14th December 2012
Dig your own hole
Title of film: Goyte - Dig Your Own Hole
Director: Saiman Chow
Production Company: Blacklist
Following Saiman Chow's brilliant music video for Goyte we ask the animator about his creative process. Take a look in Related Content for a showcase of some of his other wonderful pieces

What a glorious train ride through your mind. How did the narrative come about and can you explain it please – or is it a surreal journey and down to the viewer’s own interpretation?

The song “Dig Your Own Hole “ is a very catchy, multi-layered pop song, yet the lyrics suggest a darker tone with a more complex reading. My idea for the video revolved around the interpretation of one’s own psychological struggle against the problematic scenarios we create for ourselves.

After multiple listens, we had a conversation with Wally (Gotye) and he revealed that the lyrics were written with personal reasons in mind. Creatively, we decided to focus the tone of the treatment on creating something more cinematic, dark and moody. When I began designing the overall style and narrative for the video it was a challenge to find a suitable visual language that spoke to both his lyrical intent and my artistic sensibility.

It was also important to marry the visuals with Wally’s lyrical hooks and to create synchronicity with the rhythm and beat throughout the song. I decided to use the visual metaphor of a train travelling in an empty, uninhabited landscape to reference someone’s internal state of mind. A train only travels where the track is laid and always ends up back on the same route. I thought this would bring out the feeling of self sabotage — a psychological, unproductive routine we create for ourselves, over and over again. Visually speaking, the movement of the train also seems to work well to the pacing and rhythm of the song.

How did your collaborative relationship come about with Goyte? Had he seen your earlier work and was there anything in particular he referenced or were you given creative freedom?

Wally aka Goyte and I had multiple conversations about the song. He had some concrete ideas about the look and feel of the piece, specifically; he wanted to create something that felt handmade with a dark tone and mood. Other than that premise he really left all creative choices up to me, it was a great working dynamic and I was really pleased to be trusted to make creative decisions.

Did you work in a linear way, from beginning to end, on Dig Your Own Hole?

I didn’t work in an entirely linear way – say start to finish. Firstly, I created a rough animatic for the video focusing in on hooks and rhythms of the song. At that point a lot of the visual style had not been determined. We would work from that animatic and fill in from that rough outline.

And what were the major challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?

One of the most difficult challenges was to seamlessly integrate the world of 3D CGI and flash cell animation together. The technical challenge of making sure each element retains its hand-made and painterly quality was an important “must” for both Wally and myself. We felt this visual styling was really important to the piece. After the cell animators completed their vector-based animation, we would go back and redraw every frame, adding texture and colour on top of each drawing. It was a very labour intensive and time consuming process.

Additionally the finished piece would also be projected behind the band while they played live during a concert, therefore, the other challenge involved was making sure each beat in the song was synchronized precisely to fit the visual hook.

Can you tell us please about your creative process, starting from the idea and how do you evolve that please? Do you sketch on paper first, jot words down or do you work straight onto the computer?

My creative process is very typical. I like to walk around my neighbourhood in the morning to mull over ideas for a specific project, just allowing ideas to percolate naturally and without pressure. Once I have a general idea or sometimes I don’t, I start to draw, or rather doodle to let my mind go. I also do a lot of research online, gathering pertinent images and stylistic references that relate to the sensibility I have in mind. Lastly for me, using the computer is the last step to create artwork for the project.

Do you work to a disciplined time frame? Or once you have started a project do you disappear into that world and only see the light of day once it’s completed?

For this particular project, we had a pretty tight time frame from start to finish. A little bit over a month to finish the animation and visuals in time for Gotye’s tour. To be completely honest I am not very disciplined when it comes down to time management. It was very overwhelming trying to tackle a four and half minute long animation with limited time and resources. To compensate for this we applied an overall rough animation throughout the piece and refined each shot as we went.

When you left Hong Kong for the States as a teenager was it to study art or did you immigrate with your family? Two completely different cultures, do you feel torn between them or is a comfortable fit to be part of Eastern and Western cultures? And how does this impact on your work?

Yes, I do think my work is influenced by my Chinese upbringing, both consciously and subconsciously. Hong Kong is a giant melting pot of cultures and histories that makes it a very special place. We borrow a lot of pop culture from our Japanese neighbours and the Brits colonized us until 1997. Recently I’ve been working on more personal works that reflect my experiences growing up in Hong Kong and my position as an immigrant; I’m fascinated by Chinese mythology, rituals and symbolism.


