My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:
Staring into my monitor, the bright light glaring across my face quickly dissipates as darkness enshrouds the screen. The faint glimmer of an unknown substance appears, still and inanimate. Almost suddenly, there is movement, like witnessing alien life for the first time as it reveals itself. This is Confluence – a short film, directed and edited by Noah Shulman, which exposes its viewers to “entire ecosystems of complicated, interconnected life.”
The setting of the film is like watching a science-fiction dystopia unravel. As you go deeper into Confluence, however, beauty emerges from the unknown microscopic objects. A series of movements cascade across the screen, developing a sense of awe and curiosity as each new mystery materializes. Ambiguity is the film’s greatest feature as each viewer is left with nothing but their imagination to decide what exactly they’re looking at.
“The film includes extreme close-ups of everything from magnetic to chemical and heat reactions, but it’s up to the viewers to extrapolate from what they can see to imagine the larger, more conventional view that they can’t. Trying to discern what it is you’re watching is part and parcel of the mental exercise.” – Confluence
Serious Wonder was able to speak with Noah Shulman, the Director/Editor of Confluence. Shulman is a motion graphics designer who has worked with various clients, such as Nike, National Geographic, Armani Exchange, MTV Networks, etc. We spoke briefly about the film, how it was produced, and his hopes in its future usage.
Thank you for taking the time in speaking with me. Confluence is a very unique film and quite eye catching, despite its 5+min length. What was it in which inspired you to produce such a film?
N: The idea behind the film was to capture inanimate objects and materials that are present in our everyday lives and reveal a new life which gives meaning and structure. Confluence was shot using extreme macro and microscopic photography with the goal of bringing a hyper-realistic abstract quality to the image. I wanted to provide a gradual progression of both visuals and sounds so that the viewer can flow through a journey from dark to light and from chaos to calm. The goal was for the viewers not to directly make a connection to a specific object, but instead to have a sense of wonder and imagination as to what they were seeing.
These goals lead to the bigger picture of the visual and sonic choices I made to create Confluence. This film was part of a larger exploration of the human mind in an exhibit called Mental Fabrications; an installation aiming to map the mind’s mental landscape through electroencephalogram (EEG) and 3D Printing.
The film was designed to stimulate the viewers’ brains and create certain reactions; specifically, focus, relaxation and concentration. The EEG’s information would be sent to a custom algorithm to create a three dimensional map of thought patterns and reactions of viewers while they watch the film. From there, a viewer’s personal landscape is created out of patterns and becomes a tangible piece of art through 3D printing. Mental Fabrications asks what the geography of the mind looks like and goes in search of that answer, with the help of Confluence.
The richness in the film, its overall visual clarity of microscopic “life,” is what makes this film eye candy to its viewers. What resources did you have to use to achieve such a feat, and what exactly was the significance in it being shot in 4K?
N: We carefully chose and experimented with a lot of different materials, from everyday household detergents, to bizarre chemicals I can’t even recall at this point. I don’t want to give away too many secrets but there is some magnetic shavings, instant snow and dishwashing detergent used in the film. I chose not to do any time-lapse work in this film and as such it took a lot of patience on all parties to capture the right moments and reactions in real-time. We used a few speciality lenses which were mainly used for still photography and our focal plane was so minimal that everything had to occur in the precise distance from the lens and focal plane. For Confluence, I chose to shoot and finish the film on the Red Epic at 4K resolution. The term “4k” is a buzzword right now but I wanted to explore the significance of being able to see such detail than we are normally used to. Generally, I have an affinity for large scale artwork that takes up a wall or consumes the viewer’s field of view. In its ideal form, I want the viewer to watch the film in 4K completely isolated and consumed by the imagery, shut off from the rest of the world.
How do you see this film’s reaction going? Are there certain other applications in the fields of science and technology in which this film could possibly benefit or be expanded on?
N: I think there’s been a great response thus far. The film and the installation has gotten press by ABC News, The Verge, Mashable and other great websites! I love reading viewers’ comments on RED’s 4K Youtube page, wondering what materials were used in the film.
I think this idea is in its infancy and it absolutely can be expanded upon to the human body, as well as expose new worlds from inside other objects that are all around us. The idea of presenting in 4K is just as important, as there is something very interesting in capturing something not visible to the human eye and expanding it into a large scale, ultra sharp image. All of these techniques give new meanings to objects that are all around us that we take for granted.