Bringing a ‘Nuclear Family’ to life with Haken

Learn how we crafted a thrilling and emotional video for Haken’s Canary Yellow
Written by Miles Skarin
Published on May 2, 2020

In early 2020, we collaborated with Haken on several videos for their album 'Virus'. Completely coincidentally, the world would be turned upside down around the same time with the onset of a real virus (the COVID-19 pandemic). We were tasked to create videos for two songs on the album, 'Canary Yellow' and 'Invasion'. For 'Canary Yellow', the lyrics of the song describe toxic relationships and 'nuclear families'. We created a concept for the video, directly inspired by the 'Doom Town' created in the 1950's in Nevada by the US government to test of the effect of nuclear bombs. We designed a detailed small town, populated with fully clothed mannequin characters.
Stills Canary Yellow Vfx Breakdown 26 Mar 2024 At 3.44.28 pm
Stills Canary Yellow Vfx Breakdown 26 Mar 2024 At 3.45.24 pm
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Stills Canary Yellow Vfx Breakdown 26 Mar 2024 At 3.44.36 pm
We worked hard to create scenes that would evoke an emotional connection between the viewer and the family depicted in the video. For example, the mother of the family shown in the video is shown to be distant from her family, with dream-like scenes that suggest her world is crumbling around her. For these shots, we used dynamic physics simulations to create the effects of the windows in the house breaking and objects falling out of the kitchen cupboards and smashing. It's then revealed in the video that this destruction isn't just in the head of the mother - it's actually being caused by the detonation of a nuclear bomb in the distance. We decided to frame the shots of this showing the smoke billowing upwards in the distance, visible from her kitchen window. This helped create a really dramatic moment in the video!
Stills Canary Yellow Vfx Breakdown 26 Mar 2024 At 4.05.18 pm
Stills Canary Yellow Vfx Breakdown 26 Mar 2024 At 4.03.39 pm
The full destructive power of the bomb is then shown in the next sequence, which depicts the mannequins dramatically melting under the sheer heat given off by the explosion and the ensuing fireball. For 'Canary Yellow', we put together a VFX breakdown video which shows the building blocks used to piece each shot together. As you can see, we put a lot of detail into each scene to accurately depict the time period, with materials, furniture, floor patterns and objects all taken from 1950's culture and design.
You can watch the final video for 'Canary Yellow' below. We were so proud of how this project turned out and the incredible fan reaction we received after Haken released it. It was a very ambitious video for us but one that challenged us in areas we hadn't explored previously. During the production we learnt additional creation techniques and strategies that we would carry forward into the next video for Haken, 'Invasion'. You can read more about that project here!