Building massive animations for Roger Waters' The Wall tour

Roger Waters's massive stage production of The Wall, Pink Floyd's rock opera synonomous with Gerald Scarfe’s terrifying renderings of bullying schoolmasters and Communist repression, is currently at the O2 in London. For it, music promo director Ben Ib has put a CG spin on the animations from the film version, which are shown as a massive projection on the back of the stage.

Ben is best known for his concert visuals for the likes of Kylie, Lily Allen and Paul McCartney -- as well as music videos for the aformentioned diminutive Aussie and Calvin Harris. He created animations for three of the songs: Empty Spaces, Run Like Hell and Goodbye Blue Sky. All were created in 3D in Autodesk's Maya. We sat down with Ben to find out more.

DA: What were your concepts behind what you had to create?

BI: The Wall album is unique in that it's visual identity goes hand in hand with it's musical identity. This was always going to be the starting point. But it was also important to give the work a real punch, something different, something that the audience hadn't seen before.

"A perfect example of this was with the 'fucking flowers' animation in Empty Spaces. It's so iconic as an animation piece that to push it too far would be sacrilege. The strength of the original piece is in the visual ideas. Whilst the technique is stunning, it's Gerald Scarfe's imagination that really stands out.

"I approached it from a new angle was exciting. I used Maya's Paint FX to create a full 3D model of the plant. This meant that we were able to create cel animation on steroids."

Frames from Ben's take on the 'fucking flowers' of
Empty Spaces.

DA: How close to the aesthetic of the film, album and Gerald Scarfe's drawings did you need to stick, and how much could you put your own interpretation on it?

BI: "I stuck very closely to it. What is striking about the Wall is it's almost fascistic dedication to structure, form andl identity. Some say this is 'cold' but for me that's what makes it a real classic. Albums don't have anywhere near that level of dedication or obsession today.

"Sean Evans, the overall director of all the screen content, had a very specific idea of the look. As i was working on only sections of the show, it was crucial for me to understand and adhere to the visual language, and not to work against it.

Frames from Goodbye Blue Sky.

"Having said this, there was a huge amount of creativity involved in the animation. With Maya there is a whole host of tools available to take the motion in hugely different directions, and within the palette of looks/concepts in The Wall there is scope for lots of experimentation. We had a lot of fun with this."

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