Remember that ridiculously awesome interactive music video for Arcade Fire, “The Wilderness Downtown”? Now the director, Chris Milk, has made a similar music-video-and-more for Danger Mouse’s new project, entitled “3 Dreams of Black.” It nearly crashed my browser, but it’s worth the risk of a system error to see Milk’s unique brand of visionary filmmaking.
Milk and co. call it “a music video made for the browser,” which is appropriate given that (as with the Arcade Fire project), “3 Dreams of Black” was made in collaboration with Google to promote the under-the-hood technology in its Chrome web browser. The tech being put to work in “3 Dreams of Black” is called WebGL, which gives your browser the ability to generate interactive 3-D graphics on the fly, just like a game console.
“WebGL transforms your browser into an open-source video game console.”
Milk designed the film with Google Creative Lab’s Aaron Koblin to offer a video-game-like experience with the dreamy cinematic narrative of a traditional music video. The story unfolds in three distinct visual styles: a grainy, gauzy first-person perspective, filmed traditionally; a 2-D animated dream sequence with a sketchbook-like look; and finally, a bucolic “dream within a dream” made of colorful 3-D polygons. At any time during each of the three sequences — which start to bleed into each other in odd ways — the viewer can pan the “camera” around the scene in any direction, revealing more of Milk’s immersive dreamscape. (At the end of the video, you can even create animated objects of your own that may get embedded in the dream for other viewers.)
When you consider just how much of the film isn’t merely video playback, but (as the YouTube clip above explains) “real time rendering of digital models,” it’s hard not to be amazed at what modern web browsers are capable of these days. “WebGL essentially transforms your browser into an open-source video game console,” says Thomas Gayno of Google Creative Lab. That’s selling it a bit short. In the hands of a director like Milk, “3 Dreams of Black” is more immersive than a film, but not gimmicky like many so called “interactive experiences” are. It really does feel like a dream: pulled along by its own bizarre logic, but with enough room to look around in.