Saiman Chow



Gotye: Dig your own hole

Production Company: Blacklist

Director: Saiman Chow
Executive Producer: Adina Sales
Producers: Hilary Downes, Nathan Jew
Asst Producer: Patrick Gantert
Lead Design: Saiman Chow
Lead Animation: Saiman Chow
3D Animation: Vinh Chung
2D + Cell Animation: George Conkin, Danny Hynes, Alexandra Poston, Sophie Gate
Designers: Saiman Chow, Helene Park, Sophie Gate
3D Modeler: Lee Wolland, Vinh Chung
Storyboard Artist: Morgan Schweitzer
Compositors: Carlos Foxworthy, Vinh Chung, Helene Park
Music: Wally De Backer


Rayban, Neverhide
Spot title: Rare Prints
Agency: Marcel, Paris
Creative Director : Sebastien Vacherot
Writer : Sebastian Piacentini
Art Director : Bastien Grisolet
Account Manager : Shannon Eddy
TV Producer : Cleo Ferenczi
Director: Saiman Chow
Production Company: Blacklist
Executive Producer: Michael Neithardt
Producer: Patrick Gantert
Associate Producer: Sophie Gate
Compositor: Fred Kim
Animation: Studio Nos
Creative Directors: Mathew Amonson, Jeremy Bronson
Producer: John Bega
Stop Motion Director: Mathew Amonson
Animators: Mathew Amonson, Luca Vitale
Model Fabrication: Junko Shimizu, Zack Williams, Mathew Amonson
Director of Photography: Mathew Amonson
Music and Sound Design: Antfood
Executive Producer: Sean McGovern
Production Service Company: Wam

Treasure Hunt
Jingle video for Yo Gaba Gaba.
Music by Camera Obscura.

FUEL Network, Looking Thru the Bsides

Directed by Sean Dougherty and Saiman Chow
Producers: Mark Groeschner, Josh Libitsky, Jennifer Brogle-Jones
Lead Animation (Stop Motion): Chad Colby, James Dunlap
Animation (2D): Joe Vaccarino, Chad Colby, Sean Dougherty, Saiman Chow
Compositing: Joe Vaccarino, Chad Colby, Ken Edge
Cell Animation: Jonathan Trueblood, Albert Chow, Saiman Chow
Production Assistants: Alexandra Elmquist, Dylan Thuras, James Bollenbaugh
Set/Prop Production: Albert Chow, Peter Schmitt, James Dunlap, Dan Waller, Saiman Chow, Sean Dougherty, Chad Colby, James Bolenbaugh, Patricia Burges, Evelyn Lee
Puppet Wardrobes: Julie Ho, Nick Anderson
Puppet Fabrication: Peter Erickson, James Dunlap
Costumes: Suzanne Couture
Editor:Eli Mavros
Storyboard Artist: Wes Simpkins
Talent: Jennifer Brogle-Jones,Jason Jones
Intern: Alexandra Elmquist
Special thanks to: Kevin Robinson, Dennis Go, Josh Libitsky
CJ Olivares: SVP & Asst GM
Jake Munsey: VP Marketing & Promotion
Todd Dever: Creative Director
Special Thanks to: Andrew Hale, Joyce Lee, Mary Traina, Li Hen Lin, Dennis Go, William Ismael
Music by Freefarm (Simon Pyke)
& (final scene) by xmassound (Christmas Jang)

Director: Saiman Chow
Producer: Nathan Jew
Lead Animation: Chad Colby
Director of Photography: Li Hen Lin
Character Designer: Saiman Chow
Production Designers: Chad Colby, Erica Bettencourt, Pete Schmeat, Saiman Chow
Animation: Chad Colby
Compositing: Chad Colby, Saiman Chow
Music Supervisor: Peymon Maskan
Music & Sound Design: Tim Koh, Jimi Hey

Cadbury, Cornered
Agency: The Hive
VP, Chief Creative Officer: Simon Creet
ACD, Art Director: Paul Parolin
ACD, Copywriter: Jess Willis
Producer: Jennifer Cursio
Group Account Director: Michelle Prowse
Account Supervisor: Daniel Langer-Hack
Account Manager: Lauren Zigelstein
Director: Saiman Chow
Production Company: Blacklist
Executive Producer: Andrew Linsk
Producer: Hana Shimizu
Stop Motion Animation Directors: Mathew Amonson, Jeremy Bronson
Director of Photography: David Griffiths, Mathew Amonson
Gaffer: Perry Styga
Best Boy: Jarrod Kloiber, Chad Battinelli
Production Designer: Saiman Chow
Art Director: Taylor Jordan
Fabricators: Hayley Morris, Taylor Jordan, Jeremy Bronson, John Bega, Eric Duke, Bronwyn Fraizer, Mike Sullivan
Animators: Zack Williams, Josh Mahan, Eric Duke, Jeremy Bronson,
Production Coordinator: John Bega
Art PA: Eric Duke, Bronwyn Frazier
TD/Lead Compositor: Andrew MacFarlane
Compositors: Saiman Chow, Alex Mapar
Music and Sound: Apollo Studios
Creative Director: Yan Dal Santo
Sound design & Foley: Harry Knazan
Producer: Melissa Doyle
Executive Producer: Charlie Janson