Nicolas Arnold’s blissed-out short film takes us back to the early days of space travel

Footage of liquids and chemicals flowing and reacting have been turned into a celebration of the night sky through careful use of grading and VFX.

We’re always fans of projects that hark back to the aesthetics of how space travel was – and was imagined – in the first decades of it becoming a reality. There’s a solidity, a roughness that makes it feel more tangible than most sci-fi visions of the future. And, on the 50th anniversary of Kubrick’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s on our minds more than ever.

So it was great to be sent this short film by Hamburg-based TV art director Nicolas Arnold, which overlays vintage elements over slowly swirling visions of deep-space phenomena to create a view from a spaceship window far out beyond our Solar System. Watch it below.

“Having spent my entire childhood in an area lacking both basic infrastructure and light pollution, I developed an escapist obsession for watching the night sky and contemplating,” says Nicolas. “I would constantly get on people’s nerves asking: ‘What do the limits of the universe look like? And what’s behind that?'”

Helios’s solar storms were created hidden away from that sky, in Nicolas’ basement using chemical processes, shot in 4K on a Panasonic GH5 mirrorless camera. 

The footage was graded using Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve, and then VFX were applied in After Effects. 

“While this is a pretty standard workflow for shooting liquids, my take on it was to push the outcome in post so hard that it becomes almost indistinguishable from CGI generated particles,” says Nicolas. “Real-world practical effects have proven to deliver the tangibility I was looking for in order to illustrate the metaphysical aspects of space travel.”

AE was also used to add music and sound effects – plus the HUD of the spacecraft, which was based on the Apollo Lunar Module that took the first humans to the Moon.

“It was great fun diving into NASA’s design world and collecting all sorts of references like realistic light fall-off in space, HUD elements and even spaceship interiors,” says Nicolas.

Nicolas has also created a shot breakdown to show how it all came together.

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