marco brambilla on KING SIZE, his monumental elvis presley artwork at the sphere las vegas
A 16K resolution immersive artwork for the opening of Sphere in Las Vegas has stunned concert-goers by celebrating the ‘king of rock’n’roll’, Elvis Presley, like never before. Film director and video artist Marco Brambilla was invited to concoct the digital artwork dubbed KING SIZE — the largest video collage ever made for rock band U2’s inaugural residency at the Sphere. Created using state-of-the-art AI and CGI technologies, the project is on view from September 29 to December 16, 2023, imbuing the audience with Elvis’s world through a staggering 15,000 sqm display screen with a 180-degree field of view.
Brambilla is widely known for pioneering digital imaging technologies and AI to create immersive video installations that draw on the vernacular and use found imagery to satirize today’s society and question how we produce and transmit information. ‘A core aspect of my work deals with our relationship to technology,’ he tells designboom in a recent interview. To create KING SIZE, the artist uses AI to carefully trace the singer’s legacy and mold it into a hypnotic spectacle. But behind the mesmerizing entertainment lies a darker truth; Elvis’s ascent to stardom and tragic death have exposed the failure of the American Dream, its tireless consumer-entertainment complex, and the damages caused by the culture of excess and capitalism. Marco Brambilla digs even deeper, pairing the Elvis Presley phenomenon with a peek into what the evolution of AI might entail. Read on as the artist unpacks the hypnotic production behind KING SIZE and its haunting symbolism.
all images courtesy Marco Brambilla Studio
From singer to beloved actor with 33 movies added to his legacy, Elvis was revered as a god, as an icon who can do it all. In 1977, his ultimate demise shattered that illusion, sending a whole country down a spiral of grief and shock. As Marco Brambilla argues, Elvis emblematized the American Dream, all while succumbing to it. ‘Elvis defined the concept of celebrity before it became ubiquitous. His evolution from prodigy to recording artist to actor to movie star and ultimately to myth are all depicted in the collage. AI was used to create his final transformation into a resurrected larger-than-life idol,’ the artis adds.
visualizing an AI-enhanced futuristic Metropolis
Creating 1,000 looping clips using AI and CGI technologies
Marco Brambilla trained an AI model, Stable Diffusion, to process over 12,000 film samples of Elvis Presley’s performances and movies he had previously gathered and, in some cases, to create Elvis’ likeness from scratch. From those clips, about 1,000 individual samples were selected to play in loops, generating a hypnotic matrix of films. ‘The AI allowed me to work much faster in finding the material I wanted. The process became a kind of stream-of-consciousness exercise between myself and the AI model,’ he explains to designboom. The artist also used advanced CGI technologies to edit the samples and inject more details into the video collage, collaborating with the largest post-production studio in Paris.
At the end of the artwork, Elvis Presley no longer appears as a mortal – he becomes a god-like figure, befitting his mythic stature. Made to fit the Sphere’s larger-than-life LED screen —the highest resolution screen on Earth with its 16,000×16,000 pixels of resolution— Brambilla’s KING SIZE reframes the way and speed in which we are used to consume images.
Elvis Presley on his throne, like a god-like figure
Marco brambilla turns king size into a hypnotic progression
Oscillating between reality and illusion, Brambilla’s upward-scrolling artwork begins in the Nevada desert, where the virgin sand gives birth to Las Vegas with its neons and music. The work continues charting Elvis’ career—from his musical breakthrough to his ascent to fame on stage and onto the silver screen to his decline during his seven-year residency in Las Vegas. His myriad physical incarnations in life, on stage, and in movies pass by in concentric rings, creating a vortex of images that celebrate his legacy. KING SIZE’s scenographic and emotional progressions become all too evident, putting the viewer in a state of trance. ‘As Elvis becomes progressively larger-the-life, his transformation is mirrored by Las Vegas becoming an AI-enhanced futuristic Metropolis,’ notes the artist. ‘As we approach the top of the scroll, the density, and speed of the samples I used increases, creating a cycle of production and consumption impossible to sustain.’
Concluding our talk, we ask Brambilla if Artificial Intelligence could be viewed as a tool or a collaborator for monumental projects like KING SIZE. ‘I see it more as a tool at this point, but it’s still in its infancy, so I assume it may become more of a two-way dialogue at some point. Technically, this project is more of a hybrid – it uses the collage technique combined with AI and computer graphics to create a more seamless ‘Canvas’. The process of making it was also informed by the ‘Collaboration’ with the AI tool, which often led to unexpected associations that found their way into the work.’
Source: lea zeitoun I designboom