Interactive Arcade Fire vid lets you control the effects

Music videos have come a long way since MTV's early days. A cool new film for the Arcade Fire single "Reflektor" lets you help design the visual effects with a wave of your mobile device.

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

If you've ever wanted to direct a music video, you can (sort of) with a new short interactive film for Arcade Fire that lets you impact the effects with the wave of a mobile device.

Built for the Web, the film, "Just a Reflektor," features the song "Reflektor," expected to be the first single released from the band's new album of the same name. It's scheduled to debut officially Monday night at a small club in Montreal.

To get into the head-trippy action, just go to Justareflektor.com in a Google Chrome browser and a visit a companion mobile URL for the project via smartphone or tablet. The film, directed by Vincent Morisset and shot in Jacmel, Haiti, tells the story of Axelle "Ebony" Munezero, a young woman who travels fluidly between her world and ours.

The film relies on visual tracking from your computer's Webcam and data from your mobile device's gyroscope and accelerometer. Waving your device in front of your computer as you watch will do things like move light and shadows around the screen; make the main character's face appear to melt; and cause a vivid kaleidoscope of color to trail behind her as she dances.

Waving your mobile device in front of your browser causes colors to move around the main character. JustaReflektor.com

"We were able to take data from your phone's location to affect shaders and change the actual look and feel of the video itself," Google Creative Lab's Aaron Koblin explains in the making-of video below.

Mousing around can accomplish some of the same tricks.

The film, a little more than seven minutes long, includes all sorts of visual effects, some of which appear as open-source code on the site's technology section for those who are feeling experimental. At one point, Axelle gazes into a mirror. When she throws it down, it breaks, and your own face appears on the screen in the shattered glass.

"We wanted to play around with not using buttons and not using traditional keyboards and really try to make it more about getting lost in the experience and forgetting what you're holding," Koblin says.

Now, it did take me several tries to get a hang of interacting with the film, and I experienced several lost connections with both a smartphone and tablet. Also, my CNET colleague Eric Franklin reported a tired arm after almost four minutes of waving his smartphone in front of his monitor. That said, once you get in the groove, it's hard not to appreciate the intricately imagined concept here. We've come a long, long way since the early days of MTV.

 

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