Interactive video has seen a rapid growth in popularity recently, and Vincent Morisset is one of the leading names in the field. His latest collaboration with Arcade Fire on their single Reflektor – a work in which your phone becomes an integral part of the video – is one of the top hits when searching for interactive video. His film Neon Bible back in 2007 is considered to be the work that first successfully introduced the element of interaction into online music videos.
As someone who keeps bringing something new to every piece he produces, we were eager to talk to the man behind the work. So we interviewed Vincent to get some detail on his creative approach, and to hear some of his personal insights into his work.
Your website describes you as a “web-friendly director”, but if you had to elaborate a bit more, how would you depict yourself and your creations?
Most of the time, the computer is my canvas. I try to take advantage of the narrative potential of the digital medium. I have a hybrid background in cinema and what we called at the end of the 90s “multimedia”. My projects could be described as interactive films.
What sorts of influences tend to spark an idea for you? Does creativity stem from a musical source or more visual concepts?
The songs are the backbone of the videos – they initiate the story, the themes and the mood. But I often also have a desire to create a visceral interaction that takes its roots in tangible real life experiences. It went from bridging dance moves to the playback of a video to mimicking optical effects through waving and shaking a mobile device.
You’ve worked a lot with Arcade Fire and their music. What is it specifically about them/their music that you like?
We were good friends before they even started the band. Our work relationship developed organically over the years (touring in the early days, websites, interactive and traditional music videos, a feature documentary called Miroir Noir…). It’s difficult for me to have an objective perspective on them! I’ve always admired their incredible talent, their curiosity and their desire to make things differently. After all these years, they continue to surprise me!
Did the official video for Reflektor influence the creation of your own interactive project at all, or was it more the lyrical themes of the song you worked with?
No. We started to work almost a year before Anton Corbijn started to work on his. Caroline Robert, who was the art director on our video, was also developing in parallel the album artwork of Reflektor. We were able to tie in the interactive video and the album artwork into something coherent. Some images of the video are on the single vinyl sleeve and in the album booklet. Our exchange with the band, who were deeply inspired by Haiti, made me decided to shoot in Jacmel. My conversations with Aaron Koblin, from the Google Creative Lab, were also really determining in how the project shaped up. Finally, the continuous experimentation and research with Edouard Lanctôt-Benoit, Brandon Blommaert, Maciej Zasada and Caroline were the foundations of the interactive film.
Do you think interactivity is becoming the future of web video? The success of the Perrier “Secret Place” advert campaign points towards this potential – does the lure of interactivity attract a wider audience to search for a video?
It’s another way to tell stories, to create a connection between the spectator and the film and to generate different kind of emotions. It is now part of the possibilities. Some directors will use it, others won’t. Personally, I’m excited about it, and that’s why I’m exploring and trying to define that genre.
Have you got any plans to work with other bands and their music in the future, or do those kinds of collaborations happen more gradually and naturally?
These collaborations pop up organically. I had the chance to do a film on Sigur Ros a couple years ago called INNI. Recently, we did a small project for Skrillex. He told me he really loved BLA BLA and wanted to do something playful online for his album Recess. On the album cover there is an alien emoji. We developed a web app where Skrillex can record his voice at any time while on tour. It automatically updates the talking alien animation on his site. It’s simple, but super fun and addictive. It creates a personal bridge between him and his fans.
Neon Bible is widely considered the first real interactive music video – did you know how revolutionary it would be considered during its creation?
When Arcade Fire asked me to do a video for Neon Bible it just made sense for me to make it interactive. It was at a moment when the musical industry was shifting to digital. MTV had almost stopped presenting music videos. YouTube was the platform of choice but the quality of image at the time wasn’t great. I just thought it would make sense to develop an original piece that took advantage of the digital platform. It was a pragmatic approach: I coded the project myself but also wrote and directed the shoot. That’s how the “web-friendly director” label appeared. I was surprised how widely the project marked the collective imagination.
How do you technologically approach your works? For example, do you start with previous knowledge of technology and work with what it can do, or do you have a specific vision you wish to desire and develop it with a programmer?
We work in the fog! The process is really instinctive and iterative. Since there is not a lot of precedent, we have to figure out most of the stuff as we go along. All my collaborators work closely from the very beginning of the process. Technology nourishes art, and vice versa.
Would you ever branch out into a more physical space where someone could interact with your music and video? I’m thinking of the Rain Room by Random International where the work responded to physical movement in the space – would installation work be something you would like to do, or do you prefer onscreen interaction?
We already did in-situ adaptations of BLA BLA and Arcade Fire videos in museum and outdoor settings. It is really exciting for me, who is used to doing online stuff, to see real people playing with the piece. For instance, in Paris, we adapted the BLA BLA website and created an exhibition for kids at the Gaité Lyrique. We used sensors, touchscreens, architectural projections, infrared cameras and triggered fans to transform the mouse interactivity of the website into a more immersive and physical interaction.
And finally, any tips for people interested in creating work that encourage viewer interaction? What advice would you like to have given yourself at the start of your career?
Last fall, I invited a group of directors and producers to discuss about digital production in Quebec. We wrote a Digital Storytelling Manifesto. Some of the points are universal…
Photo: Minelly Kamemura
Check out more on Vincent Morisset here.
Enjoy BLA BLA at Gaité Lyrique here: