Flower Rock 2.0: Inside Party's Robot Party for Androp

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Pair the creative minds at Tokyo agency Party with Japanese band Androp and the result is usually something that blows your minds (and pupils) away. Last time, it was the stunning in-camera effect of 250 Canon camera flashes for "Bright Siren," which was followed by a whimsical animated interactive video for "Bell."

This time, the agency goes even further with a music-plus-robotics experience that sees toys come alive through sounds and light, flashing and gyrating along to the tune of Androp's "World. Words Lights."

According to Party co-founder and the video's co-director Masashi Kawamura, the theme of the track is languages--the words spoken around the world and music being the one thing that unites us all. The lyrics also feature the words "Dance Music" and unlike previous Androp outings, "this is a dance track," he said.

But from "dance track" to gyrating toys?

Old-time Inspiration
As in previous efforts, Kawamura wanted to keep things non-CG and use something tangible to visualize the track. He took inspiration from an old Japanese toy from his childhood--"Flower Rock"--a plastic flower that twists and shakes to music.

"We wanted to do Flower Rock 2.0," he said. (The link above points to a more modern version of Kawamura's inspiration, which has LED lights.) And quite importantly, the toys that resulted are also going to be used for a more pragmatic reason: funds. One of the video's toy stars, the "Walker" is already on sale on eBay for $5,000 and Party plans to, given enough interest, find a partner to mass-produce all the toys and sell them. Kawamura said the agency will keep the proceeds as part of the creative fee, partly to offset "the low production budget"--unfortunately, an all-too-common hurdle in the music video production world. The toys are mostly made of acrylic ribbon and plate.

Androp's Front-robot, the Walker--$5,000 and he's yours!
Androp's Front-robot, the Walker--$5,000 and he's yours!

To start off, the track was broken down into different layers, and the beats were plotted. Kawamura wanted a frontman, so the Rocker was born, and then he wanted to create somewhat of a "Temple" installation, so the pyramids were created, and so on. The set-up also uses regular bulbs, LED and laser lights.

Then, the team (made up of designers Kimura, Yuri Suzuki, Tomoaki Yanagisawa and Kawamura) hacked a video-game-type controller which had eight channels. Each button synchronized to a different movement. The toys' choreography was recorded. Then, using a program called Ableton Live which uses sound signals, and MIDI, they programmed the choreography to fit the music.

The table that accommodates the fantastical installation is also custom-made, fitted with circuits, Arduino chips and laser heads. The pyramids, which were hardest to make, have a hole cut out beneath them so they can connect to circuits, while some toys are standalone.

Toys on Tour
Party plans to bring the toys to real-life venues, perhaps when Androp goes on tour in Japan in the Spring. "We can bring it to the venue where they sell the merchandise so people can play with them," said Kawamura.

Can we hope to see more technical wizardry come out of the Party-Androp collaboration? Kawamura says yes. "We have a really good relationship with them," he said. "They wanted mechanical and lights and we are only too happy to do that. We'll see what else we can do."

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