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Tomorrowland’s Out-there Virtual Music Festival Reinvents Digital Events

Tomorrowland’s Out-there Virtual Music Festival Reinvents Digital Events

Tomorrowland’s Out-there Virtual Music Festival Reinvents Digital Events

When the Covid-19 pandemic made the gathering of large crowds impossible, Belgium’s in-person, mega-music festival Tomorrowland had to be cancelled.

But instead of being deterred, the team behind the festival saw the challenge as an invitation to take a leap and go where no one has gone before.

The result was a hugely impressive virtual event, a first-of-its-kind music festival featuring 60 artists performing in an immersive virtual world called Papilionem. It featured eight different stages, all designed from scratch in 3D, where attendees virtually walked through and viewed performances by artists such as David Guetta, Tiesto, Dixon, Charlotte de Witte, NERVO, Stephan Bodzin, Eric Prydz, NGHTMRE, ANNA and special guest Katy Perry.

“The goal was to create a music festival experience that went beyond the computer screen and into the outer realms of your imagination,” said Southpaw director Mark Ritchie. “So when Tomorrowland asked us if we wanted to contribute, we jumped at the chance.”

Southpaw was part of a global creative and production team of over 200 people, who conceived, produced and executed the festival during lockdown. As the Los Angeles-based remote production arm, Southpaw captured content of various DJs performing live against green screen. A robust custom engineering workflow was created that utilized the gaming technology, Unreal Engine.  This allowed the two teams to stitch live DJ performances with pre-viz comps of the digital festival world allowing for a real-time pre-viz of the final performances. 

“It was very exhilarating to be part of something so epically unique, and creative,” Mr. Ritchie said. “We were working on the bleeding edge of all this new technology at the time and constantly finding ways to make it work smoothly, because we had to.”

Ritchie, an EDM fan, may have even been seen busting out a few of his dance moves on set, to inspire the DJs who were used to performing to crowds in excess of a hundred thousand.

“I don’t recall sitting down much, and I’m pretty sure over the course of the week, I cut the entire festival standing up, keeping a beat in my step,” Ritchie admitted. “It may have been hard on my crew to watch, but in the absence of an audience, it was important for the DJs to feel the energy in the room, even if there was only a handful of us. 

Over 1 million people watched the Tomorrowland festival in one weekend. Even if real in-person events come back next year, the team plans to augment the festival with a virtual experience based on the success from 2020.

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Chance the Rapper Gives His Most Intimate Performance Yet at a Ralph Lauren Store

Chance the Rapper Gives His Most Intimate Performance Yet at a Ralph Lauren Store

Chance the Rapper Gives His Most Intimate Performance Yet at a Ralph Lauren Store

What happens to America’s biggest fashion brand when a pandemic cancels your fashion show?

In the case of Ralph Lauren, you put on a spectacular performance, despite it all.

During Ralph Lauren’s usual time slot for a New York runway show, the brand streamed a pre-recorded live show featuring Chance the Rapper at the Ralph Lauren flagship store in Chicago (Chance’s hometown), that was viewed on the artist’s and brand’s social media channels. 

In the 27-minute set, the Grammy-award winning performer filled the swanky store with some of his more intimate songs, including “Work Out,” “Summer Friends” and “Ballin Flossin.” It was a far cry from his usual stadium tours, giving fans the opportunity to see Chance be raw, authentic and fully himself.

Capturing an artist in such an intimate way requires a certain level of trust, so that’s why Ralph Lauren recruited Southpaw Productions to capture the performance.

“We wanted to create a very personal and up-close viewing experience, all the while remaining authentic to the space and music,” said Southpaw director Mark Ritchie. “We did everything from a production standpoint to create a truly unique vibe, using choregraphed camera movement, immersive camera angles, subtle lighting changes and choosing an array vintage camera lens to create a nostalgic feeling.” 

The Chicago Tribune took notice of the high production quality: “From a production standpoint, the stream was exceptional — certainly among the best setups for sound and video that music fans would have encountered during the ongoing shift toward live-streamed or other digital shows.”

