While the painstakingly realized sand-animation is the most visually thrilling aspect of this video, it isn't the thematic focus. The fact that director Tyler James attempts a narrative, where others would have been content with the 300 hours it took just to animate the sand, is evidence of serious artistic ambition. The result is a very affective music video, despite its brief length.
The story is told mostly through a flashback from the perspective of a small boy sitting in his sandbox. Thus when the sand comes to life through his eyes, we expect traditionally childish memories or dreams of playful innocence. Instead we are abruptly faced with the realities of his home life, which are anything but "playful." The fear and pain of these thoughts is contrasted with what we normally imagine children are thinking about. This underscores the gravity and tragedy of the situation.
Unlike Pharoahe Monch's "Gun Draws" from earlier this year, which emphasized the possible violent responses of children witnessing spousal abuse, Low in the Sky choose to focus solely on the psychological effects it can have. For this reason the video seems to end abruptly, where we may have wanted some firmer conclusion. Yet most children who deal with violence or abuse don't draw a gun or heroically save their mothers from harm. Instead they bottle their emotions up, blaming themselves or drawing pictures in the sand that no one will ever see. There is a helpless quality to this cycle of silence and pain, but artistic statements like this are cathartic moments of freedom for those who have suffered.
"to animate the sand, i took the original footage desaturated it and increased the contrast. i made a dvd of it, and traced every third frame with a dry-erase marker onto a piece of plastic. i took the outlines and painstakingly sprinkled sand onto the plastic. each frame took between 20 and 30 minutes to create. there were around 600 frames to animate, thats roughly 300 hours or 12.5 days." - Tyler James [via Antville]