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The Crystal and the Microscope: How Nikki Kae Created the Visualizer for “Continental Drift”

IMANIGOLD Publicist and Project Manager, Maay Brice, sat down with Nikki Kae to discuss her process creating the lyric video and visualizer for “CONTINENTAL DRIFT.”

Watch Nikki Kae’s lyric video and visualizer for “CONTINENTAL DRIFT” now on YouTube!

Maay Brice: Where did you get started?

Nikki Kae: I wanted to create something that was interesting to look at while reading the lyrics and listening.

First, I thought about “CONTINENTAL DRIFT” and what it means. What type of visuals go with that? Movement. Traveling from one place to the next. I started experimenting. I started by filming the sky with my phone as I drove home in the truck. But I wanted something more compelling aesthetically. The sky doesn’t do much, even in New York.

I started buying camera equipment that I thought would make the sky video more interesting. A magnifying crystal and a digital microscope that I’d wanted for a long time and finally had an excuse to buy.

The materials led me to start magnifying the text (of the lyrics) itself.

MB: What were the materials you used to create the video? 

NK: 

  • A video microscope plugged into my laptop.
  • A desk magnifier (like half a crystal ball).
  • A print out of the lyrics in .2/.3 font. (I chose that size because .1 is too small to come out clearly and just looks like fuzzy dots even under the magnifier. 
  • Adobe Premiere Pro

MB: And the process?

NK: I printed out the lyrics, hit record on the microscope app, hit play on the song, and just followed along the text with the magnifier, watching the recording through my laptop. It took me a while to get the hang of the pace and what could fit in the frame, and I shot the whole song several times. The magnifier frame is tiny, so I used the crystal to “zoom-out” and see more at once for more variety of shots. 

After I finished shooting, I put all the files into Premiere, cut and layered the video together, and added some visual effects. 

MB: What influences did you take in during the process?

NK: I watched a lot of lyric videos and found this listicle that was like, ’10 Lyric Videos You Can Actually Stand To Watch.’ The ones I liked the most didn’t match the lyrics exactly but were interesting on their own while still supporting the song. 

I was particularly inspired by these Bon Iver videos April and I watched together, for “iMi” and “Naeem”—their use of minimal visual elements to enhance the listening experience, set a tone, and also stand alone as art videos. 

So as soon as I started playing with the microscope, I felt the familiarity of text disrupted by viewing it through a microscope. I felt new and a bit odd. I knew the idea was  coming together.

MB: So movement and traveling from one place to another is the big theme. Can you say more about this?

DK: This idea of drifting—it’s not as intentional as taking a flight or traveling in a straight line from one place to another. It’s meandering and somewhat aimless. And not just drift, but also rift—continents moving around and people having disagreements with each other. The feeling of going in circles in a relationship that the song is about. 

MB: What other themes show up in the video?

DK: I like how the video is very digital media combined with pen and paper and the prominence of the handheld camera. It’s not trying to be perfect. Actually, it’s trying to be something else entirely. It shows more humanness. I like how it jerks around the viewer and continues to change even though the visuals stay much the same. 

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