All the References: Goodbye at the End of the World

We recently gave away a pair of autographed CDs over at the all-purpose geek-themed site Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together to people who correctly identified the most sci-fi and film references hidden in the animated video for our song Goodbye at the End of the World. But nobody was particularly close to getting all of them. There were a lot.

Now that the contest is over, it seemed like a good time to put together all the references in one place for those who might be interested. Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter if one of your favorites made it into the background.

Robby the Robot, Forbidden Planet

Robby actually makes two appearances, one in small scale in the couple’s kitchen, and one in large scale in the museum. You can spot him in the background of each of these shots.

Robby at Home Robby in Museum

And for what it’s worth, in the museum shot you can also see the band’s old logo (itself an homage to the old RKO Studios logo) and the album cover against the wall.

Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Although only the one shown above made it into the final video, the museum set has two exhibit halls, both named after characters from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent, and Ford Prefect.

Vampira

Vampira, the iconic late-night horror TV show host from the 1950s who was the model for Disney’s Maleficent and was immortalized in one of my favorite movies, Ed Wood, was a persona created by the Norwegian model Maila Nurmi. The “V.” on the character’s museum ID card is for “Vampira.” I have a distant personal connection to Maila Nurmi, in that when she passed away in 2008 I helped buy her a headstone.

ID Card

CRM-114, Dr. Strangelove and Others

Maila’s employee ID number is “CRM-114,” which is a designation that began life as the code device in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick himself went on to reference this number in several other films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, and since then many, many filmmakers have hidden nods to it in their movies. Like, for instance, Doc Brown’s giant amplifier rig in Back to the Future.

CRM114

Speaking of…

The Time Machine, Back to the Future

Maila, or possibly her boyfriend Roger, drives the time machine, which is parked in the driveway.

Delorean

Tiptree Science Musuem, Alice Bradley Sheldon

Alice Bradley Sheldon was a gifted science fiction writer who had to work under a male pen name in the 1950s because of awful gender stereotypes, and that pen name was James Tiptree, Jr. I thought a sci-fi video with a kick-ass female hero should work at a place named after a real-life sci-fi female hero. You can listen to a great radio story about Alice Sheldon here.

Museum Sign

Gort’s, The Day the Earth Stood Still

In part, this video began with the idea “I wonder if I can make a giant robot step on a gas station?” Seemed a very 50s sci-fi thing to do. Like Robby the Robot, Gort is one of the signature robots of 1950s science fiction films, and appears in maybe the best genre movie of the era.

Gort

Bester Library, Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester wrote The Stars My Destination, which had a tremendous impact on me. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finished it, I put it down, picked up a guitar, and wrote the song “Gulliver Foyle,” the first track on the first Sci-Fi Romance album.

Bester Library

The library sits at the corner of…

Wm. Castle Blvd. and Harryhausen Drive

William Castle produced a number of great, schlocky B-movies, notably those with Vincent Price like The House on Haunted Hill, and maybe surprisingly, Rosemary’s Baby. Ray Harryhausen was a stop-motion animation master who brought hundreds of creatures to life and gave them personalities and soul you wouldn’t expect in films like 20 Million Miles to Earth.

Intersection

Karloff’s at Le Moulin, Frankenstein

At the end of Frankenstein, which inspired the Sci-Fi Romance song “Frankenstein’s Lament,” also from the first album, Boris Karloff’s monster gets torched inside a windmill. Like Le Moulin Rouge, which was a restaurant and named after a windmill, I went for a little obvious symbolism.

Karloffs

Karloff’s performance is particularly meaningful to me, and it also inspired our song “The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935” from our October EP.

Crane Shot, Citizen Kane

These last two are probably the most pretentious, but when am I ever going to get the chance to tip my cap to these films ever again in quite the same way? So when the camera swoops through the domed ceiling of the museum, this is where that came from.

Citizen Kane Shot

Final Shot, The Third Man

Like the stereotypical film school graduate I am, I love Orson Welles. But probably my favorite movie with him is one he didn’t direct, Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man. I love it, and its final shot is, for me, one the most indelible ever.

third man

Third Man Shot

Since I animated this thing myself, I had nobody to tell me I couldn’t be as self-indulgent as I pleased.

