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Behind Ellie Goulding’s Poignant Latest Music Video

Ellie Goulding’s new music video for Like A Savior features an endless desert, some truly magical choreography and incredible day and night sky scenes. All of this was achieved using 360 VP screens on set and shot in just one day, directed by Rogue’s Joe Connor. The single will be part of Goulding’s forthcoming fifth studio album, Higher Than Heaven, which will be released on March 24, 2023.

The music video is an exercise in excellent use of VP screens and can easily serve as a prime example of how the industry can take full advantage of it – across all sectors. Joe explains that while it comes with all the challenges of new technology, such as B. the ability to force depth and interact with the sand on set (it’s a desert at the end of the day), working with the screens gave the production the ability to literally travel through time.

“Like A Savior” also sees the collective (LA)HORDE perform unforgettable choreography by Daniel Alwell that not only fits perfectly with the video’s setting, but also the director’s crazy vision of “Worms Coming Out of the Ground.” implements.

LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Joe about his experiences with VP screens, combining art and technology, and some fun on-set challenges.

LBB> Joe, tell me more about the initial ideas you had and developed for the music video. What did you know about Ellie’s vision and how did it fit into your own?

Joe> Ellie presented me with a bold and exciting briefing. She is going through a really exciting renaissance in her own work in art, styling and image making. She has a great team around her, so I felt like the time was right to bring something bold to market – combining art and technology. I had this image of Ellie in an endless desert landscape that was moving and changing.

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Working closely with my team, Fred Bonham Carter and Alexa Haywood, we envisioned a desert where time flies. Fred is brilliant at combining creativity and production and finding ways to implement my ideas. He brought DNEG (VFX, computer animation and stereo conversion studio) on board as a partner and together with David Procter we had a great core of experts to pull this off.

This technology is so new – especially for music videos – that we had to completely rebuild many of the processes and systems.

LBB> Why did you choose the desert as your main location?

Joe> Something about these simple, elemental places speaks to me. I love working with them – they feel like timeless and endless spaces of beauty. This type of scenery also works well with virtual production; It helps create a seamless blend with the real world. There’s a problem though – Sand doesn’t play well with raw LED screens, we’ve found.

LBB> The use of shapes in the video is striking. Was that a goal from the start and why did you think it was a good approach?

Joe> Although the video was shot in a simple desert location, I wanted to incorporate variety such as large sloping sand dunes and wide open spaces to give the film more dimension and range. I also wanted the choreography to convey that feeling so I worked with Daniel Alwel from La Horde to choreograph it and I think he did a brilliant job.

LBB> How did you work with choreography to achieve your vision and how important was it to bring everything together?

Joe> My original idea was to depict human bodies as worms emerging from the sand and reaching up into the sky. Daniel took this seemingly insane starting point and turned it into a brilliant move. The choreography he creates is a great mix of storytelling and form. I could watch these guys move all day.

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LBB> Tell me more about using color to set the tone throughout the video – how did the colors interact with each other, especially with all the contrasting cool and warm tones?

Joe> I wanted the time of day to constantly shift from day to night and back again. Our goal was to create a rich color palette, so David and the DNEG team spent a lot of time switching between lighting states. Getting warmth and depth of sound from VP screens is a challenge. We wanted to push the variety of colors in the sky as well as the intensity and luminosity of the light. The trick to making it feel real was trying to get the real world lighting to have the right halo, saturation and soft directional light, and try not to wash the screens out at the same time . There was a lot of research and development that went into creating this look. David did a fantastic job creating a one-of-a-kind palette and Blackkite’s George K added the finishing touches to achieve a really cool look.

LBB> Tell me more about using the 360 ​​degree screens throughout the video – why did you decide to use them, what were the benefits of using them and what were the main challenges?

Joe> I really felt like this was the perfect opportunity to explore this technology. The big advantages are obvious that you can fully design and build a 3D world, set the light path, set the moon path, set the stars, light intensity, weather, everything. We had AI clouds moving across our world, which was a wild and unique quirk. The creative freedom is unprecedented, but it really takes pretty strict parameters and a robust HOD team to turn the “everything” into anything. Like everything else, it’s a tool that must be used.

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The joy was in setting the perfect lighting, sky and weather, which could then take 12 or 13 hours. The biggest challenge is the process and communication structure required to work with the screens as it is almost like a live animal on stage. The screens require a lot of rendering power and human programming to achieve the incredible effect and that means they can be a complicated affair to work with. But with the right team like we had, you get great results.

LBB> How was the tilt achieved on set in the scenes where the dancers are climbing a hill? Or was it really good camera work and acting on a regular, non-sloped floor?

Joe> That was really funny. One of the main disadvantages of working in VP is scaling. It seems obvious, but achieving physical distance from the screens is difficult, so I wanted a second environment in the video that enforces perspective.

The trick was an old school trick repurposed with new technology. I just searched the camera and searched the background on the screens. Since everything was built in Unreal Engine, I was also able to increase the height of the background. As a result, it felt like we were miles above the dunes to create that effect of being on top of a giant dune. The dancers then had to perform across this flat stage set as if they were climbing a giant mountain.

LBB> How long did the shooting process take using the 360 ​​degree screens? And would you use them more often for other music videos in the future?

Joe> We had a one day shoot, which is always difficult with this type of project, but we had a lot of R&D, set builds, pre-lights and testing days with DNEG and the team. Fred did a great job managing the whole project to ensure we got the best out of the screens. I would use them again and would love to push the technology further, which really speaks to my theatrical background. I’m sure there are bigger ideas, bolder worlds and crazier uses of these screens and I’d love to explore them.

LBB> What was the most fun part of making the video? And the most demanding?

Joe> I think the fun part was seeing the effect in space with my own eyes. VFX is a great tool, but the beauty of VP screens is that you can immerse yourself in the world while you’re there. That helps the cast, the crew, the lighting, the art…everything benefits from seeing the atmosphere of the world on screen. It was also a lot of fun to see how the inclined section worked.

The most challenging… music videos are always challenging, that’s why we love them.

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