Video marries sight and sound
January 21, 2009
Sound waves dance in melodic waves through the air and into my ear, twirl around in my imagination and evoke memories and emotions. Music is a more than just an auditory experience; it is a moment of peace, a source of inspiration, a memory of a first date, and comfort after a breakup. Within every song is a story, and within that story is the possibility for a visual representation. Mathew Cullen is someone who transforms these stories from sound into sight.
Mathew Cullen is one of the founders of Motion Theory (www.motiontheory.com), a Los Angeles-based company with a unique studio model that, they say "makes the creative process singular" with directors, animators, designers, visual effects artists and writers under the same roof. Motion Theory is responsible for numerous recognizable commercials (including recent commercials for Nike, EA and HP) and other creative content, like music videos.
For Cullen, combining film and music gives him "an opportunity to make the experience of the music more rich. When you tell a story through a music video, you have to listen to the music It can realize a song’s potential, make it better, or if done poorly, kill its effect."
In 2008, Cullen directed a music video for rising British indie-music star Adele. Cullen and Adele combined ideas for the music video of her song "Chasing Pavements." The video is a live-action piece in which the motion and emotions of love are portrayed in the aftermath of a car accident.
The video begins with a young couple lying unconscious on the ground. When the chorus of the song begins, the couple comes to life in a mesmerizing and emotional dance — all done while lying on the sidewalk. Cullen did not use green screens and special editing techniques to achieve this effect — the dance was actually choreographed lying down.
"The couple needed to use each other to create the illusion of movement," Cullen explains, "This ended up being a perfect metaphor for the relationship."
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For the first time in its 15-year history, the Slamdance Film Festival (www.slamdance.com) is incorporating 15 music videos into its lineup, including "Chasing Pavements." To Cullen, this addition is a reflection of "the power that the form can have. It is still a very viable medium for filmmakers. I find that videos are more relevant than ever in setting trends that you see ripple across both short and long form."
The crossover into the film world could mark a new era for music videos as not just a source of entertainment and publicity, but as Cullen demonstrates, a beautiful fusion of audio-visual art.