Word on the street is the travel industry's on a comeback, though it's hard to imagine unencumbered movement will ever be what it was. But after nearly two years living with the specter of a global pandemic, we're all itching to see and feel something new.
Enter Rüfüs Du Sol's latest music video, "Alive." The work was directed by James Frost, who also created Radiohead's "House of Cards" and OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass." The work is five-plus minutes of stunning landscapes, experienced from a first-person flyover perspective.
Is this the work of a drone? No. The entire thing was produced using Unreal Engine, a proprietary 3-D creation tool owned by Epic Games, best known for giving us Fortnite.
"It would not have been possible to travel the world shooting remote landscapes, and I really wanted to find a way to explore the digital side," Frost says. "That's where Unreal Engine came in. ... I thought, what if we were actually in the environment instead of secondary to the scene? What if the environment is so photoreal that it pulls the viewer into believing they are traveling through these incredible landscapes? Then, to suddenly reveal it as a digital asset. What would that world look like?"
Unreal Engine bills itself as "the most powerful creation engine," and it isn't an exaggeration. The world as depicted by "Alive" is pristine and photorealistic. It provides something near a sense of vertigo when watched with headphones on and at full-screen.
By and large, it's nice, quiet advertising for Epic Games' larger interests, which include positioning Fornite as a metaverse. But just as Fortnite has come to represent a space of community, and not just a game (Ariana Grande went on tour in it last month), Unreal Engine's contribution to other entertainment projects, like this, is a metaphor for how our digital and offline worlds have begun to bleed, especially now.
"When I first started discussing the video with the guys several months ago, the recurring idea was this concept of 'analog vs. digital' and this sense of freedom," says Frost. "When I was sent the track, I immediately understood why; the song had this energy that was sheer momentum, and visually it spoke to me on this level. As a result, I wanted to create something where we sensed we were utterly free from restraint. In light of what the world has just gone through the last 18 months, it almost felt like the need to create a visceral piece of work."
The "Alive" video is positioned as a complement to the single's architecturally influenced artwork, which can be explored (as a realm!) on the band's website. The latter was designed by art director and 3-D designer Stefano Giocomello. Just as Rüfüs Du Sol uses "Alive" to explore the relationship between analog and digital, it also seeks to create a body of work that's equal parts electronic and organic—a constant, sometimes messy, collaborative interplay between pulpy existence and transhumanist construction.
All this also says something—just as messy, but no less potent—about the space we're in now. Maybe we can't move with the abandon we had, but perhaps never much noticed, a few years ago. But isn't Covid expediting entry into a different way of living that many of us were already mostly interested in—one where transcendent experiences and emotions could be had with the right choice of input (media, hardware, creative)?
Wasn't that the dream, to not have to leave our seats for the full surround-sound experience of living?
"Alive" premiered on Zane Lowe's World First.