ZULU XR Brings The Respective Live-Action and Digital Worlds of Busta Rhymes and Young Thug Together In "OK" Music Video 

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Robert Goldrich
Monday, Apr. 8, 2024

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The creative and technical journey that yielded Busta Rhymes “OK” music video featuring Young Thug reflects an ever expanding toolbox which carries implications and applications for both the present-day and future production landscape. 

“OK’ meshes the live-action and digital performances of Rhymes and Young Thug, respectively. There was no live-action option for the latter artist in that he wasn’t readily available for filming as he’s been incarcerated and on trial facing criminal charges, including racketeering. A big-picture issue in the trial is that prosecutors are using lyrics of Young Thug’s songs as evidence against him and co-defendants. It’s part of what many creative artists contend is the growing unjust weaponization of rap lyrics in the U.S. criminal justice system and abroad. This topic was recently addressed in a feature documentary rolled out at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, As We Speak, which chronicles how law enforcement has quietly used artistic creation as evidence in criminal cases for decades, leading to charges against--and the imprisonment of--artists. “OK” is a show of support for Young Thug, aka Jeffery Lamar Williams. Supered messages towards the end of the video read, “Free Jeffery” and “Protect Black Art.”  The clean version of the music video is shown here.

The production company behind the video is ZULU XR, with ZULU directing. ZULU--who also edited and designed “OK”--is partnered in ZULU XR with Wendell Hanes who served as executive producer along with Benny Boom on the video. Hanes additionally was the sound designer on “OK” via his Volition Sound.  

ZULU explained, “The creative challenge of Young Thug’s unavailability due to incarceration led us to explore the use of Hyperreal Humans to bring his presence to life. We embarked on creating a hyper-realistic digital avatar of Young Thug using Metahuman, combined with motion capture to mimic his unique performance style. This was achieved through motion capture sessions with an actor emulating Young Thug’s movements, which were then digitally applied to the Digital Double.

“Integrating this with Busta Rhymes’ live-action performance required meticulous planning and execution,” continued ZULU. “We utilized a virtual production stage at Canoe Immersive New York, equipped with LED screens to project the digital environments and avatars, seamlessly combining them with the live-action footage. This technique allowed for real-time interaction between the physical and digital elements, creating a cohesive and immersive experience.”

The production leveraged Unreal Engine for real-time rendering of the digital environments and characters. This allowed the creative team to visualize and adjust scenes on the fly, ensuring perfect alignment between the digital and live-action elements. The synergy of motion capture technology, Metahumans, and Hyper Real facilitated a dynamic and expressive representation of Young Thug, beyond what traditional video production methods could achieve.

ZULU shared, “Our attraction to this project stemmed from the opportunity to push the boundaries of entertainment by integrating cutting-edge technology with creative storytelling. The collaboration with Busta Rhymes and the chance to innovate within the realm of virtual performance presented an exciting challenge. ZULU XR’s commitment to pioneering in the digital entertainment space made this project a perfect fit, aligning with our vision to redefine immersive musical experiences.” 

“OK” is one of the hit songs on legendary rap artist Rhyme’s latest studio album, “Blockbusta.” 

Credits

Production Company ZULU XR Gaudens ZULU (aka ZULU), director; Wendell Hanes, exec producer & producer; Benny Boom, exec producer; Snyder Derival, DP and producer; David Arquilla, associate producer; Alonso Williams, Young Thug mocap double; Lauren Collins, assistant mocap artist; Rio Adriana, mocap model; Crystal K Lalloo, Shanelle Stone, Sarah Maraga, Nyzhe Gatlin, models; ZULU XR & Joseph Palacio Soraca, VFX director. Color Grade Ben Aitar, colorist. Audio Volition Sound Wendell Hanes, sound designer. Production Studio Canoe Immersive VFX VFX Grace - 3D Animal; Aden Perez, Alvaro Rodondo, Anil Jaiswar, 3D artist characters; Danilo Zabala Meza, Laura Maria Casorla, David Vergara, Luciano Marquez, clothing simulation; Bartosz Burda, Lars Pollentier, Hamid Bahrami, 3D environments artists; Rizvi Shanas, 3D environments artist, vehicle animator; Ker Chen, 3D tech specialist; Feeding Wolves, technical advisor; Yu Wen, Mohadeseh Salehi, Sousan Ghalamdaran, Soheila Bakhtiary, 3D clothing designers; JSFilmZ, mocap tech.

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