The Couch Abides

A few weeks ago, Couch by Couchwest, the online music festival for everybody who couldn’t or didn’t want to go to South by Southwest, called it a day. They started in 2011, and they were recommended to me just before we released The Ghost of John Henry in 2012, so Sci-Fi Romance participated in every year but the festival’s first.

As a tip of the cap and a thank you to the festival organizers, who all had their own lives, jobs, blogs, cats, taco recipes, dogs, and beer can pyramids to attend to, I decided to make one more video, and keep the spirit of Couch by Couchwest alive for 2016. So I give you “The Masque of the Red Death, 1964” from our October EP, recorded in my garage two nights ago.

If you weren’t hip to CXCW, it presented a staggering — staggering! — amount of great music recorded in fields, back yards, front porches, living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens all over the world. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t and spend some time going through the archives on their site. You can catch up on all the Sci-Fi Romance performances here, for instance. But if you only have time for one video, I will leave you with what is probably my favorite: Rosanne Cash and her band playing “A Feather’s Not a Bird.”

 

“Goodbye at the End of the World” Process Blog

The music video for “Goodbye at the End of the World” was a pretty major undertaking for me. It is a four-plus minute, computer animated music video about an alien invasion and a couple whose relationship is on the rocks, but who try to save the world. It was written, designed, animated, and rendered by me alone. I had never done anything like it before, so I wanted to run down the process behind the video and tip my hat to the individuals and sites that helped me eventually get the thing across the finish line.

When I set out, what I wanted to do was tell a story that allowed me to pay homage to the sci-fi, classic horror, and cult films that I love, and that have been a front-and-center influence on the band’s music. Initially, I had the notion that I might actually hand-draw a video in an attempt at something like the UPA style of animation that defines the look of 1950s animation for me. I figured it was contemporary with the great 50s sci-fi films, and it would feel like a natural fit.

I went away to a cabin in the mountains to watch old movies, drink beer in a styrofoam cup, and write the script

I went away to a cabin in the mountains to watch old movies, drink beer in a styrofoam cup, and write the script

Thing is, I’m a terrible draftsman, and I wasn’t able to even design characters that I liked. There was certainly no way I’d be able to hand-draw the thing. I have experience in motion graphics and a little bit of experience in 3D modeling programs, although never really with anything much more ambitious than flying text. I was able to design a pair of characters and some alien vehicles that I could live with, and then set to work trying to model them.

Concept Sketches

Concept sketches for the two characters and the alien walker

The modeling and animation were done in Cinema 4D. I had the help of Josh Johnson when it came to rigging the humans, because my first attempts at that were so disastrous that I knew I’d never get there in the time I had. I relied heavily on C4D Cafe for tutorials and insights available in their message boards. I watched a ton of videos on Vimeo (many from Greyscale Gorilla and EJ Hassenfratz) to learn about rigging, toon shading, and more.

The characters, aliens, some of the buildings, the streets, a number of props, and the interiors I mostly built from scratch. For the rest, I used some of the models that came in Cinema 4D, as well as models available at Turbosquid and Archive 3D, to which I usually made some kind of changes. I don’t feel too bad about using canned models, since I was working on my own and simply did not have the time to model everything from scratch.

I cannot thank the artists who made tutorial videos and contributed to these sites enough. I simply never would have been able to do this without their generosity.

Once all the sets and rigs were completed, I just got to animating. The entire project start-to-finish took about three months of late nights, usually starting work about 10 pm and wrapping up between 1 and 3 am. And then up again at 7 to go to work.

The finished video has over a dozen references to films and writers hidden (mostly) throughout. I think the video rewards careful viewing for that reason, and also because, particularly inside the museum, there are some set-dressing elements that help fill in the backstory to the aliens and why all of these events are happening in the first place.

Museum Kane Shot_0087

A still from inside the museum. Notice the crashed flying saucer on display. Keen-eyed viewers will notice a number of other things hidden in this shot, as well.

I’m quite proud of the finished video. Its technical shortcomings are certainly evident, but for a one-person production, I think that all-in-all, I punched well above my weight. I’m proud of it as a piece of storytelling, and for the fact that somehow, I feel like the characters came out empathetically.

Goodbye at the End Script

I had two of the walkers 3D printed at Shapeways. Because.

I had two of the walkers 3D printed at Shapeways. Because.