The Story Behind the Weird Al Word Crimes Video with Designer & Animator Jarrett Heather

Weird Al Yankovic's Word Crimes Designed and Animated by Jarrett Heather

Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes Designed and Animated by Jarrett Heather

(PCM) Jarrett Heather has been a dedicated lifelong “Weird Al” Yankovic fan, but when Al contacted Jarrett in November of 2014, the only back-story Al had on Jarrett was his own admiration of Jarrett’s work.

Jarrett had previously produced a music video in 2010 called Shop-Vac using a form of design called kinetic typography. Al had his own vision for a music video and believed Jarrett was a fit.

Over the course of almost a year the two then collaborated on that music video exclusively for “Weird Al” to be a part of his new album Mandatory Fun.

Unless you’ve been living under a virtual rock, you should be one of the ten million viewers (and still climbing) that has watched Word Crimes, a parody music video of 2013′s summer hit Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke.

This interview with Jarrett reveals some great trivia related to the Word Crimes video and of course Jarrett’s experience with “Weird Al”.

(Lars) How did you meet “Weird Al”?

(Jarrett) Al contacted me by email last November (2013). I was just minding my own business, and then “New message from Al Yankovic” was on my screen.

(Lars) Did you doubt it was him at first?

(Jarrett) No, I wasn’t skeptical at all.

(Lars) What was going through your mind? Did you ask him why he sought you out?

(Jarrett) I was very excited. I’ve been a huge fan of Al’s work since I was seven.

(Lars) Did Al approach you because you were a fan of his music or did he know of your artistic background?

Easter Egg - Jarrett throws in a shout out to local Twitter user

Easter Egg – Jarrett throws in a shout out to local Twitter user

(Jarrett) Al had seen a cartoon I made in 2010 called “Shop Vac”. After seeing that music video he decided I was “the best person in the world” at animating typography.

(Lars) What inspired the concept of the video?

(Jarrett) Al’s lyrics were the primary inspiration for the concept. I wanted the art in the video to show a contrast between new media and old media, with the textbooks and encyclopedias representing the “word police”, and the outmoded computer interfaces representing the “word criminals”.

After settling on that concept, I looked very, very closely at the video for Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Although that video’s Spartan production didn’t give me a lot to latch onto for parody, I still wanted to get a feel for the movement and the energy of the video–the length of the cuts, the staging, and the color grading. The look and feel of Blurred Lines informed a lot of design decisions on Word Crimes.

(Lars) You have a strong understanding of visual media. Where did you learn so much?
(Jarrett) I have no formal training in design or animation, but I’ve been doing graphic design professional (mostly for software interfaces) for over fifteen years. My background is in web publishing and software development.

(Lars) Tell me a little about your first planning session with “Weird Al”?

Easter Egg - Ethan age 7 - Jarrett's Son

Easter Egg – Ethan age 7 – Jarrett’s Son

(Jarrett) Al and I corresponded mostly by email. He brought a lot of specific ideas for visual gags, but he left the design of the movie in my hands.

(Lars) Do any of his gags stand out in the video? Which do you like most?

(Jarrett) The “doing good/well diagram” was Al’s idea. I like that one a lot because it’s a good visual representation of the grammar rule, and it’s a subtle reference to the television show 30 Rock.

(Lars) Are you one of those people that points out grammatical mistakes, lazy numerical shortcuts (i.e. sk8 instead of skate) and others outlined in the video Word Crimes to friends on Facebook or in tweets?

(Jarrett) Although I believe it’s important to express oneself clearly, I’m the last person who will belittle others for making little language mistakes. In fact, I look at the song as more of a send-up of “Grammar Nazis” than an admonishment of sloppy writing. The “Bachelor of Writing Good” visual gag is sort of a clue that this video is meant to amuse more than inform.

(Lars) I think a lot of people will be surprised to read that. Wouldn’t you say the song’s narrative implies shame?

