Alongside jowl wobbling slaps to the face or exploding water balloon speed ramps, tracking a drop of water as it falls through space into a coalescence cascade is one of those de facto shots oft used to demonstrate just how super speedy your new high-speed camera is. I could see why you'd be loathed to sit through yet another one -- after all, seen one drop of water seen them all -- but what if I said that the team over at Physalia Studio had actually managed to map an animation into falling water drops in their opening title film Entropy for IdN TV? Take a look at their CGI-free, mission possible after the break.
Remember that was all CGI free! Which makes one ask; how on earth do you project an animation sequence into a falling water drop? The answer is you use stop motion, the flaw of persistence of vision which enables us to view all those individual frames we call cinema as continuous action and a hell of a lot more than a single drop of water:
The final result of the piece you have seen has absolutely no CGI, and was shot in stop motion so as to be able to project inside the water drop the logo formation, previously animated in 3D and then printed in paper and placed behind the water drop falling. There were 320 frames printed and replaced frame by frame in the animation, and over 2000 frames compose the final shot -- this meaning that the drop you see is never the same, there are 2000 different drops in the piece. In order to be able to photograph each one in exactly the right place as to be able to see a fluid fall, we created an Arduino-based system in which, after having the drop cross a laser pointer, we would have the absolute precision of when to trigger the flashes and camera to see the drop in the right position. We worked very hard to synch this mechanism to our Motion Control system, and the final piece is the result of a 3-week testing process in which we shot about 45 splashing tests with over 20000 pictures taken, before we produced the final shot.
Here's the making of:
Unlike other films which have revealed the balletic beauty of liquids in motion, such as Sony's Phantom Flex shot BRAVIA TV ad, Physalia's stop motion process meant that there was no need for an expensive high-speed camera, in fact any camera capable of remote triggering was adequate -- in this case a Canon 7D fitted with a macro lens. As you can see in the extensive write-up over on the Physalia Blog, that's a massive over-simplification of the painstaking process of tests, adjustments and re-tests the team went through to bring the final piece to completion.
So, do you feel it was all worth it when it's possible to achieve a similar effect through the use of CGI and a high-speed camera? When does ease outweigh the satisfaction of solving a creative problem?