PRESS X release debut track ‘Fusion’ with an ambitious 3D animated music video

This audio-visual experience took 6 months to complete.

‘We want to make a full audio-visual experience for every track’. That’s what Hamza Bin Tahir tells me over the phone when I ask about PRESS X, an EDM band he has formed alongside Jazib Arshad. This isn’t something particularly new anymore. In the Instagram age, singles are now more often than not accompanied by music videos. For better or worse, the aesthetic that backdrops your music is important in creating an audience.

The music video for Fusion by PRESS X.

This is a challenge that PRESS X is well aware of, especially since lyric-less electronic music is still not a particularly popular genre in Pakistan. “One thing that as a music group we want to try to do is sort of make our music connect to the audiences,” said Hamza. “The electronic music space here is in a blooming state, there are some really good electronic artists here and their work is resonating with many new audiences. So similarly through our dark, groovy and hard hitting sound and also our visuals, we can hopefully reach a certain type audience and in the process elevate the scene.”

Press X is the brainchild of Hamza Bin Tahir and Jazib Arshad
PRESS X is the brainchild of Hamza Bin Tahir and Jazib Arshad

Fusion is a decent debut from the duo. It’s dark and groovy, with arpeggiated notes forming the backbone of the track, with a drop that features a number of pitch-bending synths. The percussion is suitably thumping and bombastic, and gives the track enough horsepower to keep your attention. Although I do wish the duo had taken some more risks and slapped more of a unique style here. Structurally the song maintains a predictable verse-chorus structure, and there’s nothing that particularly surprises here. But nonetheless, as a debut, it does what it does really well.

I spoke to Sajjad Saleem, the co-director and sole animator of the music video, about the process of making a 3D animated music video, and the challenges of animating everything yourself. ‘It took about 6 months in total from start to finish to make the music video’, he said. The number shocked me. Almost half a year for a four minute music video!? It seems enormous, given that most music videos are completed within 6 weeks. The real time was taken in creating the 3D environments and character animation, Sajjad explained. This took about 2 months. Many things he learnt from YouTube, or improvised on the fly.

poster for fusion by press x
Fusion – PRESS X

Once Hamza and Sajjad had finalised the edit, then came a painstaking process of rendering out 10 seconds pieces of the video, like assembling a wall brick by brick. Most animation studios have ‘render farms’ – basically a massive cluster of computing power used to speed up rendering. Sajjad just had one computer: “I had my PC running constantly, 24 hours a day, for approximately 2 months”, he said, in order to render the video frame by agonising frame.

Sajjad sent me some pictures of the edit process – confusing screenshots with 3D frameworks and sketches of camera movements. Although it seems overly technical, using 3D animation allows you to do anything, create anything, and something technical becomes a uniquely creative sandbox. You can choose where how the camera moves, exactly the speed of the tracking, exactly what hue of red the flower will be. All of these decisions are technical inputs into the computer, but behind every digital input is a distinctly human and creative decision.

A screenshot from Sajjad’s computer, using cinema4D software.

The result is an abstract, experimental video that plays with themes of creation and destruction, greed and bloom. “The idea behind the video is sort of like how two forces operate; the flower gives life and the other, the pyramid, takes life”, said Hamza.

With ‘Fusion’, PRESS X succeed in creating a unique and compelling audio-visual experience, and although the track plays it too safe at times, it’s nonetheless encouraging to see artists pushing boundaries, and taking paths seldom taken.

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