Last week, electronic musician Tim Green released a video for “Helpless Sun,” the title track from the producer’s recent EP off My Favorite Robot label. The track pulses with bass thwacks, tasty synth licks and what very well might be some cowbell usage. Together, it’s practically begging to be made into an epic music video.
Thankfully, director Steven McInerney, visual designer Paul Skawinski and production studio Digital Snowball have joined forces to release a psychedelic dive into a microscopic universe with a visual piece that uses a nano projector to detail a series of chemistry experiments that pulse as much as the track itself.
To turn this crisp vantage into a series of chemical tangos, the team — who previously worked on the stunning (and also microscopic) video for Jon Hopkins’ Immunity that The Creators Project profiled in a doc — implemented a variety of chemical compounds and industrial detergents consisting of acids, spirits, oils, gels, colored dies, silicon and edible liquids. The ingredients were then mixed in a petri dish on top of a large format projector that screens images up to 115 feet in diameter. According to Digital Snowball, “The most stunning reactions that were used in the video came from combining acids and oils with a mixture of color dyes.”
There were a number of filming techniques used to achieve the shots in the video, such as rotating the petri dish at different speeds to spark subtle movements and flow of the liquids. The team also shot directly into the chemical combos at 240 frames per second at 4K, offering the chance to capture the intricacies of the liquids up close and personal. At one point, they even filled a pint glass with water and dyes and spun it on a turntable, to give more depth to the liquid formations.
The video was inspired by McInerney and Skawinski’s fascination with capturing organic reaction from chemical compounds. The two have a history of collaboration in this field. Last year they both worked on Bass Clef’s science-fiction epic Stenaline Metranil Solar Flare, in which the liquids subtly formed the back drop of space and planets. They told The Creators Project that when presented the opportunity to film a video for a song called “Helpless Sun,” they thought that to be helpless meant to be in an uncontrollable state. “The liquid reactions certainly take on this behavior,” they said. “We can only imagine the sun to have similar characteristics.”
But whereas “Immunity” was shot with a microscope and very much focused on the world we cannot see with the naked eye, the song for Green is intended to do the exact opposite: “To imagine the flow of energy in a massive star. [Jon Hopkins’ video] is a work of science, the other a work of science fiction,” they said.
Tim Green echoed their thoughts, saying “The goal here was to create a video concept that stimulates the viewer’s imagination by creating a little world of our own that encourages everyone to imagine their own way of interpreting what they see on the screen.” He also added that to him, the song has an organic and psychedelic feel, so the mesmerizing and abstract landscapes were “the perfect way to take the experience of listening to the track to another level.”
When asked what the production team’s high school science teachers would think of the project, they said no one would be surprised. “At school [McInerney and Skawinski] were known to mess around through unorthodox means, to say the least.”
See a behind-the-scenes video of how the awesome video was made and, for more on microscopic psychedelia, revisit our doc on Jon Hopkins’ Immunity here.
And to purchase Helpless Sun, head over to BeatPort.
Images courtesy of Digital Snowball.