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Animation Explores the Beautiful Circles of Our World: Short Film Showcase Filmmaker Q&A

Travel from underwater to outer space in this incredible animation from production company Chromosphere and sound designer David Kamp. Watch forms found in the natural and scientific world emerge from the basic geometric elements of a circle. Watch forms found in the natural and scientific world emerge from the basic geometric elements of a circle. Chromosphere’s creative director Kevin Dart talks about what went into animating this stunning short.

What inspired the piece?

We wanted to create something that would be inspiring and beautiful and educational for young people [who have] an interest in science and the natural world. The tone is inspired by vintage educational science films and textbooks. The circle in the center of every scene is a graphic element meant to represent the way science and nature are directly related to each other. The visual style is inspired by mid-century designers like Charley Harper and Paul Rand and also the films of Charles and Ray Eames and Stanley Kubrick.

How long did it take to make and how many people were involved?

The idea for the film took nearly a year to develop and research. The actual animation production began in October 2015 and finished in February 2016.

The team was four people: Kevin Dart designed and art-directed it, Stéphane Coëdel did animation and compositing, Nelson Boles did the character animation for most of the insects and animals, and David Kamp did the music and sound design.

Can you tell me a bit more about the processstoryboarding, animating, etc.?

Once we developed the idea for using the circle in every composition, Kevin did lots of research and doodling to come up with images that would fit with the concept. The goal was to represent the vast diversity of our world, so we looked for lots of contrasting topics like big and small, close and far away, mechanical and natural, etc. After doing a lot of sketches, Kevin narrowed down the best images and created a color script, which showed a rough idea of each scene in the film. After that he painted the final illustrations and passed them on to Stéphane to begin animation and compositing. Nelson would also bring the animals and insects to life by carefully studying reference footage from nature. We wanted to capture as much detail from real life as possible in the film.

Since there was no sequential order to the scenes, we asked David to compose an inspirational score that we could use to create a foundation for the film. He created a song using a four-second structure, so every four seconds we could time a cut for a new scene. Once all of the animation was done, we arranged the scenes in a way that fit with the progressive melody of the song, and then David added additional sound effects using his huge library of recordings he’s made at places like beehives, gas control stations, and many other indoor and outdoor locations.

Did you know there were certain subjects you wanted to feature?

We knew we wanted to present an aspirational view of science, so we definitely wanted to reference some of humanity’s most stunning and iconic achievements, such as the journey to the moon or the creation of the Large Hadron Collider. When thinking about the equally awe-inspiring wonders of the natural world, certain things immediately came to mind, such as the incredible streamlined design of sharks or the inner workings of the human body. We also knew we wanted to make reference to topics of conservation such as global warming, as in the scene with the harp seal.

Were there certain environments or forms that you weren’t able to translate through animation?

Yes, some things we really wanted to feature but were too difficult to fit within the circle composition, such as the structure of DNA or an image representing the microscope to contrast the observatory. It’s great to have limitations, though, because it forces you to be more creative and find unique solutions. There were also several images we finished designing but cut from the film, like ones of the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.

What are you working on next?

We would love to continue to do projects that marry the fields of art and science in new and interesting ways. Our studio, Chromosphere, is based in Los Angeles, and [we’re] always open to discussing exciting new animation and design projects. David is based in Berlin and is taking on new audio projects through his company, STUDIOKAMP.

National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Know of a great short film that should be part of our Showcase? Email SFS@ngs.org to submit a video for consideration.

See more from National Geographic’s Short Film Showcase.

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