A major source of inspiration for FIELD‘s non-linear film experience Energy Flow, which launches as an app for iOS and Android this week, is the social and political unrest that’s happening all around us. The London Riots, Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and countless other protests that took place all over the world in 2011 and 2012 made it impossible to ignore the fact that an energy shift was in progress. Out of that realization, the idea for Energy Flow, an exploration of the invisible, interconnected forces of nature that shape our world, was born.
Image of Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring, a key source of inspiration for “Riots.”
So it’s only fitting that one of the 10 chapters of Energy Flow be dedicated to “Riots,” a tribute to the Hackney riots that took place right outside FIELD’s London studio, as well as a more general exploration of the overarching global unrest permeating our culture today. In this chapter, FIELD attempt to capture and convey the feelings of uncertainty, turmoil, and hope we feel as “the established systems we’ve come to accept as a fixed part of our world view come crumbling down around us.”
“Riots” has found renewed relevance today with a new uprising of riots and protests in Egypt taking over our news feeds since late November. It’s perhaps this closeness to our daily lives and real world experiences, to the images we see on the news each night, that makes “Riots” the most visceral metaphor in FIELD’s exploration of energy. After all, the throbbing energy of an angry mob is one that speaks to us on a physical level—we can almost feel the tension, the adrenaline rushing. It’s also a metaphor that seems to have real implications on our world, many of which are still unknown and unfolding before our eyes on a day-to-day basis.
“More than making a political statement, the animations of ‘Riots’ aim to capture the ambiguity of fear and excitement,” explain FIELD. “The anarchy, chaos, and uncertainty of the moment of change can topple in either direction: into violence and desctruction, or into political change and a different future.”
Stills from “Riots” show abstracted crowds.
For the digital animations of “Riots,” FIELD made use of the abundant images and YouTube videos available online documenting the above-mentioned protests. Using mobile phone videos as references for their composition and camera movements, they were able to recreate scenes from actual riots that happened around the world. Key movements and gestures were recorded with motion capture technology and merged with 3D crowd animations to paint as realistic a picture of the environment as possible.
“The masses of pictures from the news and internet have been burned into our memories, and become a part of our shared visual culture,” says FIELD.
FIELD used real footage of riots found on YouTube as inspiration for the scenes in the “Riots” chapter. Using motion capture technology, they were able to reconstruct key scenes digitally in order to paint a realistic picture.
We spoke with FIELD to find out more about the creative development of “Riots” and their very personal ties to the imagery in this chapter.
The Creators Project: This particular story hits very close to home for you guys, since the Hackney riots last year literally came to your doorstep. What was your personal experience of the riots like? How did it inform making this story?
FIELD: It was really quite surreal. In the studio and at home we were literally in the middle of it. You hear the helicopters, people outside, sirens, but still the most tangible info was coming from Twitter and the BBC livestream. The scenes outside were surreal, because the break-ins and looting was happening in the middle of the day, whilst other people where passing by, watching the spectacle or minding their own business. That’s where the feeling for this ambiguity of fear and excitement came from that we try to bring across in the animations.
Images of the Hackney Riots, which shook London in 2011 and took place right outside FIELD’s studio.
All of the imagery in EF is inspired by real events, locations, concepts, but “Riots” is more grounded in real life because it can be more closely linked to recent controversial world events and because it deals with the idea of people fighting for what they believe in, often at the risk of their lives. That makes this some very sensitive subject matter. How did you handle that challenge?
We wanted this piece to be about the emotions and the energy that emerge in groups of people in these extreme situations, rather than about the political circumstances or a moral judgement. That’s why the visual style is so stripped back, and why the abstraction is so important—it’s more like a fragmented memory that lives from what you want to see in it.
A look at how the visual style of “Riots” developed over the course of its creative and conceptual evolution.
In contrast to other sections of the film, “Riots” seems to be more about an energy shift rather than an energy flow. Was that something you consciously were trying to get at? How did you attempt to present that? And did you want to differentiate it from the rest of the film somehow?
Yes, it was definitely an aim to look at a spectrum of “energy transformations,” from subtle and evolutionary changes to more explosive ones. This piece became really important to us because it captures one of the events that triggered the whole project in the first place.
Visit EnergyFlow.io for more information on the project and more behind-the-scenes imagery on "Infinity." Check back on The Creators Project every Thursday for an in-depth look at a different storyline or feature of the film.
Meet FIELD in the video below…