Sunday, July 12, 2009

obey the groove video - making-of part 2: alchemy

there are an infinite number of ways to start any creative project. i’ve tried almost all of them. some of my favorite methods involve starting from a random prompt, and then trying to bend the chaos into order. i love starting music that way. i haven’t started much art that way. and i certainly haven’t started any animation that way.

i’m still in, what would be considered, pre-production for the ‘obey the groove’ video. it’s going to involve a lot of animation. a lot of things need to be designed. there are aliens, robots, a pete-headed planet, a petey cosmonaut, guns, explosions… all kinds of fun stuff. so i sit down to sketch. some ideas come out. but they are starting to look the same. i’m having trouble finding new, interesting designs.

then i stumble on this amazing little piece of software: alchemy. it’s an experimental new digital drawing and painting program. the concept is that it randomizes the drawing process just enough to spark new ideas. for example, there are modes which alter the brush width based on an audio signal. other modes pull random shapes from a folder and let you paint with them.

it took me a little while to catch on to the freedom this sort of approach allows for. but once i did, i started making aliens, robots and cosmonaut poses pretty quickly. i think there’s still a lot more exploration to be done. and as i said before, there are countless other interesting ways to spark the creative process.

what kinds of fun ways have you found to start projects? have you had any success starting with some sort of random seed? tell me some stories about your experiments.



  1. I like to write offbeat stories, but found myself having a bit off writers block on one of my tall tales, "Death Wants A Puppy". Then I discovered this webcomic site called Pixton, which allows people who can't draw to create comics from models, and started making comics out of my stories just for fun. It helped clean out the cobwebs in my head.

    Now I'm planing a short film version of my story. Here is a link to the story in question:

    Keep up the fantastic work Pete. I adore your music, and the creativity of the videos you guys make for them. Also, thanks for the extra CD from the pre-sale promotion. I gave it to a friend of mine, now he's infected with the grove as well.

    God bless.


  2. thanks fred!
    it's a tricky thing for creative people, trying to work through blocks. i love finding out how others get through it.

  3. You're very welcome.

    I read this interview with writer, J. Michael Straczynski (creator of Babylon 5) who said that he was trained to look at a story not only from different points of view, but at different forms of delivering that story. i.e Like, if you were writing a book and you get blocked, what would the story be like if told as a radio drama, or a stage play, or expressed as a song? Looking at these from unusual views can open it up and reveal things you never saw before.

    That advice has help me quite a bit lately.


  4. So, I ramble. But I felt like commenting...sorry!

    My sister showed me the mock-up of the MV (I'm afraid she keeps better tabs on everything than I do), and it looks great! You've got some lovely action shots, and the pete-headed planet is adorable. I felt sorry for it when the aliens were firing their laser-bombs (it had to hurt!). I was a little confused at first, though, because I thought the alien ship was a good-guy ship (since it came in with the lyrics, if I remember correctly).

    Alchemy looks awesome, and Straczynski's take on writer's block is cool too. I knew he rocked for more than just Babylon 5.

    Unforturnately, I can't really help with block issues--I have a bad habit of dropping creative projects, and most of my creativity is now in academic writing (and you pretty much just slug through that by writing, taking notes, reading, and talking about it). Honestly though, I find the most enjoyable way to get things started is to involve my friends. When they help me with the planning/inspiration, do similar projects with me, or just nag/encourage the next phase, it makes it tons easier.

    So that said--I can't wait to see more!

  5. Abby Brennan6:39 PM

    Hello. I'm Abby Brennan and I'm a big fan of No More Kings.

    I'm also an aspiring author (sadly unpublished as yet). I'm working on a story about a rock star who sells her soul to the Devil-- that whole Robert Johnson crossroads myth thing. In the story, the rock star founds the genre of "nerdcore rock." I have to admit the first time I heard Zombie Me I was startled because I thought I'd made nerdcore rock up.

    So I was wondering if you'd mind if I gave No More Kings a cameo in my story?

    If you would like to cameo, do you or Neil Robins have any weird personality quirks I can incorporate in order to give it a more realistic feel? Oh, and since it's fantasy already, if you have a burning desire to be some kind of supernatural creature, I'd be happy to declare it so by authorial fiat. :)

    If you want to email me about it my email is Thank you very much and I'm an enormous fan of your work! You know, in case I haven't mentioned that already...