Q&A: Throne “Tharsis Sleeps”

British duo Nicos Livesey & Tom Bunker have created this face-melting music video for the track “Tharsis Sleeps” from metal band Throne.

To achieve the finished look, the team combined cel and embroidery techniques, creating over 3,000 finished frames — a feat that would push any hard-nosed animation team to their limits.

Along the way they reached out for support via a Kickstater campaign that helped get them over the line. We caught up with Nicos to get some insight into their process.

How did you come up with the concept for the video?

Straight up inspired by heavy metal band patches and the denim “Battle” jackets metal heads wear.

Can you tell us a bit about the way this was made?

So the whole film was animated frame by frame into the computer using Flash. Each shot was then exported as an image sequence, taken into Wilcom DecoStudio to be converted to a stitch format. This is so the embroidery machines can read the images.

Then each image was taken to 1 of 3 Brother Pr 1000e embroidery machines, stitched out, then neatened up by a wonderful team of interns, who cut out little jump stitches to make sure each frame was perfect. Finally each frame was shot under a rostrum and then dropped back in the edit to create the final film. Basically repeat that over 3000 times.

How did you decide on the technique?

I tested the process out on a friends sewing machine that could do one colour embroidery at a very small-scale. I was in fact just making band patches and during the process, it clicked I could animate it.

Was there much trial and error getting the workflow right?

There was a huge amount of trial and error. Many things where going wrong from things going missing in the digitizing process. To the wrong colours being read by the embroidery machines and each frame coming out different sizes. Problem with tension of material, the list goes on and each process can effect the process further down the line and dealing with the sheer number of frames we were, things can get confusing.

How many people did you have working on the project?

It was Tom and myself full-time (after about 6 months of me working out the process and getting Brother, Wilcom & Madeira on board). Then once some funding came in we had two pretty much full-time animators. Otherwise we had people from all over the world working wirelessly trying to help with animation whenever they could. Alongside the impeccable Jen Newman who took complete charge of the embroidery with two months remaining on the film. We ended up with quite a large credits list as so many people helped here and there as much as they could.

What was the timeline for the project?

Initial pitch to Channel 4 was well over a year ago, I then developed the idea and process for a further 6 months between working other jobs, making sure it was possible. Then once I had worked it out and Tom jumped on board the whole thing rattled off in about 7 – 8 months.

How did you find the crowd funding experience?
Brilliantly. I really didn’t expect it to work at all. It’s such a great way to gauge if your project is even worth doing. The sheer amount of help people were willing to give was incredible. It really helped keep us going.

You can now go here and pick up your own original embroidered frame from the video. Sweet!

Credits:
Created by: Nicos Livesey
Directed by: Nicos Livesey & Tom Bunker
Executive Producer: Harry Hill
Producers: Posy Dixon, Dan Keefe, Nicos Livesey
Lead 2D Animator: Blanca Martinez De Rituerto
2D Animation: Tom Bunker, Elisa Ciocca, Anne-Lou Erambert, Duncan Gist, Dan Hamman, Nicos Livesey, James Martin, Azusa Nakagawa, Nuno Neves, Joe Sparkes, Joe Sparrow, James Turzynski
3D Animation & Modelling: Luke Howell, Sam Munnings
Rostrum Camera Operators: Stefan Iyapah, Michalis Livesey, Theo Nunn
Embroidery Department: Liz Barlow, Rosy Maddison, Julia Owen, Victor Jakalfabet
Head Of Embroidery: Jen Newman
Interns: Daniela Alvarez, Daniel Matczak, Annalotta Pauly, Polina Sologub, Anna Streit, Lynn Yun, Jennifer Zheng
Sound Design: Alex Pieroni
Song: Throne “Tharsis Sleeps”
Graphic Design: Toby Evans
Digitzing: Tim Gomersall, Nicos Livesey
Supported By: Brother Sewing UK
A Lucky Features production in collaboration with Channel 4 & Dazed Digital
Special Thanks to: Steve Bliss, Martina Bramkamp, Amy Leverton, Ebru Oz, Clapham Road Studio, Kickstarter & All Our Backers.
Sponsored by: Bosh, Madeira Threads, Mother, Orta Anadolu, Wilcom Embroidery

8 Comments

Paul Ducco

what a process! great results.

fdfdfd

Just one question – why? I think this is the classic – just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. How does this even relate to heavy metal? If they were going for the band patch biker jacket thing, I think it would have been more effective to zoom in and out of some live action shots or something. Something to break it up a bit and sell that idea. But 4 solid minutes of the same thing is a waste to me.

Goodedit

But then its an entirely different idea if they were to do what you suggest. I love the way this turned out and think that the hard work put in to doing the way they did payed off quite nicely. Sometimes the only way to achieve an authentic look is to do it the long and hard way.

serge

Great animation, dedication, execution, but why? However I think that’s part of the whole deal of this. Why? Why not. Just for fun.

IcelandicElf

Personally I’m tired of this genre – the concept of painstakingly making an animation from lego/photographs/printouts/pasta/cut outs/etc etc.

Why not just use Aftereffects on the Flash animation to get the same look. It would have been possible – in fact, before I read the article that’s what I thought I was looking at.

I’m not sure how much electricity is used to power AfterEffects for 8hrs on a Mac compared to the environmental impact caused by the resources used to create 3000 embroidered frames, but I’m pretty sure AE would have been a more environmentally friendly route. Especially as they had already acquired the computer for Flash usage – so it’s less equipment, less resources, less environmental impact to follow up with using After Effects.

Isn’t it time in this industry – and in particular for this genre – we started to factor in our environmental cost and question our methods?

Did they recycle all the 3000 embroidered frames? Did they use organic fair-trade cotton?

A

Foing that digital would never look the same. What are you guys on? Amazing job!!

Chris

Recreate this in After effects and then you have more than an argument. Until this is a possibility I think you simply need to appreciate this for what it is, its different, it’s impactful and most of all it made you(and myself) question whether it was real or not.

In the same way a lot of videos are today, there are hundreds of AE users out there who could churn out something similar, but it wouldn’t touch this, without these projects we’d all be using the same presets cheats and plugins and we wouldn’t progress as creative designers animators and filmmakers, this is everything right with this side of the creative world!

Great Effort.

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