November 4, 2013
Here's the trailer for the short film Eden 2045. I've written up an introduction to the project, and our visual effects team has contributed a write-up of the workflow we used to generate the memory projections seen in the film. Full credits for the project can be found at the bottom of this page.
We’ve read a lot of handwringing
about Google Glass. The dialogue about heads-up displays and more
intrusive augmented reality (AR) systems has been going on for decades. In
Vernor Vinge’s science fiction, people live in a semi-customizable blend of reality and
AR. Characters – like his white rabbit – and other digital filigree
convey the sense of an entirely new fabric, densely woven and dark, where
important mysteries are man-made and nearly too complex to
parse. Arguments about whether the world should be that way are more
than passé – that’s just the way things are. Google probably sees the
world at least partly through that lens as it thinks about Glass and
its descendants – our objections over privacy, health and safety will disappear
into the past, like early opposition to automobiles.
Then there’s the phenomenon of "disintermediation". Bruce Sterling spoke about it in his closing remarks at the SXSW festival this year. Sterling points out how, at varying speeds, that it isn't just the music business that is under attack by technology. "The digital revolution reduces everybody to the state of musicians " We are all being “dis-intermediated”. Interfaces that mediate our sensory experiences – like the personal computer, which Sterling discusses; or perhaps someday even our own bodies that stand between our brains and the world around us – are or will be replaced, reduced, or obviated by more comprehensive technologies at accelerating speeds. The notion that all of it will soon “vanish into the walls”, or, that we’re all trending toward some kind of seamless integration with each other and the purity of sensory and emotive experience – will mean the obsolescence of every tangible thing that we assign emotional value to today.
I was interested in the question of what that would be like - to be completely disintermediated. What would “we” actually have become? If we’re stripped bit by bit from the physical world, and our minds and bodies slowly converge toward some idealized set of qualities and experiences, how would we feel? I expect incredibly lonely – probably without appreciating the cause - and that’s the state in which we find the main character Robert when the film opens. Robert is a young man who is deeply wounded, and is wrestling with the dissonance between that internal reality and the external loveliness of the world – until he finds a similar soul.
Ultimately the story is meant as a mystery – what is this world in which these things are now possible? What happened to make the world the way it’s become? What will happen to these two characters if they dare to remove the technology? Would you do the same?
Photos: Kim Allen plays “Jess” who shares memories of mourning with Robert, a man she meets in the park. We filmed Kim using the RGBD toolkit, and then combined color and depth information to create videos that looked truly 3-D. You can see how the projected memories were ultimately rendered in the trailer above. Process explained below.
Characters in Eden 2045 inhabit a mass-simulation, consisting of a patchwork of projections that overlay on the real world, via specialized contact lenses. Similar to the way people share photos on Facebook today, the idea was that people might want to share actual memories of events. Via a search engine fully integrated into your brain, you could search a database full of archived video from the hundreds of millions of cameras that caught you taking your first steps, getting married, etc; there would be enough cameras to record that event from several perspectives, thereby allowing for 3D information to create 3D projections that could be shared on an interlocutor’s lenses.
visual effects house Hectic Electric
designed and produced various effect shots for these projections and their
interfaces, as well as rendered the memory shots in the film. These were pieces of three-dimensional video
that were made with open source software called the RGBDToolkit.
RGBD is an ingenious open-source combination of software and hardware, which uses color information from a Canon 5D DSLR, and depth information from an infrared sensor, and takes advantage of the Kinect’s depth-buffer to construct fully 3D video. It was pioneered by James George and Alexander Porter, who also photographed the memory sequences in the film.
Members of the Hectic Electric team working on shots from Eden 2045. From left to right: Patty Veenstra, Julik Tarkhano, Julius Horsthuis, Guidovan Rijbroek, and Robbert Lubken
The challenge in doing this was to take the 3d videos coming out of the RGBD process, and project them into the park environment of the film.
For this, we first needed standard 3d tracking of the shot of the park, and used Syntheyes ™ for this.
The RGBD process spits out a .obj sequence, which means each frame of video is rendered as a 3 dimensional .obj file, accompanied by a texture file.
With Autodesk Maya, we batch-converted all the .obj files, using the commands ‘reduce’ and ‘smooth’ so that the models could be lit and shaded in interesting ways. This is necessary, because straight from RGDB the .obj’s have all the polygons’ normals facing the camera, and this makes them impossible to shade. This operation also further increases the ‘jaggedy look’ which we thought was visually interesting.
First, we tried to render the .obj sequences with Autodesk 3DS Max, but soon found out that the software was very slow with handling .obj sequences, especially multiple sequences.
Then we came upon the After Effects plug-in Element3D from Video Copilot. This package was very adept in handling multiple .obj sequences, and would render a sequence directly into the compositing environment. Also, we were able to shade the .obj’s in real time to create the desired look, including reflections.
For every memory, two .obj sequences were rendered: the original one with the original camera texture, and the converted one with the greenish shading. We mixed those manually together to get the desired finished look, which you can glimpse in the trailer.
Sept. 08, 2013: Eden 2045 is fully complete and shipped to festivals. Trailer coming soon.
Jun. 14, 2013: We just wrapped production on "Eden 2045". The 10-minute short film stars Tyler Jacob Moore, from the Showtime series "Shameless", and Kim Allen from this year's Oscar-winning short film "Curfew". We shot the film for five days in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn, on the Alexa. The days were long and back-breaking, but everybody did a great job. The film is a love story, set along a running path in the future. It was shot by DP Rossana Rizzo, produced by Madeleine Sackler, and written and directed by me. We're expecting to have the whole thing finished by late August. More soon!
Madeleine Sackler & James Lawler
Tyler Jacob Moore as Robert
Kim Allen as Jess
Katherine Warner Johnson as Katie
Tommy Walker as The Legs Model
Elinore Carrabba & Raffaello Perfetto as The Dancing Couple
Karikatura as The Band
Tonka as Robert’s Dog
Director of Photography
Leigh Johnson & James Lawler
Hectic Electric - Amsterdam
Julius Horsthuis, VFX Supervisor
Guido van Rijbroek, 2D Art Designer
Sander Mettes, 3D Modeler
Kees Sparnaaij, 3D Animator
Lars Snelders, Particle Dynamics
Robbert Lubken, 3D Artist
Julik Tarkhanov, Nuke Compositor
Efraim Gons, Color Grader
Jermy Verf, Intern
Remmert Makken, Freelance Matte Painter
Patty Veenstra, Producer
Music, Sound Design & Mix
BOD - New York | Paris - AOC
Pascal Bonifay & Maximillien Letaconnoux & Maxime Singer
Sound Producers: Pascal Bonifay & Fabrice Smadja
RGBD Director of Photography
2nd Assistant Camera
Assistant Costume Designer
Hair and Makeup
Visual Effects On-Set Supervisor
Janelle Ashley Clayton
“Horns of Love” by Karikatura
Ryan Acquaotta - Vocals
Dima Kay - Guitar
Eric Legaspi - Bass
Morgan Greenstreet - Drums
Joe MF Wilson -
Ric Becker (Performance), Daniel Linden (Recording) – Trombone
Find out more about the band Karikatura at
Download “Horns of Love” at http://karikatura.bandcamp.com/releases
Additional Voice Recording
New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Filmed in Prospect Park, New York City
June 10 – 14, 2013
Copyright © 2013, James Lawler Productions. All Rights Reserved.