The performance won raves from critics and fans alike, who filled up the brand’s and artist’s social media channels with enthusiastic praise.

“I am filled with joy on the verge of tears thank you for the love,” Chance posted on Twitter, in response. The artist has since been inspired to create more virtual performances during quarantine based on the positive experience.

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Southpaw Films Netflix’s Films it’s First-ever Bilingual Comedy Special with Felipe Esparza

Southpaw Films Netflix’s Films it’s First-ever Bilingual Comedy Special with Felipe Esparza

Southpaw Films Netflix’s Films it’s First-ever Bilingual Comedy Special with Felipe Esparza

Comedian Felipe Esparza may have made some “bad decisions” in his life, but we’re pretty sure following his stand up comedy isn’t one of them. 

ICM and Netflix tapped Southpaw to direct and produce the former Last Comic Standing champ’s first original comedy special with the streaming giant. 

What made this project unique was that it was the first time a Netflix comedian created a stand-up special in two different languages to be released simultaneously on the service. The same special but delivered in two languages.  

Felipe Esparza: Bad Decisions (in English) and Felipe Esparza: Malas Decisiones (in Spanish) were filmed in the same venue in Santa Ana, California in two separate performances with two different audiences. Each special highlights stories and anecdotes of Mr. Esparza’s numerous mistakes in his adult life—all told with his signature sense of humor.

Southpaw director Mark Ritchie worked with Mr. Esparza to pay homage to his Mexican roots growing up in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. In both specials, Mr. Esparza makes a grand entrance by rolling up backstage in a vintage baby blue lowrider, high fiving the production crew and close friends, all enjoying a laid back BBQ of Carne Asada set to the fresh live tunes of local Boyle Heights band.

“It was a really well-done show but truthfully most of the magic happened out on stage and I can’t take credit for Felipe being one very talented comedian,” Ritchie said. “However, I am very proud of my production team for completely transforming the venue and giving it both an intimate vibe and a very classy look.  It was important Felipe felt both comfortable and at home, and we were happy to set that stage and give Felipe the confidence that we could capture his unique point of view, and he just took home the rest.”

So, what’s the verdict: Is the comedian funnier in English or Spanish? 

Find out for yourself by checking out Felipe Esparza: Bad Decisions and Felipe Esparza: Malas Decisiones, now streaming on Netflix.

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Southpaw Wins an Emmy for Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now

Southpaw Wins an Emmy for Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now

Southpaw Wins an Emmy for Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now

When They See Us, the Netflix Original miniseries, won critical acclaim for its telling of the story of the “Central Park Five”—five black and Latino teenagers wrongly accused of raping a white female jogger in Central Park. The emotional story touched a nerve among viewers—for highlighting the failure of the legal system and the unfair media treatment the teenagers endured.

Looking to continue the conversation, Netflix approached Southpaw to create a companion special to the miniseries called Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now.

In the special, Oprah sat down with When They See Us creator Ava DuVernay, the show’s cast and the real “Central Park Five”—together for the first time—for a powerful conversation about the making of the miniseries and the true story behind it. 

“It was an absolute honor to work on this project with Oprah,” said Mark Ritchie, who served as the special’s executive producer and director. “We already had a close relationship with Netflix, and they trusted us creatively to capture this moment in a truthful and authentic way. On a production level, they knew we could meet the level of professionalism that Oprah expects in every project.”

Within the special, Oprah dramatically renamed the “Central Park Five” to the “Exonerated Five.” Emotions ramped up when she asked the exonerated men questions about their lives after prison, what it felt like to watch themselves on screen and coming to peace with the experience.

Both the series and hour-long special gave the five men the voice they deserved to be heard, becoming one of Netflix’s most-watched series this year. Southpaw handled all the production aspects of the special, including set design, filming and editing, the latter which earned Mr. Ritchie and his team an Emmy award.

“I am so proud of the work we did on this special, that it gave these men a chance to tell their story, to humanize them and spotlight the injustice they endured,” Mr. Ritchie said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now is currently streaming on Netflix and the OWN Network.

