Images courtesy of the artist
The weekendThe new video for his heavy remix of “The Hills” with Eminem puts the apocalpysis in your pocket, with a handy touch of virtual reality. Using your smartphone as a window to the 3D rendered world, you can follow the “I can’t feel my faceâArtist, also known as Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, out of the room after a show and as a director Nabil Elderkinfiery vision of nightlife.
This includes a burnt-out car, bloated limo, stunning Aurora Borealis, and an onslaught of explosive fireballs, all of which you calmly observe from within sight of your Weeknd. From there, even the catastrophe is dancing. âIt’s less narrative and more of a visual experience,â Elderkin told The Creators Project. “I just thought it would be interesting for him to step backstage and step out into a trippy, visually charged world. A collage of nocturnal scenery. Apocalyptic with hints of life.”
An atmospheric approach is ideal for VR. Interactive projects like that of Isaac Cohen Rainbow membrane and VRSE catatonic show how much the medium can affect your emotions, which is both a blessing and a challenge. “VR requires a different cinematic grammar than traditional 2D movies”, VR designer Tino schaedler adds to the conversation. The founder of Optimist Design collaborated with Elderkin and together they developed a whole new language for making 360 Â° movies. “The narrative space is much more complex than in 2D. Editing as we know it doesn’t really work in VR. The viewer creates their own subjective cut through the movement of their head.”
Their video for âThe Hillsâ is only half the length of the four-minute song, which you can listen to here, but it delivers an emotional experience in a short period of time. The Weeknd’s foray into virtual reality is the latest in a slew of well-known and low-key artists experimenting with the medium, ranging from Square pusher, at BjÃ¶rk, in Foals, including the video for “Mountain at my doorstep“was also produced by Elderkin and Schaedler.
We spoke with Nabil Elderkin and Tino Schaedler about their collaboration with The Weeknd, the challenges of making 360-degree films, and the future of the medium.
The Creators Project: How would you describe the story in the video?
Nabil Elderkin: I just thought it would be interesting for him to go backstage and step out into a trippy and visually charged world. A collage of nocturnal landscape. Apocalyptic with hints of life. It’s less narrative and more of a visual experience. Juxtapositions of destruction with the beauty of the nighttime scenery and Northern Lights style sound design.
What was your first reaction to the song and the idea when you were approached for the music video for “The Hills”? Was it similar to the end product?
BORN : In fact, the idea came first. It was connected to the Apple VMA spot that I did a few months ago. And this concept came from Video “The Hills”, so it kind of came out 360 after I made the video. Abel told me about the Eminem remix which worked perfectly, and then we just added the sound design.
Tell me about the tools you used to create the video. Did you have to make new ones or is there now a standard kit for VR video clips?
BORN : We’re using a six-camera Go Pro rig on a body mount from Abel. I don’t think there is a standard in VR yet. It seems like a lot of experimentation. I think that’s what’s very fascinating right now is that I’m involved in the process when it’s so free and trying new ways to capture VR very early on.
How involved was The Weeknd in the creative process? How was the conversation about the meaning of the song compared to the video?
BORN : He was happy with what I had done, so it was a very smooth creative process. We have already collaborated and have an excellent collaborative relationship. He himself is a very creative person visually, so I like to collaborate with him. I’m also working on the video for one of his upcoming singles. Larry jackson At Apple Music, we were heavily involved in the creation as we worked together on the Apple Music spots.
How did your previous experience of making videos that look like they should be in 3D (eg, Alt-J’s “Hunger of the Pine”) come to use in this new VR format?
BORN : I appreciate that you felt those other videos could look 360. It sure would have been an interesting video to shoot in VRâ¦ chasing after and being chased with arrows flying towards youâ¦ deciding which POV you chooseâ¦ Wow, I would have liked to film that one in VR by now.
Tino, How was your experience with big blockbuster movies like V for Vendetta and Harry Potter on the set of “The Hills”?
TS: The scenography of the VR experience was not really engaging. It was directed by Nabil in front of the camera. We worked together on the conceptualization of the idea. So on this one, my involvement was more at that level. That said, it is interesting to rethink the scenography for VR. Because a lot of the old tricks we used in 2D won’t work in VR, like constructing parts of a building that only cover what can be seen on camera or placing lighting off the camera. VR will show everything. Thus, the sets for virtual reality will have to be designed and built differently to adapt to these parameters.
What’s the secret to making a great VR movie? How did you develop the growing visual language for virtual reality in this video?
BORN : I think the secret to making good VR is tailoring the experience to an end goal, mostly the one you are the POV of, and figuring out how to guide them. It’s 360 Â°, so you want the viewer to experience the full 360 Â°, which may need clues in the movie for the viewer to move their head and want to watch or follow someone / somewhere.
TS: As Nabil says, VR requires a different cinematic grammar than traditional 2D movies. The narrative space is much more complex than in 2D. Editing as we know it doesn’t really work in VR. The viewer creates his own subjective cut by the movement of his head.
Therefore, clues in the lighting, sound or movement of the characters are essential. The movement of actors and talents is essential. And for some of our work, like The foals video– we decided to have a static camera position and to create movement by choreographing the group around it.
What’s the next step for VR in your opinion? What other VR projects do you see on your own horizon?
BORN : I’ll let Tino speak for his own opinion, but I try to incorporate a VR element into as many shoots as possible to deepen my practice with that, and also create new movies to share as the content choices are currently limited.
TS: VR is a very dynamic new medium. It’s very exciting from an artistic point of view to experience and explore virtual reality. A new language is emerging. there is no established way yet of how to tell stories. It’s like in the early days of cinema, when you borrowed a lot from the theater: no crazy cuts, fixed camera positions and everything in black and white. We’ve just tapped a little bit of what’s to come in the future; Besides the improved visual space, VR will also allow us to add new sensory layers that will create experiences close to reality. with our Odyseey installation during London Design Week, we incorporated additional sensory layers. People were really moved by this because the experience created physical sensations. It’s an extremely powerful new experience in its early stages.
Listen to more music from The Weeknd here.