Toh Kay – With Any Sort Of Certainty


Note: due to band / label issues this video is currently, shall we say, underground. As such it can not be hosted on my standard Vimeo account or my website. Thankfully, due to some very sweet and supportive people, it continues to exist in readily viewable form across many sites. Thanks, internet people. Enjoy!


I first came across Tomas through his old band, Catch 22. It was 1998, I was a senior in high school in northern New Jersey. Catch 22 were local heroes, having just released Keasbey Nights on Victory Records, which was straight crazy. This ska band signing to Victory Records, then THE home to tough guy hardcore? Bizarre!  So the trumpet player from my band put on this cd called Keasbey Nights and it was just awesome. The songs were just so so so good. We were singing along that entire autumn, the last fall of my first terrible ska band, the last fall driving around with Brandon and Kevin and Jessica, watching the leaves turn. That winter my terrible band was set to open for Catch 22 at Skater’s World, the local rollerskating rink that threw punk rock and ska shows every weekend. It was our home turf, where I first started regularly going to shows a couple years earlier. We were all excited, but then the band took the stage and the singer was different. I didn’t know him by name yet, but Tomas was gone. And worse, his replacement was Jeff, the drummer for The Derringers, who were the first local ska band I loved. And his being in this band meant that The Derringers were probably not long for this world, and goddammit this was a disaster. And it was true. Catch 22 were never quite the same, and The Derringers were soon to be gone. I have no idea if all of that has anything to do with Tomas, but in my 17 year old mind it did. Damn it, Tomas. Damn it.

Tomas of course went on to do great things with Streetlight Manifesto (and BOTAR of course) and I went on to an exciting career as a weird animator. All that to say it’s funny now that he and I ended up working together, 15 years later. That makes that story only 2 years younger than I was then. Time.


I made this video in bits and pieces over the winter, probably about 2 months of work all told.

I normally write big long statements about pieces like this, about what I was trying to say and whatnot. But this time I’m not. I’m interested in what, if anything, people take from it. I will say it’s a story about not being ok, and trying to be. Some of this vid is about ideas I think about a lot, and some of it is more directly about my own life. I guess everything anyone makes is like that.

And Tomas’ great song really pushed it in the direction in ended up going. We were apparently mind-melded at some point last fall when all of this was coming together, as I think the vid and the song comment on eachother nicely. I think. But I don’t know. That’s your call. Either way, I am grateful to Tomas for trusting me with an open brief, and allowing me to go nuts with the story and direction.

You should go preorder the album, by the way.

Also you can download the full, high quality version of this song here.

It was made in the mode you should all know by heart now if you’ve been following me for any length of time. After Effects with some light Photoshop texture stuff.


Note: next paragraph contains links to pictures of an actual dead person and an actual living person pretending to be an actual dead person.

The dead woman was inspired by a photo my wife saw in her Death And Dying class in college, of a young woman who had committed suicide, laying on the car she landed on, almost as if she had just walked up and laid down. It was this really weird mix of someone looking so alive while being inert, as unthinking as the wrecked car beneath her, not to put to fine a point on it. And what happened to her that led up to this moment? And it was just very heavy, and something to grapple with.  And it stuck with me obviously. It was also very directly inspired by this photo which ended up in my big folder of images years ago.


I hope you like it. Thanks for watching and caring.

PS – My wife took a Death And Dying class in college. It was nonessential, she just thought it sounded cool. They did things like walk around cemeteries and identify different kinds of tombstone imagery and find the place where all the children were buried. She loved it. My wife is awesome.


  • 04/15/2013 at 9:03 am // Reply

    I like it. Great work. It really captures the disjointedness and jarring feelings that anxiety creates. Something about the lights and the flashing reminds me of my own experiences with it.

    Also, re: the Death and Dying class…I’d hate to think what the final exam was like.


  • 04/15/2013 at 3:27 pm // Reply

    I love the execution of this concept. How you captured everything being an unsure puzzle by making everything shapes that kept flying apart and coming back together differently. I really enjoyed it!

  • 04/16/2013 at 9:34 pm // Reply

    I’ve been a big fan of Streetlight Manifesto (and BOTAR, and Catch 22 before that) for many years, and this is the first Tomas related video that has really knocked it out of the park in my opinion. Great work!

  • 04/16/2013 at 11:45 pm // Reply

    I loved the video, I’d like to suggest something if you don’t mind, I really love the motif, and the tone you set with the colors, and style, if you are hired to do the rest of their music video videos in the future, please re use some of these ideas, the dark city at night and the soldiers on the battlefield, are almost references to past lyrics by Tomas Kalnoky. cheers,

    also New Jersey represent, born and raised.

    • 04/17/2013 at 12:29 am // Reply


  • 04/17/2013 at 12:04 am // Reply

    Aarrgh. It kills me how detailed you are. And your depth of field! So much lens blur! And the glows! 32-bit glows?! And shape layers! Oh the shape layers…

    I’ve been animating and designing with after effects for almost a decade now, and consider myself a damn fine expert in everything surrounding it, and yet every time I see a new animation from you I’m blown away by your style and find myself trying to break down your process and discover your cleverness.

    I wish I could meet you one day over a tasty beverage and pick your brain about your techniques and styles and what not in person.

    • 04/17/2013 at 12:27 am // Reply

      Thanks! My process is stay up late, think I will probably work on the project tomorrow, sleep, repeat.

      Glad you noticed some of the technical aspects. This thing was indeed 32bit. I hadn’t done an entire vid in 32 bit before (if I remember correctly), so it took a bit to get used to. I use a lot of lens blur in general, but this vid in particular I wanted to be murky and blurry and indistinct at times, so it is blurtastic. But almost no shape layers – I use masked solids. Loyally. Most of the time at least.

      I will share a tasty beverage anytime, sir.

      • 04/18/2013 at 1:26 am // Reply

        Masked solids?! Crazy. Any reason for using solids instead of shape layers? I would think shape layers would offer more in terms of animation possibilities, especially for your style (I definitely thought you at least used it for the wheat in the flashback scene with a wiggle or zigzag path effect).

        As for the tasty beverage, if you ever find yourself in the golden state in a little city with golden gates, drop me an email and I’ll take to some eccentric artsy bar where they serve things like chocolate stout and watermelon beer.

        Thanks again for the reply and take care.

  • 05/01/2013 at 6:32 am // Reply

    Hail Scott! I am from Pakistan (surely you must’ve heard about it in the news or somewhere where there is mention of terrorism) and I would like to stay your work, especially this video, is highly appraised! In every aspect I must also say, lighting, storytelling, animation and Visual FX. I would again like to congratulate you on a fine masterpiece created by you!

    Come to Pakistan man!

    • 05/14/2013 at 11:18 pm // Reply

      Hey! I have indeed heard of Pakistan, and not always in the same paragraph as terrorism. :)

      Thanks so much for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it!

      I would love to come to Pakistan, though plane tickets are expensive and I’m not that strong a swimmer…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *