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Jesper Eriksson's 'Between Beasts' is Both a Film and a Social Experiment

04.10.13 @ 12:22PM Tags : , , , , ,

If you were taken by the film noir aesthetics and overall cinematic atmosphere of Playdead’s award winning computer game Limbo, then the cautionary tale Between Beasts from Swedish filmmaker Jesper Eriksson will feel like a welcome return to that monochrome world of danger and beauty. Get acquainted and watch the film after the jump:

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The concept for Between Beasts (which stems from a reoccurring dream) had been bubbling around in Eriksson’s mind for around two years; at one point laid out as a 20 page script with a full cast of voice actors onboard. However, as a student at Sweden’s Natural Science School and with commitments to other projects vying for his time, Eriksson trashed his initial plans for the story and instead set out to complete a svelter version of the project on his own, augmenting his packed schedule with lots of late nights over the six month production period.

Working with a mix of Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects, Trapcode plugins (Particular & Mir) and 3DS Max, Eriksson traced trees, stones and other foliage from photographs taken in the forest and built up his scenes in 3D space — enabling a natural parallax effect once his virtual cameras were animated around the scene. You can see how the various layers came together in this series of process images:

And Eriksson further discusses the creation of Between Beasts in this making of video:

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Due to the labor intensity of their production processes which accentuate the costly nature of mistakes, animators are renowned for meticulously planning out their work before committing to the creation of a scene. That said, Eriksson (perhaps due to his live action experience) was still able to incorporate elements of improvisation into the film:

The nebula or Milky Way scene in Between Beasts was actually the product of pure improvisation. I was playing around with the Trapcode Mir plugin and got it looking like a feint, stripy mist. I immediately started thinking of a nebula and kept experimenting with adding several more instances of Mir with different settings to create stars and transform the mist into the beautiful mess you see in the film. It felt way cool and fitted my disintegration scene perfectly. Sometimes it’s good to have the perfect, foolproof plan, other times art just happens.


Between Beasts has gained a fair amount of praise since its online debut at the beginning of the month (nearly 18K YouTube & 10.4K Vimeo views to date), however it’s not all been plain sailing. Anyone who’s spent even the briefest period scanning YouTube comments knows that they have a tendency to get flamey regardless of the quality of the video. A recurring bone of contention with regards to Between Beasts has centered around accusations that Eriksson ‘stole’ his werewolf character from Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, prompting him to put out the above making of video to prove his innocence. However, it seems that a negative reaction is exactly what Eriksson was after all along, with the people trolling him, sending threats to his inbox and filling gaming forums with their vitriolic comments unwittingly filling the role of ‘involuntary participants’ in a psychological experiment on internet bullying as explained his post The World is a Beast. Here’s an extract from that post’s conclusion:

During one day I received intimidating threats in email and comments, people followed me on my social networks and started spreading harsh material. In 24 hours I had received a crowd that would do anything in their power to ruin everything in my life, from the contacts I had to the interviewees of my work. My phone kept vibrating from spam emails and my inboxes got crowded. Apparently I had a 20 page hate thread on a forum where people gathered up to trash talk about my work and me. They wished me dead and expelled from school and society;

People get very creative when trying to destroy something for someone else. I was expecting the Limbo reference to have a greater outcome, but instead the smaller detail of the werewolf model seemed to make the final hit. Even the smallest and most unexpected things can emerge a disastrous outcome. In this case the model was modeled, rigged, skinned and animated to mimic a Worgen character from the game World of Warcraft, which was the igniting force of a frenzy. I expected the tributing ending of Limbo to have this effect, but the WoW community seemed much more dedicated to their game. [sic]

NFS isn’t really the place to launch into a discussion about internet bullying, however, does knowing that Between Beasts was conceived as part of an elaborate social experiment lessen its worth as a piece of filmmaking for you?

