On February 7th Coldplay debuted a new music video for Let Somebody Go
, a track off the British rock band’s 2021 album “Music of the Spheres.” The song features Selena Gomez, and in the video, lead singer Chris Martin and Gomez are coming to the end of a relationship, sending them each into a confusing world inspired by the drawings of MC Escher and the Marvel Universe — a world filled with never-ending staircases and kaleidoscopic perspectives.
The video was directed by Dave Meyers and produced by Nathan Scherrer for Freenjoy. Francois Olivia Pron served as concept artist, setting the look for the project, whose visual effects were created by the team at Berkeley, CA’s Tippett Studio (www.tippett.com), along with contributions from Studio City, CA’s Mod (www.modvfx.com).
While Tippett is well known for its commercial and long-form work, this project is among its first in the area of music videos. According to Tippett VFX supervisor Brad Fox, the studio came on board just two weeks before the shoot was to take place.
“We had to get going very quickly,” Fox recalls. “The director, Dave Meyers, was very anxious to work with us. We had bid a project with them a few years ago and they really liked the work that the studio does. We tried to do as much as we could in preparation, because it required some real planning. So much of this was going to be integrating the CG with live action, and giving the DP as much information as we could about what to shoot and how to shoot it.”
The production stretched across two days and made use of an Arri camera. One day involved a bluescreen shoot, where rigs were used to film the floating sequences in which Gomez and Martin come together and then float apart, traveling through the skewed city landscape. The second shoot day took place on the Universal backlot, where imagery for the opening street scene and additional elements were captured.
The Tippett team created a 3D model of a small staircase section that was then produced as a prop for the live action shoot. The physical stairs helped to serve as a foundation from where the visual effects would start and extend from.
“I really wanted to the staircase to be kind of kinetic — not static and rigid,” Fox explains of its movement. “That kind of helped us in some ways because it meant that we didn't have to have everything feel like it was all locked in space. We could have a ‘Chris element’ and a ‘Selena element’ — but they could be moving separately. That way it kind of made it easier to shoot.”
The Freenjoy team worked closely with Coldplay’s Chris Martin on the edit, collaborating on where he wanted close-ups, etc., to appear. Tippett, in the meantime, was working on the build out of the city and staircases.
“We definitely were limited until we could get a cut,” says Fox of the VFX workflow. “We had a lot of material that came from the shoot, so we really needed to narrow it down to know where to get started.”
The final edit would also allow the studio to move forward on the matchmoving process, which was an important part of creating the effects.
A Tippett team of approximately 15 artists and animators used Autodesk Maya, Isotropix’s Clarisse, SideFX’s Houdini, and Foundry’s Nuke and Mari to create the effects.
Fox describes the process as “organic,” with Meyer giving the VFX team a lot of creative freedom.
“It was really free reign,” he notes, adding that the team simply needed to stay close to the initial concept art. “[Dave] was very open to, ‘If it looks cool, I'm happy.’ He was also really good about saying, ‘Just tell me the box that I have to work in?’”
Les Umberger at Mod is someone Meyer has collaborated with for years. The studio shared assets with Tippett to keep the workflow moving, which took place over the 2021 holidays. Tippett handled all of the visual effects up until the moment the stairs blow apart. The flying sequence was executed by the team at Mod.
“Then it picks up with some of our shots again at the end,” Fox explains. “The whole splitting apart (scene).”
For a music video, the project was quite ambitions, but Fox says he was reassured when he saw an initial scene coming together.
“It's the shot with Chris hanging off the utility pole,” he recalls. “He kind of has his arm stretched out, and kind of looks like something from ‘Singing in the Rain.’ When that shot came together, I was like, ‘This is it!’”
He also points to a few shots of the stairs, which he was initially concerned about. If not done properly, the background elements of the city could come off as looking like miniatures.
“How do you how do you sell the scale?” he remembers thinking. “When the compositors started adding these smoke/cloud elements, and we ended up putting these layers of cloud and mist in there, that was it! It was like, ‘Perfect! This is going to be great.’ We showed it to Dave and he was thrilled!”