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'Solipsist' - an Experimental Short That Beautifully Blends Practical and CG Effects

What do you get when you mix experimental film with fantasy via Jim Henson?  Andrew Huang’s new short film, Solipsist, provides a beautiful and vaguely disturbing mind-trip of an answer.  Some of you may recognize Huang’s name from his earlier viral short — Doll Face.  For a film that started as a Kickstarter project last summer, it’s pretty impressive to see how quickly Solipsist was finished and released — especially considering Huang did a large chunk of the post-production himself.  Coming off its recent win of the “Special Jury Prize for Experimental Short” at Slamdance, the short is now available to watch in full, along with some very intriguing “making of” footage that reveals some surprising use of practical effects:

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Beyond being a beautiful piece of visual art, it’s another great example of how far one can go with today’s available tools.  Shot on a RED camera against green screens, the short is a mixture of practical and CG effects composited in Maya.  Now here’s the kicker — you may think the majority of the effects are CG, but according to Jason Sondhi of Short of the Week, Huang assured him that practically 99% of the effects were practical.  Needless to say, it takes careful pre-planning, testing, and most importantly, skillful compositing of the various elements, to pull it all off.  Don’t believe it?  See for yourself:

For Huang’s thoughts about the piece as well as how he has navigated his career choices since his first breakout short check out this “Director’s Notes” interview.  It brings back the earlier debate about the importance of short films as calling cards for directors — even for relatively established ones like Huang.

Have you watched any other recent experimental shorts that put special and visual effects to great use?

[via Short of the Week and Motionographer]


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Description image 19 COMMENTS

  • Amazing!

  • Wow, that was beautifully bizarre. Fantastic.

  • The behind the scenes was more interesting then the short. I don’t like experimental films though. The visual effects were really cool so I can get behind that but visual effects without a clear story is just Transformers and thats no good.

    • probably the stupidest generalization i’ve ever encountered. beautiful film.

    • There’s definitely a story, it’s just artistic in its ambiguity versus commercial. That makes it ok for me.

    • or maybe it´s more like visual poetry. For example, Wings of Desire from Win Wenders has not a clear story, actualy they started shooting the movie without a finished screenplay! :D and it´s a poetic movie. Tree of Life goes the same path. Some of the most beautiful movies from Andrei Tarkovski same thing. But it´s ok to prefer prose work over poetry. Poetry is not for everybody .
      I got it as a cerebral poetry about connection and isolation with the beauty of existence in the multitude of divergent colors. :)

    • Shaun Wilson on 03.8.12 @ 9:59PM

      Alexander, if you are having trouble understanding experimental films/video art etc, think of it like this: narrative film can tell a story in 3 acts – first act is the introduction, 2nd act is the dilemma and 3rd act is the resolution and if its told well, there are few if any questions left unanswered that is of course unless you’re watching 2001 :), experimental films et al, tell a story visually with a second act and there is no introduction nor resolution. What the film makers give you are visual clues and referential material as to what is going on that usually stem from art history, philosophy, literature and collective memory. If you approach experimental films from this perspective it may give a broader understanding as to what they are about, how to appreciate them, the types of audiences they serve, and why they are made. Guto is correct when stating its visual poetry, the difference between reading Keats and Harry Potter (both are good but communicate in different ways).

  • Video won’t play in my firefox.

    • My bad, it will play in Firefox, but not when Premiere is open. I guess P owns Flash while it’s open. I also guess I should be using different computers for work and lunchtime videos!

  • I am not worthy…

  • Anthony Haden Salerno on 03.10.12 @ 5:27PM

    My inspiration/jealousy for the day! Stunning work. The leaning towards practical vs. CG is refreshing and almost always more engaging when applied with such creativity.

  • I don’t get art. Fantastic practical effects though, but sadly it was glaringly obvious to me what was done with computers. Again, I just don’t understand. I know nobody said film had to tell a clear story, but I think if your “artistically ambiguous” imagery and whatever your crap is supposed to “represent” is lost on half the viewers the purpose is kind of defeated. Don’t let me get in the way of your enjoyment of this, though. I’ll stick to that lowbrow “has-clearly-explained-characters-and-plot” garbage. That’s my neck o’ the woods. :D

  • mark london on 03.10.12 @ 9:08PM

    Looked like a student film to me. Not even particularly well realised.

  • Daniel Mimura on 03.19.12 @ 10:32PM

    Saying “I don’t like experimental films” is EXACTLY like saying “I don’t like feature films.” Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and I’m not espousing censorship, no matter how stupid an opinion I personally think it may be. Is it possible to generalize “experimental film” more than that? Seriously…it’s like saying “I don’t like Black people” or “I don’t like Jews”.

    Ugh…it’s rare that NFS comments looks like youtube, but that’s where we are here…

    “I don’t get art.” is hardly better. Something’s aren’t meant to be looked at literally, and although often the artist may be trying to “represent” something, often it’s not. Often it does actually represent something, but the artist has chosen to make it difficult or only partially there (when he or she does have something specific they want viewers to walk away with and doesn’t get it across, this is where they may fail). It sounds to me like the person who said this is the same kind of person to watch a porn movie or music video and be looking for a plot and getting irritated that it’s not there. If I’m watching a narrative film, I’m completely irritated by the something that has a lack of plot! If it was supposed to be there or if it was advertised as such, I feel duped if it’s not there. …but when I see something like this film that within maybe 15 seconds after the titles is clearly *not* a “story”…I’m not irritated that its not there and stop trying to look for one.

    Perhaps the art comment was said ironically…if was said in jest or as a mockery of the stupid comments, I apologize.

  • Didn’t Bjork do this in 1997 in the Hunter video? But with great music?