CGI Artist Ken Liao on creating surreal landscape for Shawn Mendes video

Nowadays, every single thing we see on the big and small screens, from epic blockbusters to national commercials, involves the use of CGI to better convey their messages. Whether that is creating all new worlds or giving humans superpowers, to simply removing an unwanted coffee cup from a finished shot, CGI has become one of the most vital aspects of film production. Taiwan’s Cheng Wei Liao knows this better than most, as he is one of his country’s leading CGI Artists.

“I used to create and draw comics for my peers and myself. Back then, I could only build up my imagination using just a pen and paper, but now there is so much more available to us. I found out that I have the ability to visualize the imagination of the clients on screen with my CG knowledge and skills,” said Liao.

Throughout his career, Liao has worked on countless acclaimed productions that show worldwide audiences just what he is capable of. The Daytona 500 Superbowl commercial won the Outstanding Promotional Announcement with his help, Taylor Swift’s award-winning “Look What You Made Me Do” video featured some of his best work, and the Oscar-winning film A Star Is Born relied heavily on his team’s CGI skills while making audiences unaware it was touched up.

“Besides the joy and achievement of fulfilling the gap between pure idea/imagination and what the audience can see on screen, I also like bringing out new looks and experiences to the public. Some of them would appear obviously CG works, while some of them might seem just normal,” he said.

Liao thoroughly enjoys that with his craft he can work on music videos for some of his favorite artists, which is exactly what he was able to do when working on the “In My Blood” video for Shawn Mendes. Directed by Jay Martin, the video features Shawn Mendes lying on the floor barefoot, while his surroundings begin to change. As he sings, it begins to snow and rain. The video ends with a wide shot of Mendes surrounded by a garden of flowers.

“I personally love this song a lot. The rhythm itself is absolutely memorable and beautiful. As for the video, since it was a long take, the flow looks very smooth and easy to understand. We prioritized the whole look of the video, with applying only simple floor tiles as the background, and successfully emphasized the focal point on Shawn Mendes himself. I also like in the last scene we chose the same flower as the one shown on the cover of this album to correspond with the other songs. I definitely think as the very first video coming out from this album, it was a good beginning of another stage of Shawn Mendes,” said Liao.

As the CG lead on the project, Liao made sure the effects were of the highest quality for this music video. What may seem simple based on the finished product of a continuous shot and Mendes lying down singing was actually the exact opposite. Using the software Houdini, Liao rendered the CGI images and ensured that he seamlessly set up the 3D environment that would ensure the entire team would work smoothly. He also helped complete the lighting for the two main scenes in the video, the rocks falling on the ground and the flower blossoming, the real beginning and end to the story. While he was working on it, he encountered a whole lot of technical issues, so he worked directly with the FX artists and helped troubleshoot and create the correct data of CG elements in the shots. In order to shrink the rendering time and make the video come out on time, he helped set up and reduce the lighting amounts to decrease the loading time.

“This experience led me to understand more about the pipeline in the FX department, which not only helped me become a better CG Lead, but also benefited me with the capability of troubleshooting technical problems and working more smoothly with different software,” said Liao.

The video hit YouTube on April 24, 2018 and currently has 266 million views on the platform, making it one of the singer’s most successful music videos to date. Liao is thrilled that so many people were captivated by the video and can’t wait to work on more for Mendes.

“The video is relatively simple in comparison to others on the market, but it’s still noticeable and eye-catching. It was an honor and an amazing experience to be part of making someone or something greater. And in this case, it happened to be one of the singers I admire a lot, and this makes me even more motivated to work in this industry,” said Liao.

Watch “In My Blood” here:

By Annabelle Lee
May 6th, 2019

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