VFX for Soft Crash Fact Mag Live Set by Catalyst Berlin Visual Effects tutor Paulina Greta, aka Imaginaria

Soft Crash Collaborate With Visual Effects, Digital Arts & Animation Tutor Imaginaria on a Fact Mag Live Set

Posted by Dee Cunning on 2021-02-15T23:00:00+0000 in Student work

When creativity escalates: Read all about how Amplify Berlin November resident Phase Fatale’s visit to our music studios resulted in a futuristic Fact Mag live set collaboration between EBM duo Soft Crash, Visual Effects, Digital Arts & Animation tutor Paulina Greta and some of our students.

Tools are an extension of the artist’s body. To the painter, the brush is a customisable finger. To the music producer, the wires of the modular synthesizer are nerve endings. Though many of us recoil at the thought of neural chips, the technologised body is ironically human. This blurred line is one of the concepts that inspired the debut EP of Soft Crash, Spritzkrieg, released last year on BITE

When the EBM-disco-synthwave duo – Hayden Payne, aka Phase Fatale, and Pablo Bozzi of Imperial Black Unit – were asked by Fact Magazine to perform a hardware live set, they decided to give their sonic aesthetic a visual mirror by commissioning VFX artist and Catalyst tutor Paulina Greta, aka Imaginaria

“I got my main inspiration from the wires and the modular synths aesthetic,” Paulina explains. “I focused first on the character design and then on the materiality of the textures. I wanted to recreate a network of wiring cables that almost fed my characters throughout their body. The metallic body would then reflect hardware firmness. The character design was entirely sculpted in virtual reality. It is the third project I am completing in a virtual environment and I believe there is a palpable change in my aesthetics because of that. Almost all the other softwares I used in the pipeline are for real-time 3D: Substance Painter for textures and TouchDesigner for the generative abstract parts.”

VFX for Soft Crash Fact Mag Live Set by Catalyst Berlin Visual Effects tutor Paulina Greta, aka Imaginaria

In fact, it seemed an invisible force was drawing Phase Fatale to Catalyst. As part of our live stream collaboration with Amplify Berlin, the November residency mentor had recently visited our K4 studio for an interview about his creative process. He fell in love with our Funkhaus facilities and asked our events and student experience lead Hannah Deans if he could collaborate with our students on the Fact video.

“It seemed like fate,” Hannah tells us. “Alfredo La Corte, who has been creating the Amplify live streams with me, came on board to direct the live footage for Phase Fatale, helping plan the location and the look and feel.” Fellow third-year Film Production students Dico Baskoro and Jur Kunaver pitched in as the director of photography and the camera assistant respectively. Meanwhile, second-year Visual Effects, Digital Arts & Animation student Freddy Gutierrez assisted Paulina. 

“The entire Catalyst collaboration worked towards a common goal, without any external pressure, which often collides with the creative vision.”

“The work with the Film and VFX students during the first step of the shoots was a great experience,” Paulina continues. “Hannah was guiding all the production and taking care of the schedule. There was a constant interaction during the filming of the live-set between our VFX team and the Film team. I was assisted by Freddy Gutierrez, from the second year, in the use of the Azure Kinect. This technology is often used to capture depth data from a room or a subject and with that data I could recreate Hayden’s and Pablo’s 3D portraits. Alfredo La Corte, Dico Baskoro and Jur Kunaver from the film department were supportive and creative in finding the right lights and camera shots to fit well with the VFX. The entire Catalyst collaboration worked towards a common goal, without any external pressure to collide with the creative vision.”

“It made me aware of the endless possibilities that one single technology can offer by just applying a bit of creativity and enthusiasm.”

VFX for Soft Crash Fact Mag Live Set by Catalyst Berlin Visual Effects tutor Paulina Greta, aka Imaginaria

As VFX assistant, Freddy helped Paulina to set up the software networks as well as the Kinect camera in order to capture 3D data of the scene to be processed and finalised later. “It was a very instructive process for me,” he reveals. “It made me aware of the endless possibilities that one single technology can offer by just applying a bit of creativity and enthusiasm. It was also very exciting being able to take part and collaborate in a project with different departments where there is always something new you can learn.”

Like any great director, Alfredo focused on how best to bring out the story – which, in this case, wasn’t a fictional narrative, but a convergence of performer and location. “My work for Fact Magazine was very much centered around the environment in which we shot them: a beautiful room inside a Funkhaus studio,” he says. “Once I saw the location, I thought the best way to shoot the performance would be to light the space with heavy textured shadows and to use wide lenses in order to see as much of the room as possible. Sometimes when you have a good location and good performers you just have to show them properly. It was a great surprise to be asked to direct a video for Fact Magazine, I'll tell you that!”

VFX for Soft Crash Fact Mag Live Set by Catalyst Berlin Visual Effects tutor Paulina Greta, aka Imaginaria

Dico, who worked as the DOP agrees: “It was spontaneous. Alfredo contacted me maybe two days before shooting and gave me a short brief. I decided to shoot with three static cameras with lenses of varying sizes and one with a gimbal – sometimes handheld to create movement or dance vibes. There was a wide shot to capture the artists and the stunning Funkhaus studio with cool lights and detailed shots of their musical equipment. It was really really fun and enjoyable since I also love techno music and it was my first time working with VFX people on a live session.”