Sub-Surface is a great new animated film from This Thing Of Ours. The experimental film is inspired by hi-tech tourist tat. This new work is a perfect example of how This Thing Of Ours uses new things that catch the eye in a world saturated with samey content. Read more below the video. Full credits can be found at the end of the article.
“This Thing Of Ours – a new design and animation studio, is launching with ‘Sub-Surface’ – an experimental film inspired by hi-tech tourist tat. Sub-Surface came to Alex Robinson, Director of This Thing of Ours, on a trip to Brighton, where he saw tourists could buy personalized crystal engravings of themselves or their pets using a process that involved customers having their faces scanned, then etched inside crystal mementos. The etching is achieved by two laser beams focusing on the same spot, shattering a tiny fraction of the crystal and creating a dot. Building up the dots creates a three-dimensional image that’s highly detailed and catches the light in fascinating ways. Realizing that shooting an animated sequence of multiple sub-surface cubes could look remarkable, Alex decided to create a beautiful ‘thing’ to showcase the kind of work This Thing Of Ours studio plans to make. Alex Robinson, Director of This Thing Of Ours explained: “The new work is a perfect example of This Thing Of Ours using existing processes to do new things that catch the eye, in a world saturated with samey content. Sub-Surfacing is an incredible technique that’s crying out to be used for more than getting your dog’s face engraved. We love using unusual starting references as starting points, taking things out of the computer, then putting them back in again.”The one-minute film heroes an astronaut performing an infinite run cycle on a low poly surface that’s perfectly looped and timed to the astronaut’s run cycle. Broken into two halves, the first half of the film shows the process, and the second half reveals the product – a shimmering loop with levels of detail and color. Alex continued: “The inspiration for the film came around the anniversary of the moon landings and I thought, what better than an astronaut to launch our studio?”
The process began with animator Norik Imami designing and animating the astronaut and the run cycle. The low poly design lent itself perfectly to the sub-surface process, as once engraved, it reacts beautifully when light is passed through it, picking up on all the angles and the form.
The team decided to create the animation at 12FPS, which meant the run cycle needed to be exactly 2 seconds, using 24 crystal cubes. Each individual frame was then exported and sent to a sub-surface engraving company, who laser-etched the 2 individual cubes. The next part of the process was the shoot. Alex worked with Chris Stevens, who helped light and photograph each frame using a variety of macro lenses and lighting setups.
Getting this right proved to be incredibly challenging, as the crystal cubes were small, highly reflective, and had slight variations in size and shape, which meant aligning each frame to a specific registration point. After painstaking work, the finished sequences were then placed after some behind the scenes ‘making of’ footage shot by Ben Sayer, to help unpack how the unusual effect was achieved. The last step was the sound design, handled by Howard Whiddett, who composed a moody soundscape using a wide range of layers, textures, and sounds taken from the NASA audio library.”
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Film Credits: Director: Alex Robinson
Photographer: Chris Stevens
Animator: Norik Imami
BTS Footage: Ben Sayer
Sound Design: Howard Whiddett