An artwork, an ambitious technological challenge, and a motivated team led by The Mill’ VFX Supervisor, Stéphane Pivron & Alexis Baillia – immersed in a creative narrative spanning 4 minutes.
[PARIS, September 29, 2023] – For the grand opening of the massive Madison Square Garden Sphere in Las Vegas, director Marco Brambilla creates a monumental artwork paying homage to the rock legend Elvis Presley, visually orchestrated by Stéphane Pivron and Alexis Baillia, VFX Supervisors at The Mill in Paris. To crown the event, the legendary Irish band U2 will take the Sphere ‘stage for the first time. The promise of an unforgettable evening blending art, music, and cutting-edge technology.
Elvis Presley, a rock ‘n’ roll legend, embodies the vibrant and electric essence of Las Vegas on his own, where his stage presence marked the history of music and popular culture. It is only natural that his aura was chosen as the central element of this grand work, inaugurating one of the most exceptional entertainment venues in the world. To carry out this mission, renowned director Marco Brambilla, known for his works such as ‘Demolition Man’ (1993), ‘Excess Baggage’ (1997), ‘Civilization’ (2008), or ‘Heaven’s Gate’ (2022), leveraged his unparalleled expertise. From his vision emerged a gigantic and intricate work, accurately and passionately depicting Elvis’s life through 6 key stages: Birth, Music, Vegas, Performance, Metropolis, Vortex. Going far beyond a simple visual retrospective, this majestic work is the result of the meticulous assembly of over 800 video clips taken from the legendary icon’s iconic films. These fragments were harmoniously arranged to create a coherent visual and emotional experience, reflecting the enduring life and impact of the King of Rock.
Discover the project
Executive Producer Fabrice Damolini and VFX Supervisors Stéphane Pivron and Alexis Baillia unveil the project details below.
“Director Marco Brambilla had already the opportunity to appreciate The Mill’s work through previous collaborations. However, it was the masterful fusion of technical and artistic ingenuity by our VFX Supervisor, Stéphane Pivron, that particularly captivated him. Based in Paris, he had already assembled a competent team but was still looking to gather new talents to build and bring the entire structure to life. That’s how we were invited to join this adventure.
The work was still in its early stages when we first discovered it, requiring a major technical overhaul while preserving the director’s original vision. Without even knowing the technological challenges ahead, we immediately accepted, as enthusiasm pervaded the entire studio at the prospect of being involved in this work, myself included.
Under Stéphane’s guidance, a large-scale technological engineering effort was orchestrated, followed by the deployment of an agile in-house team. Behind the scenes, the entire team at The Mill, was aware of the technical challenges, but the determination and happiness of being involved in this project were invaluable. We all immersed ourselves in Marco Brambilla’s creative vision while bringing our own expertise. With 800 video elements arranged in 6 categories, every detail required meticulous focus. The artistic input from The Mill’s team was significant, skillfully connecting the various elements and giving them volume and coherence from the existing sequences. Concrete proposals emerged regarding the transitions between the stages and the 3D modeling of Elvis’s head. A collaborative relationship was quickly established with the director, based on listening and trust. Every virtual reality visualization of the project was a revelation, allowing us to perceive the work in three dimensions. This adventure, initiated in July, extended until September. Participating in such a project immersed the team back into the very essence of our profession, centered on the artistic aspect of the project rather than a typical commission. No product, no brand, but a profoundly enriching experience.”
Fabrice Damolini, Executive Producer, The Mill Paris
“We met Marco Brambilla in June. He was in search of profiles that were both technical and artistic for his monumental work projected on the Sphere at Madison Square Garden in Las Vegas 3 months later. From the first meeting, I was charmed by the project as it goes beyond the usual framework I am accustomed to. Much more than a commissioned film, this time we had to bring to life an artwork driven by Marco’s creative vision.
We first discovered the artwork through a Photoshop composition: Las Vegas through the life of Elvis Presley, divided into 6 distinct parts corresponding to key stages of his life. This gigantic composition contains over 800 video loops of less than 3 seconds, extracted from just as many different films, which, when assembled, form a construction whose primary inspiration is the film Metropolis.
Once the creative euphoria subsided, we moved on to production. Marco wanted to assemble on Flame to take advantage of the machine’s native 3D space and its responsiveness. The first technical challenge: the final projection resolution, 16K x 16K, required us to work in very high resolutions, posing enormous calculation and storage problems. Consequently, we had to develop a pipeline specific to the project to gain efficiency and fluidity.
Given the magnitude of the project, we also had to scale the team accordingly, and from the outset, we brought in Alexis Baillia, also a Flame Artist, with whom we led the production. Up to 3 people were added to work on After Effects, the machine on which we built most of the blocks that make up the final composition.
4 minutes in 16K, a little over 2 months of production, a project that was successfully completed thanks to the energy and motivation of The Mill team combined with those of Marco Brambilla and his own teams. I am very proud of this project for all the aspects mentioned above, but especially for the individuals who accompanied me throughout this project. We made the right choices all together, the challenge was substantial, and it’s collectively that we were able to achieve it!”
Stéphane Pivron, VFX Supervisor
“This project gave us the unique opportunity to dive into a very different universe from traditional advertising, but just as captivating. Under the inspired guidance of Marco Brambilla and Stéphane Pivron, we created a tailor-made workflow for this project. We progressed step by step so that every day a new artistic page turned, bringing us closer to the final result. The constant evolution of the project and this creative excitement encouraged us to push our boundaries. The harmonious fusion of 2D and 3D, crystallized in the final vortex, represents the culmination of this artistic experimentation, sublimating the incorporation of over 800 film clips to rotoscope, color-grade, stabilize, and integrate into the visual composition. Participating in the inauguration of this new venue was a real pleasure and an immense pride. I thank the entire team at The Mill and of course Marco Brambilla’s team, with a special mention for Delfina and Gintare, not forgetting our Supervisor Stéphane Pivron without whom nothing would have been possible. This unique experience will remain etched in my career as a Flame artist.”
Alexis Baillia, VFX Supervisor
We will soon unveil the behind-the-scenes and exclusive interviews with Marco Brambilla filmed at The Mill studio in Paris.
Director : Marco Brambilla
Director assistant : Gintare Siulyte
Producer : Stephen Holtzhauser
Editor : Delfina De Oliveira Cézar
Photoshop : Fred Tribolet
VFX Studio : The Mill Paris
Executive producer : Fabrice Damolini
VFX producer : Ghalia Chammat, Kahina Lamblin
VFX Supervisors : Stéphane Pivron, Alexis Baillia
VFX coordinators : Milan Vicet , Mathilde Cohen-Selmon, Alexandre Dupouy
Flame Artists : Stéphane Pivron, Alexis Baillia, Damien Peiro, Léo Verdier, Valentin Gingembre
After Effects compositing : Steven Ada, Fayçal Elkechai, Olivier Jarry, Julien Pinot, Michael Moercant
CGI: DLP PARIS
Producer: Cédric Choppin
Art Director, Matte Painter: Frederic Tribolet
CGI Supervisor: Federico Costa
CGI Modeler: Lustinian Funnie
CGI Modeler: Gael Chauvin
AI & CGI Lighting & Rendering: Bastien Petit-Testucci
Editor: Delfina De Oliveira Cezar
Editing Assistant: Lucie Barrion
Rotoscoping: Bonjour Saigon