With STREAM: Explore The Unseen, German filmmaker and photographer Roman De Giuli made a tiny universe by filming ink, oil, and water interacting on a glass plate using macro cinematography. The positive feedback overwhelmed De Giuli, but also motivated him to use experimental cinematography to tackle something bigger—the Big Bang. The filmmaker’s latest 4K video, SINGULARITY, explores the birth of the universe using lights, fluids, powders, and surfaces.
To simulate the singularity and the subsequent formation of matter, gas clouds, galaxies, and planets, De Giuli applied an assortment of inks, fluids, and light to a tiny crystal ball. That process may sound funny, but the roundness leads to some absolutely eye-popping liquid motion that would certainly impress 2001: A Space Odyssey's VFX wizard, Douglas Trumbull. The fluids, illuminated by various hues of light, flow like gases, ripple like water being blown by wind, and in various other ways, texturally mutate.
“SINGULARITY is a good example for the production process you have to go through when aiming for expressive organic visuals,” De Giuli explains. “I learned a lot during the making of STREAM and my second project took (more or less) the same way. It was an extensive series of experiments with lights, fluids, powders and surfaces. I always want to create images with the ‘never-seen-before-effect’ and a high narrative potential. And I found out quickly that up to 99% of my footage is wastage. It’s nice, it’s sharp, it’s beautiful—but it won’t create meaning to my story.”
To give SINGULARITY a narrative, De Giuli looked to the mind-bending black hole and wormhole visual effects in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. He wanted to combat the notion that macro shorts are non-narrative montages of “pleasing footage” driven by an innovative moment and strong sound design.
“The term non-narrative is pretty destructive as it disregards the fact that narration is deeply connected to perception,” De Giuli says. “The freedom of interpretation and association makes us adopt anything as narrative which creates meaning to us. Basically, anything has the potential to be narrative, even a blank canvas.”
De Giuli says that it’s tricky to maintain an abstract narrative when it’s based on visual illusion. The rules of visual storytelling, especially continuity, cannot be broken. If the color profile shifts, even slightly, or if a bad edit is made, De Guili says that it can break the macro narrative illusion, which is easier to establish than to maintain.
“Take a small crystal ball and cover it with blue ink and many people might think of a planet. Pretty simple, right?” De Giuli muses. “[But] if one identifies just one single drop of ink or a tiny fluff as what it really is, your story completely breaks. There is the rub. And just as a side note: sound is at least as important as video. It is the only way to bring your pictures to life and to provide them with plasticity and dimension.”
Click here to read more about Roman De Giuli’s work on SINGULARITY.