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Vinyl records fight back against digital in clever film

In a promotional video for a new single, a small army of vinyl records seems to be trying to reclaim territory lost long ago to digital forms of music.

Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

These days it sometimes feels as if the physical world is being colonized by the digital one, what with augmented-reality spectacles and the like. And it's interesting to watch how these two realms are negotiating their coexistence.

A recent project by London-based design studio Us touches on this back-and-forth in a clever way. In it, a small army of vinyl records seems to be staging a rebellion of sorts to reclaim pop-culture territory lost long ago to MP3 files and other forms of digital music.

The project, a promo video for the single "I Will Never Change" by dubstep producer Benga, uses 960 records, along with stop-motion animation, to replicate the sound-wave forms of Benga's tune -- and create the sort of visual we've become used to seeing in GarageBand, Pro Tools, and other digital music programs. The Us design duo of Christopher Barrett and Luke Taylor explains the process on their Web site:

Once we had the idea, the next problem was trying to figure out how to actually do it. At first it was a lot of maths homework, calculating the number of records per second against the frame rate. It worked out to be 960 records would be the equivalent of 1 minute and 20 seconds worth of wave form. Each one had to be individually cut to a specific size, hand labeled, hand numbered, and then finally polished. We would say just that process took seven full working days alone.

To animate the wave form, we built it and then carefully removed each individual record. This had to be done very gently as any shift in the position of the sculpture would result in the failure of the animation, and as we had to literally destroy each piece of vinyl to get it off, there was only one chance to get it right. Once the sculpture was finally built, the animation process took about 30 hours.

As you'll see in the video, Barrett and Taylor reversed their film to get the final product. It all adds up to a fun take on our current moment in history and the retro-futuristic mash-ups with which we seem to be fascinated.