Meet the Innovator : Alex McCall

2016 IdeasTap Innovators Fund winner Alex McCall is a multi-talented music producer and head of LX Mac Music Production in London. 

We chatted to Alex about his winning music video Asta Hiroki - Her Image in Focus (feat. Kathrin deBoer) and how The Innovators Fund has helped him.

Congratulations on being selected as one of the 2016 IdeasTap Innovators Fund winners! How did you hear about the competition? 

I heard about the fund from a previous applicant who recommended I take a look at it after a conversation about funding - luckily for me I did!

How did you find the application process? Do you have any advice for future applicants?

The form was unusually very straightforward and succinct for a funding application!

In fact the only issue for me was to try and capture the essence of the idea and convey it accurately in the wordcount as it was a fairly complex marriage of multiple disciplines. My advice for future applicants would be to really try to describe the core aims and unique features of the project. I think being realistic with milestones is also key as it not only helps strengthen the application but also solidifies your thoughts on how to run the project.

How did the funding help you?

The funding enabled us to enhance the project in multiple ways. The majority went on hiring the filming space which was a theatre in Brighton - this allowed us to capture the dancers against an appropriate backdrop that was suitable for the video masking techniques we used. Due to varying light balances affecting the ability to mask the images the right venue was key to achieving our desired aesthetics so without it the effects may not have worked.

It was also used to purchase the morph suits for the same masking reasons and paying the filming/editing crew and artists involved in the production, a portion is also reserved for promoting at film festivals which I'll be looking into now the piece is completed. Without the funding I don't think the idea would have been realised to it's full potential and certainly not have achieved the end result that we did so I'm very grateful for the support.

What inspired the Asta Hiroki video – how did it come about?

I've worked as a composer for Ceyda Tanc Dance regularly for a couple of years now and I love the expressionism present in their work so wanted to harness this and marry it with my other skills and artistic interests. As well as music my background also involves visual art and coding my own custom generative and reactive visual applications via MAX/MSP so I had the idea to simplify the dancers into forms and utilise them as a canvas for these applications. My colleague Doug Ellingford handled the filming and editing side of the project so he was the technical brain behind how we could utilise masking and edit this grand plan together. Overall we had a creative goal of showcasing the organic, human movements of the dancers contrasted against the digital and glitchy visual elements of the applications in a stimulating way.

Can you explain your production process?

Firstly we gave the track to Ceyda Tanc Dance to produce choreography and set about scouting the filming venues. Once we were happy with both we spent a day filming the 3 dancers in morphsuits to obtain raw footage, multiple angles and versions were filmed to give extra editing options. We then produced a rough cut of the footage as we wished it to progress for the video and conducted some tests in crushing the colours to ready them for the masking techniques.

After this we had a basic edit of white dancer forms against a black background. I then produced some video footage from the custom MAX/MSP apps - 'Cloud Chamber' and 'Glitch Box'. The Cloud Chamber rendered graphics from scratch like the lines we used over the dancers and the grainy splatter effect over backgrounds whereas the Glitch Box utilised existing video and photo stills by downsampling the images to produce the colourful backgrounds in the video.

The final part of production consisted of layering up the various effects and imagery footage individually and sometimes collectively onto the dancers and the background. In some parts of the video we used up to 4 different layers of the affected footage simultaneusly to achieve the final result and when we were satisfied finally added in the start and ending titles to finish the piece off.

What are your future plans?

Coming up soon my debut EP as Asta Hiroki is out on 24th June which is called Balance (out on Jalapeno Records) so I shall be promoting that and continuing to write the follow up EP which should be ready in the next few months. I'm currently looking into various potential collaborations with other artists, both visual and musical, MAX/MSP coders and photographers. Longer term I would like to develop a live Asta Hiroki AV show incorporating the elements used in the video slightly differently in a live context complete with dancers so have started to develop some initial concepts and look into further funding options for that too.


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