How we made The Chainsmokers latest video

It's not often (ever) that you'll find us listening to The Chainsmokers – once described in Esquire as 'the Nickelback of EDM'. But we've just made an exception to that rule after learning the story behind the animated video for The 'smokers new song, a typically tuneful and thought-provoking number entitled Who Do You Love?.

The video's a very clever take on the traditional lyric video, and it's the work of Belgian illustrator Musketon, who decided to take a different approach to animating The Chainsmokers' words of wisdom. Despite only having 30 days to produce the finished video, Musketon decided that he was going to paint the animation on a wall, frame by frame.

Starting in After Effects CC, where he mapped out the words to figure out the timing of the song, Musketon then moved to Procreate on the iPad Pro to actually draw and animate all 373 words. "I wanted every single word to be hand-drawn," he tells us. "No fonts! I wanted every single word to be drawn from scratch, so no tracings! Every single word was time-lapsed in Procreate."

Working with two other Belgian artists, Lennert Gavel and Gert Van Goethem, Musketon created a digital version of the animation in about a week, which then had to go the the Chainsmokers for approval. "I sent it over to the guys and anxiously waited for feedback," says Musketon. "If they didn't like to style we had a problem, since we didn't have any time to come up with a plan B due to the very short deadline."

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Thankfully the band loved it; all that remained to do was actually create the finished version, and they hadn't yet found a wall. "Not everyone is waiting for a few guys to come and spray 1,000 layers of graffiti on their wall," notes Musketon. But with just a few days to go until shooting was scheduled to begin, they found the perfect wall and rushed out to get the necessary supplies. 

"We went out to the Montane Shop in Brussels and bought 250 spray cans to start with and started painting," says Musketon; in the end they needed 400 cans to complete the job. "We had 14 actual shoot days to transfer all those words on that wall. Since we are based in Belgium it was crazy cold outside. The wall we found was inside, but the location wasn't heated. So we had fun for the first two days. The 10 remaining days of shooting were just awful... The freezing temperatures made handling the spray cans very uncomfortable since they were frozen. Working with actual frozen hands was very hard."

Musketon explains the hellish process for getting the job done: "We started with a white wall. Started painting the first words and repainted the wall to paint the following lyrics. This was repeated until the end of the song. Since we used transitions to animate the words in and out we had to paint a lot of frames in between to make this possible. This took a lot of time."

As well as the relentless painting, the team had to remember to shoot all 1,900 frames of animation and make sure they looked good, too. "We were using a basic Sony camera I had laying around at home, but that was decent enough to take 4K pictures. Every time we finished one frame, we snapped a photo via the laptop that was connected to the camera and repeated this process 1,900 times. Every time we took a shot we had to make sure the chair we used to paint the top of the wall wasn't in the frame, the cans we put on the wall were out of frame, the sunlight wasn't beaming on the wall too much... anyway we had to stay sharp to avoid mistakes. If we forgot one photo we had a big problem. Both timing and paint-wise."

It sounds like an impossible task but they managed it, and once the shoot was complete Musketon had just two days of post-production before sending the final render off to the Chainsmokers; it was released just a few days later, on 7 February. Since then it's racked up nearly six million views, and Musketon is delighted with the feedback he's received. 

Musketon Chainsmokers video

That's a lot of spray cans

"We know those views are basically because of people coming for the song, but it's super nice to see a lot of super-positive reactions in the comment section," he tells us. "People questioning if this was really shot frame by frame. People saying it must be greenscreen and the animation was edited in post-production. We also think it's exciting to get our work out in the open and get so much reach due to their reach."

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.