Radiohead's new 3D-viz video made from Creative Commons-licensed data

Joi Ito points us to a new video just released by Radiohead for the song "House of Cards" from the album In Rainbows. Snip from a blog post at the Google Developer site, which has videos and images about the making of...

No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.
And Joi, who is the CEO of Creative Commons, adds...
Exciting for Creative Commons is that the data (although not the music) used to produce this music video are being made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License on the Google Code site. The Source code to the software used is being made available under a Apache License 2.0. This combination of Open Source licenses for code and Creative Commons licenses for data/content is very "good idea".

Radiohead "House of Cards" and Creative Commons [ ]

RA DIOHEA_D / HOU SE OF_C ARDS [ Google Code ]

(Disclaimer: the writer of this post is the hugest Radiohead fan ever, and will personally whup all comers who may hit me up on my Myspace to dispute said claim. Aight? Later.)


  1. gorgeous. this band can do no wrong in my opinion. but… didn’t they see the russian rave story?? i’m worried about thom’s eyes and all those lasers!
    [/tongue in cheek]

  2. Radiohead: Thank you. You’re on the right side: the Good Guys have already won. There’s never any reason to be scared, folks: we’ve already won.

  3. great seeing Radiohead experiment with these visualization technologies. They’re very cool and produce fascinating imagery.

    In 2001, I worked with media-artist Marie Sester on a multi-channel video installation that used similar laser scanning technology as the Lidar to capture 3D data of large, architectural space. The piece is called Exposure and is a pre-9/11 meditation on surveillance. We recently re-rendered the piece in HD for a show at Calit2 and are currently producing a 4K digital cinema version. More links and info here:

  4. I would like to see this video in high resolution.. the Youtube version looks like TRON taped off the TV in 1986.. regardless, that song is great, few bands have had such lasting power, and the production is majestic.

  5. Nifty. The Velodyne systems were on top of many of the autonomous robotic cars in the last Darpa Urban Challenge including the winner from Carnegie Mellon “Boss”.

  6. According to my box of Crayons “Periwinkle” is your answer “ribonucleic” …. then again I might need to calibrate my monitor ;)

  7. @11

    YouTube does now have higher quality viewing on selected videos including this one!

    Click on ‘Watch in High Quality’ (beneath video view count)

    Enjoy :)

  8. I think that’s a hideous video. I don’t see why anyone would use lasers if they don’t produce a remotely clear image. I won’t comment on the music.

  9. Has anyone ever done a list of break thru technologies that found prominence through exposure in music videos?

    It seems like many of the really cool FX we see in films like the Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon first appeared in music videos.

  10. radiohead spoke to me at 18, when I was lost, and alone.
    no one understood why I fell in love with their sound. they didn’t get it like I did.

    I never read the lyrics. I spent the whole summer trying to decipher the droning of Thom. I put ok computer, kid a, and amnesiac on loop, together, and lost myself after high school.

    they were my band. sure I listened to the classics. the beatles, led zepplin, etc.

    when I got them, they got me.

    we all have that band for us, we just need to share them with others.

    (plus it was nice when my parents hated them)

  11. this is awesome (and worth creating an account to comment with!) I am also “the hugest Radiohead fan ever” or pretty close. It’s really pretty, especially the colors…

  12. Thanks for the tip about the higher-rez version, Ukuleleelvis. Of course, it looks even *more* like TRON taped off the TV in 1996 that way, but I think this is intentional. Cool song, and arresting video.

  13. The analogue equivalent by Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker from 1944:

    Done the hard way with pinscreen animation, one frame at a time. If you’ve seen Orson Welles’ film of The Trial, they created the “Before the Law” opening sequence.

  14. @#16

    I apologise to those of you who feel I may be stating the obvious – the point of the video is images of any type are entirely perceptive in terms of colour and incomplete in terms of content. Ever miss seeing something that friends you were with saw while looking at the exact same thing?

    Now substitute “PERCEPTION” for understanding. Our own understanding of the world we are in is as patchy and distorted as the scanned images.

