Filip Sterckx is a director and visual artist. He got his masters degree in Animation Film in 2007 at Sint Lukas Brussels. During his studies he developed his unique animation technique. His graduation short film "Stroom", a combination of live action and animation, was selected at several prestigious festivals in Europe, such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam (Prix UIP Nominee), Hamburg International Short Film Festival, International Short Film Festival Leuven and Paris Tout-Court.
Since 2006 he started to create art installations based on his experiments in animation film. His work has been shown at Museum M, TedX Maastricht and Bozar Brussels. His installation 'Peepshow' won the audience award of 'De Canvascollectie/La Collection RTBF 2012'.
Together with Antoon Verbeeck and Aitor Biedma he created Skullmapping, a collective specialized in large-scale projections.
He directed several videoclips and commercials, for bands like Bodyspasm, Eat Lions (Tim Vanhamel) and Willow.
He has also created (live) visuals for different dance and theatre pieces.
Director: Filip Sterckx
What inspired you on your idea for the video?
Technically I was inspired by the PS3 commercials 'the most insane movie experience ever'.
I was completely blown away by what these guys did. It took me a long time to figure out how they created this effect. I felt there was still a lot of undiscovered territory in this technique. Before I was approached by the band, I already was thinking about producing a music video with this technique.
I'm also part of a mapping collective called 'Skullmapping', we made this project before I went off to make the video clip.
After this I felt confident to take it to the next level and not only include the ground but also the two walls.
As far as the concept goes, I didn't want the story to become too complex, since the technique was not going be a walk in the park. The song is quite bombastic, it sounds almost epic to me, so when I heard the song initially I thought of an adventurous road trip through epic scenery. The singer told me he sings about a rough break-up: whatever you do to keep the relationship going, it's not going to work anymore. So that's how I decided to let him undertake a journey to the bottom of the ocean. A very peaceful, quiet place, far away from everyone and everything, perfect place to get over a heart-break.
When we started shooting I didn't know yet how to continue from that point. Nearing the end of the shooting, my DOP and me started brainstorming and came up with the idea to let him travel to the centre of the world. It's going downhill throughout the whole video (stairs, escalator, down into the ocean). But once you're in the centre of the world, you can't go down anymore. The only way is up...
How were you approached for the job?
The singer is my sister's boyfriend, he liked the video clip I made for Bodyspasm and liked my art installation 'Peepshow'.
What was the budget?
The budget was 3000 euro.
What were the limitations you faced with the production?
Since the budget was low for an ambitious project like this, myself and my DOP did almost everything ourselves, from looking for an empty building to shoot, building the stage, to stripping down a treadmill and hoping it would still function properly.
What was also slowing down the whole process, was the fact that sometimes the projected backgrounds didn't work as well as I thought they would for various reasons. It's very different from seeing an animation on your screen to seeing it projected in this room we created. A lot of the times I had to go back in and change digital lights, textures, camera moves, and re-render the whole thing. So there were days we couldn't get any shots done since the things I prepared didn't work.
Tell us more about the projections and the preparation you did leading up to the shoot.
I created a very rough storyboard, and after this I went straight into creating the 3D environments, since time was pressing. I then made a rough cut of all the digital renders to the song, in which I used a simple puppet representing the singer, just to get an idea of timing. After that I rendered out a high-res version from the point of view of the camera, and then sent 3 different videos to the 3 beamers.
On a couple of shots you have a camera move. First I animated my camera digitally, then my DOP, Pierre Schreuder had to mimic my digital camera move as close as possible in real life. This was challenging from him, for example in the train shot he had to run from one side of the room to the other, travel up and down, and keep everything in frame.
What programs did you create the 3D in?
I used blender for the creation of the 3D, and Madmapper for sending video to the 3 beamers and map it on.
Who were your key collaborators?
My main collaborator was my DOP, Pierre Schreuder. He was of an absolute essence. It's very simple, without him it wouldn't have happened. Not only did he do an excellent job as a DOP, but he helped me on so many levels, from building the boat from cardboard to truck driving around Belgium to pick up all the material.
Have you worked with any of them before?
I've worked with him on the Bodyspasm clip, and was very happy about this collaboration.
What did you shoot on?
We shot on a SONY EX-1.
What was the turnaround?
I think it was about 5 weeks of hard work. We shot for two weeks in studio, since it was a lot of trial and error. Post was not too complicated; it came out a couple of days after the last shooting day.
How involved were the band and label?
I think the label was not too sure about what we were doing. I think it was hard for them to imagine how it was going look like, and they didn't understand so well why it was taking so long :) I've never seen them on set, so I guess they were confident enough we would come up with something worth watching.
The band helped us out a lot. They stayed late hours with us to help us out wherever needed. Also kudos to Pieter-Jan van den Troost, Willow's singer. Even after the 50th take of the 'jumping into the hole' shot, he didn't complain (too much)
Were there any tough periods through production when you thought it would never work and you wanted to give up?
For me in a lot of projects the first shot is though. Since it's the moment what you had in mind comes to reality, and usually I'm not so happy with what this reality looks like. So during the first shot (it was the subway station sequence) I was afraid that the whole thing wouldn't work as I had planned. But over the years I've learned that if you push through these moments of doubt and keep on working, you will always get something that you can look back on with pride, even if it didn't come out 100% the way you wanted.
If you had a chance to approach it again, what would you do differently?
I would ask somebody to make a good making of. The band was supposed to be doing this, but they lost that camera on day one, haha.
How did the band loose the camera?
One of the band members forgot the camera at a friend's place (I think there might have been some beers involved). The days after they were assuming it was stolen, and turned the studio up and down to look for it. After more than a month the friend reminded them that their camera was still there :)
Still photography credits: Birgit Sterckx and Tom Brewaeys