31 Oct 2023

The Evolution of VFX in Music Videos: A Historical Overview from A Top VFX Perspective

In the early days of music videos, the emphasis was mainly on the artist, their charisma, and the song itself. Visual effects (VFX) were introduced gradually and modestly. To understand VFX, think of it as the magic behind movies – it's the creation of environments and effects that can't be captured with live filming, whether it's a dramatic explosion or a fantastical creature.

Digital Effects: The Dawn of a New Era in Music Videos

Before computers took over the artistic scene, music videos relied heavily on manual tricks. From playing with camera angles to using physical props, the effects were all manually executed. Digital effects marked the beginning of using computer software to add, remove, or enhance elements in the videos, making them more dynamic and visually appealing.

VFX in Iconic Classics


Some iconic classics utilized groundbreaking visual effects that set them apart. A-Ha's "Take On Me," for instance, blended pencil-sketch animation with real-life action, making it seem like a comic book coming to life. On the other hand, Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" utilized stop-motion animation, where objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames.

CGI in Music Videos: Changing the Game

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) is the creation of animated or virtual images used as visual content. As technology advanced, music videos started to integrate more CGI, transforming simple videos into vibrant visual tales.

VFX Breakthroughs in the 2000s

This era saw the introduction of methods that added depth and realism to music videos. Motion capture, for example, involves recording the movement of objects or people and using that information to animate digital characters in 2D or 3D. Michael Jackson's "Black or White" was iconic for its face morphing sequence, showing different people of various races singing the song, and highlighting its universal appeal.

League of Legends, CocaCola

Redefining Visual Narratives in Music

VFX played a significant role in emphasizing the themes of songs. In Beyonce's "Single Ladies," the stark black and white visuals highlighted the sharp choreography. OK Go's "Here It Goes Again," on the other hand, used clever camera work combined with synchronized treadmill choreography to create a visually captivating experience.

The Advent of AR & VR in Music Videos

Augmented Reality (AR) adds digital elements to a live view, often by using the camera on a smartphone, enhancing the real world with computer-generated content. Virtual Reality (VR) implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Music videos started to leverage these technologies to offer fans more interactive and immersive experiences.

Experience Redefined: VR & AR in Music

Imagine not just watching a music video but being part of it. Gorillaz’s “Saturnz Barz” did just that by providing fans with a 360-degree view where they could interact and explore the video's environment, making the experience more personal and memorable.

Immersive Audio-Visual Harmony with VR & AR

Combining music with AR and VR offers a multi-sensory experience. David Bowie’s "Space Oddity" in VR, for example, could transport fans to space, floating among the stars, making the song's narrative more tangible.

Live Performances Augmented by VFX

Today's concerts are not just about live music. They are multi-sensory experiences. VFX, when integrated into live performances, can transform a concert stage into a dynamic visual story. Imagine being at a Travis Scott concert, where the stage transforms into a fiery spectacle, or watching Billie Eilish perform amidst ethereal digital backdrops.


Woman with flowers

Holograms are 3D images formed by the interference of light beams. When Tupac's hologram took the stage at Coachella, it wasn't just a projection; it was a lifelike representation of the late artist, showcasing how VFX can resurrect memories and moments from the past.

Modern Chartbusters: A Symphony of Sound, Story, and VFX

Modern music videos have become visual art forms. Ariana Grande's "No Tears Left to Cry" played with gravity, creating mind-bending visuals. VFX is no longer just an addition but an integral aspect of storytelling, weaving the song's narrative and visual content seamlessly.


With the pace of technological advancements, we're only scratching the surface of potential VFX integrations in music videos. The future may hold holographic concerts at home, deeply interactive music video games, or even immersive VR albums. 


The journey of VFX in music videos highlights the blend of art and technology, from rudimentary effects to cutting-edge digital masterpieces. As we look forward to even more innovative integrations, one thing is certain: the fusion of music and VFX will continue to amaze and inspire.