    Or do you prefer the photoshopped reality of MTV rap videos. Those pictures are nice and clear :)

  15. I’ve done a lot of robotics research that uses lasers like this.

    Don’t worry folks. They are low power IR lasers. It isn’t just being a laser that matters, it is the power and duration of the pulse. Those Russian rave lasers were probably green or blue and meant to be seen – higher frequency and higher power.

    This laser used is the same kind that was used by basically all the finishing robot car entries to the DARPA Urban Grand Challenge. They cost around $75K.

    Ohh, and I’m like totally a bigger radiohead fan than all yall.

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  17. @#16

    Dean, didn’t it occur to you that maybe they didn’t WANT a clean image, and that’s exactly why they used this technique?

    The music is amorphous. These visuals reflect that. It’s a beautiful video.

  18. (Disclaimer: the writer of this post is the hugest Radiohead fan ever, and will personally whup all comers who may hit me up on my Myspace to dispute said claim. Aight? Later.)

    Any negative comments about this video get disemvoweled. Because how dare any of us have a different opinion.

  19. @17

    the matrix style capture was (i think) first developed by a film maker called Tim Macmillan in the 1970’s at the Slade in London.

    @#26: the music is amorphous?

    while this is a great video, i expect that it’ll be the ‘radiohead invented the yadda yadda…’ thing in the media again. people seem particularly willing to swallow the ‘great inventor’ trope with radiohead – the unassailable fact that they invented ‘pay what you like for our music’ is a good example.

  20. Does Thom Yorke have a runny nose in the still pic? Somebody get him a tissue, please.

  21. @31: However, Radiohead does always make sure to give credit to their inspirations (Kraftwerk & other electronic musicians for Kid A, etc). What I think is far more interesting than invention is synthesis: they don’t do it first, but they do it in a particularly effective way, that somehow manages to be incredibly influential. Using the “pay what you like” example, I don’t think they ever claimed to be the first, but they were the first band to make the whole world sit up and take notice. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails surely had heard of the idea of giving away music for free before October 2007 but the combination of Radiohead’s stature, reputation, and the way they pulled it off pretty seamlessly inspired him to do his own, similar schemes with Saul Williams and his own two albums this year (which are also CC licensed!)

    @9: While I am a big fan, I’ll freely admit that this song didn’t come across as well on the album as it did live, when it was the only brand new song stuck in my head weeks later. The album version is a little boring. But the video, I think, makes up for it quite a bit, accentuating the meditative quality.

    @30: You’re right. We’re missing so much by not having a comment “This video sucks!” Also, I think Xeni was being tongue-in-cheek – look at what she linked.

  22. I like radiohead a lot, but I’m not a fan of the video. I work in visual effects and regularly use LIDAR data for reconstruction of backgrounds in 3d. It works quite well. The facial capture done with Geometric Informatics’s system are also quite nice – that technology has come a very long way in just a few years.

    The decision to include all the 3d noise in the facial scans is what puts me off this video. It looks to me like bad data (something we have to deal with in the VFX world when doing facial capture) and after years of dealing with bad point cloud data, it just makes me cringe.

  23. BoingBoing *badly* needs an editor.

    When you wrote in the headline that this video is made from creative commons works what you really meant to say was this video has been licensed as creative commons right?

    From what I understand reading the ramblefest that is the original post radiohead or whoever they paid to do it made the original work, it wasn’t made *from* bit’s and pieces of creative commons licensed prior works which the title seems to indicate.

  24. No, Evil Jim. Comments that express nothing but dickitude get disemvowelled. Anyone willing to explain what they don’t like about the video is more than welcome to do so.

  25. …The video is an excellent proof-of-concept demonstration. The only problem is that the wrong band performed in it. I mean, seriously – Radiohead? Pink Floyd would have been more apropos.

  26. JohnC:

    No, the headline is exactly right. The Radiohead video is “made from Creative Commons-licensed data”.

    Here is the data. It’s licensed as Creative Commons. Not the video, the data. Radiohead made a video out of it. You can too.

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