VFX BREAKDOWN: Skrillex – “Butterflies”

At CICLOPE Festival 2021, Skrillex’s “Butterflies” (directed by Ben Strebel, produced by Biscuit Filmworks, VFX by Electric Theatre Collective) won the Gold for Best Visual Effects in Music Videos. In this Q&A, Tobin Brett, 3D Lead on the project, shares some insights on this haunting film. Check the film’s breakdown below!

How was the creative process between the VFX team and Ben Strebel?

Electric were on board with Ben fairly early on in the project, so we could talk through his ideas pre-shoot. Throughout the whole process Ben was open to our ideas on what could improve the video, which made the whole thing feel really collaborative. We had a bit of time pre-shoot to previs a few of the different effects so we could have a visual of what would happen at each of the wicked locations. Once the edit was locked we had regular reviews with Ben to show our progress and talk through how to make the best of every shot.

Did you encounter any technological challenges while working on the project?

The integration of the ghosts was relatively straightforward VFX, so this wasn’t the biggest challenge for the team. We did however have to come up with a reliable and fast process of visualising the cloth and its behaviour on each of the dancers. To do this we built a set of tools in our go-to VFX software, Houdini, and its new KineFX toolset to process the animation. We also used the vellum solver for the cloth that helped to give us the realistic look we were going for. The cloth’s behaviour played a big part in the impact of the choreography and how it worked with the track, so this setup was incredibly important. It enabled us to import the mocap data with an animation layer on top and within a relatively short amount of time have a render of our ghosts with cloth simulations and movement similar to the end result.

Which is your favourite sequence in the music video?

The final dance sequence as there’s lots of great moments, and we’re really happy with how the VFX team came together on it.

SKRILLEX – “BUTTERFLIES” (with Starrah & Four Tet)

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Biscuit Filmworks (UK) // @biscuit.filmworks
EXEC PROD: Rupert Reynolds-Maclean, Andrew Law // @rupewolf⁣
PRODUCER: Adam Farley // @mradamfarley⁣
PROD MANAGER: Roma Nesi Pio // @romieg
DOP: Benjamin Todd // @toddy911⁣
CHOREOGRAPHY: Holly Blakey // @hollytblakey⁣
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Oliver Hogan // @ollie___hogan⁣
CASTING DIR: Kharmel Cochrane // @kharmelcochranecasting⁣
CASTING ASS: Virginia Kerr
LOCATION MANAGER: Titus Penate // @titus_penate⁣
WARDROBE ASSISTANT: John Revell // @revellwithoutacause⁣
STEADYCAM: Simon Wood // @simonsteadicam⁣
FOCUS PULLER: Sean Lomax // @sean___lomax⁣
DRONE: Stem Studios // @stem.studios⁣

EDITING COMPANY: Metal Edit // @metal_edit⁣
EDITOR: Matt Knee // @matt_nee⁣

POST PRODUCTION: Electric Theatre Collective / Colour // @electric.theatre.collective, @etc.colour⁣
PRODUCER: Antonia Vlasto // @vlastagram
POST CD: James Sindle // @james.sindle.electric ⁣
3D LEAD: Tobin Brett // @tbn_vfx
2D LEAD: James Belch
COLOURIST: Luke Morrison // @thehux