How They Did It: That Crazy Sour Music Video

Published August 19, 2009 by Graham


Remember that music video for Sour’s “Hibi No Neiro” we posted? You know, the one with dazzling displays of intercontinental webcam synchronicity? We wanted to know how they did it. Somehow, dozens of individuals had filmed themselves responding to carefully crafted choreography, and the resulting mountain of footage had been combined into something far greater than the sum of its parts– a geometrically beautiful display of cyber-social cooperation, like some sort of remote flash mob. How do you pull something like that off?

The answer lies in the massive pooled talents of four clever filmmakers– a brain trust, if you will– at the helm of this mind-bogglingly complex music video, shot on a $0 budget. The aptly named co-director Magico Nakamura graciously granted us a peek inside the bag of tricks that brought the Sour video together, providing sketches, screenshots and even an exclusive rough draft of the video, showing off rad techniques that didn’t make the final cut.

How many people participated in the video, and where did you find them all?
More than 80 people were involved in the production. Most of them were Sour fans that we’d gathered from the band’s website, from other social networking sites and from contacts we’d gathered while making Sour’s other music videos.

Could the participants see any of the other webcams, or were they blindly relying on your directions?
We filmed everyone separately so there weren’t multiple webcams on the screen however, we made quite detailed animatics of the entire music video and would send it to the people before filming, so generally people had a fair idea of what they were contributing to.

This provided a helpful guide that helped the fans wrap their heads around the choreography. For the more complicated action i.e. the dance sequence, we created individual movie files that people used to practice with before filming began. They also used these as an on screen guide while we directed them.

About how long did it take to get each shot right? How long did the entire shoot last?
It depended on the scene. Some were really tricky to film i.e. the heart scene. It took an average of twenty takes or more to get the final take. For the most part it took around 2.5 hours per person, especially in the beginning when were trying to include people in as many scenes as possible to save time. This length was drastically reduced in the end as we got used to the process and we were only filling single squares.

The shooting took between 3 to 4 weeks. Due to the time frame we had to edit while shooting. Editing also revealed better ways to shoot certain scenes thus inviting many more hours of shooting.

How did you plan out the mosaics and choreography before shooting? Did you run tests on a smaller scale, or did you create storyboards for each sequence?
The good thing about working with webcams is that you can literally turn them on and experiment immediately, without the necessity of having to then upload captured footage to computer to then see how it works.

Aside from the ideas we came up through practice, we came up with most of ideas by literally drawing them first. Many of the complicated animations and choreography sequences were planned on grided storyboards.

We then filmed every square using us (the directors) as the cast and made test films to see whether or not the scenes actually worked. More often than not if the test was too easy it would encourage us to push the idea even further.


What unexpected problems did you run into during the shoot? What was the most frustrating part?
Because we had so many people to film all of the directors had to shoot the scenes independently. This became tricky when we hadn’t totally locked down exactly how we were going to film particular scenes. Due to the frenetic pace of filming, most of these glitches only appeared when we were editing them.

Even though we shared the same vision, each director had their own style and way to approach creating the visuals. This obviously led to some pretty intense debate that was often enhanced by the fact we’d barely slept and our group meetings were usually held on the early side of the a.m.

Getting four creative people to agree on anything is always going to be tricky and potentially frustrating, luckily we all knew that each of us were merely trying to make the production be as good as it could be so we overcame any differences of opinion pretty easily.


How did you execute the shots where people in office chairs roll into the frame next to them? Did all those people live in Tokyo or did you manage to coordinate those shots long-distance?
For the chair scene strategically picked cast members that lived in the same area/country, so we could shoot them on the same day. Even though we were only working with three of them at a time it was still quite difficult to coordinate their schedules. Thankfully everyone was really cooperative and enthusiastic.

What’s next for your team? How are you going to top this video?
Thankfully the video has been incredibly well received. The positive response has heralded some pretty interesting projects. Some involve more music videos others lean more towards art projects. All of them are pretty exciting. Now it’s all about matching schedules and figuring out the plausibility of timing.

We’re all definitely looking forward to the next challenge. The bar has been raised that’s for sure but in a very good way. Without a doubt, we’ll be attempting to ensure that next project is fresh, interesting and hopefully have the capacity to connect people.

Will we be able to top the last video? We’ll certainly give it a shot.

Filmmakers Hal Kirkland, Masashi Kawamura, Magico Nakamura and Masayoshi Nakamura.

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6 comments so far

  1. adam c. says:

    whoa thanks for sharing. real great video and song.

  2. thank you so much for this interview – you’ve answered 99% of the questions/things i was wondering about. i would love to have been there during production – the final product is just packed with so many neat tricks – they could have saved up at least half of them and paced themselves over their next 4 videos and still done okay, haha

  3. [...] Check out our interview with the filmmakers and find out how they did this! [...]

  4. Gwen Tanner says:

    I am someone who totally appreciates the talents and skills of others. I’m sorry this post is late! I can’t wait to see the next one, it brought a smile to my face!

  5. office supplies…

    I totally agree…

  6. Sean says:

    Does anyone know if these people are for hire?