Reminder Virtual Reality: Talking With the Creators of Moderat’s Animated VR Music Video

Moderat’s music video for “Reminder” is an animated virtual reality experience.

Moderat’s single “Reminder” was released in full effect early last year, but their ground-breaking music video is now coming to the Jaunt VR platform.

This animated visual experience follows a rebellious teenager who harvests crystals in a dystopian landscape. His wares are then brought to a mystical deity who resides in a shrine guarded by sentinels. The film turns into a
race against time to thwart an attack from an army of drones. We talked to Pfadfinderei, the Berlin-based design and motion graphics studio who developed the art, and the director on the film, Mate Steinforth about how they feel about VR, it’s evolution and using animation to make
it happen.

Were you a fan of Moderat before you worked with them? How did you approach executing their concept for the film?

Exploring the “Reminder” music video in a VR HMD.

Mate Steinforth: We were definitely a fan of the band, the project moderat as well as their solo gigs Modeselektor and Apparat. Pfadfinderei came to us with the idea to basically make a music video which should look like a computer game and use the aesthetics and possibilities of the unreal engine. At this point we jumped in and said, hey, let’s really make it a computer game, let’s use real-time technology and let’s make it a VR project.

Using animation seems like a great creative aesthetic for 360° video. What made you choose animation for this film?

Motion graphics studio Pfadfinderei created the animations for “Reminder.”

Pfadfinderei: We choose animation before choosing 360° as an option. As mentioned above, we wanted to use the style and the limitation of a game engine instead of a 3D software. It is tradition in our studio to use software for a purpose it was originally not designed for. In the past we’ve used Macromedia Flash as a tool for live music visualization 20 years ago and even
rendered scenes out of an Unreal project, so we are comfortable with using non-traditional software to execute our ideas.

In teaming up with Sehsucht and Mate we found the perfect partner in realizing this ambitious project. We are fascinated by the opportunities of real time engines such as Unity and Unreal and wanted the freedom to set the camera perspectives in created scenes. To us as the Creative Directors of Moderat it was important to produce a classic music video using
contemporary production methods. The aim was to render a linear music video and not necessarily to create a 360° video in the first place.

What made you so intrigued by the medium of 360° video and VR

Pfadfinderei: Back in the 90’s we produced virtual 360° tours on CD-ROM. At that time, it was about still images, nowadays we have the possibility to add narration through moving images to this. Even if it is in doubt which technology will make the race, whether it’s VR sets, dome projection or interactive gaming screens, we are of the opinion that storytelling will exceed into a new dimension.

VR is a relatively new medium. Have you directed in VR / 360 video before and what did you find were the best and worst parts about executing this project using immersive technology?

“Reminder” was an opportunity for director Mate Steinforth to tell a story in VR.

Mate Steinforth: We were curious about VR from the early days of Oculus on Kickstarter, and we have a couple of different headsets lying around. Up until this project, unfortunately we never had the time to really approach a production, we just dabbled around a bit and put together some proof of concept demos. So, this was for us also a great learning experience, in technological terms as well as in storytelling terms. We feel that the killer app area for VR are interactive experiences rather than passive 360 video pieces, so we tried to mount the technological challenges as best as we could. It still all pays of when you see someone experience the piece in a headset for the first time.

Creating animated experiences is a hallmark of your career. What do you think makes animation compelling to audiences?

Mate Steinforth: As per Pixar, the three most important aspects of a film are story, story and story. Working in the commercial space, it’s unfortunately no always up to us to determine the story. What comes in here is the world building and design which we feel makes production stand out. If you have a consistent and specific design language and vision, it will draw the
viewer in and make for a fascinating experience.

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