Intrigued by the force behind these spooky GIFs from the start, we were all the more excited to learn The Saline Project was a four person creative team behind an incredible selection of music videos, including legends like The Cure, Eminem and The Roots. All the music videos look as if filmed in alternate reality between video games and real life, where colors are brighter, surfaces glossier and sounds are thicker. We're also huge suckers for their video descriptions, such as this one for the Mars Volta vid: "We may or may have not illegally travelled to a certain totalitarian police state to shoot elements for this fully animated music video."
The Saline Project is Adam Toht and Ben Toht, 3D artist/designer Jesse Roff, and animator Liam Kirtley. We asked Adam and Ben who, yes, are brothers, some questions about their unreal portfolio. Scroll down for a slideshow of the best of The Saline Project.
Taken from Mars Volta's video, "Televators"
HP: When and how did you guys begin work together? What are your different strengths and weaknesses?
Adam Toht (AT): The Saline Project formed in 1999. I had been collaborating with a couple of artists on a few projects, and after doing some work on feature films (Saturn, Requiem for a Dream) and realizing how complex and work intensive the filmmaking process is, I wanted to form a group that could make work with a unique, consistent voice.
Ben Toht (BT): I nepotized my way in.
AT: You did not! It's awesome to work with Ben. He's uber talented and my brother! Each person in The Saline Project has his strengths and over the years we've become a really functional group, and I'm super proud of the work we've been able to make.
HP: You've made videos for an insanely talented and diverse group of musicians. Does one experience stand out? Was there a moment where you were ever starstruc?
AT: Tons of experiences stand out. Eminem, for instance. Suddenly you're in the room with this person who is everywhere and you're responsible for guiding him through what to do and how to act against this blank green screen. That guy is insanely talented. Robert Smith and The Cure is another example. Again, one minute life is normal, and then the next thing you know, you're talking to this legend and he's talking back to you. He was amazing because he is exactly the person you'd imagine him to be from listening to the records.
BT: Starstruck. For sure. There's always crazy energy that surrounds stars, the whole room changes when they walk in. It's a different and weird experience every time. My worst starstruck moment was with Gwen Stefani. We walked into her dressing room and I found myself completely speechless. She has this presence, this energy that freaked me out. Super cool, super super beautiful, but larger than life. On set I gave terrible direction. Lots of "Drrrs" and "Ummms." I don't totally know what it was about her but it was terrible. Thank god for working as a team because otherwise I'd have been on a plane back to NY within the hour. Video turned out great though.
HP: How would you define your visual aesthetic? Who are your influences?
AT: We've had people call our stuff "hyper-real." I think meaning that it's definitely based in reality, and photographic, but also kind of visually heightened. From the very early days of The Saline Project our voice has been very apparent. I love what we make. It's dark, a little spooky at times, but always has heart. I think we all are very interested in making work that immerses people in a rich, exciting, unique world. Since the beginning its existed and I still don't feel like we've fully rendered it. With projects like MVHV we chase the best of that world. Since day one it's been a presence. I'm grateful that presence isn't a cold, ugly one (Ha!).
BT: We were definitely influenced a ton by movies growing up. We were mostly deprived of television as kids (and forced to do horrible things like take piano lessons), but every once in a while our father would rent a VCR and we'd all watch comedies like The Pink Panther, or The Jerk, or classic black-and-white movies like It's a Wonderful Life.
HP: What's the story behind the spooky GIFs?
AT: Monsters, Villains, Heroes and Victims (or MVHV) is a series of thirteen 3D lenticular images (or 3D GIFs). The project came out of our love for film noir, and dark, iconic characters, like Frankenstein and Edward Scissorhands.
BT: The Wolfman (as played by Adam) was the first one that we did. Seeing a kind of modern version of that classic character was really exciting. We immediately knew we had to do a full series.
BT: We cast friends, family ("The Ghost" is played by our sister Betony), and some people that we've worked with before. We photographed everybody in our studio in Brooklyn, and built the backgrounds out of 3D and photographic elements that we've stored up over years of production.
AT: The images will be released one by one with the last one going up on Halloween (one of our favorite holidays). Then we plan on doing a gallery show and art app. The funny thing is that people are seeing this series mainly on the web, which is great, but until you see them on a high resolution screen -- huge -- you don't get the full impact. The full resolution images are really cool. Did I mention that we love this project?
Check out The Saline Project's spooky GIFs and music vid triumphs below and let us know your favorite in the comments.
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