The beauty of passion projects is that no one asks, we all just want to see if we can.
We were provided an incredible reference by the in-house creative team at Investigation Discovery for this project but there just wasn’t the time or budget to truly bring it to life. Luckily, we love a good challenge, an ambitious vision, and a genre we know well: murder. So we continued to work on this after delivery to see how far we could go with it given a bit more time.
This story of When Philip Met Missy, which takes place almost exclusively in a fast food restaurant, is an odd one rich with visual cues. Over time, and over coffee & cards, Philip confesses the murder of his wife to Missy, an undercover cop.
We knew we wanted to start off quite stark, just the tipped over coffee cup quite literally spilling the story right out of it. With that came some questions: What exactly would be the focus of each scene and would we be motivated to move through the story? What elements from Philip’s crime story should we feature? How much coffee should be in the cup, what kind of spills, and why?
We had two technical execution goals in mind. (1) To use a combination of practically shot elements composited with the CGI, and (2) keep a dark and mysterious mood conveyed through a dense, muddy coffee stained atmosphere of volumetric lighting.
This was going to be quite the task, as now we aren’t just playing in a 2D environment. This would require 3D modeling, realistic light sources and particle generators, rendering beautiful depth and ominous light rays to add to the layers of our complex murder mystery.
And here is where we talk about references: any Spielberg movie is gospel when it comes to lighting. Just like profile portraits from the Renaissance, you can instantly recognize people from profiles without any defining lit detail.
Our mission being beautiful backlit silhouetted scenes, we jumped into C4D for testing. Below you can see the overhead view of what a single light source (white lines) and the field of view of the camera (green lines) would render.
We’d been using a flat image of a falling woman at this point, but after some discussion, decided a real model would net a better scene. Having more lighting control, and, to make things more complicated but more realistic, we could rig a model for a more realistic falling motion.
If we’re going to do this, let’s do this!
After we rigged and placed our model, we realized the motivation would be much better having just come from the bridge scene below, so turning the light source downwards allowed us to maintain our silhouette, but top-light our character as she fell away into the darkness. And this is where the story begins.
This was fun.