Submarine Channel

Chunk: Animator Steve Scott about Birdy Nam Nam’s Parachute Ending

We have it! The extra-terrestrial awesomeness that is the video for Parachute Ending by French DJ crew Birdy Nam Nam! An epic audiomotive hieroglyphic through time and space, the video oozes a quintessentially French flavor of surreal grandeur that echoes Daft Punk’s glorious Interstella 5555 era (as well as lesser-known, but equally brain-blowing French animations from the olden days.)
French DJ crew >> Birdy Nam Nam, known and loved for their masterful use of the turntable as an instrument in its own right, lucked out with the majestic masterpiece that is the video for their delectable, Justice-produced dance number The Parachute Ending.

An epic trajectory through time and space, the video oozes a quintessentially French flavor of surreal grandeur that echoes Daft Punk’s glorious Interstella 5555 era. We had the good fortune to catch up with The Parachute Ending’s chief animator, Steve Scott, to probe him with questions about how this remarkable piece of music video history came about.

Please briefly introduce yourself, your work, and your role in the production of the Birdy Nam Nam video.
My name is Steve Scott, I’m an animation director based in London. I’ve been making animations since the late 90s. At first I was living in Sydney, but then about five years ago I moved out to London, one of the meccas of animation. My role in the video was as animation director and also I helped work with Will Sweeney, the designer, in coming up with the story.


The video is described by one Youtube commenter as a “modern hieroglyphic… of the culmination of human history”. Is this an accurate assessment?
Oh… I think this is highly accurate. Very perceptive of the commentator, I’m surprised this hasn’t been picked up by people more often…

There seem to be echoes of cult animations like La Planète Sauvage  (1973) and the gorgeous Les Maîtres Du Temps (1982). Did these pioneering classics have any influence on the Parachute Ending piece?
Yes, they definitely were an inspiration. I love La Planète Sauvage – a beautiful work. We were inspired by a lot of French Sci-Fi – that whole Métal Hurlant scene. We also wanted it to be a little like an early 80s kids cartoon, a sort of psychedelic He-Man episode. The other thing that was an influence was the work of Jack Kirby, especially in the portal and outer space scenes. Kirby’s collage work and his space backgrounds had a big impact here.

We’ve seen quite some spectacularly eye-melting animations coming out of France lately. Can you offer some explanation as to why this might be?
I think the French definitely see things in a different light to other cultures. For me, France has that great tradition of bandes dessinées which is very inspiring. As well as Mobieus and Hergé, there’s a whole new school of artists such as Chris Blain who are producing some great work.

What was the creative brief for the Birdy Nam Nam video?
Really, there wasn’t one. The band were very open to the point where we even got them to re-edit the track. It’s a rare thing and was much appreciated. It meant that everyone who was involved really got into making this the best we could in the time we had. How did you make the visuals (for instance the sugar cubes), audio-reactive? One idea we wanted for the animation was to make it really react to all the changes in the music. The music has lots of different sections and we really wanted to emphasise this with edits and ideas and of course on a micro level that meant everything in the scene should react to the music. In the end it was a lot of animation in After Effects of the elements to make sure that everything responded to the beat.

Could you give a brief summary of the creative process?
Will Sweeney and myself wrote emails back and forth with ideas, until we had a script. The band then signed this off. I started working on an animatic whilst Will started designing the characters and backgrounds. This took about a week for the animatic. I worked with an editor, James Littlemore to get the timings really tight and then we then commenced production at Not To Scale . We had two animators, Ed Wilmore and Geoff McDowall who started and a third, Roly Edwards, who came in for a couple of weeks. This rattled along for about four weeks, with myself and James Littlemore comping and animating background elements in After Effects, and Will supplying lots of backgrounds. After the animators finished up we then had about two weeks of insanely busy work finishing off the compositing. The story gets really messy here! But finally we finished and sank down into a local pub to recover…


Psychedelic Music Videos 2014