Visual FX and cultivating a sense of wonder

15.10, Tuesday 8 Jun 2021

A few months ago, I ran across this behind-the-scenes look at some astounding sci-fi visual FX:

VFX Breakdown - Dynamo Dream Teaser (YouTube, 2m27s).

The artist: Ian Hubert.

It shows the actors and camera tracking on the green screen, and then the final scene CGI rendered using Blender, a fantastically detailed and perfectly seamless 3D world. (The body rotation in the last few seconds that becomes a camera rotation in the rendered version is :chefs-kiss-emoji:)

So that was a teaser, and the first episode of the series came out!

Episode 1 : Salad Mug - DYNAMO DREAM (YouTube, 21m31s).

There’s some background:

The series is a mix of live-action and CGI that follows a salad merchant on a seemingly normal day through the dense streets of the Sunset District, a futuristic metropolis filled with fax machine drones, giant mutant crabs blocking traffic, and flying assassin bots.

Two moments early in this first episode:

  • the fan rotating the ceiling with fabric strips trailing and rippling behind
  • rain on the window refracting the light, raindrops forming droplets and rivulets.


It’s all artificial – simulations, created hand-in-hand by the animator and the machine.

Does the camera actually hold a microsecond longer so I can appreciate these shots? Or does it just appear to linger because I know that these shots are understated VFX flourishes from a virtuoso, and so my attention is amplified? A little of both I guess.

Look, I’m not religious. But part of what I imagine it’s like to have faith that there is a singular creator of the world is that your attention holds, amazed, gecko-tacky on every effervescent facet of nature all the time.

Or not. Back when I studied physics, I would certainly go through periods where I would fugue out looking at my hands and thinking about electrons, or equivalently computers and transistors (condensed matter physics is wild). But it doesn’t last. Maybe that’s for the best.

But still I wonder about how to cultivate a sense of continuous partial wonder such that it is more likely that something in the everyday will catch you, just every so often. Perhaps that is one of the functions of keeping an observational diary, or of prayer.

Perhaps it could be a pill. Microdosing cathedrals.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it by email or on social media. Here’s the link. Thanks, —Matt.