Porter Robinson Worlds Tour Visuals from We Are Prism on Vimeo.
We created a wild visual universe for Porter Robinson’s Worlds tour – combining anime with pixel art and glitched out Tumblr-inspired cg into epic landscapes and storylines. A huge cast of animated characters explore love, longing, and adventure in a series of fantastic alternate realities – which unfold on a massive set of on-stage LED screens. As Porter composed the Worlds album, he amassed a huge collection of links, screenshots, and story ideas pulled from the worlds of anime and online MMORPGs. We built on Porter’s foundation by adding layers of inspiration pulled from Indie games like Journey, Below, and Torchbearer and classic games like Another World and Space Harrier.
Our team included traditional illustrators, concept artists, cg specialists, and pixel artists. Many also worked as both designers and animators. Bringing these diverse backgrounds together – and responding to an exceptionally wide range of influences – presented a real challenge. The risk: being overwhelmed and ending up unable to create a coherent creative response. The challenge of avoiding a hot mess was something that everyone recognized. Some artists had their own struggles: “I actually have an intense fear of androids,” said Brakken, “so I was a bit nervous to work on the songs featuring the girl from ‘Sad Machine’. I never mentioned this to the team members, because I didn’t want to limit what I could contribute to the show. And lo, I ended up doing concepts for all three of her songs, haha.“
In the end, we found a way forward through the most traditional of approaches – putting aside the mountain of references and turning to long, late night brainstorming sessions. This allowed us to talk through, discover, and refine a unique concept for the project. Beau Brokop describes it as “Letting your subconscious do the work.”
Throughout the project, Porter Robinson remained a key part of the process, spending many hours calling in from around the world to be a part of the evolving conversation. These long talks crystallized an approach that used Worlds as a guiding principle – taking the opportunity to see the tour visuals as an extension of the reality introduced in the album.
Weeks of sketching followed. In this stage, lead illustrators oversaw each song in the set list to maintain a coherent visual concept. A large part of the project was spent in this conceptual stage, sometimes looping back several times in order to finally reach a satisfying result.
Once the conceptual work was complete, we began building out and animating each section of the show. Many of the artists on the team, because they came from such a diverse set of backgrounds, had no previous experience in working with other traditions. “I have never attempted something so experimental,” said Shawna Mills. The accelerated schedule – and massive amount of traditional, hand-drawn cel animation – added even more pressure. To maximize the amount of content available, work was done in an special ultra-large format and split into multiple layers.
As the animation continued, the epic scope of the visuals began to take shape. Finally, our editor Rodrigo Thurler, working closely with Porter and Ghostdad, the tour VJ, began to weave the animation into one unified visual performance. Because of the layered work that the animators had produced, the editors were able to remix and recombine content on the fly to create the final look of the show – with adjustments and tweaks continuing through rehearsals and right up to the day of the first tour date in Vancouver.
These visuals have lived on in the huge online community of Porter Robinson fans – most directly on Tumblr. Fans have recorded and re-edited the visuals into animated GIFs. This was quickly followed by original fan art based on our characters and worlds. A few even went to shows in Worlds cosplay. This embrace of the work – both online and offline – ended up being one of the coolest parts of the project, and fitting for something that began as inspiration pulled from the firehose of online digital ephemera.
Director: Elliot Kealoha Blanchard