Recently held FIFA ‘22 World Cup’s Bollywood Music Festival at Lusail Stadium in Qatar on Friday, 4 November witnessed interesting stage visuals titled as Perfect Amalgamation which were delivered by an Indian motion design firm and lab Switch Studio. The studio visualized, designed and produced the visuals and it was the world premiere of Perfect Amalgamation which is a concert that brought together stalwarts in the field of Indian fusion music in an immersive experience. Composed by Siddharth Kasyap from SK Music Works, this show featured along with Indian Bollywood singers Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, singer Sunidhi Chauhan and composing duo Salim-Sulaiman.
This unique show brought together design, animation and art with music, entertainment and Bollywood and had received a standing ovation at the Royal Opera House, Mumbai. And it’s safe to say that its premier at the Lusail stadium is just the beginning for Indian musical experiences to make a mark on the world stage.
Upasana Nattoji Roy, the founder and director of Switch Studio, is not new to the world of design and animation for unusual and large screens. She shared, “What excited us about this project is to create interpretive visual narratives at the scale of International concerts. The stage visuals for this show are custom designed, produced, precisely planned, and modularly structured to be able to become a property that can travel across the world and a variety of stage sizes.”
Upasana shared the details of the grandeur in a detailed interview with Animation Xpress:
1) How did the association with FIFA take place?
SK Music Works’ global representative introduced the show to the curators of the Bollywood Music Festival. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sunidhi Chauhan and Sulaiman Brothers were headlining the evening. Perfect Amalgamation opened for them and the Music festival kicked off the first of the FIFA 2022 events. It was a thrill to see the poster and tickets listed on the FIFA website as well. Switch had designed the show just before the pandemic and it had a showreel of a couple of shows in India for the curators of the event to see.
2) In total how many music pieces were put up? How many members of your team were involved in the project?
This show is a pre-composed music set with 10 pieces. Based on the specific event new compositions are added. This project is an ‘art in motion’ project. I visualised and directed the pieces, Switch Studio produced the visuals. Vishrut Manseta joined us to create four of the ten pieces in the first version of the show.
For the FIFA world cup opening with the Bollywood Musical night, two pieces were added called ‘Marhaba’ or welcome in Arabic and the concerto visuals were repurposed for the Grand Finale. For this version of the show we needed to adapt the render files to a totally different scenography for the stage in Lusail. This design adaptation and production was done by me. The SK music works team took on the rendering of the files due to the paucity of time.
3) How was the experience working with the music artists? Was there any particular requirement which seemed to be tricky to accomplish?
It was a pleasure working with Siddharth Kasyap and his brother Shravan Kasyap. While I had the creative freedom, they not only participated in understanding our process but also aligned their music and technical teams to support what I was creating. The visualization and creation of the visuals was the artistic part which I have experience with. But this was the first time I was creating a product – a show that would travel across the world in different contexts, scenography and scales. The first version that I delivered had to be easy to adapt to new stages in the future, without knowing the tech specs. The other aspect was the duration of visuals which was more than an hour. This makes it equal to rendering a feature length duration of stage visuals with complex layers.
4) Having worked on Nadam, how did it help you in bringing this project to life?
The scale for the first version was around the same size as Nadam and the one in TedX Gateway. All of them had to flow and not have jarring edits and cuts between them.
The difference is the context. Stage visuals are meant to be seen from a distance and need to engage a very distracted audience. Nadam on the other hand is a 270 degree enclosed space with a more dedicated audience. After Nadam I had way more confidence in taking this on.
5) Visuals play an important role in any live music show. How did you go about creating it especially since so many artists and various instruments were involved?
While today most large scale shows from India have visuals as an important part of the experience, in the case of Perfect Amalgamation, it was an added layer of meaning to create a more emotive experience. Most of the songs in this show have a flavour that is led by the ‘Hero’ Instrument. Each instrument evokes an emotional response, for example the violin created an anthemic piece. Additionally, quite a few Indian instruments evoke the sound of the regions they come from or are even associated with mythological characters.
We follow a design process that we have developed over the years that is able to include all these ideas and distill them into a brief that we build for ourselves internally over and above what the client gives us. That is our Discovery phase which guides how we develop the preproduction of the project.
6) Switch Studio visualized, designed and produced the visuals for the show. What were the techniques used for this live production?
This performance is a showcase of possibilities for stage visuals beyond the ones that are created through templates or video jockeying with samplers. Each song in the show has a totally different sound. Each song had its own moodboard to map out the colours and visual elements that the music evokes. This was shared with Siddharth Kasyap to see if it aligned with his intention while creating the music.
We could add another dimension to the music since we had the freedom to create. The visuals are meant to augment the experience without preconceived decisions on the techniques to be used in production.
Once we had outlined the abstract narrative for each song, the style sheets were created for the highlight points of the song along with a visual ‘bed’. Based on this we decided on the members of our team who would work on the project. Overall we used Photoshop and vector illustrations, stock videos, shot videos with chroma, 2D animation, 3D models, and particular systems in After Effects and C4D.
7) It would be great if you talk about some of the striking visual pieces like ‘Strings on Fire’ and others.
My main aim for Strings on Fire was to keep the audience on the edge of the seat just like the music did. That was achieved by creating a fiery visual race between the instruments that featured in the song. Bursts of birds of freedom interspersed the manic pace to provide breathing space and a graph to the experience.
The Floating winds on the other hand felt like Krishna in the Arabian nights. One of the pieces which I love didn’t go to the FIFA stage is Ensemble – it is a stark black and white piece that uses Emotive typography. Giant Devanagari typefaces and animated texts that communicate the math in music and to help the audience join along like a karaoke.
8) Perfect Amalgamation is an immersive musical experience. What are the important points that had to be kept in mind while executing visuals on such a large scale?
There are a couple of points for each phase of designing and production of the visuals. It is important to know and visualize the location of the screen with the musicians on stage.
In the case of this show, it was originally created to be behind the musicians and I kept in mind that there would be parts of the screen that would be blocked by the musicians standing in front. But since I wanted to deliver visuals that could have a longer shelf life without a high additional cost to the clients – I created even the ‘dead’ sections. This paid off very well for the FIFA event as the stage is under the band and exponentially larger, creating a bold impactful visual experience.
Create bigger than needed when you can but find a balance, you can scale up only up to a point without losing quality, but don’t start with a giant screen that becomes a problem for rendering out the files.
Make sure you map the entire pipeline of production as you visualize. Work modularly as much as possible, to make segments that can be inserted easily and keep time for last minute corrections.
9) What are your expectations from this event?
I am passionate about creating immersive large scale visual experiences for productions that include classical and folk performances of music, dance and theater arts. I think we can visualize and produce artistic shows of scale such as U2 and Bjork. While we are not yet close – I am hoping this is the beginning.
Other than this musical event, Switch Studio is working on many other interesting projects. Their on-going effort KariGhar, in effect, is an experiment to see if there is an equitable ecosystem of collaboration between traditional and digital artists. Upasana is very passionate about the traditional Indian art forms and aims to make use of her digital design skills to keep those precious arts alive, in turn empowering the artisans associated with it.