Ryan Hemsworth is all alone, but he's alright with that.
In the music video for "Surrounded," the third collaborative effort between the Secret Songs beatsmith and Montreal’s Roméo et Fils director Martin Pariseau, the pair wrap up their ongoing, loosely-connected trilogy. As the latest addition to the saga, which previously included the tracks “One for Me” and “Snow in Newark," the music video continues the theme of exploring the emotional and social struggles of the rockstar DJ. Together with the video game powerhouse studio Ubisoft Montreal, Hemsworth and Pariseau highlight the process behind creating the graphics and action scenes for a video game-esque virtual reality concert, splicing the minutiae of IRL recording with snippets of the electronic artist in a virtual world. This finale, however, ends on a high note.
Soundtracked by bouncing loops and theremin-eqsue wails, “Surrounded” follows the typical electronic music formula by using the sugary croons from Los Angeles indie-folk warbler Kotomi as its hook. This, however, gives Hemsworth freedom to experiment with his own expertise.
“The actual real core of the sound is more on the instrumental side and gives me freedom to go crazy,” Hemsworth tells The Creators Project over the phone. He later adds “I wanted something with a bit more energy, and sampling live drums, and stuff like that.”
Like the song, the video provides some slight familiarity with the narrative of Hemsworth actually getting to the concert. The main focus, however, is on exploring the technical and electronic aspects behind creating a virtual reality world. Shots include clips of Hemsworth performing the same methods as those that go into creating human motion in video games like Prince of Persia or Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: a person standing in the skin-tight spandex suit and climbing prop ladders, walking over planks, and occasionally just rocking out (albeit while donning an Oculus Rift headset). Scenes in the video allude to the video game company’s own virtual creations, such as the French Cathedral from Assassin's Creed, and iconic Ubisoft pastel-colored cel-shaded graphics.
"The video has a very performative aspect, and I find that what's interesting is that when Ryan walks, it actually him,” Pariseau says to The Creators Project over the phone. “Every single movement is captured and rendered in 3D so it's really him doing this."
Near the video's conclusion, we begin to see concert attendees, who actually happen to be all around the world—a bro jamming out in a field shirtless; a corporate suit slurping down a Frappuccino larger than his head—all wearing their own Oculus Rift headgears while vibing out to the digital show. Here we see Hemsworth and Pariseau stepping beyond just artists into predictors of the future: despite all being disconnected physically, together, the people inhabit the same concert space as Hemsworth.
“I totally know that shows are essential and amazing,” Pariseau says. He later adds “It’s the complexity of solitude of the virtual space because you can get so connected. In the biggest connection there’s actually none, because Ryan is alone in that motion capture room.”
It might be the case that Hemsworth still all by himself physically, but in connecting with others linked in this video game world, the ecstatic smile plastered across his face finally replaces what has been a long-standing sadboy frown.