Creating visuals for Porcupine Tree’s epic Closure/Continuation tour

Discover how we made immersive visual films for multiple sections of Porcupine Tree’s biggest tour to date!
Written by Miles Skarin
Published on February 26, 2024

In 2021, we began an almost year long process of preparing several video assets to be used as part of Porcupine Tree's Closure/Continuation tour. The tour was the band's first in over 12 years and was hugely anticipated by the band's dedicated fanbase. These videos were to be displayed on the band's immersive full stage width LED screen.

We were very passionate and excited about the opportunity to be able to create new material for both the band's new material and classic tracks and to help give the shows an epic, cinematic visual presentation.

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During the performance of Blackest Eyes, this visual sequence uses lighting techniques to create the effect of the character hovering dramatically over the stage.

The show's dramatic opener, Blackest Eyes, one of the band's most popular songs, had never had a video accompaniment before. When producing the live visuals for Blackest Eyes, we were directly inspired by Lasse Hoile's iconic album artwork for In Absentia - we wanted to bring that character from the cover to life and building it in CGI to look realistic was a huge but immensely rewarding challenge.

We made use of Unreal Engine 5 and Metahumans to build the technically very complex character design. We felt as though the computer-generated approach made the final visual film that much more dramatic and unsettling, as there are times during the video where it's difficult to tell if what you are seeing is real or artificial.

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The In Absentia album cover by Lasse Hoile that inspired the visuals for Blackest Eyes
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The 3D model we created to depict Lasse Hoile's character from the In Absentia cover.
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By utilising the advanced capabilities of Unreal Engine's Metahumans, we were able to create an incredibly complex character model that fooled a lot of people into believing it was a real person (even Porcupine Tree's touring visuals & lighting director Vince Foster didn't know it was CGI until we told him in person a few weeks into the tour!)

For Even Less, we put together a visual to accompany the song's cryptic 'Numbers Station' voiceover at the end of the track. Most notably used during the cold war, these stations were shortwave radio stations characterised by broadcasts of formatted numbers, which were believed to be addressed to intelligence officers operating in foreign countries.

We designed the front of a cold war era radio transmitter box and added a ghostly screen with numbers flashing up. It was a relatively simple creation but one we believed to be very effective in visualising the end of the track in a mysterious fashion!

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The track Last Chance To Evacuate Planet Earth... Before It Is Recycled presented another great opportunity to enhance the performance with visuals.

The second half of the track features an extended instrumental performance with a chilling voiceover from Marshall 'Do' Applewhite, the leader of the notorious cult Heaven's Gate. We made use of real archival video footage of Do combined with psychedelic animations to create a hypnotic and trance like effect on the audience.

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In addition to creating new visuals for classic Porcupine Tree tracks, we also had the opportunity to produce films for brand new tracks Harridan and Herd Culling, both of which were used as part of the promotional campaign for the band's 2021 studio album Closure/Continuation.

For Harridan, the live visuals were taken directly from the song's accompanying lyric video, but modified slightly. In the lyric video, the visuals are shown on a TV screen in a dimly lit room. In the live environment, this would have made the visuals quite distant and hard to see properly at times, so we decided to "break them out of the box" so to speak and give them the full screen treatment.

Harridan is a frenetic song that is constantly changing and evolving, so we wanted the visuals to have a kinetic energy to them, to effectively complement the band's on stage performance. We were really pleased with how this video translated into the live show, there's so many parts of the video that synced up perfectly with what the band were doing on stage!

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The live visuals for Harridan made use of an ominous white square, which was the main visual motif for Porcupine Tree's album Closure/Continuation, appearing on the album cover itself and inside the booklet.
The last song on the band's setlist that we provided the visuals for was for Herd Culling. This was a slightly extended version of the music video that we produced for the song. The band wanted to add a dark and atmospheric opening to the song for the live performance, so we needed to add a few extra scenes to the start of the video to make everything sync up for the live performance.

In addition to producing new videos, we also had the opportunity to go back to Lasse Hoile's stunning visuals used on previous tours for 'Fear of a Blank Planet', 'Sleep Together', 'Anesthetize' and 'Halo' and "remaster" them into 4K resolution. We achieved this by using a variety of upscaling tools, which most importantly allowed us to retain all the glory of Lasse's original work but in much clearer detail!

Creating the visuals for Porcupine Tree's Closure/Continuation tour was a challenging but immensely rewarding experience for us. During the tour, it was amazing to see our visual work shown each night to thousands of fans all around the world. A massive thank you to Steven, Richard and Gavin for placing their trust in us for this project and to all the fans of the band that have passed on lovely comments about our work, it is very much appreciated.