Cancer 4 Cure, the latest album from alt hip-hop artist EL-P, may drop May 22, but fans of the Brooklyn rapper’s hard-charging lyrics and industrial production aren’t exactly known for their patience. To sate their hankering for the brand new tracks, fans are being treated to a series of teaser videos created for each song on the upcoming release, each directed by Timothy Saccenti from @radical.media. And when it came time to produce the eye-popping mix of CGI and live-action footage for series highlight, Drone, Saccenti turned to director Mark Szumski and his team at Click 3X for help.
Drone is a provocative dystopian trailer set against a deceptively bright world of blue skies, red roses, and a white picket fence. When what appears to be an insect buzzes on to the screen, the camera zooms close to reveal that the object is actually a tiny but technologically advanced robot drone. The next instant, a bird swoops from the sky and shreds the machine with its beak as the sky transforms into a nightmarish red-and-black storm.
“The drone had to look like it emerged from some black-op lab constructed by paranoid NSA scientists,” said Szumski. “It couldn’t look too futuristic or alien so that it wouldn’t look out of place among the rest of the teasers. It was imperative that the drone had a tremendous amount of detail because it was going to exist in a brightly lit world and be eaten by a real bird. It had to be absolutely believable once it was in the mouth of the hawk.”
Szumski and his team spent two weeks designing the drone while preproduction took place, giving them time to toggle between a variety of designs to arrive at something incredibly detailed that did not too closely resemble an insect. Simultaneously, the CGI team, led by Anthony Filipakis, constructed a photoreal hawk to sweep the drone from the flower garden. The team carefully calibrated the post work with live-action plates of a swooping hawk, reconstructing the lower beak and the nearby feathers in CGI for the drone-chewing scene and seamlessly integrating the various plates to make the disintegration of the robot look fluid and natural.
Szumski and Saccenti have joined forces for numerous projects over the years. Saccenti believes that strong collaborative spirit allowed them to make Drone “fitting with the haunting pace of the greater campaign while keeping the simplicity of the original idea intact.”
Szumski agrees wholeheartedly. “When I work with Tim, I get the opportunity to develop creative concepts, rather than just being a VFX artist. When he approached me with this one, I was extra excited, because it meant the chance to work for an artist that I respect so much in EL-P.”