The Secret Ingredient Of Arcade Fire's New Video? You "I want to showcase cool technology as much as the next guy," video director Chris 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." He means that literally.
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The Secret Ingredient Of Arcade Fire's New Video? You

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

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

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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(Soundbite of song, "We Used to Wait")

GUY RAZ, host:

We're hearing a track called "We Used to Wait" off the new album by the Montreal band Arcade Fire.

(Soundbite of song, "We Used to Wait")

ARCADE FIRE (Music Group): I used to write. I used to write letters. I used to sign my name.

RAZ: It's about how life used to be before email, when you had to wait for things like a letter. But the video for the song is something out of the future.

When you go to the video's website, you're asked to type in the address where you lived as a child, and soon, different windows pop up on your screen that show scenes from your old neighborhood and then eventually the home where you grew up.

It was done using new web technology called HTML5 and Google Maps. And since the video's release last Monday, more than three million people tried it out.

The experiment is the brainchild of a video director named Chris Milk, who joins me from our studios at NPR West.

Chris, welcome.

Mr. CHRIS MILK (Director, "We Used to Wait"): Thanks for having me, Guy.

RAZ: So in a second, I want to try this myself, but I gather this is something that was only possible fairly recently?

Mr. MILK: There's a lot of technology going on. We're utilizing a multitude of different things in this piece. But the main thing that we're using is HTML5. HTML5 is a technology that people have been experimenting for a little while, but it's only been fairly recently that browsers have become HMTL5-compliant.

RAZ: So with this technology, I mean, it sort of opened up this whole world of what you could do with music videos. How did you think about working with Arcade Fire and doing this for one of their songs?

Mr. MILK: Well, I know Win Butler from Arcade Fire for a while now, and...

RAZ: The lead singer.

Mr. MILK: The lead singer, yeah. And I knew this was something that Google had expressed to me that they were interested in being involved in. So I emailed Win, I think in January, and just said I think this is something that we could work on together. And he started sending me rough mixes of tracks.

RAZ: Well, I've got the Website set up here on a computer in the studio, Chris, and I've got the address. The address is And it's asked me to type in the street address of where I lived as a child.

And while I do that, I should mention that you can only use this right now with Google Chrome or Apple Safari, right?

Mr. MILK: It will work with the next version of Firefox, and Internet Explorer, I think, has a public beta coming out later this month. It's not a closed guard-in that we built. It's an open one, and it's just a matter of everyone updating their browsers to have the right technology to view it.

RAZ: All right. So now, I've got it set up. The video is playing. I typed in my street from Northridge, California. It's in the San Fernando Valley. I'm not going to mention the street, obviously.

And there's my street. There's my house. I don't think I've seen it probably in 20 years. How do you do that?

Mr. MILK: We're pulling from Google Street View data and incorporating it into the piece, adding camera movement to it, color-correcting it in real time.

RAZ: I have to tell you, I'm a bit emotional watching this. It's pretty powerful, you know, to see where you grew up with this song playing behind it. Is that why you asked for a childhood address, rather than, you know, where I live now?

Mr. MILK: Yeah. Humans have this really funny thing, and for some reason, where we came from always seems to have more emotional weight than when where we are.

RAZ: Now, the sort of the main shot in this, aside from the images of your neighborhood, is this kid. Why do you have the kid running down the street, just sort of endlessly running down a street?

Mr. MILK: I mean, honestly, that kid for me is the teenage me running home from my girlfriend's house after we broke up. And then, I mean, to further illustrate, sort of how crazy this thing has permeated out into the world, the girl whose house I was running home from way back then has contacted me because she saw the piece. I'm sure she doesn't know that she was the one who the guy was running home from.

RAZ: Chris, you have directed videos for bands like U2 and Kanye West, I mean, sort of more traditional videos. Do you think that this is the future, that the sort of interaction with pop bands, rock bands will be what you have created here?

Mr. MILK: You know, I don't know if it's necessarily the future of music videos. It's a future. It's not a television broadcast. It's not a projection on a cinema. It can change in real time. It can adapt. It's a really interesting new technology, and it's a really interesting tool to use as your canvas.

RAZ: It's really amazing stuff. I don't want to give away other parts of the video because I think people should go on and try it themselves. The Website is We've got a link up at Chris Milk is the man behind it, and the song is called "We Used to Wait" by the band Arcade Fire.

Chris, thanks so much.

Mr. MILK: Thanks, Guy.

(Soundbite of song, "We Used to Wait")

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