We’re fortunate to be able to host Elysian Fields here on 3DVisionlive for all of you. Winner of a number of accolades, including multiple “Best Animated 3D Short Film” awards, it’s hard to watch Elysian Fields and not be drawn into its world.
The short was brought to us through Susan Johnston, Founder/Director of the New Media Film Festival, who was also kind enough to provide us with the following interview of Elysian Field’s creator, Ina Chavez.
What is the Inspiration behind the film?
My father, Egon Conradi, a World War II veteran, passed away three years ago. Having never said a proper goodbye, from the beginning of its production, Elysian Fields was designed to be in memory of my father. Although he was a tough and hardened war veteran, my dad was very supportive of my decision to become a fine artist; however often he would critique my abstract art paintings saying that he had a hard time understanding my art. The idea of making a war film came to me with his passing like a sudden revelation. I wanted to animate a painting that would have seemingly representational clarity but at the same time would have the freedom and bewilderment of a totally abstract story, one which we can gaze endlessly at, one we would not be able to explain neither to ourselves nor to others, one we could enjoy and love without necessarily knowing why.
What were your main challenges with the production of the film?
The film was originally intended to be an installation piece in a gallery. The Institute for Media Innovation at the Nanyang Technological University enthusiastically supported this idea and invited us to create film to play in their 320 immersive theater. It is a large gallery like room where one is surrounded with a curved panoramic screen. So we worked parallel on two outputs: one was for panoramic 320 immersive stereo theater and another one was for cinema. What worked well in one space and screen would not work with traditional cinema format, unfortunately. Not only that, it required different formatting and stereo tweaking but the story flow as well as audio needed to be adjusted. This was hard.
An additional challenge was to make the film play well in a standard stereoscopic commercial cinema format DCP. With the support of an NTU research grant I was able to rent a commercial theater for private screening in January of 2013. Filmgarde Cineplex–BUGIS+, Singapore allowed us to bring files back and forth to test until we got it right. They usually do not handle small films and we had to figure all on our own. Once we did, we were so overwhelmed with the impact that we moved from a 150-seat to 300-seat capacity theater.
What about the film are you most proud of?
After the entry to New Media Festival and notification of early acceptance we got confident and started sending the film around to festivals. Seeing film play outside of Singapore for the first time at the Hollywood New Media Festival, at the such a grand venue as Landmark Theatres and with so much clarity in projection and audio and on top receiving award for 3D innovation, was a thrilling experience. Soon after the film got in the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival as well as won another award for stereo at the 9th Hollyshorts International Film Festival. The screening in the famous Chinese Theaters in Hollywood was amazing as well.
The film was selected for the famous Ars Electronica Deep Space Live Projection in Linz on the occasion of the festival “Total Recall: Evolution of memory” commemorating the events of WWII.
What is the Goal of the film?
The goal of the film is to reconnect with people we miss and at the same time to deeply connect with other people around us. My biggest satisfaction was the question a 16-year-old boy named Airan from Germany asked after the projection; “where did the ocean go?” after seeing the dried and barren landscape at the place where the sea used to be…. Everyone should leave the film inspired and moved to ask questions.
The Film Elysian Fields is about the paradox of war. Wallace Stevens, an American Modernist poet, once wrote, “Everything is as unreal as real can be," summarizing that the reality and the world we see is the result of our imagination. Wars are real but very often confusing and consequences of the madness, greed and fear. Contradictory to any logic, war carries divine paradox. There is no right or wrong - in the chaos of war everyone is in conflict, in harm and suffering. It sets free mad courage and with it irrational reasons and sacrifices for belief to reconnect and put pieces of life together over and over again. War brings about sad existential dejected statement summarized by Charles Simic, (Serbian-American poet), "We are here today, gone tomorrow". What makes us go on? Most importantly what makes people remain passionately engaged in finding meaning in life? What is the material that our consciousness, imagination and memories are made of? Inspired by the serious theme of war "Elysian Fields" is a meditative film and very much an imaginary projection about the war. The Elysium is in Greek mythology a paradise, land for the souls of heroes resting in piece on the edge of the Earth by the stream of "Oceanos" or World Oceans.
"If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!" Maximus "Gladiator" by Ridley Scott
How was Elysian Fields made?
The project is supported by the Institute for Media Innovation, the Ministry of Education (MOE), and is the outcome of artistic research conducted under the auspices of the academic research community at Nanyang Technological University, School of Art, Design and Media. We had a time of two years to finish the film.
The production was done out of my studio/ office at NTU. The research funding allowed me to hire full time project officers to work full time on the film. The equipment purchase was minimal-and we were fortunate that NTU just set up a stereo Lab with large stereoscopy projection as well as a small 40-seat stereo theater where we were able to do first tests. The render farm and motion-capture studio were also available for us to use. Without these facilities- it would have been much more difficult and almost impossible.
The production started in august of 2011. Almost three months were spent in heavy research on visuals and mood of the film. I am a painter and before the narrative I work with the style, art periods and movements. It is the style of the visuals and color flow on the story board that leads to narrative. Once we had that down it was easy to structure story of the film. We watched a lot of experimental movie genres.
We started in summer of 2011 and were, in rough, done by summer 2012 – and starting rendering. But it took half a year to polish and improve in post production and stereo tweaking.
How many people worked on the film?
Only four people worked on the film, including me. They are young animators from Singapore: Joshua Tan, Davier Yoon; and for sound and music, Jeremy Goh. Joshua Tan and Davier Yoon did the entire pipeline production from VFX visual side to animation and stereo. We had NTU technical support helping us for glitches in rendering services and mocap, and facilitating access to equipment to test stereo in late post-production phase. Davier joined my research in stereo in December of 2010 and early 2011 on the experimental abstract Film Le Phénomène Atmosphérique .We had developed a great working relationship since then. I have known Joshua since 2007 and we have been working on and off on short undergraduate research projects while he was still in school. After graduating from NTU he wanted to take a break and do something challenging and interesting. We also have few seconds of the film - when the water gushes into cockpit - done by artist Ivan Yew who specializes in Next Limit Real Flow and has been working with me in the past as well on abstract painting projects. Music and Sound Art played the major and crucial part of the film. We always wanted to have music done first but got carried away with production. Musician and Davier’s long-time friend, Jeremy Goh joined us in summer of 2012 and started working on the sound design and music. He brought amazing depth and vision to the project with a unique experimental and contemporary approach to theme and style. He was also involved in editing of the film as we tried to tie music and visual the best we could. After completing the film, Joshua and Davier founded their own company CraveFX Pte Ltd, a post-production house that provides 3D animation, motion graphics and visual effects services.
What were some of the software tools you used to create the film’s effects?
• Maya ( Maya Fluids and Maya Paint Effects), Next Limit Real Flow, After Effects
• We were looking into Fume FX but were worried as there was plug-in for Maya.
• So all the smoke and fire effects were done using Maya Fluids
• We do have a motion-capture room and were able to use to speed up on animation.
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NVIDIA would like to extend its thanks to both Ina Conradi and NEW Media Film Festival for bringing Elysian Fields, and this interview to 3DVisionLive.com.