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Alex Roman on the making of The Third & The Seventh, ‘From Bits To The Lens’ book

How did you approach the use of sound effects?

I had worked with music before but never with SFX so this was a challenge for me. I remember it as a fascinating experience that allowed me to switch to another field, at least during the time of montage. With respect to the intended effect, I knew clearly from the beginning that I did not want them to have protagonism, nothing that could be aggressive or invasive for the spectator. Rather a deaf whisper but with presence, a “real” connection between the spectator and the synthetic world.

There’s quite a bit of play in the way the short was edited. What interesting things did you find during editing?

Editing was harder than the initial plan. It’s true that I allowed myself some space for creative experimentation, but in general everything was studied and pre-designed from the beginning. So most of the process (with some exceptions) was quite linear. The difficulty arised at the time of the final cut. You have all the ingredients in front of you, like pieces of the puzzle, and you know (believe) that the order is clear, but this is only proved true when you actually reach the point of trying to finish the piece.

There were full sequences that thanks to careful initial design could be dealt with quickly, and in one morning you could have 3 minutes of footage perfectly in place. There were other parts, however, that there was just no way to make them fit. Be it for the content, global rhythm or tones and color. There were segments of the timeline that turned out to be quite difficult to handle, and these made me open 3dsmax again and start building, animating, lighting and composing a scene from scratch in order to insert those two or three seconds that were necessary for the puzzle to make sense.

Why did you decide to also take care of creating the music for the film?

This was an essential part of the process. I had this thing clear in my mind before starting the short: the music (which I believe plays a crucial part in general, and even more so in a piece of this kind) should be 100% adaptable to the montage and rhythm that I had initially conceived. Internally, I had already divided the visual content and timeline of the short into different phases that were clearly distinct, so no pre-existing musical score was going to fit my needs. The scoring process needed to be very flexible in order to adapt the music to the film.

On the other hand, by that time I was investigating the advances that were taking place in music and sequencing software. It really called my attention and for me it was a way of furthering my skills in another kind of field, one which allowed me to oxygen my head and step away from CGI for a while. I enjoyed the process a lot and I have the intention of orchestrating and sequencing another musical score in the future if I have the chance.

Nyman’s piece (which I found after much searching) had the peculiarity of having repetitive patterns that were perfect for loose re-interpretation, this allowed me for much liberty in regards to chromaticism and variety of moments and instruments. I got the music sheet, transcribed it into the sequencer’s language, adapted the time and phases to my needs and started assigning instruments to the notes. I remember it as one of the best moments from TT&TS’s creation process.

Coming from traditional art and painting, from the use of organic materials, how would you compare the creative process of working with 3D on a PC vs. other kinds of artistic creation? Which are the pros and cons? (besides the “undo” button)

Haha..! Yes, the undo button has been the father of a whole generation and I think it’s being missed more and more in the real world and our daily duties. Jokes aside, I think traditional techniques have things that digital ones lack. Probably every artist that has experienced traditional painting will tell you the same: there’s a very special beauty in the fact of getting your hands dirty, the analogical process, the colors… It’s a completely different experience, one that has no comparison.

Digital art, however, offers another world, one that is extremely wide and full of possibilities. Such as the ability of creating locations that are completely hyper-realistic, in which one can “film” with the look, and above all with the precise light, that the artist seeks. All this without the need or difficulties associated with filming in the real world. Though it’s true that the amount of human effort needed is much higher if your goal is photorealism, as was my case.

I see painting and traditional arts as a way of pleasure and escape from day to day tasks (something like a relaxing hobby, so to speak) and not as a tool at the time of approaching a real job in a real production environment.

2 comments

  • Josh Pabst

    Amazing work – I remember seeing it on Vimeo a number of years ago. Always fun to get a behind the scenes glimpse.

  • Midge Sinnaeve

    Can’t wait for the book, looks great!

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