Flying Colours

Spectacular Minecraft music video months in the making

How do we put the experience of watching MiningGodBruce's latest Minecraft music video into words? They're swirling, surreal, physics-defying feasts for the eyes. They're like if Dr Strange started a dance party in his Minecraft Realm. They're like rushing through Minecraft's skies with a couple of kaleidoscopes stuck to your eyes. They're like... oh come on. Just press play on the video above, already. You won't regret it.

The song accompanying those heady visuals is Subtelty by Topaz - following the form of one of MiningGodBruce's previous videos, Acid Interstate V3, which you can see below. That too contorts a Minecraft landscape to jiggle with the rhythms of a Topaz track, Singa, and it quickly became a hit when it was released last year. It's not hard to see why. “Acid Interstate V3 got about four hundred thousand views in the first week it was on YouTube,” explains MiningGodBruce to us. “All thanks to the video going viral on Reddit and then spreading to a bunch of other outlets. I think it was enhanced by the novelty of the whole thing 'Man spends thirteen months creating Minecraft music video with fifty engine hacks nobody would never have thought of'”.

Hang on, thirteen months?! “It normally takes about three weeks of consistent work,” says MiningGodBruce, of his more recent videos. “Acid Interstate V3 was an exception, due to the insane amount of technical development, it took me over thirteen months.”

This technical development stage involves creating 'synch elements' – imagery and transition effects that synchronize with the changes in Topaz's songs. “The sync elements I use can be broken up into categories,” MiningGodBruce explains. “The Map-based beats: Torch outposts and 'terrain section transitions', these are syncing elements that are actually in the Minecraft map.” Like the torch outposts in Acid Interstate V3 that appear in time with specific beats, and the way the maps change to new environments with key transitions in the song.

The more complex tricks require extensive knowledge of how to get the best from video editing software. “The "dancing terrain" from Acid Interstate V3, these are controlled entirely by the GLSL Shader program that I wrote for the video,” explains BruceKnowsHow. “Editing-based beats, [like] most of the beats in the Subtlety music video, these are done entirely in After Effects, and include things like rotating and cutting footage.”

“I record a copy of the video with the coordinates screen open in order to set up all of the map-based and shader-based beats. I pioneered a technique to record multiple 'takes' of a video, so that adjustments could be made, such as adding sync objects in the world, while keeping the rest of the video consistent. Editing-based beats are much easier to create, as they require no planning or setup prior to recording.” 'Easier' shouldn't be confused with the word 'easy'. Clearly an insane amount of hard work went into this project.

But it's that level of effort, making sure Topaz's music and the video synch so neatly, that BruceKnowsHow believes is crucial to the videos success. “Their entire focus is on fitting the music, which is something I think a lot of popular music videos ignore nowadays.

“A video always starts with the song. I listen to the song constantly, and figure out how I want certain parts of the video to flow with it. After that I go into a video editor and plot down the beats I want to hit. I normally have an idea of how I want a few parts in the video to be, and then I fill in the gaps as I go along.”

As for why he uses Topaz's music: “He's my favourite musician, his music is psychedelic but not in a generic 'rainbows and tie dyes' way. His songs are structured very well for these videos, and I think his sound matches the aesthetic really well.” You can find more music from Topaz on his soundcloud page, and his new album, Faux Linear, is downloadable on bandcamp.

But why use Minecraft for these videos? “I started using Minecraft because it was exactly what I wanted for my first project, Acid Interstate V1. At this point I know Minecraft extremely well, especially its limitations and how to work around them. Minecraft has a very low barrier-to-entry, but it's very robust when you start to think outside the box.”