Traversing through darkly alien foreboding landscapes, Paris filmmaking duo Stef & Wyt’s (Stef Meyer & Pascal Bourelier) fully CGI sci-fi music video Ghost Culture, is the unsettling nightmare that’s difficult to articulate yet lingers at the back of your mind for days. In this guest post, Stef & Wyt explain how they drew from classic sci-fi narratives whilst experimenting with photo-realistic 3D animation designs for this overlapping archiological journey through fallen civilisations.
This animated music video came from the desire to create a visual universe for Dawn Geometry’s cinematic music. Dawn Geometry is Alex Edenne’s solo musical and visual project, the music composer behind the soundtracks of our previous short films.
The title Ghost Culture, the deep ambient music, and the lyrics made us think of popular science fiction narratives, such as the short stories written by Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. Stories about civilizations that rise and fall, on Earth or other planets, leaving mysterious traces through ruins, bones, ash and dust. These stories reflect similar situations that have happened throughout our human history. It’s a great mythological theme, constantly re-actualized.
But we wanted to talk about this cyclic idea through various perspectives:
- By playing with different scales of time and space, from a microcosmic perspective to a macrocosmic one. From the close ups of the desertic grounds to the planets seen in space infinity. From the beginning of life portraying microorganisms trapped in primal ice, to a dusty rocky planet, seemingly dead.
- We wanted to put the accent on an absence of what is familiar to us: no plants, no water, no animal or human presence. We decided to show human figures through ghosts made of particles, architectural ruins, and bones. The plants also have a ghost-like appearance, as if they were made out of a carbohydrated material.
- An archaeological picture of an unknown period and an unknown area. It could be another planet, it could be Earth. We wanted the film to be like it was an archive itself, digital and synthesized, with a specific neo-rendering style, between 3D-scan and holographic point-cloud. Still, on the idea of cycle, the human particle figures are designed as if digital ghosts revived each night and vanished at dawn.
- The ghosts were a key element in what we wanted to convey. We wanted them to have a technologic feel, like holograms, or the rendering of the electromagnetic spectrum. A kind of phantom trace within the archive image. The idea came from one of Bradbury’s poems in The Martian Chronicles, where one of the human colonists confronts a group of Martian ghosts, and the way they’re described and the way we imagined them, like a form of energy, is pretty close to what we achieved for Ghost Culture.
- We also wanted to engage a reflection about ecological problematics, by displaying an absent, ghost-like mirror of a planet. As well as a reflection about the way civilization’s cultural identity survives or doesn’t survive time.
We decided that the best way to tell this visual and musical story was to follow a poetic narrative path, with crossing timelines, where we can see the various mineral, organic, and architectural elements develop and evolve, intertwined in a very choreographic and naturalistic way.
With the desire to blend a cinematographic atmosphere with an archaeological approach, we chose to go towards photo-realistic 3D animation design. Playing on different scales, it meant that the elements had to work visually on both of those scales, which is easily possible in 3D animation and allows us to have total control over each and every aspect of the images.
We started to storyboard and draw visual concepts. We studied the huge archive of NASA imagery to precisely reference elements and textures, in order to re-create highly organic and realistic space environments. We added to that an expressionist treatment of color and light, to keep a special graphic tone that relates to Dawn Geometry’s music and visual identity.
We then presented our animatic to a small team of 3D artists (Nicolas Saury, Sylvain Gallard, Laurine Fleurynck), and started collaborating with them on the 3D design and animation. Having experience in special effects and in post-production, we could design and animate scenes along with our team, and not simply direct them. It was a very collaborative work where each person could easily switch to a different role depending on the needs of a given time during the creative production of the film.
If we were to condense the entire time spent on the project, it took us four intense months to create the film, from pre-production to final render. The rendering of the shots took a whole month!
We have 4 upcoming projects:
- We are producing two other narrative music videos, one of which will have lots of special effects, and is set in a world between Blade Runner and Metropolis.
- We are directing a short film written by British writer Graham Farrow and starring Maya Diehm, and preparing an animated short film about the mythological story of Siegfried.
- We are also preparing our first feature film.