How does Feist shake 'em in 'n out?
April 25, 2007 4:24 PM   Subscribe

How was the music video for Feist's song "1234" (YouTube) made? Post-production magic? Perspective illusion? Gondry-like gimmickry?

There are two moments in Leslie Feist's music video for "1234" that have me stumped.

The first comes at 25 seconds in when Feist, seemingly standing alone, starts to shake her hips and a line of dancers fan out from behind her. The second is at 3:00 in when the dancers line up single file behind the blue-sequened singer and disappear, leaving Feist alone.

How'd they do that?

My first thought was that it's a perspective illusion and the dancers are much farther away from Feist than they appear, thus making them disappear behind her. I'm thinking here of those pictures of people (usually on a beach) where it looks like person A is holding person B (seemingly a very tiny person!) in their hands.

Another idea is that director Patrick Daughters is aiming for some sort of Michel Gondry trickery where multiple image tracks are layered on one another (think of Gondry's video for Kylie Minogue's "Come Into My World" (YouTube)). Here, Feist would dance with one set of dancers on one track and the splaying dancers perform on another. The camera movements seem so well choreographed that I can imagine it was automated and thus easily duplicated so when the tracks are layered, it appears that there all of the dancers occupy the same space.

Or it could be simple digital post production, where the dancers are "photoshopped" out of the image. But that's the boring explanation! Please, hive mind, help me (and my friend Nikki) understand!
posted by tulseluper to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
By closely watching the 25 second event I observed that most of the dancers were not behind her, there was a single file row that is caught as they fall by dancers coming in from off screen

the 3 minute event is more complex and , I believe, involves some kind of effect.
posted by Megafly at 4:42 PM on April 25, 2007

I'm with megafly, a little good choreography a little digital clean up work. No reason to get super elaborate. I would love to get my hands on the camera mount they used to shoot this thing.
posted by subtle_squid at 4:45 PM on April 25, 2007

That sort of thing is pretty dirt easy to do with CG these days, especially considering that the camera appears to be computer-controlled. There does not seem to be any way for the extra dancers to get behind her, unless they were laying on the floor and sneakily got up without being visible. Far easier to go the CG route.

I even doubt the video was actually done in one take. Easier to do it in multiple takes and blend them together. Possibly ditto for the part where the camera rotates; this was probably done in post.

posted by neckro23 at 4:46 PM on April 25, 2007

delightful video btw, thanks for sharing. I hope finding out it is probably some simple cg work doesn't ruin too much of the magic for you.
posted by subtle_squid at 4:52 PM on April 25, 2007

Almost certainly multiple takes, stop-motion, and CGI.
posted by Netzapper at 4:56 PM on April 25, 2007

Computer controlled cameras now allow you to replicate the camera movements, so I'm pretty sure for a long time there the girl singing and the background dancers are from 2 separate shots.

She may have been shot in front of a green screen too, when that guy is carrying here in a circle something looks strange.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:59 PM on April 25, 2007

I'm with neckro23
Although some clever editing and alot of painstaking choreography could explain the effects totally (and took place anyway), I have a feeling that some digital cleanup made an okay choreography trick that has been around for at least 50 years really impressive.
Also, I agree that the spin move was probably done in post (Occam's Razor: get a really cumbersome and expensive additional camera mount for what is already a really cumbersome computer controlled boom crane, and possibly screw up the spin anyway, or make six clicks and then put in a few parameters with editing software?)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 5:04 PM on April 25, 2007

There's a slightly better looking clip on Feist's website, in which you can see that before the dancers step out from behind her in the beginning, all of their shadows are already present. So they were definitely standing there the whole time, and it's maybe a full second when they should actually be in the frame. Which means removing them digitally is likely what's going on.

Also, the one directly behind Feist has feet that literally appear out of nowhere, so my guess is that they were standing there the whole time and Feist had a very specific mark to hit in order to empasize the effect (notice the straight blue line on the floor, which I'm surprised was not painted out).

The end bit is a little trickier, but essentially the same principle in reverse.

The camerawork definitely looks like it's motion controlled, so they probably filmed the entire sequence with an empty room to help remove the dancers when they didn't want them there.

The floor lighting coming from the back wall is a good touch, since it really helps sell the effect.

I think the entertainment industry is one where Occam's Razor just doesn't hold up. I'm not saying I wholeheartedly disagree with The Esteemed Doctor, but if you wanted a prime example of going around your ass to get to your elbow, you could easily find a hundred on a film shoot.
posted by dogwalker at 6:24 PM on April 25, 2007

You can really change perspective with zoom and framing. I don't think any effects were used in this video at all, save for post-production or cleanup or something like that. They can both be done without them.
posted by rhizome at 6:36 PM on April 25, 2007

The New York Times ran an article about Feist a couple of weeks ago that talked about the video:
The video clip, to be completed in just two days of rehearsals and one of shooting, would be a big live production number: an uninterrupted, uneditable one-camera take.
So there you have it.
posted by smably at 6:54 PM on April 25, 2007

I'm with rhizome on this one. I watched it a few times, and I think it could all be done with some very precise choreography and camera work. Here's what I think is going on:

In the section with the emerging dancers, when the camera rotates around Feist, it aims up a bit, so you don't see the floor. The dancers could be crouched at that point and you wouldn't see them. They stand when the camera is lined up properly. The dancer immediately behind her (purple) would have to have her legs positioned just right. It kind of looks like her legs just appear, but I think she just brought them together quickly. The dancers who run in to catch them would start from behind the camera, and run in along a circular path. Note that the front dancers arrive first, as they don't have as far to run.

The scene at the end just requires them to line up as Feist moves forward and the camera backs up. Perspective takes care of the rest.

I could be wrong, but I think it is at least possible this was done without any effects. Just a computer controlled camera and some very careful choreography.
posted by teg at 9:52 PM on April 25, 2007

(On reconsideration, I think teg might be right. That last bit must have been tricky, though.)
posted by neckro23 at 10:41 PM on April 25, 2007

smably is right - it's one take:

"Director Patrick Daughters rises to the challenge by crafting the perfect video for it: It's a dance extravaganza that starts rather silly simply and then gets amazingly complex — both in terms of choreography and cinematography. If you're the sort who keeps cheat sheets on the best videos of the year, be sure to mark this down for nearly every category except for editing (it was all done in one take) and special effects (all those swirling camera moves were done the good ol' fashioned way). "

(and then they link to smably's article)
posted by cashman at 7:30 AM on April 26, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody, for responding! I guess I'll have to be content with the idea that it's a bit of perspective illusion with a healthy dose of CGI. If anybody finds an interview with Daughters or Feist which explains the production in more detail, please pass it along.
posted by tulseluper at 9:31 AM on April 26, 2007

The NY Times article really seems to suggest that there was no CGI involved.
posted by teg at 12:14 PM on April 26, 2007

Way late to this party, but for the benefit of anyone still scratching their head, there's a "making of" video on her website that gives all the tricks away. Go to, select "videos" from the categories at the bottom, and it's currently the third choice on the list. About halfway through the clip, they show a full take of the song (not the one used in the final, I think, but pretty close to it) from different camera angles. You'll see the dancers lined up behind her and getting into and out of place while the camera's elsewhere and the camera spinning in its boom mount. Pretty cool stuff.

(Warning: this is a very annoying website: flash only, wants to take over your whole screen, starts playing background music the second it loads (and the "stop" button doesn't load for 10 seconds or more), no way to link to anything directly, etc. The site's as annoying as the song and video are charming, which is saying quite a lot.)
posted by Zonker at 5:59 AM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

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