The film celebrates humanity’s biggest moments of creativity, starting with the Big Bang and moving through to the modern day. The fundamental idea behind this visually complex and evolving piece was to show the defining moments of creativity that have changed the world.
The project was a collaborative effort as visual storytelling was intrinsic to the narrative, blending CG, archival footage and live-action. There was a wide variety of source material (spanning multiple eras and production processes), and an equally wide variety of tools and techniques used to combine them into a conceptually coherent, frictionless flow. With the final film totaling a weighty 100-plus shots, with each and every shot requiring some sort of CG or compositional treatment, Framestore’s artists had a full slate— adding to the mix four fully CG scenes, plus the closing end frame that sees the Absolut bottle suspended in space.
Framestore's Head of CG and Creative Director Andy Rowan-Robinson states, “When we started the project, no one knew what the final piece would look like—it was all about the journey to get there—and I think that made this project stand out for us.”
The film starts at the very beginning: with the Big Bang itself. “One Night” starts in a static and quiet place. Then the energy of the blast propels the film forward— a journey through space and time, through the cosmos and all of creation. The sheer scale made the project quite open-ended.
Visual Language and Graphic Unity
As the energy of the blast unfurls, the film forges forward. Motion, sound and pacing were handled with exacting precision by a team of talented editors, whose task it was to create the forward-moving effect for the ad’s viewer. Shooting like an arrow along the Z axis, creating the “deeper into the screen” feeling, the camera’s wide lens framing pushes the effect even further, immersing the audience in our vignettes, while maintaining a cinematic unity across the film’s many vignettes. To maintain creative continuity, Rowan-Robinson explains, “The project leads spent a lot of time with the edit, viewing it as a consistent unit and not simply a collection of shots.”
Rowan-Robinson goes on, “Often we'd need to adjust the footage so that we could give an impression of depth and travel. We'd take footage that was static or shallow depth, and rebuild it out—painting out the edges and adding additional content, and then reanimating the camera.”
The camera halts for outstanding moments in time, amidst its rapid array of sequence changes. Key evolutionary and historical happenings are represented, spanning the primitive to the present: the discovery of fire, caveman’s paintings, farming and fishing pave the way for the forefathers (and mothers) of modern discovery. The film is set to ‘70s classic “Sunny” by Boney M.
“We quickly found the transitions were extremely delicate, slight missteps in speed and timing upset the flow of the film,” states Rowan-Robinson. “For each shot, there was a plethora of testing and iteration until we found something that really worked alongside everything else.”
Framestore’s artists worked to create a tactile, participatory feel to the piece, encouraging audiences to feel part of the narrative as opposed to watching passively from afar. Aware that the narrative itself tells the story of all humankind, it was imperative that the audience, too, felt that they were made of the same star stuff.
The collective journey soon lands promptly in the present, decelerating from its warp speed. Absolut calls for its viewers to project their own visions of the future on the depicted night ahead, throwing open a new world of possibilities in the starry night skies.
Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki
Framestore was excited to join forces with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki once again, having won the Oscar for Visual Effects together for Gravity
in 2013. Knowing Chivo was on board, Framestore was confident that the final piece would, as ever, be both ambitious and beautiful.
“I've been working with the people (geeks) at Framestore for many years,” states Emmanuel Lubezki. “Seems to me that the Framestore team always finds the greatest artistic solutions to the most complex technical problems— they allow us to achieve the impossible.”
The teams established a process that would allow them to simultaneously fine-tune the look of the film and the execution of the scene-to-scene transitions, whilst collaborating with Chivo to design and compile specific images.
Chivo worked closely with Framestore on how best to convey the continuity of cosmic matter and energy. The creative result is apparent in the edges of the objects and figures within the frame ‘fraying’ a little bit, breaking down. An effervescent halo of molecular matter is seen around the periphery, refracting the light and breaking down into shifting shimmers of color.
While impressive, the aesthetic is still subtle and tangible, like a nebula occurring in reverse. The implication is that everything and everyone is in a constant state of creative transformation, and that nothing is truly fixed. The energy remains the same, but the form it takes is forever in the hands of its users.
Rowan-Robinson states, “Often Chivo would shoot as low as 3 fps and it gave a really interesting canvas for us to work with—with interesting motion blur and timings—and we enjoyed adding our work on top to complement the style.”
Conceptual continuity was also enforced in the positioning of the light throughout the film: always originating from a particular direction, and simply varying in intensity, as we move through space and time. Nothing in the film is ever still; the combination of artistic direction and visuals effects perfected a transition style that maintained the all-important, subjective sense of forward movement, despite the wide-ranging collection of source footage and stills. As Rowan-Robinson states, “The project truly bought elements from the entire Framestore team together—design worked really closely with 3D and 2D and there was a really tight camaraderie.”
Framestore ensured that the finished film maintained its perfect flow through meticulous R&D work with the entire team: continuously reiterating a process of brainstorm, design and test. Once seamlessly assembled and smoothed down, the nuts and bolts of the piece melt away, leaving nothing but pure emotion.
The film can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSrOt6DZQqA&feature=youtu.be.