One of the most recognizable and iconic music videos from the '80s is A-ha's "Take On Me." The video harmonically combined live action footage with pencil-sketched animation to make a lasting impression on its viewing audience. The unique effect called "rotoscoping" helped the video earn six MTV Video Music Awards in 1986, a handsome reward for its 16 weeks of production time. Plus, its legacy lives on as evident in a recent Volkswagen commercial.
The actual technique of rotoscoping was invented back to 1915 and involves tracing film footage frame-by-frame onto transparent panel. Its major uses have been to capture motion or provide a special effect. The rotoscoping technique was used in the original Star Wars trilogy for the glow effect in light sabers and in other films throughout the years like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), The Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968), Heavy Metal (1981), An American Tail (1986), and Titan A.E. (2000).
But can you name any other '80 music videos besides "Take On Me" that specifically used rotoscoping? I couldn't think of any before I did a little research so hopefully you'll get the same "Ohh yeah, I remember that!" reaction when I list off seven more rotoscoped music videos...
A-ha "The Sun Always Shines On TV"
A-ha "Train of Thought"
There was some residual rotoscoping from A-ha in the follow-up singles to "Take On Me" which probably went undetected to most US residents. Rotoscoping was used briefly in the beginning of "The Sun Always Shines on TV" video, which was a Top 20 hit in the US and very successful in Europe. But the band's third single "Train of Thought", whose video was primarily rotoscoped, failed to even chart in the US and was likely primarily viewed just in Europe.
Dire Straits "Money For Nothing"
I remember the music video for "Money For Nothing" mainly for its virtual reality-type animation. I had actually forgot about the rotoscoping effects used as the band performs at the beginning and end of the video.
Howard Jones "Like To Get To Know You Well"
Howard Jones "You Know I Love You...Don't You?"
Howard Jones has two music videos featuring rotoscoping. In between his first and second studio albums in 1984, Jones released The 12" Album featuring extended mixes and the single "Like To Get To Know You Well." The music video is likely to be remembered in his native U.K. where he was a rising star at the time. He didn't really breakthrough into U.S. markets until his 1985 Dream Into Action album, in which some might remember the rotoscoped video to the1986 hit "You Know I Love You...Don't You?" which charted in the Top 20.
Beastie Boys "Shadrach"
Although "Hey Ladies" got all the chart success from the Paul's Boutique album, it was the music video to the 2nd single "Shadrach" that was most appealing. Under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower, band member Adam Yauch directed the rotoscoped video in which each frame was hand-painted.
INXS "What You Need"
The first single from the Listen Like Thieves album would introduce many Americans to the Australian band INXS. Reaching #3 on the charts, "What You Need" also had a visually stunning, rotoscoped music video that would earn a Best Video award at Australia's "Countdown Music and Video Awards."
Can you think of any music videos that might have used a rotoscoping effect?