The Secret Ingredient Of Arcade Fire's New Video? You

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A hooded figure runs down the street in Arcade Fire's interactive video. Who is it? Read on! courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of the artist
Arcade Fire

A hooded figure runs down the street in Arcade Fire's interactive video. Who is it? Read on!

courtesy of the artist

If you're not one of three million people who've already seen Arcade Fire's video for "We Used to Wait," go to this site now and watch it — in Chrome or Safari — before we spoil any surprises. Be blown away, then come back and read how it was done.

The video was the brainchild of music video director Chris Milk, who's worked with U2, Kanye West and John Mellencamp. "I knew a bunch of people at Google, and they were really interested in being involved in a project that showcased 'the next web,' " Milk tells NPR's Guy Raz.

Watch 'We Used To Wait'

You'll need to watch it in Google Chrome or Safari for it to perform correctly.

As the video plays, browser windows open and close, sending a flock of birds scattering to the movement of your mouse. You’re invited to interact with the video, writing postcards to your younger self and sprouting vines from your cursor.

"I want to showcase cool technology as much as the next guy," Milk says, "but you need to find that humanity contained within it all. And you need to find something that people can see themselves in."

Milk means that literally. Type in the address of your childhood home, and Google Street View personalizes the video for you. Cue lump in throat.

Emotionally powerful, but pretty nifty on the development side, too. Milk worked with a team of developers including Google's Aaron Koblin, production company called Radical Media, and the web interactive company B-Reel to build the experience in JavaScript and HTML5, the new web language. "We're adding filters [to the Google Streetview data], color-correcting it in real time, adding contrast in real time."

Yet Milk slipped his own personal experience into the video as well. As the music swells, a browser window opens, showing a young man running down the street. It closes and reopens throughout the video.

"It's the teenage me running home from my girlfriend's house after we broke up," Milk says. Crazy thing is, he says, the girl he was running away from reconnected with Milk after seeing the video. "I'm sure she doesn't know that she was the one who the guy was running home from."

A Trailer For A Video? Watch It Anyway



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