Epic A Cappella Daft Punk Video Decisively Proves that Creativity Trumps Budget

Most of you have seen this video, of that we have no doubt. In the 5 days since it debuted it has acquired over 9 million views, and so we’re not sharing it because we’re worried that you’re missing out on something, or even because we want to give you an excuse to dance a bit today (although that did factor in).

We’re sharing it because, as it turns out, this video has a pretty awesome story that involves very little money and oodles of creativity coming together when initial plans fell through.

On the off-chance you’re not familiar, the video above shows a cappella group Pentatonix singing a Daft Punk medley, and was shot by independent film house FifGen Films. What’s cool about it (beyond the epic a cappella singing) is that what you’re seeing is what they came up with when they had to improvise.


Speaking with David Hobby over at Strobist, FifGen cofounder Jimmy Bates explained that, when the location they had planned fell through, they had to call an “audible” and wing it. “We’re pretty used to the whole smash and grab style,” Bates tells Hobby. “We use the resources we have… well, we don’t really have any resources. We’re always trying to invent ways to do cool new things.”

For this video all they had was some black sheets, a couple of $250 Stellar CFL ring lights and a black light — mix that up with some creativity and an unshakeable trust in their ability to take a difficult situation and create something “ten times better” than they originally intended when they shoot off the cuff, and you’ve got a YouTube smash hit.

There’s more to the story than the TL;DR we gave you above, so if you want to learn more about the group and hear more about how the video came together, be sure to head over to Strobist and read his full write-up.

Pentatonix’ Daft Punk Video: Low Budget Meets Awesome Creativity [Strobist]

  • Richard

    It’s a brilliant video, I saw the number of days ago when it came out, nice to know what’s behind the scenes. Thanks for this post.

  • Neutron_Flux

    I’ve been listening to Pentatonix for a while and love them, the video shows the synergy of a moment; Fifgen didn’t need a huge setup, just how to use it, and Pentatonix had the music. The result was a a creative episode that is all too rare, something that looks like a big budget production. It comes through they like what they’re doing and I say more power to them, being young only happens once and even if you get fame when you’re older it won’t feel the same, so seize every moment while it lasts.

  • Punk

    Small budget doesn’t mean free or amateurish, and again this shows how important makeup and styling are essential to achieve good results.

  • MS

    OMG this is awful.

  • Bruno Inácio

    OMG, thank you..

  • Bruno Inácio

    In my opinion, this is really bad..
    So, I think this is a god post to show there’s not important to have budget to do successful things, but, success doesn’t mean good, interesting or creative! This is bad in all the ways of creation (this is just my opinion).
    The stylism is horrible, this fake blue eyes OMG, they know how to sing, there’s not auto-tune but the final result is poor. They are just another a cappella project singing mainstream, without juice pop music! Ok, they got the formula, they got fan’s but there’s nothing more.. (Sorry my english.)
    Ah, there are some electronic instruments playing behind them! Not an a cappella at all. (I know this is not important :D )

  • Joey Duncan

    It’s interesting to see the banter for or against this video, the band when you watch them in interviews has a lot of energy, and the music “Capella” (whatever you want to call it) rendition is cool if it was on the radio I would listen to it. Personally though, I feel let down by the production of the video and the audio, really, you digitally rendered some of the voices? It seems like if you have to digitally alter their voices to make it fit for the song that person and or band shouldn’t be doing it. I’m not talking about autotune, but the dude with the dark hair that sang like twice you can hear an un-natural change in his voice similar to what you would do with autodoom. And the video leaves a little to be desired, not that it was bad I just kept thinking I wanted them to do something besides look at the camera, lol.

    AS a side note, I realize that this band really is attempting to make a modern derivative of cappella, and make it more popular, so it’s not “traditional” and I understand that and I like that as well, even if it is too pop for my taste.

  • Cynical Bloke

    The reason this got hits is the song, the video is far from epic or creative. You could have done more with no money.

  • olafs_osh

    …but production costs ain’t end there as well, mind you… it doesn’t matter if someone did those for free

  • Coop

    No, thank you! Does anyone actually listen to acapella as music? I’d rather listen to real instruments.

  • neb267

    The electronic instruments are provided by Kevin Olusola the beatboxer and Avi Kaplan the bass.

  • greenarcher02

    Your voice is an instrument. So by your argument acapella music uses real instruments as well.

  • greenarcher02

    Those are not electronic instruments it’s called beatboxing. You don’t know what you’re talking about. (Although I kind of agree the eyes are distracting).

  • greenarcher02

    About the voice… I’m not so sure as well. But some people can do amazing things with their voices. And I get this has been mixed. I wonder how they perform live.

  • Bruno Inácio

    Of course not, one day I saw Bobby McFerrin thinking that was Bruno Mars. :/
    Vocoder and MIDI are instruments, and if you didn’t noticed them yet, ear the song again!

  • greenarcher02

    I don’t think they used MIDI in this.

  • greenarcher02

    If you could point to when you think you heard them, please do so, as I’m lost as to where you’re coming from. I’ll leave it that those are purely voices but we’ll see.. it is a Daft Punk cover after all.

  • Elliott Mason

    I’ve seen them perform this exact piece live; there is nothing in it that doesn’t come out of one of their throats.

    That’s kind of Pentatonix’s schtick, that they can sound like they’re autotuned/pedal-modified/electronic/rewound even though they’re singing.

