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Animating Soft-Spoken Vocals in The White Buffalo’s ‘Sycamore’ Music Video

To capture the lyrics’ dark gravity, artist Baptiste Leroux used hand-drawn frames in TV Paint for a textured, stop-motion look, in his short fan film for Universal Music Group’s °1824 division.

AWN is pleased to share the second in a series of innovative, animated music videos produced through Universal Music Group’s °1824 division, showcasing a group of young artists that helped the company’s record labels create engaging shorts, using all manner of digital tools, during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, many °1824 team members were more focused on videography than animation and motion graphics. However, with time on their hands during quarantine, they’ve taught themselves new skillsets to pivot into new areas of digital creativity. Fueled by instructional YouTube videos of Adobe After Effects, and tips from colleagues with animation experience, the team evolved to produce captivating animated music video content that you’ll see in this series.

Next up our coverage is The White Buffalo’s Sycamore fan video, animated by artist Baptiste Leroux.

For Leroux, who was discovered in France at age 16, while still in high school, by °1824 head Todd Goodwin, the music video’s design stems from how the song’s lyrics first moved him. “The first time I heard ‘Sycamore,’ I was really inspired by its beautiful and evocative words,” he shares. “It's a track that delicately yearns about the feeling of missing someone and slowly builds up to a breath-taking emotional pinnacle, all while balancing the dark gravity of the lyrics. I was immediately transported by soft-spoken vocals and the simplistic guitar riff.”

He envisioned the visuals “as a moving painting” that captures the idea of the fleeting moments we try holding on to, that inevitably fade with time. “That concept was the guiding light for a lot of the animation, techniques, and colors behind the visuals,” he adds.

Take a look at his work:

According to the artist, “To encapsulate the feeling of fleeting time, I decided to use a stop-motion 2D look. Each frame was hand-drawn in TV Paint using a graphic tablet. Using this technique gave a lot more texture and movement to the visuals, which fit with the song and themes. I used loops, shot reference, rotoscoped some of the elements, and straight-ahead animated the more abstract parts. I then composited the elements together in After Effects to add additional 3D movement and FX.”

“Looking back at the video, I'm really proud and happy with the piece, particularly with the evocative storytelling and the blend of abstract and painterly realism,” Leroux notes. “I was grateful to see the piece being received so well by The White Buffalo fans and community, as well as the animation community. I love being able to tell stories through music videos and enjoy mixing mediums and techniques. From stop-motion to 2D and 3D, and innovating new workflows and pipelines, I want to keep working with musical artists to create visuals and tell impactful stories.

Built and run by Goodwin, the SVP of the Marketing, Content, and Experiences team, °1824 is powered by young artists and serves as UMG’s internal creative solutions team; 85 reps in 50 markets provide services including content creation, live events, experiential activations, college media outreach, A&R scouting, tour marketing, digital marketing, and campus and lifestyle visibility. This team has become UMG’s talent incubator for the music industry, placing more than 80 reps into full time positions (and 50 at UMG alone) since 2015. 

All °1824 content creators are paid employees and members of the UMG team. They don’t outsource, and all their assets are created by teams of compensated employees. All content is produced for their labels/artists for °1824; individual creators are credited for their role in the content creation.

Dan Sarto's picture

Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.

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