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The Shins "Half a Million" - Short Film of the Day and Interview With Directors LAMAR+NIK

LAMAR+NIK – a USA-based directing duo – recently released a stop-motion/live-action hybrid music video for the song “Half a Million” by The Shins. I had the pleasure of interviewing the directors about this project.

This is the directors’ first stop motion project, and it’s an excellent debut at that. Until this project, the directors have primarily worked in live-action, directing music videos for music artists such as Deep Sea Diver and the Pixies as well as commercials for companies such as Adidas and KFC.

LAMAR+NIK’s most recent collaboration is with the Grammy-award nominated, Portland-based, indie rock band The Shins to create the music video for the band’s song “Half a Million.”  The video follows the exploits of black-and-white sticker incarnations of each of the band members – brought to life with stop motion – as they perform “Half a Million” and interact with everyday objects, places and people in a live-action world. You can go watch the music video here.

The stop-motion and live-action halves of this film’s psyche are seamlessly knit together in the editing and the animation, which ultimately creates an interesting world that somehow feels natural and yet totally surreal. In the interview, the directors explain how they achieved this result, as well as where the idea came from to use stickers as the subject of the film and why stop motion was the right choice for the project.

Thanks to LAMAR+NIK for taking the time to answer my questions! Here’s our interview:

A.H. Uriah: Throughout the video, the stop-motion band members interact with real-life live-action characters and objects (such as a light-switch on a wall, a white-washed fence, a man typing on his laptop, etc.). What was the workflow like from a technical standpoint to produce a combination of these two mediums (live-action and stop motion) in one single scene? Were there any challenges you encountered along the way?

LAMAR+NIK: With most of the scenes we just used a single technique and that was to keep the stickers and the live-action separate. The cheese plate was a perfect example of this. We just cut the image in half. The live action and stop motion never overlap. So we'd shoot the hand shot and then do all of the stop motion. Later in editing we'd combine the two images to make one scene. 

A.H.: I’m not entirely sure how to describe your unique animation style on this project, but I’ll do my best anyway (I thought it was quite brilliant): In typical replacement-animation, you replace each static subject with a similar static subject with a slightly different pose. On this project, you did something very unique (something that I had never seen done, in fact): with every slightly different pose of the subject (in this case: stickers with each of the band members’ pictures on them) you built on top of the last subject, each sticker only a fraction different from the next. With this style you create some very interesting blurs and movement in your scenes that’s not often seen in stop motion. This style works particularly well for me in your music video because it seems to mirror the lyrics so well: James Mercer – lead singer of “The Shins” – sings about being “half a million” things “he’s supposed to be” without really being any singular one of them at a time (if I’m interpreting the lyrics right – please correct me if I’m wrong). Well, in this music video, the band members really were – if not half a million – dozens and hundreds of things at once without really being any one of them. I’m curious to know if this idea influenced your thought process and also what your inspirations were for employing such a unique technique?

L+N: For us we really want to make any music video we do memorable because it’s like a marriage. The visual and the music are forever connected and we always want to make good on that union. Stickers really felt like the right idea for The Shins “Half A Million” because of the bands personality and the pace of the song. Of course the more we listened to the song the more it felt like even more of a correct fit. We had never seen a stop motion done with stickers so we didn’t know what to expect, but after we did a few tests we noticed the trails would be left behind and the animation would also elevate. This made us even more excited about the possibilities as we continued. Basically we just wanted to challenge ourselves to do something we’d never seen and that influenced our thought process for the most part.

A.H.: Before working in a hybrid live-action/stop motion medium for this music video, you made a prolific amount of live-action music videos and commercials. What skills have you learned in the live-action realm that you think cross over well or are helpful to have when working in animation – particularly stop motion?

L+N: We wouldn’t call ourselves stop motion professionals, but the single most important thing for this video was that we had every single frame and we weren’t really guessing what frame was next. We already knew what it was supposed to look like at 24p, we just had to add in the scenarios. We don’t really like to box ourselves into a particular medium and if we have an idea like stickers we just try to adapt or style into it, but our live action experience helped a bit with the initial filming of the band and the scenes the stickers were placed in for sure.

You can visit LAMAR+NIK and see more of their projects on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website. Be sure to check out the behind-the-scenes photos and videos for the making of “Half a Million” on their social networking profiles – primarily their Instagram.

The song “Half a Million” is off of The Shins new album “Heartworms” which is now available to listen to and buy on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Newbury Comics.

Note to reader:
I’m doing my best to work around my schedule to publish one post a week. However, last week I was not able to publish a post because of various scheduling conflicts. I sincerely apologize to those of you who checked the website last week to find no new post. However, don’t worry – I haven’t quit nor do I intend to.

-A.H. Uriah


You can see some of the behind-the-scenes photos from their Instagram below (if you’re viewing this on the blog):
A post shared by LAMAR+NIK (@lamarplusnik) on

A post shared by LAMAR+NIK (@lamarplusnik) on

A post shared by LAMAR+NIK (@lamarplusnik) on

A post shared by LAMAR+NIK (@lamarplusnik) on

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