Ingenuity Studios Harmonizes Spotify's 'Today's Top Hits' Campaign with VFX
August 26, 2021

Ingenuity Studios Harmonizes Spotify's 'Today's Top Hits' Campaign with VFX

Spotify’s latest campaign highlights Today’s Top Hits, their largest, most international playlist. The campaign centers around a 60-second video, “The Hit Station,” and celebrates the breadth of artists and tracks that are defining culture today, including featured hitmakers Billie Eilish, Travis Scott, Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny, and BLACKPINK. 
In the video, viewers fly through fantastical worlds where these five iconic artists discover inspiration to create music. Ingenuity Studios built all of these environments in CG, with live-action, on-set footage shot completely on greenscreen or bluescreen. The studio also helped to provide a sense of framing for the on-set virtual environments during pre-visualization to prepare for effects work.

Made in collaboration with Spotify’s in-house creative team, Ingenuity Studios completed a total of 65 shots in five unique CG environments which aligned with each of the five starring musical acts. The studio delivered 90-second, 60-second and 15-second edits (per artist). 

Powered by breakthrough technology
Transitioning from environment to environment was a technical challenge, and placing one environment inside the other was a whole other level of complexity.

Grant Miller, partner and VFX supervisor at Ingenuity Studios explained: "Immediately after viewers are immersed in the anti-gravity chamber, they’re treated to a wild transition of the chair flying out of the chamber, where they soar across the moon and zoom in on the final environment which begins with a magical tree perched atop the moon. So, we have one environment situated within another environment.

The transitions from one world to another were among the more technologically challenging aspects of this campaign. The team wanted to drive home that all of these environments were inside the same ship, so it was a challenge to ensure that transitions feel totally seamless.

These are really big worlds. For example, the largest scene that Ingenuity handled was made possible by Solaris inside Houdini, a new USD system, and by rendering with Renderman. In the past, this type of scene would have been split up into different parts and reassembled, “but by working with USD, we’re able to hold the entire scene in one file, rendering everything together for better lighting and interaction. This was a big win for the project and a great tool in our toolbox."

Artist input
Environments for Billie Eilish, Travis Scott, Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny, and BLACKPINK were carefully honed. “All of the artists involved provided great feedback regarding their individual environments so that they were representative of their unique identities,” said Miller. “Also, our studio has done a number of videos and other projects with both Billie and Travis in the past, so this commercial felt like a natural progression of those relationships. Ingenuity was born out of the music video world,” Miller added.

Looking ahead
“As a studio, whenever we are heavily involved in preproduction and shoots for a project, we’ll definitely be incorporating USD with Unreal, as we did successfully with the Spotify work,” Miller added. “It speeds the time to deliver and removes a lot of the questions that the client could have because what they’re viewing on set is more accurately transferred over to the final. We no longer have to take previs and build something that matches it. There is no duplicative work here. Our team is looking forward to improving the connection between Unreal and Houdini USD anytime it makes sense.”

Technology used by the Ingenuity Studios team for the Spotify campaign included Houdini (Solaris/USD), Nuke, Maya, Unreal Engine, After Effects, Premiere, 3DEqualizer, RenderMan, and Alexa LF camera.