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Janelle Monáe Teleports to Old Hollywood for a Ralph Lauren Fashion Film

Janelle Monáe Teleports to Old Hollywood for a Ralph Lauren Fashion Film

Janelle Monáe Teleports to Old Hollywood for a Ralph Lauren Fashion Film

Covid-19 may have put a damper on the fashion runways, but a pandemic sure didn’t stop Ralph Lauren from unveiling his Spring 2021 collection in grand style.

Mr. Lauren enlisted the help of his muse Janelle Monáe to deliver a captivating live performance at his Beverly Hills flagship store, captured by Southpaw Productions. The evening came to life as Ms. Monáe opened with Frank Sinatra’s “All or Nothing at All” and continued to electrify the room with a selection of many of her hit songs, which was streamed online within an immersive digital experience.

“When it comes to music, I consider myself a time traveler,” Ms. Monáe told Vogue. The performance, shot in black and white as a dreamy ode to Old Hollywood romantic films, dramatically highlights the timeless quality the star possesses, both in her enduring talent and her classic style. Just check out that tuxedo.

Led by director Mark Ritchie, Southpaw worked their time-traveling magic to transform the Ralph Lauren retail location into a glamorous speakeasy. Everything from the set design to the types of cameras, lenses and lighting used on set was thoughtfully considered to evoke a classic era look and feel.

“Ralph had a clear creative vision, and Janelle brought it to life with her remarkable stage presence and charisma,” said Mr. Ritchie. “It’s a dream job to be a part of that kind energy, to collaborate with these very talented people and to be trusted to capture it in black and white cinema.” Fitting a full-sized film crew into a retail store on Rodeo Drive while keeping the staff and talent safe and meeting strict SAG and DGA Covid-19 filming protocols was no walk in the park, but a close-knit collaboration and trust between the teams made it all possible.

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YOSHIKI Brings Global Music Ensemble to LA Rooftop

Southpaw Overcomes Challenges Filming YOSHIKI UNDER SKY

YOSHIKI Brings Global Music Ensemble to LA Rooftop

In 2020, the film and television production industry was forced to reinvent itself amidst the crippling effects of a global pandemic. Southpaw was among the first production companies to responsibly and safely navigate stringent onset protocols while executing large-scale, in-person productions in the throes of Covid-19.

Having just completed the highly anticipated Tomorrowland, a completely digital / XR EDM Music Festival, the Southpaw team switched gears from the virtual world back to the real one with YouTube Originals YOSHIKI: UNDER THE SKY, a global musical event starring the acclaimed Japanese composer and musician.

The star-studded event featured pre-recorded and live performances with YOSHIKI and a wide range of renowned artists including Marilyn Manson, The Chainsmokers, St. Vincent, Nicole Scherzinger, Sugizo, Hyde, Jane Zhang, Lindsey Stirling, SixTONES, Scorpions, Sarah Brightman, and more.

“We went back and forth multiple times trying to embrace the right creative approach all the while being mindful of permit limitations, Covid-19 safety, artist schedules and what we could actually pull off with limited crew sizes,” Southpaw EP and director Mark Ritchie recalled. “With all these challenges, it was important to remain focused on the creative vision, finding the proper balance between a modern-looking rock show and an intimate performance nestled high atop a downtown Los Angeles rooftop.”

With a one-day load in and one very ambitious shooting day, Southpaw was able to cinematically capture a host of stellar performances, with many artists performing for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

“The setting could not have been more spectacular with the downtown LA skyline juxtaposed against an epic sunset,” Mr. Ritchie said. “Our story started in golden hour and we took the audience into a crisp black night sky as the city lights seemed to dance along with the music in the background.”

In addition to the LA shoot, Southpaw worked with production teams around the world to give creative direction for the other international shoots.

“Even though we faced obstacle after obstacle as you see in the film, we made it happen with maximum care and love for everyone,” YOSHIKI said in a statement. “We’re still in the middle of everything in terms of the final cut, but very excited that we finally could announce this amazing event.”

The release date for this highly-anticipated project will be announced soon.

