The music video for Radiohead's latest single "House of Cards" was yesterday the most watched clip on the web. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but technologically mystifying too - it was filmed without a camera.
It's only been online since Monday (14 July), but the latest clip from Oxford's finest musicians has already received 1,277,013 hits. This, along with the fact that Radiohead is the biggest rock group in the world, is largely due to the fact that critics went into rapture over the new album, "In Rainbow". But equal praise is reserved for director James Frost, whose technical prowess, also having served the likes of Coldplay, Stereophonics and Norah Jones, reached new heights on the project.
The short film is made using an experimental animation technique that employs neither lights nor camera, but is shot in real time. The contours of singer Thom York's face are not reflections but the mathematical harnessing of his movements. Followed by 64 revolving lasers and scanned by a clever device made by Geometric Informatics, every move he makes is registered by the reaction speeds of laser beams.
And to boot, never missing the chance to get their fans involved, the group put a page on Google to let people try out the technique. Once finished, there's a group on YouTube waiting for your attempt.
J. Deluard is an IT engineer at "3D Ouest" in France. He works with the same kind of 3D scanner system used in the video.
The system used in the Radiohead video is not the most advanced technologically speaking. What's interesting about it is that they used these shots, filmed in real time, in the framework of a music video.
The system is enormously expensive as the machines cost about €150,000. Even so, it's pretty widespread. The technology used in the landscape scenes of the video is also used for archaeological purposes. 3D scanning lets you capture all the dimensions of the environment you're shooting, without a camera. It's also used to create clothes to measure. In four seconds, the details of your figure can be recorded.
However, although it is a video projector that's used during the shooting, in order to transform the data into something visual there's a point when the camera has to intervene."