Last updated August 29, 2017 at 12:49 pm
We bugged Technical Director Philipp Buschauer, Compositor Michael Loithaler and Character Artist Marlene Raml from NEX to tell us all how the film came to be.
NEX is the winner of the 2017 SCINEMA Award for Technical Merit, a ‘visually stunning film illuminating the minute battles of nature from the micro to macro scale as a rhinoceros beetle, attacked by a fungus, struggles between life and death’.
Philipp Buschauer: On “Nex” I was responsible for a lot of the 3D work. The main part of my work was building procedural systems that try to recreate natural phenomena like moss in the cave at the beginning of the film, or the whole inside of the beetle and the dynamic growth of the fungus. I was also creating the lighting and shading of the project, giving the surfaces their proper look and making sure that the scenes always have an interesting light situation.
Michael Loithaler: My role on “Nex” was mostly compositing but a lot of tasks on the project were actually more or less done by everybody because we were only a team of three.
Marlene Raml: My role on “Nex” was the rhinoceros beetle. I was responsible for the design, modelling, sculpting, texturing, rigging and animation.
ML: The basic idea was to show something that is actually horrible in a very beautiful way. I learned that making sacrifices is something that is always part of filmmaking. The only question is, what are you willing to sacrifice? You should also stick to what you think is right no matter what other people say (at least most of the time).
MR: We were inspired by the fact, that a certain fungus can take control over ants and kill them. Furthermore, we wanted a challenge by having a photo-realistic look. Besides the technical challenges, I learned a lot about rhinoceros beetles, their anatomy and how they behave.
PB: In terms of the beetle we worked very close to the natural reference. For all the processes inside of the beetle’s body and also for the growth of the fungus we could be a lot more creative and abstract in our work because the common audience won’t have proper knowledge about these areas. So as long as we could present these features in a believable way, we could act very freely and creatively. For the most part, we would look up video references online and try to come up with interesting effects that still seem plausible and believable.
MR: We bought two rhinoceros beetle, one male and one female. I studied them and captured their movements. Other video references and a rhinoceros beetle specimen were very helpful too.
PB: I always have to think about the day when our beetles arrived at my place and we were trying to get them from their boxes into their new home. The beetles were really calm and tired because of their transportation, so we all felt quite confident around them and were acting fearlessly. All of a sudden the male beetle started to move his legs and panic broke out. We were screaming and running around while the terrarium door was still open and the beetle started to crawl towards it. It was hilarious and showed that we clearly were not ready to personally interact with these mighty animals. It was kind of like in our movie, the smallest creatures can have a great impact.
ML: When shooting was done we tried to carry a part of the miniature set on a dolly. We arrived in the lift and it stopped working because it was only able to carry up to 800 kg – and this was only a part of the miniature set.
PB: I hope that people can see how amazing nature is. Despite the fact that our film is not accurate at all, I still hope that people can experience it as something believable and get fascinated and interested in the world that surrounds us.
ML: Even death can be something beautiful and the beginning of something new.
Images courtesy of the filmmakers.