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Kanye West’s YEEZY SEASON 3 Disrupts New York Fashion Week

Kanye West’s YEEZY SEASON 3 Disrupts New York Fashion Week

Kanye West’s YEEZY SEASON 3 Disrupts New York Fashion Week

Whether you love him or hate him, there’s one universal truth about Kanye West. When it comes to his music, his style, his politics or his personal opinion—the guy is not afraid of being a true original.

So when it came to launching YEEZY SEASON 3 at New York Fashion Week, it’s no surprise he threw out all traditional norms of what it means to put on a fashion show.

Kanye’s vision? Think: star-studded fashion show-slash-album listening party-slash-performance art spectacle featuring five hundred extras. And on top of all that: The whole world was invited to watch.

To bring his ambitious idea to life, Kanye once again enlisted the creative partnership of Mark Ritchie, having successfully worked together on past two YEEZY shows.

“I always enjoy collaborating with Kanye,” Ritchie said. “The guy’s like no other artist. He really knows how to push me, the creative and the production team well outside of our comfort zone. It makes for amazing storytelling and great work.”

The extraordinary event took place at Madison Square Garden, packed with nearly 18,000 fans and A-list celebrities. Kanye hit the floor of the Garden to drop his new album, The Life of Pablo, entertaining the crowd and emceeing the event at deafening sound levels.

Working with contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft, Kanye unveiled his new fashion line in the most provocative way, by recreating a scene from a Rwandan refugee camp. A blanket covering the entire set was pulled back to reveal hundreds of men and women separated by gender, wearing looks from the new collection, circling a pair of refugee tents. At one point, Naomi Campbell, Veronica Webb and Liya Kebede emerged to make a grand appearance.

Ritchie cinematically captured the event live with fourteen cinema cameras and all the familiar toys you’d see on a motion picture set. It was watched by more than 20 million people worldwide. The global event flooded social channels, even freezing the music platform, Tidal, for a short period of time. It was streamed at 756 cinemas worldwide and in Times Square.

“It was truly amazing to bring Kayne’s unique vision to life and capture this iconic moment where fashion and art and music collided in such a spectacular way,” Mr. Ritchie said. “And for it be shared and appreciated by so many music and fashion fans worldwide was just the icing on the cake.”

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Kanye West Launches YEEZY SEASON 1 in Style

Kanye West Launches YEEZY SEASON 1 in Style

Kanye West Launches YEEZY SEASON 1 in Style

When Kanye West comes calling, wanting to know if you want to collaborate on his first fashion show, you know you’ll be in for one wild ride.

“I jumped at the opportunity to work with someone as talented and unique as Kanye,” said director Mark Ritchie. “Knowing his artistic mindset and innovative thinking, I knew coming to this project with an open mind and an ability to be agile would equal success.”

Operating well outside the norms of both the fashion and broadcast worlds, that’s exactly what Ritchie did when filming the Kayne West and adidas Originals inaugural collection at New York Fashion Week. Called YEEZY SEASON 1, the Fall/Winter collection featured men’s and women’s apparel and footwear. The widely-anticipated, buzzworthy event was broadcast live in Times Square and in 23 movie theaters around the world.

Conceptualized by West and contemporary performance artist Vanessa Beecroft, the show, unlike any other seen throughout fashion week, showcased 50 models in all shapes and styles—wearing military-inspired garments, flesh-toned body suits and the must-have shoe of the season, the YEEZY boot—standing and moving in military precision to a soundtrack of electronic chords. A stark set and an infusion of dramatic lighting complemented the muted color palette and brought the fashions to the forefront.

The event drew the biggest names in fashion and entertainment, including Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the Kardashian family, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Diddy, Justin Bieber and Rihanna. Kanye also debuted a new track from his upcoming album entitled “Wolves,” with Vic Mensa and Sia.

The final details of the production came together quickly, as most fashion shows do, with sets built at the last minute and many creative decisions made in real time.

“With all live performances, it’s important to come in with a plan in place but be ready to embrace those curve balls that inevitably happen,” Mr. Ritchie said. “On this project, being surrounded by a likeminded team of the industry’s best technicians and artisans gave us a sense of calm that we could survive just about anything that got thrown our way—no matter how bizarre.”

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