Capital Cities, “Safe and Sound” won the Best Visual Effects award at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, the first single off the duo’s first major-label album, “A Tidal Wave of Mystery,” released by Capitol Records. Filmed entirely at the historic Los Angeles Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the story-based video captures an atmosphere rich in vibrant history, while taking inspirations as varied as dance battles, album covers, film styles, concert posters, and The Shining. The video opens with a mysterious bolt of lightning striking the theater marquee, and setting the magic in motion throughout the theater. The first dancers to emerge are the Capital Cities duo, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, who learned key moves for a dozen vintage dance styles especially for the video. Their Fred Astaire-inspired performance triggers other dancers to emerge from all around the theater, including movie posters in the lobby, the projector room, mirrors, stock footage, old televisions, and simply out of thin air.
Motion Theory director Grady Hall, conceived the “Safe & Sound” story as a mashed-up, celebratory dance circle of the past century of styles. “I like to think that places have a memory of whatever happened there,” said Hall. “So I started with the idea of ‘who’s been on this old stage before – and what if, late at night, they somehow all came out of the woodwork of this place to celebrate?’”
Grady worked closely with Mirada creative director Jonathan Wu and Editor Mike Merkwan to develop the video’s storyline, cross-time mash-ups, and escalating sense of magic. Compositors at Mirada completed more than 80 visual effects shots, including head replacements, complex animations, stock footage integration, transformations, and retro film styles ranging from silent films to disco, lasers, and psychedelic.
Filming was shot by director Grady Hall via Motion Theory with executive producer Javier Jimenez, line producer Buddy Enright, director of photography Shawn Kim, choreographer Mandy Moore, production designer Teri Whittaker, wardrobe stylist Roseanne Fiedler, band stylist Jenni Lee, hair/make up stylist Anny Kim, 2nd Unit director Jonathan Wu and additional choreographer Ernesto Lomeli.
Post production was done at Mirada by editor Mike Merkwan, associate creative director Jonathan Wu, president John Fragomeni, executive producer Patrick Nugent, post producer Derek Johnson, production manager Tina Van Delden, art director Ash Wagers, compositing lead Phil Guthrie, senior compositors Wesley Cronk and Ryan Quinlan, Flame lead Tim Miller, Flame artists Marla Carter and Michael Vaglienty, designers Ashley Becerra, Jennifer Rahardjanoto, creative consultants Ryan Erke, Kevin Lau, Roto artists Zac Chowdhury, Robert Dorris, Meredith Hook, lead stock researcher Jean Mougin, stock researchers Daniel Choi and Luciano Herrera.