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FIELD's Energy Flow: How Animators Rendered The Digital Dreamscape

We first introduced you to FIELD’s Energy Flow project back in November last year. The generative film, which incorporates ten different non-linear stories, defies typical digital animation in a myriad of ways, taking the idea of multidimensional rendering to a whole new level by combining the ten stories algorithmically to produce a 1000 different ways of experiencing them.

The visual effects in the project are integral to the experience, transporting the viewer into carefully designed worlds which convey the themes and ideas of each individual film. The artists and technicians at FIELD conceived of the project as a “research-driven" endeavor—experimentation was essential in its creation.

To render the animals for the Life episode, for example, animators modeled the creatures on the anatomical structures of an actual impala and leopard. However, as technical director Vincent Houze explains in the video above, they wanted to produce radically new images of these recognizable animals and avoid photorealistic reproductions. “We wanted to come up with fresh images and new ideas, so lots of experimentation.” Houze says, “To come up with processes to visualize information in a graphical and beautiful way.”


Overview of the different iterations of work that go into the development of the characters, the environment and lighting in “Life”.

The hyperreal shape-shifting animals of Energy Flow are achieved by rendering the underlying layers of muscle, tendons, and bone that disintegrate and reassemble throughout the sequence. The animated muscles are programmed to respond via the same process of tension and release of actual muscles, but also respond in ways that surpass real muscles—colorfully transforming, shattering, and even disappearing altogether.

Environment model and lighting for the "Riot"s animation

The resistance to photorealism is maintained throughout the film. The Riots portion was inspired by last year’s numerous eruptions of civil unrest in London. As such, FIELD animators made use of actual footage of rioters found on YouTube. The resulting 3D animations were brought to life using technology that functions much like cameras capable of measuring depth. When light is thrown onto the scene, this technology measures the distance from the point of illumination. The final images are 3D human figures cloaked in darkness, which appear as disintegrated fractions of a whole, symbolizing the varied and often conflictual experiences and perceptions of the London Riots.

3D technical modelling for the “Infinity” film

And the final version in the film

Infinity is yet another fascinating sequence, but one that centers on aspects of artificial life. FIELD animators created complex 3D visualizations representing the vast data networks that increasingly surround us. The minute details found throughout Infinity are generated automatically via coding, resulting in an extensive structure made of preconceived building blocks.

If you haven’t yet checked out this unique storytelling environment you can download it via iTunes for iOS and Google Play for Android.

Visit EnergyFlow.io for more information on the project and more behind-the-scenes imagery.

Meet FIELD in the video below…