Art Directing A Visual Album

Kary Acevedo

June 10, 2021
5 min read

Tomorrow, VOUS Worship will release their first full-length live album, I Need Revival. This project has been years in the making, and it’s one of my favorite things I have gotten to work on. The album is more than a music project; it is an immersive visual experience. It stretched and challenged our team in more ways than we can recount. It all began with the vision of our pastors—to produce our first full album, and to do it in The Temple House. The venue is a story in itself but, for the purpose of this article, The Temple House is a beautiful space on Miami Beach fully outfitted with 360° projection mapping. The empty room served as a blank canvas for us. Whatever we could envision and execute, we could achieve. The creative possibilities were endless, but the practical steps and technical problems were ours to solve.

My role in the project was to provide art direction and creative oversight for the visual capture of the album. This included style guides, song stories, photo shoots, BTS footage, etc., but my main focus was conceptualizing and working with our team to produce the room visuals for each song. And the task was daunting! I had no idea where to start. I had never done anything like this before. But, slowly, and with a lot of help from our team, I worked my way through the process. I don’t know what you’re working on or what you’re dreaming about, but my hope is that this look into my process will help you as you work to figure out whatever seemingly insurmountable creative obstacles you’re facing.

Here are the four steps I followed in art directing our visual album, I Need Revival.

1. Draw Meaning from the Music

It all began with the music. I knew I couldn’t get anywhere without drawing inspiration from the songs our team was producing. At first, this started with rough scratches and pre-production demos. These early versions helped me to familiarize myself with the melodies and the lyrics of the songs and to start to visualize what I was hearing. I didn’t just want to produce beautiful visuals; I wanted to create something that reflected and reinforced the message and the meaning of the music. I knew the two had to work in tandem to communicate what we were trying to convey. I wanted the sounds and the scenes to be in harmony. As the songs began to take shape, the vision for the visuals slowly came into focus.

2. Moodboard Like Your Life Depends On It

As I was listening and learning the music, I was practicing the sacred art we all know and love: moodboarding. If you haven’t moodboarded (that’s a word, right?)...you haven’t lived. This is a step I always include when preparing for visual projects. We don’t create in a vacuum; we are surrounded by an endless array of inspiration. Don’t expect inspiration to suddenly strike out of nowhere. Sometimes we say it does, but it’s really not true. Nothing comes out of nowhere; everything has an origin. Building a moodboard is a great way to get started as you seek to uncover the big picture for your project. Find things that inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Your final product shouldn’t be a carbon copy of someone else’s work, but you should draw from anything and everything you encounter on the way to your creative vision.

3. Build Visuals That Stand Alone Yet Work Together

One of the biggest challenges of this project was to create a cohesive and coherent whole, rather than a handful of disconnected and disjointed pieces. We knew the whole album had to vibe and flow together. Each song had to stand on its own, yet also make sense in the context of the body of work. This understanding forced us to consider the direction for each song in relation to the others. Once we settled on the art direction for a song, we would decide whether the look would be built around a still graphic or a moving visual. Those decisions helped us to determine who should work to produce the final visuals for each moment. In creating individual scenes, we considered their placement within the tracklist and what would come before and after them in the album.

4. Test Everything, Keep Only What Works

With the vision to capture a visual project via projection mapping, we knew that seeing the visuals on our computer screens was not enough. Everything we created had to be tested in the space. As we completed visuals, we would schedule a walk-through and head to the venue to display them in the room. At first, we used our phones to get a general idea of how each visual would read on camera. These tests were shared and evaluated by our team. As we progressed in the project, we took film cameras over to get a more accurate representation of the final product. Every test we did resulted in an adjustment. Nothing ended up exactly as it began. To give you an idea of how seriously we took our tests, we added a full day to our schedule just for testing and adjustments. Even up to the moment we captured each song, we were tweaking, improving and, in some cases, completely replacing what we had created weeks before.

Once we had done the work, the only thing left to do was let ourselves go and be in the moment. Our first couple of takes were sharp but mechanical. After all of the detailed preparation, we had to switch gears and lean into what God was doing in the room. It took us a moment to relax and refocus, but slowly we started to embrace the beauty of our shared experience. And now we are beyond excited to share this experience with you. Our prayer for I Need Revival is that our personal cry for renewal would spark the same in you. Revival starts with us, but our hope is that it would not end with us. Now that our work on this project is done, we let it go, knowing that the work of the Holy Spirit is anything but finished.

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