SCINTILLATION from Xavier Chassaing on Vimeo.

When we talk about “digital” process, it’s often mixing real, physical techniques that can make all the difference. In sound, that may be sampling real sounds, or building your own speakers, or finding physical interfaces. In visuals, it’s finding ways of doing things in the domain of actual light and not just digits.

Xavier Chassaing’s “SCINTILLATION” may wind up being the most beautiful minutes of motion footage we see all year. It seems not a single frame was shot as motion – instead, it was pieced together from some 35,000 photos. That allows for tightly-choreographed depth of field focus shifts that should be impossible, and sudden movements that make it seem as though the very universe is quaking around the fame. It’s stop motion, technically, but a unique kind of stop motion still life.

That’s beautiful enough – and then the orchids seem to be invaded by magical fire fairies. Particles explode into surfaces thanks to even more technically-precise projection mapping, painstakingly painting objects in the film with motion animation. Mathieu Calet did the work on the effects, which remain simple and elegant enough that the orchids and molded ceiling become an even more active canvas.

On top of this, the score is exquisite, the work of fedaden. (It’s well worth checking out his other stuff – I may be coding and editing while listening to more of it.)

The resulting piece seems to have slipped into our world from some other, very gorgeous dimension. It’s a challenge and an inspiration to everything we’re doing. To the whole team, thanks.

  • John Holdun

    No words. Thank you for sharing this.
    And you know, it's embedded here in HD. No need to click through!

  • jeanpoole


    and aye, gorgeous music @ myspace too…

  • Looza

    Just wow.

  • Lawrie

    Absolutely stunning.

  • Carlos Martins

    Wow, amazing… when the projection scenes started, it completely blew me away.

  • Johnny

    Anyone have a guess as to how this was created?

  • Josiah

    Anyone know what camera was used for this?

  • metamind

    WOW. No words…

  • Jaymis

    @Johnny: The way to combine stop-motion and video is to preproduce your video content (projection mapping in this case), and then play it back 1 frame at a time, taking a photograph each time. I've done stop-motion before using projected animations as a "guide layer", to help with complex movement.

    If you wanted to be extra tricky you could use your VJ software to sequence frame advance and trigger photos with an Arduino. Using VDMX you could put this together extremely quickly.

    @Josiah: It hardly matters what camera was used. Just about any digital SLR would be up to the task, as long as it has a nice lens (probably a macro, given the close focus pulls) to give that shallow depth of field.

  • massta

    How are they able to get smooth pans when they are shooting in stop-motion. Also, what are the FPS of the DSLR cameras?

  • Jaymis

    @massta: Smooth pans in time lapse require extremely patient camera moves, or possibly an automatic dolly with a stepper motor, like this:

    High framerate isn't important for stop-motion or time lapse, you're rarely doing more than one frame per second.

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  • zach

    This is made with Autodesk Flame, which only runs on SGI workstations. The total cost of that setup will run you well into six figures. And this would make you see why. Except these guys are clearly really good so I'm not sure what difference the software helps. I guess it's basically a matter of no rendering lag?

    That's really what live visuals are about as well. I used to spend most of my time waiting for things to render and have experienced a great leap in my creative process since I started working live. Now it really annoys me when I have to go back into that world.

  • Peter Kirn

    @zach — good point. Although that's also why I think cheap, easy clustering has such appeal. I mean, you can whip up a cluster pretty easily these days … and I could see an increasing use of open source workflows to do the brute-force work.

  • Jaymis

    @Zach: Flame doesn't require super custom hardware anymore, and I think the artist's description "Live projection mapping techniques" refers to the fact that this was shot on real surfaces and objects, rather than produced entirely in 3D.

    I don't see much (if anything) in that clip which couldn't be achieved on a modest home computer running After Effects or Processing.

    Projection Mapping, especially on organic shapes, is all about the time-consuming tweaking. Rendering lag isn't the bottleneck here, it's making the projections fit the surfaces.

  • Peter Kirn

    Well, right, exactly … this particular project will require mostly lots of human cycles. ;)

  • zach

    I was actually talking more about how in Blender you can render scenes live using their game engine. I've never actually tried that, so I don't know how it compares, but I hope it's a direction other programs will go in.

    So, what exactly is the advantage of Flame, Flint, Inferno, etc. over something like Shake?

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  • massta

    One note about projection mapping onto a flower: you don't have to worry about edge bleeding since the backgrounds are far from the flower's edge.

    I did some poking around DSLR cameras and it seems that "burst" shooting is only around 12fps and who knows how long you can shoot in burst for. I guess it's stop-motion or nothing. Also, wondering how well this same project would look using a consumer HD video camera.

  • Jaymis

    @massta: Some DSLRs have burst shooting up to 60FPS, but the burst will only go as long as it takes to fill the buffer, then shooting continues as fast as the memory card can write images out from the buffer. The amount of images which fit in the buffer depend on the resolution etc. It's nowhere near full motion though.

    That aside, there's no need to worry about burst shooting anymore as DSLRs start to shoot real HD video.

    So, there's no need to go a consumer HD camera for this. Even the lowest end DSLR has exponentially better image quality than the most expensive prosumer video cameras available.

  • massta

    Hopefully, the pro series units like this red scarlet will push consumer models further.

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  • axiom-crux

    Is there any more information on how this was created as far as the camera movements and control… I don't see how any human could position things that smoothly.. like with the depth of field, there's no humanistic jitter… its all perfectly smooth.. so was there motion control, some sort of automation?

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