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Till Nowak on the making of The Centrifuge Brain Project

What were the key elements for integrating them so well with the environment?

Spheroton theme park ride render being composited in After Effects software

The goal is to blend the borders between artificial and real elements of the composed clip. To do this I try to perfectly balance their common attributes. This means that first you have to compensate the natural differences between the real and the digital parts, for example desaturate the digital parts until the saturation matches, then color correct it, add haze to the digital parts, motion blur and noise. But on top of just matching the attributes of the digital elements with the attributes of the original footage I always add additional layers on top of the overall image that give the two layers as many as possible additional common attributes.

This means, after matching the look, a lens flare or bright sunlight that spreads over the full image, an overall additional noise, an overall additional motion blur or an overall color shift, chromatic aberration and additional fog will glue the two layers – digital and real – closer together. The more you allow your final image to be dirty and messy, the easier the integration works.

What differences do you notice between CG and live action filmmaking production?

CG gives you the freedom to visualize any idea without limitations. But you pay a high price for it, because of the enormous amount of work it takes. It is normal for me to work one week on a five or ten second shot. When you shoot live action you can produce much more material in much shorter time. But besides this trade between workload and creative freedom the most important aspect is the feeling of reality.

If you had the choice to digitally animate something or to build it in reality I would always choose real filming, because the tangibility of real objects, the charm of coincidence and the charisma of real people is most important. But since I have many ideas which are impossible to build in reality I have to use CG and try to make it as dusty and rough as possible and integrate real camera footage and real camera motion to compensate any digital feeling.

Which elements of German culture do you find in the short?

Actor Leslie Barany performing as Dr. Nick Laslowicz walking in theme park

Maybe the seemingly precise, strictly regulated behaviour, the running around with a hardhat and a notepad, inspecting machines and analyzing diagrams of measurements could be seen as a German cliché. But since I am a stereotypical German myself I didn’t realize this until now. Germans are often characterized to have no humor at all, so I tried to confirm this with the serious tone of this movie, but obviously failed.

Which autobiographical elements do you see?

For me amusement parks are the world of my childhood in the 1980s. I got extremely fascinated by these gigantic machines back then, but then I lost contact with them. In the 1990s and 2000s I didn’t visit many amusement parks, so when I started this project it was like returning to my childhood. I think no fascination can ever become as deep as the impressions that you got when you were a child, and that’s something that I could feel during the production – something really deep in my memory, being the little boy again. I feel lucky to have a job that makes it possible for me to stay a little boy forever, besides the professional experience, of course.

You mentioned some time ago that your aim is to make a big movie one day. Will you be heading that way in the future or do you have other shorts planned?

High Altitude Conveyance System wireframe animation on monitor display

I am currently working on a short film that is more ambitious and more complicated than anything I did before. It will be around 20 minutes long and start as a completely animated film that transforms into a full live action character drama. It starts in the fantasy world of a psychotic person, which is all animated, and turns out to have a very real background, and in the end all the actors, environments, etc., are real. I started to think about this 6 years ago and I am working on it already since 2 years, hopefully it’ll be finished in the beginning of 2014. After that I want to advance towards feature film making and will have to stop doing all of the animation work myself, which I am actually looking forward to.

Any particularly interesting or funny anecdotes from the production or screening of the short that you’d like to share?

Actor Leslie Barany performing as Dr. Nick Laslowicz in the lab

Two days after my daughter was born, in March 2013, I had another very special date: a journalist arranged a meeting between me and the actual owners of the original amusement rides which I had filmed and enhanced. I was a little nervous how they would react, and thought they might be angry with me for visually manipulating their rides without asking. But it turned out that they loved the short film and they told me that the whole amusement park staff knew about it shortly after I had put it on the Internet. They invited me for an impressive backstage tour of the real rides and I gave them two of my ridiculous construction plans in exchange. They promised to officially enter them in to the technical inspection board to see their reaction – I don’t know if they did it yet.

Another interesting thing to know is that not only the amusement rides are CG. In some of the clips also the trees, buildings or trash bins in the frame are digitally extended, to get rid of recognizable buildings or elements from existing amusement parks.

Many thanks to Till Nowak for answering our questions.

 Don’t miss 

Watch the film and read an in-depth analysis

All images provided courtesy of the author. (c)2011 Till Nowak.

Framebox - Till Nowak's production studio

Institute for Centrifugal Research - home page

Article published November 13, 2013


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  • Filmnosis

    On ne connaît pas Filip.

  • Filip

    Filip tu vois mon ommentaire ?