We at DN continue to be inspired by the science fiction-inflected animations of Karl Poyzer with his last two comedy shorts Floaters and Floaters: The Big Number Two having premiered here on our pages. Now, once more, we’re delighted to welcome Poyzer back to premiere his music video for Ital Tek’s The Mirror. In The Mirror Poyzer sets his sights on a futuristic city, with a camera that gently bobs and weaves throughout its myriad of internal locations. This smooth and pristine approach to cinematography is the perfect foil to Ital Tek’s ambient and pulsing track which is similarly gentle in its execution. In company with the video, which features below, DN caught up with Poyzer to talk over the influence of manga artist Tsutomu Nihei on the piece, the freedom of the camera in animation, and the feeling of discovery he wanted to impart to the viewer.
What came first for The Mirror, the concept for a music video or the animation itself?
The Mirror started its life as a modest animation test that ultimately ballooned outwards for six months. More often than not, when I create something new in 3D it remains a single-day project that I keep to myself or share on Twitter. With this world, however, I kept feeling the need to return to it in my spare time. It was only after maybe five or so shots that I thought it could grow to be a music video, and from that point on, I kept going, knowing I’d have to find the music further down the line.
An aspect I love about animation is the ability to put the camera anywhere you like without having to think about practically realising it, and the camera in The Mirror floats in so many different places. Do you enjoy the freedom animation offers in that regard?
One of the great things about working in 3D is the freedom to move a camera, lights and iterate. As a cinematographer, my day job, it can be frustrating when you are severely limited by where you can put lights or camera or how much time you have to do it. I find animation gives me an outlet that is not limited by budget and location in the same way. The Mirror was an exercise in putting cameras and lights wherever I wanted, like the ego-maniac I am!
Animation gives me an outlet that is not limited by budget and location.
Tonally I wanted the viewer to feel like they were discovering something abandoned and unfinished, structures built for a society that would never experience them. I enjoyed moving through the scenes and seeing how they looked under different light, from different angles and through different lenses. Each scene had its own personality and it was my job to find the best way to photograph it. Virtually.
In terms of the environments, did you draw inspiration from anywhere in particular?
The design language encompasses a few things. Other than some of the weirder parts of my imagination, I was inspired by the architectural designs of Étienne-Louis Boullée and Tsutomu Nihei’s fantastic work on his manga BLAME! Which I happened to be reading at the time. I’d also like to shout out my friend and collaborator Chino Moyà, we have been working on separate sci-fi projects together but I have no doubt, over the course of our many conversations, some of that visual DNA lives within the video of The Mirror. His debut feature film Undergods has been a real inspiration to me generally, and I’m very excited to be working with him on our own project!
At what stage during the making of the animation did you bring other collaborators on board?
It was a few months in when I decided to present the half-finished project to The Panics, driven solely by my hope to have their expert eyes cast upon the film. The Panics, an Amsterdam-based production company, had been super supportive with Floaters, consistently supporting our projects. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when they offered to release the video under their esteemed House of Panic brand.
And similarly, when did Ital Tek become involved?
After finishing the lion-share of the animation, I needed to find a track. I had toyed with maybe making some of my own music, something I occasionally do in my spare time badly, But it was actually someone on Twitter who put me in touch with Ital Tek and his label Planet Mu. I just sent him a DM, and he suggested the track, which I agreed fit excellently! I needed to render some new scenes and edit the shots appropriately, but this was a fairly straightforward task, thanks to the quality of the music!
I wanted the viewer to feel like they were discovering something abandoned and unfinished, structures built for a society that would never experience them.
When we spoke for Floaters you mentioned that you rendered everything for that in Blender, was it the same again here? What other software did you use in the edit?
From a technical standpoint, everything was rendered in Blender using the Cycles engine and edited in DaVinci Resolve. Most of the scenes were rendered in a single pass, so there was little need for compositing. I have said this on past projects, too, but these two free software programs alone have made a massive impact on my professional life. Blender in particular, has such a rich community of people producing free tutorials and plugins that it really makes learning new stuff about as easy as it can be.
You work across many artistic formats; commercial work, narrative, music video and, of course, animation. Do you find that the breadth of working in different formats has had a positive effect on your craft in general as a filmmaker?
It can certainly get overwhelming wearing multiple hats. I think in the early days of moving towards being more of a generalist, I feared that I would ultimately find it hard to be taken seriously in any single medium. In actuality, what tends to happen is that by producing a wider gamut of work, I am able to build connections with other creatives because most people have a wide gamut of interests. I now work as a director of photography for directors who only found me because of Floaters as well as doing animation and VFX work for the people I met making live-action films. It might well be the case that I’m only ever going produce work at an intermediate level, but for anyone wondering if branching out will hinder them, I’d recommend just going with the flow of your taste. Hyphenate your Twitter bio and make some weird stuff!
What can you tell us about any projects you’re working on at present?
It’s all a little chaotic here. As well as the film and animation work, I’m also writing for a cyberpunk slice-of-life game called Nivalis, which is a whole new industry to try and get to know. I’ve been collaborating with Director Chino Moya on an art exhibit that will be opening in London later this year, and I have a Floaters 4 folder on my desktop that hasn’t been receiving enough attention. In short, more stuff than I have time for, but I’m incredibly thankful to have a busy and diverse slate, even if time management is another skill I only develop to an intermediate level.