(Jarrett) I’m not the songwriter, so thankfully it’s not for me to say. But as a fan of Al’s previous work, I suspect one should be cautious about assuming he’s planted his feet on one “side” of the joke. Is “Sports Song” an earnest anthem of athletic fandom, or is it making fun of sports fans? That depends entirely on whether the listener likes sports. I look at “Word Crimes” the same way.

(Lars) How many of your life experiences made it into Word Crimes?

(Jarrett) You’ll find a few specific personal references here and there, but I focused on telling the Word Crimes story, which was written by Al.

Weird Al, Jarrett Heather and Son Ethan

Weird Al, Jarrett Heather and Son Ethan

(Lars) How much did the initial plan to final product change during production?

(Jarrett) Surprisingly little, actually. When I look at the animatic, which was designed very, very quickly at the start of the project, I see that 95 percent of the big decisions made it through production. But animation is a very iterative process, so a few of the shots did evolve.

(Lars) Did Al storyboard it and present it to you or did you both work on that too?

(Jarrett) His initial suggestions were just written out. The movie has very few storyboards of any kind, in fact. I found it quicker to just compose shots directly in After Effects.

(Lars) Were you and Weird Al together when he first saw the final product?

(Jarrett) Sadly, no.

(Lars) It must have been an exciting moment for you to unveil that hard work. What was his reaction? Can you give people an idea?

(Jarrett) He has thanked me so many times in so many ways over the last six months; I can hardly recount them all. To say Al has been gracious toward me would be an understatement in the extreme. He has been an absolutely pleasure to work with from the start of the project through the launch of the record.

(Lars) What was the first “Weird Al” song you ever heard?

(Jarrett) I have clear memories of hearing Eat It for the first time at the age of seven. I was a very picky eater myself, so the song had a big impact on me.

(Lars) Al is known to have certain modesty about him. How assertive is he in getting what he wants from a concept?

(Jarrett) No detail of the movie was too small for discussion, and there was certainly some back-and-forth on a few ideas. We both had the same goal: To make the funniest video possible, so we never had much difficulty seeing eye to eye.

(Lars) Would you work with him again? If so, what would you like to try?

(Jarrett) I’d agree to another project in a heartbeat. I’d leave the subject matter up to him. Coming up with funny and interesting ideas for songs is very difficult.

(Lars) How long did it take you to complete the visual?

(Jarrett) I spent 500 hours, working nights and weekends over the course of three months.

(Lars) 500 hours is a long time. How does that compare to real world projects at work?

(Jarrett) In the time it takes to design, compose, animate and render a single shot for Word Crimes I can design and program and launch a complete, working website. This is sort of why I have so few animation projects to show off. The opportunity cost of a music video, from my perspective, is about 60 or 70 website projects.

(Lars) Any points of frustration? Was there a deadline?

(Jarrett) Yes, my contract with RCA/Sony specified a deadline of April 1st. I’m proud that I delivered the final animation on that date, but the audio soundtrack didn’t get mixed until the middle of May. Al tells me it’s the first time a vendor had completed his video before the song was recorded, so I suppose the deadline might have had some flexibility.

(Lars) At what point did you share it with Al?

(Jarrett) When Al first sent me the “demo” recording and timing master track, I told him I’d show him the initial designs within a week or so. After one day of work I’d already had 20 or 30 seconds of the animatic designed, so I sent him a rough render for feedback. We ended up corresponding nearly daily throughout the three-week design process.

Once I shifted gears into final production, I could only produce 10 or 20 seconds of footage a week, so we’d exchange email less often. But Al was intimately involved at every stage of production. I’m thankful for that. The video would not be nearly as good without all his input.

(Lars) You’ve gained a lot of notoriety with this video. Did you have any idea of the amount of views it would get on YouTube before it went up?

Weird Al Word Crimes animator Jarrett Heather leaves and Easter Egg with is own personal Emoticon Icon

Weird Al Word Crimes animator Jarrett Heather leaves and Easter Egg with is own personal Emoticon Icon

(Jarrett) Based on the subject matter I suspected it would spread in a viral way. The performance so far has been in on the higher end of my expectations.

