It’s pretty easy these days to find any number of science fiction shorts online. Many of them are really good, rivaling big studio productions and utilizing photorealistic CGI in innovative ways. In fact, these days almost anyone with the skill and patience (and, of course, talent) can produce a stunning bit of cinema that often gets the attention of a big Hollywood studio.
One downside to all that great looking CGI is the rapid decline of the decades-old art of building highly detailed miniature models. Maybe it’s because I grew up with those kind of effects, but I still appreciate the work that goes into making a physical model so detailed that it can convincingly portray something very massive on screen when, in fact, it’s only a few feet long. The people at Seaquark Films, a science fiction and narrative film initiative by Derek Van Gorder and Otto Stockmeier, are keeping this craft alive and well.
Their recently completed film C, or it’s longer name of 299,792 Kilometers Per Second (the speed of light) is a remarkable demonstration of what can be done without the use of CGI or green screen. The film was made entirely without the aid of those two stalwart tools so commonly used in almost every production today and was filmed entirely with in-camera effects, miniatures, stop-motion, and a few other old school tricks.
While the end result definitely has that retro look to it, it’s very impressive and evokes a sense of nostalgia for a lost era of filmmaking. The story is intriguing and the end, like any good story, leaves you both satisfied and wanting more. You can watch the entire short here. It clocks in at just a little under 15 minutes, but the time flies by when you’re watching.
Plot synopsis and film information from the movie’s website:
C is the story of Lieutenant Commander Malleck, and her radical act of mutiny aboard the KESTROS IV. With the help of her co-conspirators, she attempts to harness this weapon of mass destruction for a grand new purpose. But when a contingent of ground crew led by Second Lieutenant Kai threatens her master plan, Malleck must use the ship against them in order to succeed.
To build the future, we looked to the past. No CGI or greenscreen was used in the making of the film; all our sets and props were built by hand and filmed in-camera. Combining new advances in digital camera technology with traditional special effects, we sought to create a unique look through lighting design, camera tricks, miniature photography, split-screen, and stop-animation. We believe that this approach allowed us greater creative possibilities on a low-budget science-fiction film.
Knowing there was no use of modern effects techniques in this short, I really appreciated the finished product that much more. While creating realistic effects using CGI is a lot of hard work requiring real talent, these practical effects require an entirely different skill set and a ton of patience. It’s nice to know these classic techniques are alive and well.
The producers of C, or 299,792 Kilometers Per Second have created a well-crafted tribute to a bygone era of filmmaking and I welcome more of this in the future.