The paintings were done by French artist and director, Jérémy Pailler. The images take the viewer on a outlandish journey featuring flying turtles in fedoras, strange totems, rocky, fiery, landscapes shaped like guitars, and more bizarre creatures, also in hats. The result gives a sense that you're walking through an actual painting or illustration, immersed in its peculiar vision.
"I wanted this record to have more energy than my last releases," Woods explains about the music. "I've been learning the slide guitar over the past couple years, and that's probably why there's too much of it. I was stoked when Jeremy reached out about a video. Originally, he wanted to illustrate a video for a song from 'Get Your Burdens Lifted,' but I thought his style would work perfectly with 'Smoke Machine.' I wrote that song for a short starring (still GORGEOUS) Melanie Griffith. She played a lady of the night, basically living in this seedy bar. I haven't written much for collaborations, but this song stuck with me, so I put it on the record."
For Pailler's part, he says he interpreted the song as talking about the creative process. He says that, upon first hearing it, the 'smoke machine' of the title struck him as a metaphor about searching to come up with new melodies and song lyrics. "I imagined that the smoke machine was literally a foggy place in which artists lose themselves in order to renew their inspiration," notes the director. "This is how I came up with the idea of this fantasy world made of stone and iron, inhabited by strange characters. The video proposes a journey through this world, from the fall into the 'rabbit hole' to the creative explosion that results from the research travel."
To create this sense of journeying, Pallier combined two techniques: filmed illustration with a camera moving over ink illustrations on paper, to created a sense of flow, and frame by frame animation of acrylic on paper. For the former technique, Pallier began by creating black-and-white sketches. From these, he inked images directly onto the paper, all the while anticipating the directions he would later be taking with the camera. When it was finished, he scanned it and animates various elements on the computer. Sometimes this involved extracting parts, and other times adding in separate drawings that he did afterwards.
For the frame by frame parts—which Pallier notes were used in the explosion sequence—he used acrylic paint to create enough works to run them at 12 images per second. He photographed each picture and edited it on a computer. These images resulted in a more sketch-based style compared to the ink work, giving the whole thing a more shaky effect.
"I love the process that consists in giving life to still pictures," says Pallier. "I also enjoy experimenting [with] different animation techniques, and wondering which one is the most appropriate to support the narrative. The most difficult part (but also the most satisfying I guess), is to synchronize the animation with the music's rhythm. It's hard to avoid anticipating too much of what is going to happen in the video, while placing the right images at the right moment and for the right amount of time."
Check out the video below: