Making Dome

Back in the summer of 2017, John Tatevosyan, Simon Ternowitz and I started to work on the writing and development of a short film. We gathered a few times around beers and hot dogs in my garden. It was to chill and exchange ideas!

Grilling with friends makes a good story. Even better with this ancient machine to cook the meat!

The Story

After a bunch of fun meetings, we started to have an outline of the story. Even better, we had a nice universe to tap in. We wrote all the story beats on small pieces of papers, and arranged them in different ways, experimenting with different ways of telling the story until we had something we all liked.

At this point, the story was inspired by films and tv series we all loved, such as Akira, Stranger Things,and Blade Runner. We wanted to carry a feeling of high tech low life also described as cyberpunk.

One other event that fuelled our story was the New York City blackout of 1977 and the repercussions following the absence of electricity it had on the NYC habitants.

Early work on the characters arcs.

John refined the whole thing. We now had a few interesting leads.

Central themes

  • Transcendence / God-Scientist-Creator / Visions-Sacred Knowledge / Religion / Light
  • Technology / Dome / High Tech / Intricate Design / High Class
  • Power / Control / Classism/ Corruption / Death

Symbols

  • Old Man / God
  • Dome / Eye
  • Light of Truth / ExplosionReligious Symbology / Sacred Geometry
  • Big Brother / The Poor

We were a bit exhausted after these sessions, and we put it all aside for a few weeks. After this little break, I started working on styleframes for the movie.


Early work

My goal was to create a very short film that could stand on its own, with the potential to be more. I didn’t want to spend more than a few months working on the visuals, so I thought a teaser for the film would be the perfect fit. I went ahead and drafted a few scenes starting with what I called the outside shot.

Early paint and smoke animation for the outside shot

I wanted to give the whole film a strong sense of scale, bringing contrast in every shots. This one was pretty straight forward with a very tiny car opposed to the large Dome. The idea was to give this shot a feeling of emptiness and discovery in the heat of a desert.

I knew I would create only a few shots for the teaser, so I wanted to give each one of them a dominant colour. The outdoor will be orange/red and indoor will be blue/black.

After a few key shots, I quickly jumped in After Effects to test a compositing workflow. I hoped to green light a test shot that would define the rest of the film. A couple of evenings a week, and for a few weeks, I finalised 4 shots.

One animation test.

Slow times

With passion projects like this there could be moments of doubt. It happened and I put the whole thing aside for a while. Something bothered me with the way these few shots were looking. Finally after a few months away from the Dome, I experimented with a complete retouch for the film.

I really liked how the lines defined contour on this one.

The palette was less vibrant and in my opinion the combination between the character and the environment was more coherent. I thought I had it, but then I watched Akira! Okay, this film is truly amazing. I am not gonna expand too much on this because a lot of people did that better than me: the essay Why Akira Matters, the Collective Podcast Akira Commentary, and just give a look to this amazing website.

So everything changed once again!


Doing the shots

The first shot I tweaked was the one I made almost half a year ago. In general I tried to push the level of details. Below I added a few extra planets and stars in the sky.

I also made four additional shots. Introducing two characters and two very sweet dogs.

I am sure you just want to cuddle these dogs!

I finally loved the rhythm the teaser had. The new shots carried a dimension of mystery, cutting between a dive in blue water and the dogs by the door frame. What I had in mind was to show the inside of the Dome and its puddles of water. In the story, the people of the Dome voluntarily get their “high” through energy blasts. The man with the two Dobermans is part of a town militia. They act mainly in between the blasts, when the city is only darkness.

The animation was done in Photoshop, using the Animation toolbar. I navigate easily in photoshop and love the option of animating with it. It is not the best program on the market and still has a few hiccups, but I really like it, and you have all the PS brushes.


Bells and whistles

A big shout out to Wesley Slover over at Sono Sanctus for working on the sound of the film, and Matt Abbott for the voice! It was amazing to receive the film with audio. This experience was truly like watching it for the first time and it really set the right mood.


Over

I spent a bit more than 7 months on the making of this film. Going through different styles and ideas was a thrilling process. It taught me the benefit of getting my work critiqued, and the journey was so much better with the help of my friends John Tatevosyan and Simon Ternowitz. Both of them gave me great feedbacks. Their inputs were so valuable, thanks guys!

I really enjoyed the process of making a passion project and will definitely do it again soon.

Bye everybody!