A few hours before the scheduled release time for Arcade Fire's new single, “Reflektor,” the band introduced the song via a dramatic interactive music video experience. (The single was not expected to debut until 9 p.m. Monday.) “Reflektor” is the title track of Arcade Fire’s highly anticipated fourth album, set to be released Oct. 9.
The interactive video for “Reflektor,” which can be found at justareflektor.com, is widely believed to feature a vocal cameo from the one and only David Bowie -- and it sure does sound like him. According to the website, “Just a Reflektor” is “an interactive short film that explores the themes in Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ through two devices simultaneously: the computer and smartphone/tablet. Filmed in Haiti, the story follows a young woman who travels between her world and our own.” The website lets users manipulate what they see via mouse or webcam; for example, the first part of the video is in shadow if left untouched, but dragging your mouse over the screen has the effect of lighting it up. The interactive nature of the video is also enabled on mobile devices.
The “Reflektor” video, created in partnership with Google Chrome, is called a “Chrome Experiment” (If you attempt to open it in Firefox, a message will gently direct you to the Google Chrome browser). As the technology page of the website explains, Google and Arcade Fire invite users to explore the technical side of the interactive video and discover the numerous effects used. For example, in the “Light” section of the video, users can increase the force involved in the Breaking Glass effect, and in the “Sea” section, they can manipulate the strength of the Drawing Blur effect.
To create the various effects found in the “Reflektor” video, developers used three.gs for the graphics and a host of other technologies, including Google’s App Engine, Cloud Storage and Computer Engine, for the various interactive elements.
As part of the experiment, “Just a Reflektor” is open-source, and Google has provided the tools and technology behind the video for developers to create their own unique takes on “Reflektor.” Developers can manipulate the film code, the code found on the Technology page that can lead to the creation of new effects, the three.gs code (for 3D graphics), and the Tailbone code, making Google’s App Engine easier to use.
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The behind-the-scenes video for “Just a Reflektor” can be viewed below. Expect to see plenty more of Arcade Fire as the band has been announced as the musical act for Saturday Night Live's premiere episode, hosted by Tina Fey, on Sept. 28.