We've all heard the maxim that '70% of a movie is sound' and whilst there may be some quibbling over that exact percentage, in the case of Daniel Sierra's transfixing musical film Oscillate, I can confidently pronounce sound and the sine waves which represent it on-screen, equal 100% of the whole, compelling experience. Take a look at what you can hear after the jump:
Created as his thesis animation piece for the MFA Computer Art program at New York's School of Visual Arts, Oscillate was Sierra's attempt to visualize the progression of sound from its most basic elements to the complex harmonies we perceive as music. From Sierra's blog:
The concept of universal building blocks that can be assembled to form complex structures is something I find very exciting and alluring. Sound follows this concept in that any sound, for example a snare drum or a human voice, can be deconstructed as the summation of varying sine waves; hence making sine waves the building blocks of sound so to speak. This concept, which comes from the Fourier Series (named after Joseph Fourier) was the inspiration for my thesis, "Oscillate".
Conveying this concept through the animation of sine waves proved to be ideal, as there is a certain mesmerizing quality to periodic motion. Whether in the hypnotizing swing of a pendulum or the waves of an ocean, periodic motion can often have a very relaxing and trance-inducing effect on us.
I wanted the audience to begin with the widely recognized image and sound of the sine wave, and show them how it is a building block not just for sound but also complex visual forms by changing its interpretation over the length of the piece.
To accomplish this goal, Sierra took on the job of composer alongside that of animator (you can hear the various routes the Reason composed tune took on his Soundcloud page), working in both roles simultaneously and finding that each discipline influenced the other.
The project also required that he stretch his burgeoning knowledge of Houdini's VEX language, experimenting with the most efficient way to import the 'code sketches' he created in Processing, before heading to Nuke for compositing and After Effects for the final render.
Take a look at these early tests:
With a coveted Vimeo Staff Pick, 438K plays and a mere 11K likes, it looks Sierra certainly tapped into a communal fascination in having what we normally only experience with our ears so masterfully represented on-screen. Which got me thinking about other films which have taken the humble sine wave and put it to impressive creative use; such as David Wilson's recent animated promo for Arctic Monkeys' Do I Wanna' Know:
And the epic 960 vinyl records, 30 hour stop-motion session undertaken by directing duo Us for Benga's I Will Never Change:
What do you think of Sierra's film? Are there other wave-based films which have struck a chord (sorry!) with you?