Ghostly Encounters

Poetic 3D Animation Haunts Unknown London Streets In Irish Director’s New Music Video

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Imagine the eeriness and the spookiness of London’s phantasmal streets coupled with its romance and ethereal beauty. With these images pouring into your mind’s eye you can look no further than the poetic, heart-warming music video created by Irish-born director Stephen McNally. He teamed up with Canadian art-rock band, Braids, for their song Bunny Rose, the penultimate track on their latest LP, Deep In The Iris.

Stephen, who presently works as a director at Blinkin in London, was able to pursue his interest in 3D CG animation during his time in Ireland as an animator for RTÉ, the national television broadcaster. “I could properly burrow into it,” he reminisces. “I was teaching myself and experimenting as I went.”

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Bunny Rose is a lyrical journey through London’s mythical streets. We follow a transparent, digitally rendered animated character who’s been composed with an exterior as delicate as a stalactite. This creature floats through the music; we’re given deep shots as well as shallow focus, granting us emotional access. “I wanted to go for a universal emotional experience,” Stephen tells us. Through the stunning visuals we can see ourselves alone at night, wandering in search of ourselves.

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We caught up with Stephen for a more in-depth discussion:

The Plus: Can you tell us a little about your artistic background and what got you into 3D animation?
Stephen McNally:
After my time animating for RTÉ, I pursued a Masters degree at the Royal College of Art in London. Working at RTÉ informed quite a bit of my practice at the RCA and beyond, during which time I generally tried to marry 3D and 2D animation with an illustrative or impressionistic feel.

TP: How did you arrived at the concept for ‘Bunny Rose’?
SM:
For the video’s concept, I took the central emotion and feeling at the heart of the song, that fragility and vulnerability that can overcome you at the end of a relationship, a longing coupled with a need to rebuild oneself. This I visualised as a sort of long night of the soul, alone and reflecting on her state, but gradually rebuilding before finally becoming whole again with the relief of the dawn.

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TP: Which parts of London did you film in, and why did you choose these locations?
SM:
I chose the locations to be quite different from the usual sights of London, a forgotten side of the city. While there are a few more recognisable places, they take on a different feeling and their emptiness adds to the sense of isolation. I quite enjoyed crafting the disjointed geography of it; the flitting about giving the sense of snippets cut from a longer night, not a 4 minute walk.

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TP: How do you think the video complements the sound in the music?
SM:
I think the video complements the emotional throughline of the music first and foremost, and captures its wistful sense of longing. The band were very receptive and I was able to bounce the ideas off them and get their thoughts on the approach from the start, so despite being on different continents we were able to talk about what we wanted from it from the beginning. I also shot footage of Raphaelle performing the song which helped inform how I animated the character’s performance.

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TP: What are the best and worst aspects of working on music videos?
SM:
Working on music videos is immensely creatively rewarding, giving you quite an open brief to experiment and find that visual analogue the fits a complex layered musical composition, while also giving you a chance to tell your own story in a purely visual way. The only downside of an animated video is they’re a huge amount of work and graft, usually without a budget to employ a team of animators to work on it. Blinkink were very supportive of the project, and I was lucky enough to work with a very talented 2D animator, Diana Gradinaru, on several shots, but usually it just means everything takes longer when there’s only one or two people working on it.

TP: What’s next in the pipeline for you?
SM:
Next in the pipeline I have some really interesting commissioned pieces that are under-way, but unfortunately they aren’t at a point where I can talk about them yet. I’m at the early stages of my next animated short, and at the even earlier development stages of efforts at something more long form and really enjoying digging in to the writing process.

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Braids is on tour now throughout Europe and the UK. Dates/tickets here.

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