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Mark Whelan Cuts Surreal & Trippy Visuals for the Chemical Brothers


The Quarry editor discusses his latest work for the iTunes Festival

Mark Whelan Cuts Surreal & Trippy Visuals for the Chemical Brothers

To mark the end of the Summer Festival season, The Quarry’s Mark Whelan has just finished working on new content for the live stream of the Chemical Brothers iTunes Festival that took place at Camden’s Roundhouse last week.

We caught up with Mark to talk about the project, and to discuss the challenges involved in putting together the spectacular visual show.

Q> Talk to us about the amazing Chemical Brothers visual project that you edited this summer… it was screened at most of the music festivals, had you done anything like this before?

MW> No, never on this scale. I've worked on live visuals before for a few artists, but it's always been a smaller part of the show than this, or a one-off performance. I'm was very familiar with the previous live shows from editing the feature film ‘Don't Think’ for the Chemical Brothers so it felt like familiar ground in some ways, but the project was totally different.


Q> How long did you work on the project 

MW> I think it was just under 2 months in total. There was an initial 5 week stretch of editing, then there was a pause while the show was assembled for rehearsals, which also gave time for the 3D renders to arrive for Galvanise, which was all motion captured, so we could then check we had everything we wanted to happen working correctly. Once rehearsals started with the full light show, hybrid screen and everything else that goes into it, there were a number of tweaks that needed doing to the visuals we'd prepared beforehand so I was back on it for a final stretch.


Q> Were there any challenges on putting together such an amazing visual show?

MW> The main challenge is making sure you think about how the film element will fit into the show as a whole. It's very tempting to cut together what would essentially be a music video, but that's forgetting that it's a live show.  In purely practical terms the Chemical Brothers are set-up in front of the screen for a start, so you've got to bear that in mind when you're choosing a frame, but also there's the huge and intricate light show, which incorporates lights within the screen itself, as well as elements of stage design which all work to interact and compliment each other. That and the fact that it's going to be playing to tens of thousands of people jumping around like lunatics - there's no room for subtlety!


Q> Did you have any kind of brief from Tom and Ed (Chemicals Brothers) and Adam and Marcus in terms of directing the visuals and the show?

MW> The Chemical Brothers are very much involved in the visuals and stage show as a whole, but ultimately they have a lot of trust in both Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall in directing it all. There was input and ideas from the band throughout the process, but largely I worked with Adam and Marcus on the visuals.


Q> You were part of the team that worked across the visuals of the whole show, but your main focus was editing the visuals for 3 tracks that have never been part of any of their live sets before: EML Ritual, I'll See You There and Go, did they have their own briefs and challenges?

MW> The track ‘I'll See You There’ has a double-exposed look, so every shot in it is actually two shots overlaid. There were a lot of rushes to go through to make sure we could properly explore every option we could come up with. That meant lots of experimentation and lots of options, but I was really pleased with the end result, it's quite freaky and it was really fun watching peoples reactions to it at the first festival, the Sonar Festival in Barcelona.

For ‘Go’, we had two really amazing roller-skaters who performed a choreographed routine to the album version of the track, as well as some free-styling so we could chop up the two to create something that suits a live performance. That really came alive with the hybrid screen, which has LED lights within it, so you get a mixture of the film and a graphic light effect. As such, that involved a fair amount of imagination when we were working on the cut as we had to wait until rehearsals to see how that effect would turn out.

‘EML Ritual’ was a straighter edit than the other two, based around a rotor fairground ride. The main challenge from that was not getting dizzy watching the rushes, I found the room spinning when I looked away from the monitors quite a few times!


Q> Doing new visuals for Chemical classics such as Galvanise and Elektrobank must have been a real treat – tell us more about these?

MW> ‘Galvanise’ was based around a dancer who was motion captured then made into an abstract 3D figure. It involved using a fair amount of imagination to edit, because not only were we working with the motion-capture rushes (so lots of angles of a dancer covered in dots), but also we were imagining the movement of all the lights until the stage was set-up for rehearsals and that element started to be created. It's a real highlight of the show as the visual interacts directly with the lighting, and the scale feels really epic as a result.

‘Elektrobank’ is a really short, simple and funny part of the show based solely on the performance of a regular performer in the Chemical Brothers visuals; a really talented actor and dancer called Mark Monero.


Q> Have you worked with Adam Smith alot in the past? Have you cut any of his commercials as well as promos ?

MW> I work with Adam on a couple of other projects around visuals and interactive events, as well as the Chemical Brothers feature film ‘Don't Think’. I've not worked with him on commercials or promos yet.


Q> Very cool to work on visuals for this unique kind of show...what did you love most about working on this project?

MW> I'm a fan, so it's a pleasure to work with music I really enjoy.  But mainly knowing you're working on something that has the sole intention of making a lot of people very happy makes every challenge or super long day feel very worthwhile. It made for a very rewarding experience seeing the show for the first time at Sonar and a rammed main stage with 15,000 euphoric people completely losing themselves to it.


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Genres: Visual VFX

Categories: Short films, Music video

The Quarry, Tue, 06 Oct 2015 09:19:52 GMT