High-end VFX studios QuietMan and COPA Network recently teamed up to voyage to ancient China in Coldplay's new video, a cinematic action-adventure featuring Rihanna. The studios worked closely with directors Adria Petty and Alan Bibby to execute a full range of postproduction, developing each of the video's environments and dozens of shots from the initial mood boards and reference art through digital matte paintings, multiple layers of CGI, the final Flame Premium composite, beauty, and color correct.
The video is a remarkable collaboration between an extraordinary cross-section of creative powerhouses. "This is a creative story that used technology to move it forward," stated QuietMan EP Carey Gattyan. "We had to work together to create a stylistic vision - getting two directors, two creative directors, multiple talented artists, two superstars, and one record company to agree upon the same creative vision was the ultimate challenge."
Princess of China is equal parts adrenaline rush and romance, as ninja fights clash with lovers uniting in a stark desert landscape. Scoured with a grainy, vintage look evocative of old-school martial arts films (from the combined efforts of COPA and superstar colorist Joe Gawler from Harbor using DaVinci Resolve and Flame), the video tours the palaces, throne rooms and villages of a lost time, in a land of stoic guards and the thousand-hand Bodhisattva, a creature at times portrayed as Rihanna herself.
While the video appears to be a seamless live action piece, it is actually a complex and highly technical CGI production consisting entirely of dozens of green screen shots. "Princess of China delivers the kind of special effects that viewers expect out of a feature film or high-end commercial," noted COPA EP Yfat Neev. "The high level of the work here speaks to the expertise of QuietMan and COPA." Indeed, it also speaks to the tremendous creative resources of each company. The collaboration between the two studios comprised a team of over 20 flame artists, CG animators, and matte painters.
To create the many-handed effect of the Bodhisattva, Petty and Bibby shot the dancers and Rihanna on separate plates so that COPA Network and QuietMan could time them together. The VFX studios then created a matte painting of the room and projected it onto a 3D surface to create camera movements of the animated elements. The studios created the remaining elements using a combination of Adobe Photoshop and CG, at times seamlessly merging the formats together.
The design process required a special urgency, finding an optimal way to switch from day to night shots. The studios collaborated closely with Petty and Bibby throughout this process. "It was important that we had not just different themes, but different color palettes too," noted COPA CD and VFX Supervisor Vico Sharabani. "We put a lot of thought and research into compiling these in a very short amount of time. COPA comes with a large and powerful group that, when working together on our highly efficient production pipeline, can pound through even the largest projects quickly."
QuietMan's partnership with Petty stretches back through half a dozen project over the course of several years. They also have a strong relationship with Coldplay, having knocked out an eye-catching 60-second promo with the band for a recent American Express campaign.
"Our familiarity with the director and client definitely helped merge the work of two top-line studios into one cohesive look," noted QuietMan founder Johnnie Semerad. "You really can't tell who handled which scenes, which is a testament to the professionalism of both shops."
In addition to viral and TV distribution, Princess of China will play on larger screens at Coldplay concerts and at select awards shows.