Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour ran for more than a year with more than 150 shows in six continents over 18 months. His third world tour for his fourth studio album, the show featured captivating environments and visuals created by Los Angeles-based Possible.
Founded in 2010, Possible is a design and animation house specializing in creating content for world tours, live events and large-scale installations, including Coachella and the League of Legends World Championship’s opening ceremony.
For the Purpose tour, Possible, led by director Michael Figge, teamed up with creative director Nick DeMoura and show producer Chris Gratton to create looks and cinematics. Using a combination of Cinema 4D, After Effects, X-Particles, TurbulenceFD and Octane, Figge’s team designed, shot, animated and edited 22 full-song scenics, as well as three intros and interstitials.
I asked Figge, Possible’s co-founder, and producers Roy Chung and Ryan Chung to talk about Possible’s role in the tour. Here’s what they had to say:
How did you get this project?
Michael: We were approached by Justin’s team to handle the visual components of the tour. Possible is known for producing high-end stage visuals for the biggest artists and shows around the world.
How did they explain the look and feel they wanted for the stage environment and visuals?
Michael: The show’s creative director, Nick DeMoura, gave us a deck that illustrated the themes and key moments of the show’s arc, and we all worked to key off of the deck, investigating related aesthetics. Working with surfaces on stage differs from traditional broadcast formats (TV, tablets, phones) because the scale of each piece of art needs to have a relationship with the performers. We used Cinema 4D to help sketch out concepts quickly during the design process and provided stage renderings to illustrate how certain moments could play on stage.
What did you look to for inspiration when designing the show?
Roy: When we begin researching design looks for our shows, we start with the artist’s existing aesthetic and feel out how much or little we need to adhere to. We always want the show to feel cohesive with the artist’s brand but if they’re willing to take risks it can lead to some really fulfilling creative departures. For this show, we drew inspiration from Justin’s album art, music videos and a robust exchange of design references between Nick, our team and all the major stakeholders.
At one point, Bieber sings “Mark My Words” while hanging over the stage in a glass box. Talk about how you created that unique environment.
Michael: With all of the cutting-edge technology we had on stage, we thought it would be an interesting point of entry for us to start with symbols that have endured the test of time, like classic sculpture and hieroglyphics. We modeled, textured and lit the environments with Cinema 4D and Octane Render.
Many of the stage environments include dancers. Could you talk about ways you created content that dancers interacted with?
Ryan: Once we had references for certain segments of choreography, we built environments for those movements. For example, when dancers floated at various elevations in front of the upstage video wall, we wanted them to have an ethereal quality that was enhanced by combining their motion with high-density X-Particle emissions that were distorted by TurbulenceFD plumes. That gave the particles a movement that dynamically interacted with the edges of the LED wall.
How did you get the many things happening on stage to come together so seamlessly?
Michael: We worked closely with the choreography and lighting teams to coordinate moments. With an LED wall that size, it’s easy to drown out other things that are happening on stage. Talking about when and where we needed negative space helped us make sure we were working in concert with everything else that was happening.
Explain a bit about how you used scale and forced perspective to at times make the stage appear much larger than it was.
Roy: Scale is always important to us. If you get it wrong, the content would wind up having a Spinal Tap effect [where miscalculations mean the band in the mockumentary winds up with miniature Stonehenge]. We always take care to make sure that scenic content is built to scale.
Dancers sometimes use set pieces, like a half pipe for skateboarders during “What Do You Mean.” Talk about how you extended those into the screen content.
Ryan: Seamlessly merging scenic with LED content is a tool we’ve employed before on some of the award shows we’ve worked on. With limited budgets and timelines, scenic pieces sometimes need to be supported by content in order to feel truly transportive. In this particular case, having a half-pipe on stage was just such a cool and fun idea, and we knew we wanted to create an environment that made sense while also helping the half-pipe feel more dimensional by giving it a context. To make sure the scale was correct, we first brought in the fabricator’s model of the half-pipe into Cinema 4D.
What are you working on now?
Michael: We’ve got about a half dozen shows launching in the next month, so stay tuned.
Director - Michael Figge
Producers - Roy Chung, Ryan Chung, Kerry Brown, Katie Plummer
Associate Producer - Alexandra Dolce
Art Director - Ronald Monahan
Sr. Artist - Chris Anderson,
Artist, Editor - Ismael Zendejas
Design & Animation - Mike Winkelmann, Trevor Kerr, Scott Peters
Editor - Ryan Costa
Composer - Danny Choi
Sound Design - Robert Brinkerhoff
Purpose Tour Creative Team
Nick DeMoura - Creative Director/Choreographer // Chris Gratton, Tour Director/Production Manager // Nick Demoura & Chris Gratton, Production Designers
Purpose Tour Cinematics Team
Directors - Michael Figge, Scott Peters
1st AD - Li Lu
Producers - Kerry Brown, Roy Chung, Ryan Chung, Katie Plummer
Dancers - Aubree Storm, Jonathan Erasme, Jonathan, Rabon, Yusuke Nakai, Jordan Ward, Mykell Wilson, Carlos Salvador, Elysandra Quinones, Mona Berntsen, Devan Smith, Jasmine Perri, Christina Chandler, David Shreibman, Luis Rosado, Kyle Cordova, Rudy Reynon, Jacob Landgrebe, Delaney Glazer
On-Site VFX - Chris Anderson, Ronald Monahan, Ismael Zendejas
Cinematographer - Andrew Mueller
1st AC - Ezra Riley
Gaffer - Travis Stewart
Best Boy Electric - Carlos Apodaca
Key Grip - David Newbert
Best Boy Grip - Ron Tondreau
Head of Wardrobe - Kiyomi Hara
Wardrobe Assistant - Jennifer Jones
Stunt Coordinator - Nick Brett
Stunt Riggers - Rico Burgos, Craig Jensen
LED Wall Tech - Steve Otten
Studio PA - Alexandra Dolce
Key Set PA - Sean O'Connor
Set PAs - Cory K Riley, Saw-Ann Bryan, Cori Elwood, Shawn Murphy, Andre Andrews
Groomer - Florido Basallo
Purpose Tour Touring Team
Lighting Designer - Cory Fitzgerald, Nick Van Nostrand
Lighting Programmer - Davey Martinez
Stage Manager - Timmy Doyle
Production Coordinator - Jessica Sheehan, Eric Johnson
Pro-Tools - Dylan Ely
Video Crew Chief - Sean "Sharky" Harper
Video LED/Operators - Christopher Campbell, Austin Wavra, Colton Carroll, Kyle Brinkman, Gerald Rodgers, Dylan Taylor
Road Manager - Scott Lawson
Tour Manager - David Klein
Live Video Director - Mike Drew
Video Engineer - David Vega
Video Programmer - Drew Atienza, Sean "Sharky" Harper
Pyro Crew Chief - Ron Bleggi
Musical Director - Bernard Harvey
Meleah Maynard is a writer and editor in Minneapolis, Minnesota.