LONDON — Riff Raff director Ryan Staake and The Moving Picture Company (www.moving-picture.com) worked in close collaboration to weave together the real world and a game-like fantasy for Ed Sheeran new music video. The Cross Me track features Chance the Rapper and PnB Rock. Inspired by the song’s lyrics, the video takes a mind-bending look into the relationship between illusion and reality, with the artists moving back and forth between the real and digital realms.
A dancer wearing a motion-tracking suit performs a powerful yet elegant routine in a studio. As she moves, she morphs and glitches through a plethora of avatars, including Ed Sheeran and Chance the Rapper. The animated characters are transposed into a variety of worlds and textures. When she completes her performance, she leaves the studio and heads home - but the digital connection isn’t so quick to leave.
“MPC have been involved since Day 1 on the collaborative process,” recalls Staake. “I started with a loose prompt and worked with them to ideate on shot and character ideas. The aim was to bring together the austere, clean motion-capture environment with the visually rich CG worlds – whilst maintaining connection with the performer throughout. Ideally, you would have double the amount of time to complete the post production on a project like this, so this close dialogue has been critical. MPC proposed a lot of smart tools and methods to work more quickly and efficiently, whilst still yielding the same level of quality we wanted. For example, we were using gaming tools like Unreal to generate procedural worlds very quickly. We used iPhones for some of the facial motion capture methods that allowed us to work quickly as opposed to using facial tracking dots. MPC have been incredible in this sense and it’s been a great process.”
“It’s not often we get a project like this where the behind-the-scenes of motion capture is showcased so prominently in the final creative product,” adds MPC CG lead Dominic Alderson. “In that sense, this was a brilliant opportunity to show people how we make so much of what we do. Ryan had ambitious intentions for the finished project and being able to help input from the storyboard process allowed us to make them possible in the time frame. We are lucky to have so many technically advanced resources at our fingertips here which means we can focus on drawing out the most spectacular visual fantasy.”
According to MPC’s head of production Luke Rafferty, the whole project came together in just three-and-a-half weeks. “We pulled on every tool in our armory and used groundbreaking and bespoke technology to meet this otherwise unachievable timeline. Without the incredible talent, technical ability and scale of MPC, it would have been impossible to pull off something so bold in such a short space of time. The edit showcases why MPC is the leader in creative and technical VFX, pushing boundaries of what is possible and leaving footprints in the sand for the rest of the VFX industry to follow.”