You don’t have to be an expert on Wang’s output to see that he doesn’t do anything by halves. From immaculately produced pop bangers to bombastic live performances, there’s a creative eye to everything he does. So when it came time to create a video for his latest single, the Coachella 2023-bound Wang had a fittingly elaborate concept in mind, filled with fire-breathing powers and demon-infused dance sequences.Wang’s creative brief landed on the desk of Rich Lee, an experienced director with a background in VFX. Known for his work with Billie Eilish, Eminem, and Rihanna, Lee is a filmmaker of considerable caliber. But even for a director this versed, the Cruel video would be no walk in the park.

“From a budget and timing standpoint, we couldn’t shoot this on location,” says Lee, who also serves as Chief Creative Officer at Synapse Virtual Production. “We also needed the ability to control the environment and its lighting, which traditional methods don’t always allow.”

A virtual production workflow built on Unreal Engine became the only solution. Fortunately, Lee and his team had just finished building a virtual production stage that would allow them to deliver Wang’s vision to the highest quality possible. That didn’t, however, mean unanimous excitement from Wang and his team.

A leap of faith

Cruel would be the launch point for the next era of Wang’s career, his Magic Man album cycle, and it needed to make an impact. With just a couple of weeks to pull everything off, there was justifiable hesitation to embrace a technology the artists involved had never worked with. What constraints would the LED backdrop impose on camera movements? How would it interact with the dance choreography? And how convincing could the end result really look with a limited time to create the bespoke virtual environments?

All those concerns melted away when the artists got on set. Backed by a 55″ diameter LED wall and dressed with dirt and rubble, the stage allowed the artists and production team to see something close to final shots in real time. What’s more, the digital environment displayed on the screen could be rotated 360 degrees without losing any of its quality. The stage proved so immersive that, if anything, it enhanced the artist’s performance.

Source: Unreal Engine Blog