Music Video: Between the Stars and You
It was CeeLo Green who first introduced me to the concept of a lyric video. Watching his words fly around the screen as he sang felt oddly visceral. It wasn’t quite human — this was digital typography animated by computer — but it added something to the performance that traditional music videos didn’t quite capture. This particular song was hook-driven and upbeat, but what made it all work was the chorus. Even the radio edit — “Forget You” — only worked because we all knew what he was really saying. Making the lyrics the star of the show was a smart call.
After the success of our first music video we wanted to find another idea that could capture the spirit of a song in a fun and interesting way. A lyric video — especially with our backgrounds in design and typography — would be a blast, but a little on the easy side. It would only be worth doing if we could add some unique flavor to the recipe.
Then a few things happened all at once.
Our friend Kaitlin just announced the opening of her new Etsy shop called Gingerly Noted where she sells hand-lettered notes. Beautiful pieces, thanks in large part to her particular lettering style; it’s not ornate or pretentious, nor is it sloppy. It feels sincere. So I asked if she would be interested in working with us on a lyric video. Yes, but there was one catch: she didn’t work digitally.
As I was considering how to either teach her to use Illustrator or some such tool (which seemed tedious and potentially condescending) or set up a lighting and camera rig to photograph ink-and-paper lyrics (painful and out of my depth), our friend Rene Ritchie posted a video of him sketching Marvel’s Jessica Jones with an Apple Pencil on his new iPad Pro, using an amazing app called Procreate, which automatically records every stroke and gives the option of exporting those strokes as a video.
The Apple Pencil is still on a 4-5 week backorder from Apple, but Joe happened to get his hands on one early. Kaitlin, for her part, was at least willing to give it a shot. She used the Pencil for maybe two minutes before declaring her love.
We spent a few hours at a coffee shop near NYU. I had already sent Kaitlin the song and lyrics, so my presence was mostly for the occasional directorial note and to keep supplying drinks and muffins while she worked. It’s interesting to watch an artist use a new tool for the first time: Dipping into and out of tool menus, exploring brush styles and sizes, and occasionally laughing when she caught herself looking around the table for an eraser.
The workflow she came up with was pretty simple: treating each block of words as a separate note. (She didn’t break it down by stanza so much as feel. You can’t just look at the words on the page — you have to hear the song to find the breaks and understand the tone.) Musical breaks were filled with doodles and illustrations, and she even sketched a version of our logo for the title card.
From there, Joe exported all of the canvases to video and left them for me on Dropbox, and I pulled them into Final Cut Pro. Timing the clips to the music was remarkably simple: I just sped or slowed clips to fit the lines as they’re sung. The entire process only took about 8 hours, most of which was spent on the illustration. It’s great to live in a time when the process of artistic collaboration is made so effortless by technology.
We picked Between the Stars and You because it’s an upbeat song with a catchy hook, but it’s also very lyrically dense. This song has a lot of words in it, and they might be my favorite I’ve ever written. If any song of ours deserves to have attention called to the words, it’s this one.
Kaitlin nailed it. Her style is a perfect fit, bouncing between whimsical and frenetic as the music changes, giving what could have been static, floating words a genuine connection to their humanity. It’s hard to look at any one of the cards and spot the flow, but seeing them animated together, it’s very clear that she understood the material. Between the Stars and You is one of our favorite songs to play, and it has a great deal of meaning for me personally. I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out.
And I’m pretty sure she’s buying an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil now.