethereal dimension. The tablet transforms throughout the video, holding two distinct shapes; first a triangle, then a circle. It is the character's unique sight that unlocks the mysteries within the tablets. Thus, the visuals for each encounter needed to reference not only the shapes, but her beautiful journey into another world. We were challenged with conceptualizing what her visions looked like, and finding ways of practically executing them. After countless trials and experiments in a tiny basement, we developed several concepts that conveyed the sense of mystery and wonder experienced by the character.


Working on the Tycho - See music video was an amazingly liberating and refreshing experience. Rarely are you given an opportunity to do purely what you love, with only people you love. This project was a perfect storm of respected tastes and beloved pastimes. Get together a hand full of talented friends who enjoy each other's company inside and outside the studio, and regardless of the result, the experience is its own reward.

However...the result was absolute beauty. Below is an edit illustrating the development and result of each practical concept.



This effect was created by projecting a series of shape animations directly at the camera while sending smoke and haze through the projected light. A thin layer of clear acrylic caught the edges of the projection, creating a glowing outline which framed the planes of light made visible by the smoke. The result was a kinetic, volumetric tunnel of light that captured the beautiful movement of the smoke and haze.



Mirrored acrylic and steel pipes were used to make reflective tunnels with circular and triangular shapes. The tubes were suspended above the camera, which shot upward through them. Steel wool was then spread across the top opening of the tubes and ignited. The glowing embers and falling sparks were reflected brilliantly throughout the tubes interior.



The growing crystals were created using sodium acetate trihydrate, a harmless salt-like chemical. Under heat the crystals can be melted into a supersaturated solution. The resulting liquid can be slowly cooled and, if very careful, be preserved in its liquid state. By adding a catalyst of the original crystal into this liquid you can start an exothermic reaction that instantly crystalizes. After much trial and error, we found a mixture that gave us the results we desired. These shots were filmed using by pouring a thing layer of the solution into a glass petri dish, illuminated with strong backlighting. 



This effect was achieved again using our good friend, steel wool. We constructed a rig that held two metal light bulb cages at both ends of a dowel. In the dead center of the dowel we glued in a drill bit so the whole rig could be spun at the end of a screw gun. During filming, we fastened the screw gun onto a c-stand and lit steel wool inside the cages at both ends. The air flow and centrifugal force sent a tremendous shower of sparks outward, leaving a circle of negative space in the center. Amazingly, no one was injured...