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  • It’s a very nice way of showing your animation abilities, but I fel it was a total ripoff not only of the look and feel of “Limbo”, but also key elements (like the waking up of the girl and the breaking of the “glass”.
    It’s basically a reimagining of the story without reimagining the aesthetics. I guess the guy should clarify in the description of his video that this is an homage to the game, or am I perhaps going too far?

  • It’s unfortunate, but all I see is LIMBO too. The story isn’t distinctive enough to make a big enough separation.

    • guess that’s what he was going for though

      • That’s what it seems, but what bothers me is he doesn’t make any reference in the credits or the Vimeo description stating so, in the likes of “Inspired by…” or “As an homage to…”, and I think it’s necessary as to not mislead some viewers into believing that amazing aesthetic is his creation (it is of course a consequence of his executing work, but he practically mimics shots, actions and even the timing of many scenes those who play “Limbo” experience).
        He did, though, suggest me to read one of his blog posts where he mentions “Limbo” in this link (http://www.jespereriksson.tv/the-world-is-a-beast/) but I don’t know if it’s enough.

        • I think it’s very clear Eriksson is aping many elements from Limbo, but if you follow the thesis behind the film’s creation as stated in his The World is a Beast post, then coming out and acknowledging that (or the WOW werewolf) in the film’s description would have nullified his experiment.

        • Well according to the article it’s this guys attempt at a social experiment to put a light on bullying. So does it lessen its worth as a piece of filmmaking? yes and no. The point of the piece was to start a flame war, that’s why he mislead the viewers into thinking it’s a complete original work, but it’s not. It takes the focus away from the piece and puts it directly on the creator, which is what he wanted. So the objective of the film was successful, even though it takes away from the skill involved in the animation itself. Do I agree with it? no not really. Pushing peoples buttons in a negative fashion makes you no better than a bully yourself.

          • Call me a bully but I’m not even close to being convinced that the whole “social experiment” aspect of this thing wasn’t slapped on later as a defense mechanism. And not to take away from his technical ability, but that making of interview made me cringe pretty hard

  • The guy is a ripoff merchant. He is clearly only talented in making other people’s ideas come to life. If you strip away his “tributes” there is nothing left of his film. He has been lapping up praise for his film for at least a week until his plagiarism became widely known. I find it incredibly hard to believe that it was a social experiment. It sounds very much like he’s desperately clinging at straws to avoid getting sued and losing his place at his school. I doubt anyone intent on highlighting the issue of cyber bullying would collate their findings into a page-and-a-half word document and release it before it was finished. It must be very frustrating to possess his technical skills and have no imagination. I hope he learns from this.

    • I don’t buy the experiment thing either, but on the other hand I can’t believe someone would so blatantly steal scenes from such a known game and claim them to be original, only to once mention he is “inspired” by it (and World of Warcraft). Perhaps he truly believed he was doing some good in raising awareness on the scourge of bullying? (not that I condone, all the contrary) By the way, he missed the point by a long shot, even missing the concept of bullying if he thinks he has indeed recreated a situation like that with this short film.

      I don’t know what to make of it, really.

  • Cheated, got caught, trying to spin it as a social experiment.

    0/10 be a little more original, and not just with videos.

  • Run Boy Run on 04.11.13 @ 12:26AM

    Those rapid camera movements made this video unwatchable. Totally thought this was a limbo short…. wasn’t until I saw the comments did I clue in.

  • “In this case the model was modeled, rigged, skinned and animated to mimic a Worgen character from the game World of Warcraft”

    This guy is a complete fraud. The model in his video is 100% identical to the World of Warcraft worgen. Every animation frame, every polygon, even the bugs. It does not “mimic” the worgen model, it IS the worgen model. He is using it without permission and even worse, claiming to have made it himself.

    Blizzard Entertainment and the video maker’s school have both been notified of this plagiarism. With any luck, he will face the consequences for it.

  • Judging by the above comment, the experiment worked very well :)

  • Ending was unexpected.

    I kinda would liked to have seen the girl lie down on the same hill that you find her on at the end of Limbo. At least then it could be set as a prequel of sorts and pulled more into the Limbo timeline.

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