The Virtual Production Journey of Ellie Goulding’s ‘Like a Saviour’

Delivering cutting-edge in-camera VFX

Join us as we go behind the scenes of Ellie Goulding’s catchy music video ‘Like a Saviour’ and explore the incredible opportunities unlocked by virtual production.

With a very tight turnaround, Tim Doubleday (Virtual Production Supervisor) with Richard Edwards (Virtual Production Producer) and their talented team saw ‘Like a Saviour’ as a thrilling opportunity to deliver cutting-edge in-camera VFX in record time.



In just a couple of weeks, the DNEG Virtual Production team built all the content to deliver high-quality visuals for the LED stage to bring the set of ‘Like a Saviour’ to life.

Using Unreal Engine and a mixture of Megascan assets and hand-built geometry, the team designed a photo-real desert environment which they topped up with a dynamic weather system, and a 24-hour day-night loop cycle designed with Ultra Dynamic Sky. Last but not least, the star constellation and its particle system you can see at the end of the clip was carefully created in Touch Designer. Being able to sync and have a high level of control over the stars meant that the team could dial in the size, speed and number of trails very easily, as well as time the star constellation perfectly with Ellie Goulding’s performance.

On set, a raised platform was built and covered in sand while a practical dune was added at the back, to help blend the practical with the virtual, which was displayed on a huge 6-meter-tall by 31-meter-wide LED wall. The set team designed a rostrum, hollow in the middle to create a pit to mimic the movement and freedom of a real dune. Around the edges of the rostrum, sand was glued down, which gave a seamless desert effect while also acting as a safety and sand mitigation control.

For the shoot, a camera was placed on a large techno crane and tracked with a Vicon motion capture system. This allowed the team to project the camera frustum onto the LED wall which in turn created the sense of depth and 3D that you see in the video.

Speaking about the project, Tim Doubleday, Virtual Production Supervisor, said:
“It was great to see the Director and Director of Photography learn and play with the tools that we gave them but the most rewarding aspect of this project was witnessing how technology seamlessly integrated into the creative process, empowering them to capture breathtaking shots. We are incredibly proud of the end result and what we were able to achieve in a very short amount of time. The content team created some beautiful 3D imagery which looked great in camera and helped deliver a seamless day/night which looked fantastic and lit Ellie and her dancers as they performed across the stage. The sequence was all simulated in real-time and could be sped up or slowed down based on the client’s requests. Having a constantly moving background really brought the video to life. Watching the clouds move and fade out as the stars appeared in the background was mesmerizing.”

Commenting on the challenges faced, Richard Edwards, Virtual Production Producer, said:
“Creating a convincing-looking time of day was a real challenge. The client wanted to be able to jump to any given time of day and have the simulation playback at a number of given speeds. Certain shots required the sun to start in a certain position and then finish in another. Because we were using a simulation based on time and world position we didn’t have direct control over things like the sun but had to move the world and time until it looked correct in camera. The simulation was designed to playback in real-time so speeding it up and slowing it down was also a challenge especially when displaying it across multiple LED nodes at the same time.”

Congratulations to our DNEG Virtual Production crew!

Dive deeper into DNEG Virtual Production’s work on ‘Like a Saviour’ with our behind-the-scenes video:




To find out more about DNEG Virtual Production – a partnership between DNEG and Dimension Studio – click here, and read more about the shoot for ‘Like A Saviour’ at British Cinematographer.




Los Angeles