Jump to content

[Article] Digital Arts: Coldplay goes interstellar


Recommended Posts

Coldplay goes interstellar


Monday 19 Oct 2009


Opinions are divided on the merits of Coldplay’s musical offerings, but its latest tour showed that when it comes to providing a visual spectacle, the band is anything but dull.


The four-piece was backed by a magnificent set of animations on a massive scale created by Bristol design studio Hello Charlie, which helped the band to deliver performances that filled venues as large as Wembley Stadium.

Hello Charlie was approached for the project by Coldplay’s creative director and unofficial ‘fifth member’, Phil Harvey. The agency had animated a small project for the band’s performance at the Brit Awards earlier this year and has a wealth of experience creating visuals for major artists including Muse, Queen, The Who and Robbie Williams.




The visuals were to provide the backdrop to five songs - Life In Technicolour (intro Violet Hill), Lovers In Japan, Speed Of Sound, Glass Of Water, and Life in Technicolour II – plus a ‘digital curtain’ to be used at various points throughout the show, such as before the encore.


The movies were output onto a giant LED screen the width of a football pitch.


The intro begins in space before turning to show the Earth and crash zooming down to aerial views of the continent, country, city and then stadium that the show’s being help in. This gives the idea of each show being a spectacle in its own right, rather than just part of the tour, and help the audience to feel special about being there.


The cosmic theme is repeated across a number of the visuals – primarily Speed Of Sound. This takes the gig-goers on a journey through a solar system where the stars coalesce to form an eye shape that goes supernova and engulfs the screen in flames.


However, other sections of the show displa completely different styles. Lovers In Japan uses a series of archive footage and animations across the screen at the back of the stage.


These were varied in size and used in separate ‘windows’ for visually appealing randomization and to avoid using them at sizes where they wouldn’t look good.


For the show’s closing number, Life in Technicolour II, Hello Charlie took the album artwork from Viva La Vida and treated it with sprocket and projection effects to create a vibrant, experimental effect and immersive effect.


Behind the choices of these styles was a desire to tie the visuals to the individual tracks, rather than having an overarching theme. Hello Charlie was also free to develop the concepts for the visuals from scratch, as creative director Jason Mullings explains.


Brief encounters


“We were very fortunate as there was no rigid brief that we had to stick to,” he says, “which gave us full opportunity for creative expression. From our original proposals, there was a constant workflow as the ideas developed through a series of mood boards, visuals and meetings.”














For the visuals that would open the show “we had to produce a continuous move through space, initially following a satellite on it’s journey towards earth,” says Andy Power, head of CG at Hello Charlie, “then zooming all the way in to whichever stadium Coldplay were performing at that night.”


“Actual satellite imagery of each of the stadiums and their surrounding areas was used so that we could seamlessly end the animation just a few hundred feet above each venue.”


Mullings and his team met with the band several times to show their progress on the visuals, get feedback and help refine the films towards something that matched the band’s grandiose vision.


“Generally speaking, the ideas didn’t change too much from our original concepts,” says Mullings. “It was more a case of enhancing those concepts as we progressed.”




He continues: “The greatest creative challenge had to be interpreting the songs in the right way, getting the mood and aesthetics right and having empathy with the vision of the band. We were really creating a huge digital backdrop that needed to amplify each performance without distracting from the music in any way.”


The films had to look clear and crisp to both the fans in the front row and those standing over 100m away at the back of the stadium, so they were created at a resolution of 2,000x500 pixels. Hello Charlie created 3D elements in Maya and Cinema 4D, and applied VFX in After Effects. Where it was necessary, Hello Charlie edited elements using Final Cut Pro.


“We used every bit of software at our disposal to create as much diversity and visual interest as possible,” says Mullings.


The team passed the movies to the stage crew as a series of QuickTime movies that were played back through the onsite systems. They were kept in time with the music thanks to timecode queuing from drummer Will Champion.


Mullings says that he’s most proud of “the way that everything came together as a whole and the fact that Coldplay felt that what we created did justice to their music. It was a great privilege to work with a group of artists that have such a great global appeal at a time when they are literally one of the biggest bands on the planet.”


Neil Bennett



Source: Digital Arts Online

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...