February 9, 2016 Contessa Abono

VFX Breakdown of Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime” Music Video

Coldplay’s been busy making headlines lately with their new album Head Full of Dreams hitting number 2 on the Billboard charts and their recent performance at the 2016 Super Bowl 50 halftime with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars.

But what really interests us is the innovative VFX video they dropped recently for the single “Adventure of a Lifetime,” directed by Mat Whitecross with VFX by the Imaginarium, a digital motion capture studio from London and Mathematic, a Paris-based visual effects, animation and motion design studio.

We took an in-depth look at the intricate motion-capture work and amazing attention to detail it took to pull off the four bandmates as primates.

1. Spot-On Concept Design

The Imaginarium, developes and produces its own films, television projects and interactive material (as seen with the recent Planet of the Apes franchise, Godzilla and more.) For this project they were called upon by Coldplay to take charge of designing the concept for the chimp characters in the video.

This was no easy task as anyone that has worked with animation will know the hair can be very tricky and it covers 90% of a chimp’s body. “As creatures go, chimps are one of the more difficult to animate. Not only are they quite human in their movement, but they are covered in hair. Add to this that we had no backgrounds shot, and we were asking an awful lot of any post-collaborator,” said video producer Hannah Clark, in a recent The Guardian article.

The video took six months to complete in total but a good amount of that was spent planning before the shoots ever took place.

(Original designs by character artist Silvia Bartoli seen below.)


Chris Martin’s character design.


Guy Berryman’s character design complete with earring.

2. Seamless Character Unity

After the successful planning of character visuals it was time to suit up the band. The team at Mathematic carried out extensive development work on each of the featured characters. Each member had to wear a head mounted camera system that was configured into a three camera solution, and from this the animators were able to recreate 3D points from these multiple video streams.

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Photo below: This innovative idea is partly why Martin’s movements look so good when he’s walking on all fours in his chimp form. Specially designed prosthetic arms were created and added to aid Martin to walk like an ape. This enabled Martin to adjust his movements and shift his body weight to a more chimp like form.

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3. Realistic Actions of Subjects

In the photo below Director Mat Whitecross films the band using a special camera. Coldplay are not playing actual instruments, but similarly-shaped objects to enable creation of realistic body positions. It was a thin line between human and chip body movements. The team had to take qualities of both mammals and create a sort of hybrid creature, like a chimp that was learning to become human. All the disco-style dance scenes that incorporate human qualities and chimp qualities adds to the uniqueness, realism and excitement of the characters. Also Chris Martin’s chimp avatar perfectly lip-singing is especially compelling.


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Berryman as his ape character.



Chris Martin getting his monkey swing down.

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Final product of Martin swinging with real-life likeness.

And now the video! Black and White Photos by Guardian photojournalist Sarah Lee  as she was granted exclusive access to the set.

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More VFX Breakdowns on the blog:

VFX BREAKDOWN – The Mill’s Angry Birds 2 Bigger, Badder, Birdier



About the Author

Contessa Abono Contessa is a journalist from the San Francisco Bay Area that specializes in entertainment, online and photojournalism. She has written articles, shot photography and videography for many online and print publications such as SF Weekly, The Guardian, Guitar Player Magazine, The Press Newspapers and Pinpoint Music. Her favorite genre of film is documentary, usually about the supernatural or pop culture. She is also an avid pecan pie and kitten enthusiast.