Anyone who has had the privilege of watching Drake perform live can verify that the man knows how to put on a show. Not only is his stage presence unmatched, but his attention to detail when it comes to the visual elements is also unparalleled. This year, he really took the theatrical effects to the next level for the Aubrey & the Three Migos Tour.
Thanks to Willo Perron and Sila Sveta, the rapper was able to walk on an elevated stage adorned with thousands of tiny lights among other outrageous things like a gigantic scorpion, solar system, molten lava, and a yellow Ferrari. Add on the LED screens and BlackTrax technology that have the ability to track his every move and fans were in for the experience of a lifetime.
"For Drake's tour we collaborated with Sila Sveta to create video content," said Perron. "The result was evolving graphics and effects for each individual song that created a dynamic and rich visual story throughout the show.”
Highsnobiety recently spoke with Sila Sveta leads Alexander Us and Paulina Zakh to learn more about how their team successfully executed the design plans for Drake's tour and what their experience was like working with one of the biggest artists in the music industry. Scroll down for all the details.
What is your background in design? How did you get started?
Alexander Us: Sila Sveta was born about 10 years ago. At the time we were going to a lot of raves, music was always an integral part of our DNA. At one point my business partner and I wanted to elevate the game, and create a full visual experience for the music, so we began playing around with projection mapping-doing crazy shit mostly for club stages.
How did you become acquainted with Drake?
Paulina Zakh: Willo Perron invited us to join the tour for content production.
Why did you want to get involved with this tour specifically?
AU: I mean, Drake is like the number one artist of all time now, and of course it’s always fascinating to work with the top artists–they’re always eager to push the limits
What exactly was the concept for the visuals? What did Drake have in mind and how were you able to execute that vision?
AU: Willo Perron was a creative director on this tour. Drake loved 3D gags and wanted to bring a completely next-level visual production on tour.
What was your experience like working with Drake? How involved is he with the visual designs?
PZ: It was challenging and exciting. The artist and his team know their audience way better than we do, so they had a handful of ideas, that we didn’t think of, that definitely worked really well. We developed more than 100 looks for this show-trying various options, suggesting tweaks that might work better that some other, changing looks… Such a process!
Talk me through the process that goes into creating an elevated stage. How does that work? What technology is involved?
AU: It all starts with general concepts and ideas-then our team of designers pull together styleframes and stills to present to the creative director and artist. Once they are approved, we move into creating actual animated scenes (we use such software as cinema 4D, After Effects, 3D Max, Blender, etc). And only then comes one of the longest parts of this process-render time. That can take hours-and if the team decides to change it again, you start over. (Note: render is the automatic process of generating a photorealistic or non-photorealistic image from a 2D or 3D model).
How long does it take to work on a project like this? Was there a lot of planning involved?
AU: A lot of folks think that you can pull these kinds of graphics together quickly-and that’s a mistake. Yes, you can if you’re using mostly existing footage and simple editing-and for some shows that works really well. But when you’re working with such a special purpose, on such a massive scale, it’s a different story. We were invited to join this team two months before the first show and some of the show’s planning had already happened by then. But if you were to look at the initial concepts of the show, and then what we all had actually produced at the end-you’d be surprised-it’s like two different shows. But that’s the beauty of the process, the synergy of being able to work closely with an artist and their team to figure out the most elevated solutions altogether.
Was there ever a moment where you felt like something wasn't going to work when putting this together? What was the most difficult part?
PZ: Of course there are times when the creative teams on big projects like these hit impasses, especially when you have so many talented people in the room, but this team really worked together smoothly. For us its always a matter of collaboration. Our side of that means helping artists and their teams facilitate their visions, and beyond that, helping them imagine what different approaches might look like.
But honestly, for us, the most difficult part was again, the render time on our work, since the creative decisions were happening quickly, and the output was so important. Artists, know this: we are at war with render time, we use the fastest equipment available, and we always will. Join us!
What is the budget like for something this large scale?
AU: Big music tour productions cost millions. There are so many people involved, so much equipment is needed, so much work is done to put together something of this scale.
What is your favorite part of the current stage setup and design?
PZ: I absolutely love the LED sidewalls on the stage. They just give it such a complete look.
How do you feel now that it's all coming to an end?
AU: I feel like we brought some really high level graphics into the music world. It’s rare to see effects like that on a music tour. That said, we are so grateful to Drake, his team, and Willo Perron for the opportunity.
PZ: I mean, when you see 15,000 people going crazy happy, every night, over one of their favorite artists, and it dawns on you that you made a little contribution to elevate the whole experience-it gives you kind of an emotional lift!
What's next for you?
AU: We’re serious music and fashion fans so we’re still working in those directions now.
Anything else you'd like to add?
PZ: Kendrick, hi, big fan!
For more like this, meet the jeweller who made Drake's 100-carat diamond OVO chain.