(Lars) Have you had a lot of media contact you in response to the video?

(Jarrett) Yes. Radio, print, television, bloggers, podcasters, you name it. I don’t have a lot of interest in promoting myself, so I’m kind of just rolling with it.

(Lars) What’s that like?

(Jarrett) It’s a little stressful. I’m a shy person and I didn’t take this job because I was looking for a spotlight.

(Lars) This experience obviously benefited you on a number of levels from showcasing your talent to getting to know Al personally. What’s the biggest take-away in this project for you?

(Jarrett) My biggest take-away so far is not to underestimate myself. When you start a project like this, and you’re just looking at a blank canvas that stretches on for two hundred twenty-two seconds… it can be pretty daunting. Success was not guaranteed, and the prospect of disappointing one of my childhood heroes loomed over me in a very real way. Now that I can look back on it all and see just how much I was able to produce in a relatively short time, I’ll probably wield my powers with a little more confidence in the future.

(Lars) Jarrett, thanks for giving people some insight on this video. Will people see more from you? Do you have a YouTube channel or site you’d like to promote?

(Jarrett) Follow @spaceparanoids to get notified about future projects, but don’t expect a steady stream of animation from me.

(Lars) You’re employed already, but if another notable person needed your work, who would be top on your list?

(Jarrett) I’d love to combine more typography with musical comedy. If Tenacious D asked me to direct a video that would probably be a fun time. (Call me, Jack!)

Writers Note: I’ve known Jarrett Heather for 15 years. When I first met Jarrett, he had the rug pulled out from him by an unscrupulous employer but I knew inside a few minutes nothing could keep Jarrett down. We soon after worked together until Jarrett perused greater dreams in design across country in California.

Jarrett has a knack for understanding all things visual. Lessons he left me with were from simple to advanced such as the sixty percent white space rule, to the larger your company the smaller your logo.

Jarrett will never hurt for love in his trade, but should you ever have the opportunity to work with him, you will learn a lot. When he moved from Delaware to California I lost not only a mentor, but also a friend. If you are a creator, follow him on any social media.

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Catching Up With Wild Cub At Firefly Music Festival

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(PCM) We recently caught up with Nashville-based band Wild Cub while out at the recent Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE last month.

After their amazing performance at Firefly, Wild Cub embarked on their own headlining tour throughout the U.S. that will wrap up on August 7th in San Francisco, CA.

Wild Cub are currently out on the road in support of their debut album “Youth” and their recently released iTunes exclusive EP “Letters Home From Far Away: Cover, Outtakes and Live Recordings”.  The band’s awesome cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” can be found on the new EP and well as hit tracks such as “Wishing Well” and “Thunder Clatter”.

You can watch our interview below:

 

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Interview with JOHNNYSWIM At Firefly Music Festival 2014

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(PCM) We were able to catch up with amazing husband and wife duo JOHNNYSWIM while out at the Firefly Music Festival, which took place at the Woodlands in Dover, DE last month.

The group have been making a ton of festival appearances this summer, just recently appearing at the Forcastle Festival in Louisville, KY and will also be performing at Lollapalooza this August in Chicago, IL.

The duo were also featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and made a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

JOHNNYSWIM are currently touring behind their debut full-length album “Diamonds” which was produced by JOHNNYSWIM’s own Abner Ramirez in Nashville, TN.

We absolutely adored the group while out at Firefly and they are without a doubt a band that needs to be on your radar right now!

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Catching Up With The Tontons At Firefly Festival 2014

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(PCM) One band that was generating a huge amount of buzz at this year’s Firefly Music Festival was The Tontons.

The band were one of the choices to play the Red Bull Sound Select Stages at this year’s festival and are currently touring behind their latest album release “Make Out King And Other Stories”.

We were able to catch up with the band while hanging out in the Red Bull Artist Lounge backstage…check it out below:

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Dan Croll Talks Festival Life, Latest Album And More!

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(PCM) We were recently out at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE and caught up with British singer/songwriter Dan Croll.

