Rain and Fire as Metaphor
Building Energy with a Mix of Live Action and CG
The film was for a production company call Aesthetic Vision Production. They saw my "Polar" work and gave me carte blanche to create this.
I came up with the simple idea of a lonely man running, naked, into a big rainy place and exploding (in a metaphoric way) all what is inside him and the light giving into darkness.
How did this simple idea translate to storyboard and then to final film?
For the most part the final film looks quite like the storyboard except for the beginning. I'd planned for the film to begin in front of a sea with thousands of rose petals falling from the sky. In the storyboard the camera would then move back and reveal that was in fact a reflection in the man's eye. But then I didn't have the time to composite this shot. I think it is better in fact this way so that the "light" is shown only at the end.
Obviously there are some similar visual themes in this project as in your other work.
In thinking about this I wanted the AVP project to unite with another project I did, Fire Flower, which showed a naked woman dealing with surrounded by fire while this shows a naked man dealing with rain. One day I may do films about the other elements (Air should be interesting to films cause you can only see the consequence of it.)
I had four weeks to do all the entire film, from one day of shooting to the final sound design and mix. It is quite short.
The first difficulty was to make it feel that the man was running for real in a big place while we were shooting in a very small one. We used a simple moving walkway and it works pretty well. Because I knew the film would be very dark, the better choice was to use a dark screen and do some little rotoscoping for the rain behind the man.
Is the rain all CG?
All the droplets are not CG, as rumored elsewhere. Sometimes people that do CG and VFX fall into a trap of producing everything in CG or 2D just for the pleasure of seeing an element made completely by some plug-in or software. I used to have the same attitude. But with years you see that it is not necessarily always a good way to proceed. Real footage is not only a good starting point for effects work, but also wins a lot of time and quality. In the case of this production saving time was crucial.
The real difficulty is shooting footage that matches the effects you want to create with it. I encourage all artists to film their element and rework or modify them so it will not just look like an effect
In this film the droplet is also a character, as important as the man, so it had to be more than just a simple drop. First, we shot slow motion of a real drop. With After Effects and the caustic plug-in I added some nice reflections and used the modified drop as a source for the particle system in Trapcode Particular.
In making this I realized that the rain looked pretty similar on every shot. Of course that wasn't a good idea because I wanted the rain to translate the building energy of the man. If you look closely the rain never looks the same I any of the shots. Sometimes it is motion-blurred, sometime it is not, sometimes it is in slow motion, sometimes not.
In one shot I remove all the rain around the man and only use the drops falling from his body in an effort to convey his loneliness and also because it just looks great. That was one of those magical moments that you don't expect when you are planning the effects out but that come to you during the process.
Sometimes you storyboard a shot, shoot it, composite it and get halfway through your production time and then just have to scrap it and try something different because it simply doesn't work. Hard choices to make but important ones that can save your movie.
You mentioned After Effects for the compositing. What other tools did you use?
The plug-ins used with Trapcode Particular are the Trapcode Starglow and True Camera Blur from Red Giant. Most of the plug-in I use are from Red Giant Software.
For the shooting part we used a Panasonic HVX200 with 35mm macro-lenses, which revealed all the texture of the man's eye. It was awesome.
I edited with Final Cut Pro and all the sound design was made on Cubase by the sound designer of "Polar," Olivier Ranquet. The music was composed, as for Fire Flower, by Alexis Lasis and Philippe Bastien.
Did the client like the final product?
The client was amazed by the result and accepted it without a single modification. But after some time, I received a mail from the company telling me that some spectator said it reminded them of a suicide-bomber exploding.. They asked me if I could change some shots. Of course i didn't. It is that kind of surprise you have all the time when you do metaphoric films where the spectator can cast his own vision and sense in it.
The funny part is that the production company doesn't exist anymore. But thanks to internet, the film can exist and be seen by everyone.