Tue 17th Sep 2013, by Paul Hellard | Production

CGSociety :: Production Focus

17 September 2013, by Paul Hellard

Inspired by the song's message of empowerment, MTh (Motion Theory) directors Grady Hall and Mark Kudsi, working with the talented crew of Mirada conceived ROAR, the latest music video for Katy Perry as an almost five-minute epic. This is an homage to adventures and legends in the vein of Tarzan, Robinson Crusoe and comic book heroine Sheena.

The music video was such an enormous undertaking, the talented team of artists at Mirada were called on to deliver over 100 visual effects shots in just three weeks. Walking the line between the many matte paintings that are completely convincing, and the comic art used as book ends to the song, there are fireflies, tigers, extra animals, birds and many other elements, not mean't to be seen as seamless VFX but enough to serve the comic storyline.

Hall and Kudsi spent two weeks on extensive R&D with the Mirada crew to establish vignettes that told a rich visual story in line with the core idea of the song. Much of the action was captured in-camera over three shoot days at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, with Perry completing the majority of her own stunts, as did the Mirada artists. Various jungle animals featured in the video were also on set for the complex shoot. After three weeks of editing and post-production, Roar was delivered, featuring a staggering 139 shots in the final cut.

While the Arboretum provided a substantial amount of foliage as a jungle location, Mirada artists completed the transformation through set extensions and matte paintings. Led by Creative Director Jonathan Wu and VFX Supervisor Michael Shelton, the Mirada team created the cave drawing cel animation, detailed particle work in a firefly sequence and plate compositing for some of the animal scenes.


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There were several distinct design elements that Michael Shelton knew he would be hitting when he visualised the tiger. They also expanded the setting with matte paintings they could fly cameras through. "We mapped out what we knew we needed to do to tell the story," explains Shelton. "Once we had a good handle on that, we wanted to put into it, a lot more than we had originally planned to do."

"The tiger had to be bigger than life, really," says Creative Director Jonathan Wu. "Movie and comics about the stories of the jungle, like Tarzan and Robinson Crusoe and comic book heroine Sheena, brought together with the mystical eyes in the dark, fireflies brought credence to the power of the tiger before embracing Perry and make her '‘Katy Perry, Queen of the Jungle', taking over that crown."

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That was the aesthetic. "The eyes in the jungle come out and become the tiger in a 3D form at one stage," explains Shelton. "The tiger itself was a combination of Houdini and Maya, while the fireflies and the eyes of the jungle were created and animated in Adobe After Effects and CINEMA 4D. We used Houdini in the formulation of the tiger form, because we needed really precision control on where the particles landed, so they could then make out the specific 3D tiger form." The Mirada crew took a 3D model of a tiger head and rigged it to roar, look around and jump. That was exported as an Alembic cache into Houdini, and it became a goal for particles to be attracted to. "What you're seeing is a particle cloud being directed to the surface of the tiger model. A fair hint of textures of a tiger hide was also required to suggest the presence there, but not too much." The tiger then dissipates and Perry, 'takes over'.

"The cave Perry walks into is almost completely replaced with a matte painting to accentuate the importance of the interior of the cave," explains Jonathan Wu. "There were tiger statues outside, we aged the whole scene so it took on a mysterious taste." There is also no way Wu and Shelton can pick any particular shot, "sort of like picking the favorite child. "We had to pick our battles and decide where we could get in," explains Shelton, "because we basically put this thing together in two weeks."

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Hall explained, “Mark and I wanted the video to reflect both the anthemic and personal sides of ‘Roar.’ Since we already had a fiery plane crash, a bunch of animal scenes, and in-camera vine swinging in the works, we decided to fully develop the story and scenes before working out the rest of the ‘icing’ of the huge visual concepts, animations, and surprises. We find that when the story'’s right, the visuals usually fall in line."

Currently topping the Billboard Hot 100, Roar is the lead single off Katy Perry’'s upcoming Prism album, which will be released on October 22, 2013 by Capitol Records.


Artist: Katy Perry
Record Label: Capitol Music Group
SVP, Creative & Video/Producer: Danny Lockwood

Production Company: MTh (Motion Theory)
Directors: Grady Hall, Mark Kudsi
Executive Producer: Javier Jimenez
Director of Photography: Maz Makhani
Line Producer: Oualid Mouaness
Creative Consultant: Mathew Cullen
2nd Unit Director: Jonathan Wu
Director of Marketing: Caroline Gomez

Post Production Company: Mirada
Chief Creative Officer: Mathew Cullen
President: John Fragomeni
Executive Producer: Patrick Nugent
Creative Director: Jonathan Wu
Art Director: Daryn Wakasa
VFX Supervisor: Michael Shelton
VFX Producer: Derek Johnson
VFX Coordinator: Kate DeCrosta
Designers: Luke Belderes, Clara Moon, Jing Zheng, Ken Lee, James Levy, An Nguyen, Charles Wang
Matte Painters: Niall Booker, Maxx Burman, Jason Dunn, Jim Hawkins, Rei Sparks
Design Animators: Phil Guthrie, Ivan Cruz, Eddie Won, Andrew Tan
Design Intern: Su Jung
Houdini Artist: McKendree Schilthius, Kevin Gillen
Cel Animators: Song Kim, Jahmad Rollins, Laura Yilmaz, Ashley Becerra
Tracking Artists: Michael Makers, Jared Sanders
Nuke Artists: Jason Bidwell, Geoff DuQuette, Jim Kuroda, Mark Robben, Ryan Quinlan
Flame Artists: Dave Stern, Pilon Lectez, John Geehreng
Production Manager/HR Director: Tina Van Delden
Creative Consultant: Ryan Erke

Editorial Company: Mirada
Editor: Alan Chimenti
Editorial Assistant: Michael Vargas

Color House: Ntropic
Colorist: Marshall Plante

Sound Company: Therapy Studios
Sound Designer: Eddie Kim
Sound Mix: Lihi Orbach



(L-R) Mark Kudsi, Katy Perry and Grady Hall on the set of Roar.



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