Croll’s set on the Firefly Main Stage was sweet music to our ears and we enjoyed being able to chat after the set about topics such as festival life, the music industry, and of course his latest album release “Sweet Disarray”.

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Check out the full interview below:

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Catching Up With The Wild Feathers At Firefly 2014

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(PCM) What I adore so much about The Wild Feather’s is their ability to put a unique and fresh spin on the genre of southern rock n’ roll. The band gives it their own flavor and fans across the country are eating it up.

We were able to catch The Wild Feather’s performing at this year’s Firefly Music Festival and they were definitely one of our highlights throughout the entire weekend.

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The band is currently touring in support of their self-titled debut album and their current single “Left My Woman Behind” is continuing to pick up more and more steam.

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PCM’s Kristyn Clarke had a chance to catch up with The Wild Feathers at Firefly to discuss changes in the music industry, the importance of touring, upcoming plans and more. You can check out the full interview below:

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Catching Up With Kongos At Firefly Festival

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(PCM) South African rockers, Kongos, put on an incredible performance during their recent appearance at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, DE.

The band, which consists of four brothers Johnny, Jesse, Dylan and Daniel Kongos, fill the stage with a true sense of passion and intoxicating energy. Despite their early set time, kicking off the Firefly Main Stage, they were the ideal wake-up call to shake things up and get everyone moving at the festival.

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The band’s single “Come With Me Now’ is blowing up at radio and is surely becoming one of biggest hits of the summer. The track comes from the band’s latest album release “Lunatic” which is available now!

I had a chance to catch up with both Jesse and Johnny of Kongos backstage at Firefly!  Check out our interview below:

See more photos from Kongos performance below Continue reading

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New Politics Talk Firefly Festival, MoumentTour And More!

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All photography credit: Ken Schuler

(PCM) PCM’s Kristyn Clarke recently had the opportunity to catch up with New Politics while out at the Firefly Music Festival which recently took place at The Woodlands in Dover, DE.

New Politics hail from Copenhagen, Denmark and are certainly creating quite a bit of buzz throughout the musical realm. The band brings so many various elements to their sound that it is incredibly difficult to box them into one particular genre or another, but we can say one thing for sure….a New Politics performance is always a good time!

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The band tore up the stage at Firefly and even treated us to a little impromptu Justin Timberlake cover towards the end of their set!  Be sure to catch the band out on the road this summer with both Fall Out Boy and Paramore as part of the epic MonumentTour!

See more photos  Continue reading

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Spend Some Time With Unlikely Candidates And Learn About DJ iPod!

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(PCM) One of the most buzzed about bands at Firefly Music Festival 2014 was Unlikely Candidates. Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas the band has been on a steady rise and have generated a ton of positive feedback especially from their track “Follow My Feet”.

I spent some time asking Firefly attendees who some of their top acts and performances were throughout the weekend and nearly all of the mentioned catching the set from Unlikely Candidates and just how much they enjoyed it.

I was able to catch up with the band backstage at Firefly Festival to discuss the band’s performance, upcoming festival appearances, the craziness that is DJ iPod in the campgrounds and more!

Check out our full interview below:

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Rock On The Range Day Three Breakdown

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(PCM) With three full days of rock at this year’s completely sold out Rock On The Range which took place at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, OH, we have decided to break down our coverage to our highlights from each day, along with exclusive interviews!

Day three of Rock On The Range featured performances by Kid Rock, Five Finger Death Punch, Alterbridge, Mastodon,Wolfmother (interview here) , Adelitas Way (interview here), Trivium (interview here), Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Of Mice And Men, Miss May I (interview here), We Are Harlot, Heaven’s Basement (interview here),Gemini Syndrome (interview here), Righteous Vendetta, Gojira, Kvelertak, Jim Bruer Band (interview here), Twelve Foot Ninja (interview here), Monster Truck and Sleepwave (interview here).

