EditorialFor the love of music


For when you’re feeling social


Andre Grant

September 22, 2014

Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd shouldn’t have done that LSD.

I remember the moment I stumbled upon the video for “Brats” by indie band Liars, I could only think of three words. “What the f**k?” shortly followed by “did i just watch?” But then, something strange happened, a few minutes later I watched it again….and then, I watched it again…and then…well, you can see where I’m going with this. Not only did this song make it onto my iPod, I had to know more about how this music video was made, and more importantly who made it and why can’t I stop watching it.

Insert motion capture choreographer, director and New York-based artist Ian Cheng. Born in 1984 and growing up in Los Angeles, Ian’s an artist based in New York and studied Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley before working at Lucasfilms Industrial Light & Magic

Inevitably, Ian decided to give up producing popular imagery at George Lucas’ visual effects firm Industrial Light & Magic to continue with his abstract work independently. “Why, he wondered, should the collective talents of a corps of software engineers go to waste on rendering the hard-edged surfaces of such a conceptually dumb vehicle as, for example, Optimus Prime in the 2007 version of Transformers?” an excerpt from an interview given to Frieze Magazine. 

“Imagine a narrative format that has probabilistic outcomes. Imagine a narrative format that can simulate unscripted contingencies against scripted choreography. Imagine a narrative format that requires its authors to embrace contingency and irreversibly change during its making. Imagine a narrative format that doesn’t promise a scheduled time to end. Imagine a narrative format that erodes as you erode.” 

Check out the video for Brats which features an animated Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny and the Liars themselves dueling it out in some kind of….cartoonish virtuosity? That might just be the best i can describe it. I’m not sure if Ian is crazy, a genius or just light years ahead of our time when it comes to storytelling but whether or not it makes sense to you, i’ll guarantee you won’t forget this video, because I haven’t.

Ian’s technique is quite unique as he uses motion capture to record a process that registers the physical movements of the performer and replaces that absent image of the performer. The recorded movements are then translated onto a digital body. Working with a choreographer, a performer, and a small team of motion capture technicians, Cheng configures the motion capture process into a format for recording a visceral, incomplete memory.

Check out some of his other work and what he had to say about the video and it’s meaning down below:

On the video for “Brats”

“An archetypal animated narrative – hapless hunter vs. terroristic rabbit- becomes a format to grow a garden of signature motions.

This collection of motions becomes material to recompose a

new non-narrative choreography that animates the bodies of Liars.

Here we document this entropic haunting- from the ingredients of a familiar narrative arise the terror of reckless unmerciful non-meaning.

A dog wanders indifferently through the animation, true to its nature”