Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hello graduated Hyper Island student!

Adam Stjärnljus graduated from Hyper Island's Digital Media program (Crew 12) in 2008, and has worked at Waytion since.
Waytion recently released a title sequence for Swedish television program Babel, which Adam worked on. We wanted to catch up with Adam to find out more about the project:

How did you end up at Waytion?
The first time I came in contact with Waytion were back in 2004. I studied at Medieprogrammet in Kalmar and did my 3 month internship at Waytion. I heard about them through the school as a couple of the guys went there themselves. Two years went by and then I started studying at Hyper Island in Karlskrona. I then did my 7 month internship at Waytion, and they asked me if I wanted to stay, which I did. I'm sitting here both as a freelancer and as a part of the company.

How did you come up with the idea of letters floating in the title sequence?
The letter idea was something that we elaborated out together with the producers at SVT. The previous title sequence had letters traveling over the world since Babel used to be a show where they covered authors living all over the globe through interviews from peoples homes and such. The new Babel is more about Swedish authors and is filmed in studio in front of a live audience. We wanted to keep the floating clusters of words and letters but put them in an infinite space which still could be anywhere but close, right in front of you, if that makes sense. That way we kept some of the iconic imagery from the previous work (by StyleWar) and used it in a new context.

What were the different steps in the production process?
SVT were great and let us really get creative and experimental in the production process. Our ambition was to create the whole thing in an analog way. We knew that we would never be able to create the kind of realism and irregularities of the flying letters using a particle system in a computer (or at lest not within the timeframe). We had an open minded approach were we knew that what we thought or hoped we would end up with most certainly would change during the project. Both Svt and ourselves saw this as something positive as it let us get more creative, and also, we couldn't know how the letters would behave or look in the camera.
We bought lots of props, some we needed and some we thought we needed, amongst it a Craft-Robo (printer for cutting out the letters), compressed air, styrofoam and lots more. We also rented a high-speed camera, studio and loads lights for the shoot.

While prepping for the shooting day we refined the idea and did a more accurate storyboard, after some testing back and forth, while at the same time cutting out over 10.000 paper letters with the Craft-Robo. Gabriella Lundgren helped us out and was a rock in this phase as our project coordinator. Even if the Craft-Robo did a great job, human fingers still needed to separate the letters from the paper, which was hell.

We rented a studio for one day and the shoot lasted for something like 30 consecutive hours. The reason for this was that Tommy Håkansson and I had for one, never worked with a high-speed camera and two, wanted to try as many different ways of shooting as possible with lots of different lightning and ways of throwing, blowing and dropping the letters. We shot the footage in 4000 frames per second and the raw material came out beautiful. Much time was spent on saving and reformat the files the camera produced for even though it captures at super high speeds in HD it was quite the opposite for saving... After the shoot we slept for 20 hours the following day.

The post production part was a bliss. We had tons of footage of letters in complex particle clusters where one second of real time became fifty seconds in 25 fps. After selecting the best sequences we continued with editing the material to different styles of music. We had the ambition to have one or maybe two sequences of this ultra slow images move to an ambient score. While it was tempting to go that way we realized that the feel of the opening sequence didn't really match the feel for the show itself. Babel of 2009 is a live show, with a glamourous theme and we therefore needed to rethink. We where handed a song by the executive producer - "A little less conversation..." JXL remix famous from a Nike commercial a couple of years back. Using this track we started to retime the footage, adding more sequences and thus more speed to the main title. We managed to blend the two into a new whole which in the end was the right way to go. Svt made a full scale pilot show in november last year and we saw everything coming together nicely. We had lots of meetings with the set designer and the editorial staff and found a way to melt it all together to the final production that went live in february.

What type of equipment did you use?
At the shoot we used an Arri high speed camera connected to a laptop. Tungsten lights and all the different props we had gathered. We used After Effects for compositing and grading, working on Apple computers and also some 3D for making additional plates of words animating in and out. Most of it however was captured in camera which was fun. Sometimes it's good to get away from the computer...

What were your sources of inspiration for the project?
We were inspired by lots of things but mainly this film that Tommy found. We wanted the same feel of irregularity and lightning, yet more luxurious. With that feel as a base we developed the idea to the final result.

What's up next at Waytion?
At Waytion it's business as usual (which could mean just about anything! :)

See the title sequence for Babel here!

Thanks Adam!

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