The Rolling Stones get Angry with Roto & AI on the Sunset Strip

Black Kite Studios are super excited to work with Riff Raff’s Francois Rousselet for the Rolling Stones’ new single, Angry. The new single is the first to be released from the Stones’ latest album “Hackney Diamonds”. The music video, their 78th single, it uses face replacement to incorporate the new song into clips from their prior clips and from key points in their incredible careers.

Francois Rousselet is one of the most sought-after directors, he has collaborated with some of the world’s top musicians including Madonna, Depeche Mode, and Jack White. He has teamed up with the Rolling Stones before. This time, his visual concept centered around a series of billboards on the Sunset Strip in LA.


The idea for Angry was to have Sydney Sweeney (HBO drama series: Euphoria) cruising down the Sunset Strip in a Mercedes past larger-than-life Rolling Stones billboards. Within each board is an exaggerated and eye-catching piece of graphic art with vintage footage of the band moving, performing, extending out of the frame, and popping out against the sky.

Although these eye-catching billboards have almost all disappeared today, the locations haven’t changed so Black Kite, led by VFX Supervisor George Brunt, on-set VFX Supervisor Jonny Freeman with Richard Fearon in charge of the grade, was tasked with putting them back on the Boulevard.

From the point of view of a car driving along the Strip, the camera moves between a series of these billboards, reflecting a chronological outline of the band’s career, to the pace of the track. Riff Raff on the promo comments, ” a big shout out to Francois himself who designed all the 109 billboards along with the amazing team at Black Kite led by George Brunt and Jonny Freeman who helped showcase the dynamic performances of archive footage of Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and the late Charlie Watts.”

VFX Supervisor George Brunt explained the process. “We took iconic archive footage of the band and used traditional comping and 2D and 3D roto methods to work the moving footage into each poster.” As well as the archive footage there was also new live footage to reflect every stage of the band, with the lyrics of Angry as part of the composition of each billboard.

“The lyrics of the track were matched to the footage using a combination of lipsyncing and AI. “We used 3d lighting to match the plates and replicate the quality and sheen of a classic billboard,”, Brunt continues. “The end result had to look slick, and working with different resolution types is challenging. The devil really is in the detail with this type of work but slick it looks and we love it.”

Jonny Freeman was on set for Black Kite, the one-day shoot took place on Sunset Boulevard with a camera on the hero car, the team in a truck behind, and LA police escorts in front and behind the action to keep the famous street clear. The camera was placed from the point of view of Sydney to recreate the sensation of moving among the flow of the billboards on the Strip with the rock icons appearing larger than life the whole way.

“It was essential to get the lighting just right for the VFX team back at the studio,” comments Freeman. “I went on a tech scout the week before and shot lighting reference images to make sure we had additional light passes to help bed in compositions in the final film. Black Kite’s Rich Fearon, a long-time collaborator of Rousselet, was in charge of the grade.

The promo was shot on 35mm film, with Christopher Ripley as DOP. The DI grade was all about bringing out the brilliant LA light with a lot of contrast in the rich colour, whilst keeping the gritty texture of the film. “It’s always a pleasure to work with Francois and this time was almost an extension of the last Stones’ promo we worked on together, Ride ‘Em on Down,” he commented.  “I almost instinctively knew what he wanted and this was apparent when he saw the first pass and loved it!”