Stark desert landscapes are lit into surreality by 1,000 watts of flying LEDs in this music video for electronic band Unkle's track "The Road." The song is the title track from their upcoming album The Road Part 1, and it's the first album from the James Lavelle-fronted band since 2010's Where Did the Night Fall.
For "The Road" Lavelle asked German filmmaker Norbert Schoerner to come up with an idea for the video. The pair have previously collaborated on a piece for a Stanley Kubrick exhibition in 2016 which Lavelle curated.
"I explained that my aim would be to revisit the slightly cliché aesthetic of a road movie and find a way to somehow turn it on its head," Schoerner tells Creators.
The director did this by turning the journey into an interior one, making the video void of people. Instead its shots of the derelict and arid desert at night, lit brightly, with contrasting shadows captured by UAVs passing over trees, shrubs, and empty trailers. It's a surreal, disorienting effect. "By showing a world without any obvious human presence I could focus more on the ever-present conflict between natural landscape and human progress," notes Schoerner.
To get the look of the video Schoerner shot it using a Freefly ALTA drone, but one that had been customized by photographer Daniel Riley. Riley has attached LED panels to it, giving it an insanely bright 1000W. So it can light up a large area, but it also creates an unreal, illusory quality, not unlike a scene from a Lynch movie. Being so bright it also consumes a lot of energy, so has around eight to ten minutes of flight time before the battery dies.
"I was very keen on a particular aerial perspective, which, paired with the light coming from the Alta drone would give us a miniature-like perspective," notes Schoerner. He explains that the way they shot it was to follow Riley's light drone with a camera drone. Flying these two UAVs so close to each other, and at night, took some next level piloting from the pilots.
The result is an uncanny excursion through barren lands, as the song asks the question "Is it real? Is it real?"
"I like the line 'Is it real' which appears several times in the lyrics." Schoerner says. "I also thought it interesting to look at the whole perspective of the song as that of a fading memory. The track does have quite specific chapters—I built the visuals around it, aiming for a very subtle narrative which is amplified by the dramatic lighting. The contrast between the infinite blackness and the pools of gleaming light mixed with the unusual POV give the landscape an otherworldly, post human 'vacuum' feel."