Feb 28, 2016 | By Kira

A few weeks ago, the Chemical Brothers unleashed a brand new music video for their song Wide Open. The clip instantly became a viral hit, accumulating more than 8 million views and counting. While the track, which features vocals by Beck, is as catchy as anything by the electro-music duo, what has truly captivated audiences is the video’s daring concept: over a single, four-and-a-half-minute shot, we watch a beautiful dancer transform into a 3D printed version of herself.

Directed by Dom&Nic with visual effects provided by The Mill, the Wide Open music video features some of the most technically advanced visual effects we have ever seen, combining 3D LIDAR scanning, motion capture, 3D tracking, and custom-made software for producing clean plates. Now, The Mill has released a Behind the Scenes video to show just how their 3D printed dancer was brought to life.

When the original video first came out, The Mill explained that the dancer’s lattice-like, 3D mesh limbs were inspired by procedural cellular structures, with an aim to mix the mechanical and organic. Dominic Hawley and Nic Goffey (Dom&Nic), the visionary directors behind the video, confirmed this in an interview with The Mill: “The Beck vocal and lyric has a feeling of loss, something slowly slipping away from you…We had been researching the idea of 3D printing artificial limbs and body parts and came up with the idea of someone’s body being replaced with plastic.”

Concept art

Central to Dom&Nic’s vision was that the video be filmed in a single, unbroken 4.5-minute shot, which came up to nearly 7,000 individual frames. This proved to be the first of many challenges for The Mill’s VFX team, led by Dave Fleet, Head of 3D and Co-3D Lead Artist; Suraj ‘Sid’ Harrington-Odedra, Co-3D Lead Artist; and Fergal Hendrick, 2D Lead Artist. Yet they insisted on finding a way to create this 3D masterpiece, using all of the technology at their disposal.

To begin, they used the Arri Alexa camera and LDS (Lens Data System) to capture the most accurate metadata of the scene as possible. This was then matched with a 3D LIDAR scan of the set. “We managed to pipe the focus data into our 3D camera, enabling us to render in depth of field, using real values from the actual lens,” explained Fleet. “The rest came down to well choreographed dance moves coupled with great steadicam work.”


The elegant and emotional dance was choreographed by Wayne McGregor, and performed by Ex-Machina actress Sonoya Mizuno. “Even though Sonoya is a great dancer, we obviously couldn’t expect every take to be identical, which made a motion capture solution somewhat limited,” explained Fleet. To solve this problem, Mizuno donned a portable motion-capture suit while she danced, providing the VFX team with animation they could work with. This was supplemented by footage from 11 ‘witness’ GoPro cameras, set up to record the performance from every angle. Finally, they 3D scanned Mizuno in full to create an exact digital copy of her body.

Amazingly, Mizuno’s stunning performance was the result of just three days of work “She flew in from LA on the Friday, we scanned her Friday night, we did the rehearsals on Saturday and shot it one take on the Sunday,” said Dom&Nic. Apparently, there was absolutely no shortage of talent on this set.

The next and most challenging aspect of creating her 3D printed body was 3D tracking, also known as match moving. “Our team of animators had to position each limb so that it exactly matched Sonoya’s pose on all 6,798 frames. This is one of the most complicated things that we do in VFX and is a highly intricate and skilled job,” said Fleet. “How did we overcome this? Patience, lots of patience.”

Even after all of that, the work wasn’t over yet. Essential to the hollow, 3D printed mesh effect was ‘painting out’ parts of Sonoya’s body to reveal either a clean background, or other parts of her body, all while taking into account where light and shadows would naturally fall.

Since doing this by hand would have taken far too long, Harrington-Odedra actually developed a bespoke tool that could automatically erase sections of the live action places, provided there was an accurate camera track and detailed 3D geometry. “The sheer volume of cleanup to do with removing Sonoya’s limbs from the background meant that Sid’s tool was invaluable,” said Fleet.

The sheer complexity of the project is nearly impossible to grasp, but the final, mesmerizing result was certainly worth the effort: “If any of us had realized and known how complex and challenging it was going to be up front, it may never have been attempted, but we are obviously now delighted we did get to make it,” said Dom&Nic. “The great creative minds at The Mill took on and solved massive challenges in both 3D and 2D.”

After meticulous tracking, LIDAR scanning, 3D match-moving and animating 6,798 continuous frames spanned over 4.5 entire minutes, the Chemical Brothers’ Wide Open music video is a true work of art, and one that beautifully captures the 3D printed aesthetic as we have never seen it before. Check out the full interview with The Mill's talented VFX team, and be sure to watch the incredible Behind the Scenes video below:



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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