I have to note that day three of Rock On The Range had amazing weather. It was the perfect day full of sunshine, but not overly hot! The day three line-up featured the perfect blend of performances that were both chill and laid back and aggressive and in-your-face. It was definitely the most diverse of the three day festival!

Things We Loved Day Three Of Rock On The Range

1. I was pleasantly surprised by the early afternoon performance from Sleepwave. The band is fronted by ex-Underoath vocalist Spencer Chamberlain and their new single “Rock and Roll Is Dead And So Am I” has been generating quite a bit of positive buzz. I adore a band whose music actually says something and I have the feeling that Sleepwave have a lot to say. Be on the lookout for more from this band throughout 2014.

2. I always knew that comedian Jim Breuer could sing, however I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the set from the full Jim Breuer Band at Rock On The Range. Breuer takes his rock/metal fandom to a whole new level and had me cracking up throughout his entire set. I am definitely digging the trend of blending comedy and metal and hope to see more comedians on next year’s Rock On The Range bill.

3. It is always wonderful to watch a band rise up the ranks and thanks to the success of the band’s debut album “Filthy Empire”, Heaven’s Basement has done just that! I was thrilled to see the band get a higher billing placement at this year’s Rock On The Range and was able to witness first hand the sheer amount of fans in the audience who were belting out each and every word to their favorite songs. I am certainly looking forward to Heaven’s Basement doing a more extensive tour here in The States this fall.

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4.  The performance from Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience was one in which I believe I saw everyone in the crowd young and old singing along to each and every song. It just proves the mass appeal of Led Zeppelin’s extensive catalog of hits. Opening their set with “Immigrant Song” and plowing straight through the classic Led Zeppelin catalog, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience was definitely a set  you did not want to miss. Jason Bonham is the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and several times throughout the set Bonham took time to reflect upon his father’s legacy and it was truly an incredibly touching tribute for a man that contributed so much to rock music as we know it today.

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5. It is no wonder at all that Trivium had to cancel a few tour dates after their amazing Rock On The Range performance. The band was truly giving it all they had and apparently vocalist Matt Heafy gave a little too much and “blew out” his voice. His doctor called for two weeks of vocal rest after the performance. Let’s hope all is well before the band’s upcoming stint on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival set to begin later this summer.

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6. I feel like Adelitas Way were missing from the festival scene for a little while, however they have made their return and are sounding better than ever. What I love is that vocalist Rick DeJesus is completely fearless when it comes to getting up close and personal with fans. Watching DeJesus leap off the stage and take part in some crowd-surfing action was delightful! Stay tuned for the band’s new album “Stuck” to be released later this summer!

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7. Having never had the chance to see Wolfmother live, I was absolutely ecstatic to learn that they were playing Rock On The Range. Several times throughout the set vocalist Andrew Stockdale graciously thanked the crowd and dedicated their hit single “Woman” to all the ladies in attendance and believe me, we loved it! The band sounded amazing and it was definitely one of my favorite performances of the afternoon.

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8. Beautiful chaos is probably the best phrase I could use to describe the intense performance from Five Finger Death Punch. There was not a single person on the floor who was not moving around in some way or another, although majority were crowd-surfing their way across the sea of fans that packed the main stage area. Vocalist Ivan Moody commented several times about putting security to work and of course explaining mosh pit etiquette, although I’m not really sure how well anyone was listening.

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9. A stellar performance from Kid Rock was the perfect way to end Rock On The Range 2014.  Kid Rock is an amazing performer and held the audience at full attention throughout his entire performance. I will never tire of rocking out to “You Never Met A Mother F**ker Quite Like Me” as well as Kid Rock’s other hits including “All Summer Long” and “Cowboy”. Kid Rock has the amazing ability to blend together the perfect balance of hard rocking hits and slower emotional ballads with perfect timing throughout the set. One of my favorite moments of the set came when he performed “Only God Knows Why”.

Rock On The Range Day Three Photo Gallery
All photos credit: Ken Schuler for PopCultureMadness.com

Check out our highlights from Rock On The Range Day One and Day Two!

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