  • Elliott Mason

    There is no autotune or digital meddling; I’ve seen them perform this piece live and acoustic and it sounds the same. They’re just able to do that (it’s kind of their Thing in the acoustic world).

  • greenarcher02

    Fascinating how people like to diss other people for doing something amazing

  • harumph

    Cheesy and not very creative at all. They simply followed the same visual template as thousands of other homemade acapella and one-man-band YouTube videos. Only they put on bad makeup and goofy contacts.

  • philhoyt

    Agreed. This is really bad and no fun to listen to at all. I started getting a headache 2 minutes in.

  • Coop

    I’m ok with a world where an instrument is an instrument and vocals are vocals.

  • Kiltedbear

    The vocoder was used for effect in the Daft Punk only. They sing plenty of their other stuff sans distortion and totally acapella, but I’d argue that vocoder isn’t exactly an instrument. It’s a distortion of the original vocal. No other instrument does that.

  • Kiltedbear

    I think it’s funny how many people come onto a photography website and then think they are music experts or authorities in what defines a capella or what have you. For instance I’ve seen several people incorrectly state they are using autotune when they are in fact using a vocoder thus not a capella ( used for the Daft Punk only for effect – you don’t believe them, then look at their other stuff before jumping to conclusions).

    Look, if you don’t *like* it, that’s your prerogative, but don’t go around espousing that you know what is going on and then making comical gaffes in your comments. If you don’t like it, say “I didn’t like it”. Don’t say, ” OOH EMMM GEEE That was horrible!” Different strokes for different folks folks, and just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it BAD.

    And while I am at it, this is a problem I have seen about this photography comment community in general on others. Too many people here and elsewhere play to being “expert” photographers and don’t shy away from making “I know better than thou” comments about stuff posted on Petapixel and other places. It’s time to get some fricking humility for a change! If you don’t like something, say you don’t like it or it’s not your thing. Don’t extrapolate and make yourself out to be a tool. People on here should know the difference by now between something that is “bad” and something that they just “don’t like”, but from the comments section it doesn’t seem like it. I have never heard of these guys before today. I’m not a groupie. But whether I like or dislike them, I know they are not “bad”.

  • greenarcher02

    Before man-made instruments, there were vocals. So yes, vocals will ALWAYS be instruments.

  • Coop

    Yeah, and then instruments were invented, with a hell of a lot more oomph.

  • greenarcher02

    Yeah but still, some people can do amazing things with their voices.

  • nerdbomber

    Recorded in a studio(aka multitrack recording). Then, Lip synching while recording the video(as with mostly all music vids). What’d be more impressive is if they did the video live a capella. But that’s just me.

  • Steve

    I think the creative side is writing the music. This is a poor version of the original songs. It costs nothing to write your own songs but it does take talent and unfortunately people would rather do versions of existing songs. I didn’t think the video was anywhere near as creative as the videos Daft Punk do either.

  • M G

    embarassing video, half “take that” half twilight-vampire style. Very C R E A T I V E, blah.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Cheesy as cheese.

  • Branden Frederick

    Maybe you have ebola

  • bgrady413

    Find Eclecticmethod on youtube, now there is some creative video editing to music.

  • Genkakuzai

    God I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought so. Great video, no denying their talents, but acapella…. zZz

  • Godabed

    So you’re rather listen to Katy Perry and Rihanna?

  • Genkakuzai

    No? What in earth led you to that ridiculous conclusion? I’d rather listen to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Porcupine Tree etc, you know, actual music. Not the flavour of the month.

  • Godabed

    Flavour of the month? they have been doing this since 2011, and they haven’t even made it well into the top 10. What makes you think they are popular enough to be the flavour of the month, they aren’t miley cyrus or whomever taylor swift is slutting around with, or lorde with her angry feminism fued with Selina Gomez???

    So you would rather listen to well produced works than a ccapella group, that’s fine but it’s not boring because you don’t like it, nor is it less creative to do all of this with just your voice. Innovation won’t be appreciated by everyone, look at Community.

  • KLF

    Lots of cynical remarks here, unfortunate because we are talking about the creative efforts of 20 to 24-year-old young adults, both the film makers and the vocalists. I’m a 54-year-old male, believe it or not, actually IN the demographic of Pentatonix’s diverse fanbase. Having seen them live twice, plus a lot of their unadulterated contest show and live concert performances on Youtube, they blow me away with their vocal abilities. And I’m definitely not a fan of pop music or the current crop of pop artists. As a live act, there truly is something special about them and I’m not surprised they have a sold out European tour and a #10 Billboard album chart debut. The other really appealing thing about them is their act is clean and they are basically humble performers who love music.

  • Stryyfe84

    Every member of the group is incredibly talented, but I always feel that these two in particular don’t get nearly enough credit.

  • David from Canada

    just gotta rain on the parade – do better or shut up!

  • nicholasmaloy97

    Ummm… buddy? At the very bottom, it includes a section on beatboxing. That is what you are hearing. Sure, it’s processed to a degree. But what actual sound is produced purely by his throat/mouth.

    I can clearly hear the amazing beats of Kevin Olusola…… “nonsense again from the uneducated”

  • fjoo

    Wtf are you talking about?
    Ther are NO instruments in that video.

    You “uneducated” cretin.