Prepare to be amazed as director Ben Shirinian joins with VFX outfit Crush to show the power and poise of ballet in this evocative new short…
So ballet’s not your thing – it’s not really ours either, but we are interested in special effects that take films to a higher level, turning then into works of art.
Here we talk to Crush’s senior graphic designer and VFX artist, Julia Deakin, and CG production manager Raphael Quirino, to find out more about the post production work on the visually stunning short, Lost in Motion.
Combining live action with subtle visual effects, Lost in Motion captures the precision and technique of the dance to beautiful effect, exposing the strength and athleticism behind it.
Despite the muted tones in the film, it’s extremely rich centring and exciting. Lost in Motion shows the movements of a lone male figure (dancer and choreographer Guillaume Côté) in an empty space. It represents the dancer’s thoughts just before a performance.
Director Shirinian shot the film completely on greenscreen in just one day using a Phantom camera at 500fps in order to capture the depth and detail of the dance. With the camera only able to shoot the action in eight seconds intervals at that speed, director and dancer worked meticulously on the choreography, but to really bring the performance to life, Shirinian turned to his background in post production.
The film uses slow-motion sequences to isolate moments of the choreography and combines this with delicate effects to accentuate the power of the performance
Crush’s special effects in Lost in Motion
Crush got involved when [Post producer] Nick Sorbara put director Ben Shirinian in touch with Crush’s senior graphic designer and VFX artist Julia Deakin.
“He thought we shared similar sensibilities in aesthetics & conceptual design approaches,” says Deakin. “It turns out he was right, as Ben and I hit it off and immediately felt that we were on the same page. The question was how to take Guillaume’s stunning performance on green screen, and put him into an environment that represented a mental space – the moment just before a performance, when a dancer is lost in their own world, internalising their focus and preparing for the performance.
“The environment had to feel vast, toeing the line very carefully between dreamscape & reality. The other challenge was how to emphasise the awe-inspiring nature of Guillaume’s precision and grace, without upstaging him.”
Crush was responsible for designing the environments, lighting effects, particles, and graphics; matte painting and animating the curtain opening for the end reveal as Guillaume steps onto the stage; working with greenscreen footage; keying and compositing all footage and animated elements and final delivery.
To achieve the subtle visual effects, Crush used a combination of software, which included RealFlow, Maya, AfterEffects, Nuke, Cinema 4D, PF Track and Flame.
Crush found that the collaboration between PF track and Flame was vital for tracking the CG environments. “By sharing the camera track info, we were able to place lighting effects and particles within the scene accurately,” says Raphael Quirino, CG production manager. “The batch pipeline in Flame was important for our workflow too, because it gave us endless possibilities for control (and revisions!) on the compositing end, and we could set a look and then apply it across all shots with minimal tweaking.”
For the particle effects, Crush created a secondary set of tracking markers to parent the fluid dynamics to. “Those markers were on Guillaume’s feet, and were animated in 3D space as well as match-moved to his actions so that the smoke effects emitted from those points reacted both to his movements as well as the areas surrounding him,” says Deakin.
“We achieved the illusion that he was immersed in the smoke he was creating. As well, because of the ‘bullet time’ effect of these select ‘magical moments’, these simulations then had to be timewarped so that the whole scene, from dancer to environment to special effects, looked frozen in time.
Lost in Motion is exceptionally beautiful and makes for compelling viewing… watch it now: