Director Jonathan Irwin burns 250 hand-made model buildings in Aqualung music video

Music: director Jonathan Irwin created a carefully lit model cityscape made of paper that he then set on fire for the finale of Aqualung's Eggshells music video (+ movie).

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

Irwin and a small team built a model urban landscape populated by around 250 buildings of various sizes, which were lit from within.

The film begins with a brief tracking shot that shows smoke floating high above the blurred lights of the city, before cutting to swooping shots of the buildings emitting different coloured lights.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

"The song has an abstract, melancholic mood that suggests a neon night-time cityscape," Irwin told Dezeen. "The band's brief mentioned they were looking for something a bit different, so as part of the treatment I created a test video of a technique I'd wanted to use for a while: lighting minimalist paper buildings with a grid of programmable LED lights."

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

The set was mounted on whiteboard-covered tables that had holes drilled underneath to enable the production team to insert light-emitting diodes inside the model buildings.

Production designer Eva Delimata made most of the paper structures, and, over the course of two weeks, cut out around 20,000 window slits for the set.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

The resultant grid of hidden LEDs displayed pre-programmed lighting sequences that were triggered from Raspberry Pi computers. This allowed Irwin to time and synchronise different colours and patterns of light that spread across the buildings.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

"In effect, we built a really bright, really low-resolution LED screen" he told Dezeen.

Delimata and Irwin then placed long mirrors at the back and sides of the set, to create the illusion of a larger cityscape.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

During post-production, Irwin digitally added time-lapse footage of rapidly moving traffic to the urban landscape. Manipulated imagery of Aqualung’s Matt Hales and guesting vocalist Lianne La Havas also appears on the city's buildings and streets, with the singers' disembodied heads mouthing along to the song's lyrics.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

About halfway through the video, Irwin cuts to slow-motion footage of the urban landscape with sparks raining down on top of it.

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

The film closes with the sparks setting the model alight and the buildings collapsing. Irwin told Dezeen that this process felt "cathartic" and "surprisingly therapeutic".

Aqualung video by Jonathan Irwin

Eggshells is featured on Aqualung's fifth album, 10 Futures. The video was produced by Joyrider Films.


Project credits

Director / Editor: Jonathan Irwin
Production design: Eva Delimata
Director of photography: Gustavo Korontai
SFX Supervisor: Brendan Byrne (Film FX)
Colourist: Kai Van Beers (MPC)
Director's representation: Chloe Page
Producers: Spencer Friend, Tim Marshall
Production company: Joyrider Films