Audio­visual design

Audiovisual design
Semester 3, 2021

Abstract music visualisation of “Sail” by Awolnation
with Stamatia Galanis, Mariam Küchler and Saskia Oschwald

It's been a while since the unofficial music video of "Sail" by US band Awolnation went viral. It's time to get rid of waterhose-associations and deal with the true essence of the song. We systematically analyzed an excerpt of the song and tried to assign a coherent basic geometric shape to each instrument. So, over the course of the semester, sounds evolved into visual forms, which we assembled to our abstract music video.

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Process

Also part of the project is a detailed documentation of the process in print form. With its help, this slider explains how our video was created.

Our motto: black is our happy color. For documentation and video, we gave up on colors completely. Whoever knows the song, is also aware that bright colors would be inappropriate.
At the beginning of the project, there were several pieces of music to choose from. Finally, the choice fell on the well-known song "Sail" by Awolnation. The track is dominated by a gloomy, monumental atmosphere. Since on the original version in our selected section a voice can be heard, an instrumental cover of the Ultimate Tribute Stars was chosen.
Afterwards, the piece of music was analyzed comprehensively. For example, this semantic differential was used to compare the associations of the four team members.
Each individual instrument was identified and notated. For a team of total music amateurs, this was no easy task, but a necessary one in order to be able to give the instruments a coherent graphic form later on.
In the next phase of the process, we experimented a lot with different shapes and colors in Adobe After Effects to find out which ones best represented each instrument.
The synthesizer, for example, can only be heard as a soft but piercing sound in the background of the song. Therefore, it is represented here as a thin line.

After that, an overall concept had to be found. On which stage should our characters move?
We agreed on a grid. Most of the instruments, like the drums, are "trapped" in the grid and consist of individual lines of the grid. Only the protagonist of the video, the main melody, is located outside. Nevertheless, it is also initially forced to move along the grid lines. By and by it dissolves the the grid through its activity and finally reaches freedom.
From the shape experiments of the previous process phase, the most appropriate ones were chosen and finalized for each instrument. Further down the page is a chart showing which shape visualizes which instrument.
Countless hours later, the final video was ready. This QR code leads to the Youtube video of the visualization. But don't worry, further down on the website the result is also shown.
In addition to the video and accompanying documentation, we designed a poster. It invites to a fictional presentation of the visualization and picks up design elements of the video,...

Design: Mariam Küchler
...just like the cover design of the documentary. The front and back together form a coherent picture and show the moment of the outbreak of our main character. A plain book spine is also part of the cover design.

Design: Antonia Götz
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Encoding of the instruments

All instruments are part of the grid except the main melody. It is represented as a white ball or contour ball and is located in front of the grid, but must initially move along. Brighter and quieter instruments (synthesizer, hi-hat) occupy upper lines in the grid. The deep bass occupies three lines at the bottom of the grid. All instruments change their position along with their pitch. The dominant distorted bass and the crash cymbal shake the entire grid. Later in the video it is dissolved piece by piece, whereupon the protagonist reaches freedom.

Video visualization

Particularly characteristic for the instrumental version is also the break after the first third of the video. Instead of the voice in the chorus, there is a quarter bar of silence. To give the break even more relevance, we extended it by another quarter bar.

Here is the final result!