The Frontier of Innovation: Kizny Visuals
Renowned for his experimental techniques across a skillset of image capture, motion control, VFX and CGI, Patryk Kizny , head of Kizny Visuals, has been creating award-winning work since 2010, from abstract short films to Toyota commercials. In this interview, Patryk talks to us about the driving force behind his unique work, incorporating technology into art and making a change in the industry.
Whether you’re working as a director, DP or VFX artist, the camera framework, experimental techniques and skills are always strong. What pushed you to chase this rich aesthetic?
I’ve always worked on the frontiers of mainstream filmmaking. I think what pushes me is unceased curiosity and drive for innovation. After all, what’s the reason of doing something that’s already been done a hundred times? I’m most excited about doing new things. Learning is the only thing that sticks with me longer.
As for camera work — good point. Smooth and continuous camerawork is certainly a distinguishable quality of my work and one of the reasons why companies from all around the world bring me onto projects. But it’s not only about shooting — it’s visible across the whole body of my work regardless of techniques. So I approach virtual/digital cinematography with the same attention to camerawork as when using motion control to pull real shots.
Do you believe that storytelling has changed, as technology evolves and new gear becomes available to filmmakers? Has this affected your own career?
Storytelling evolves — it’s a long and continuous process of feedback between audiences and creators. It has been continuously negotiated since the beginning of cinema, and it’s slow because it’s a cultural and social process. Audiences in the ’20s would not understand today’s cinema. Early filmmakers used only full body shots because the audience would not have understood if they framed just the upper body leaving the legs off the frame. Today, it’s long been a part of the language that we’re all familiar with.
But how much is it impacted by the tools? I think the tools are secondary here. For me personally it’s not as much about the gear opening new possibilities, but rather having a creative urgency and going ahead to find or create tools to express the vision. That was the case with DitoGear five years ago when we were starting up the brand. That was also the case with my short film Rebirth [ http://kizny.com/work/rebirth/] — I wanted to visualize LiDAR data in a way that it blended seamlessly with cinematic language. It’s never been done before. I SAW it in my mind and only needed to figure out workflows and connect dots to make it happen.
How did you develop your deep understanding of the motion control techniques and technologies required for timelapse photography?
Before I got into timelapse I had been doing deep sky astrophotography. I’ve built an observatory with a robotized telescope tracking the sky for hundreds of hours to create Hubble-like imagery. It’s an extremely challenging domain from the technical standpoint. So I was already moving a still camera very precisely to hit the same part of the sky up to 1/3600th of a degree each day to image a galaxy. Going into motion-controlled timelapse was like stepping down the ladder. Instead of 500kg of fixed equipment I would have 5 or 20, and it was relatively easy to put it all together.
From looking at some of your timelapse pieces, there is a focus on the simulation of particles and abstract manifestations. Tell us more about the idea behind a video like ‘Light’.
Light is not a timelapse piece — at least technically. But it is one on a conceptual level. I mean it’s certainly inspired by my former experience, but all the timelapse you see is CGI. I took a great 360° milky way image by Serge Brunier, projected onto a sphere, added a mathematical model of sun and skylight and programmed transitions between day and night. Like creating your own Earth or actually — an alien planet via coding (in GLSL).
The concept of Light is that light is a birth-giving factor common to all universe. So it brings to life my alien planet and the dancer. And the landscape is done 100% generatively via creative coding in GLSL, plus a bit of VFX and particles to spice it up and add realism.
Light also builds on my almost year-long continuous experimentation with fractals, generative art and GLSL coding. As a progress-before-perfection project I started a series Exceptions microfilms which conclude my R&D work on learning GSLS, building customised raytracers and bringing fractal imagery and the world of film and VFX closer together. Fractals are a very rich worlds and the community behind them is very friendly and vivid.
Where does your interest in experimental filmmaking and techniques come from?
It’s curiosity, drive for innovation and need for challenges every day. That’s who I am.
Do you have a different mindset when it comes to approaching branded work rather than your experimental pieces?
Perhaps the most challenging part of what I do is not coming up with breathtaking visuals or novel techniques, it’s figuring out how to sell them and make them commercially viable. The more I do it, the more I realize I set off for a huge challenge.
I’ve worked on a range of interesting projects, half of them were personal (and brought me skills, recognition and work opportunities for later jobs), half of them were commissioned, but I do a few projects like that a year. My current goal is to create more opportunities to work on these kinds of jobs, where my skills and creativity can develop and grow.
But of course at Kizny Visuals we also do bread & butter work and very often I work as a ‘regular’ director, cinematographer or a colorist doing what the clients or directors expect, just to make them happy and deliver on time.
What is the philosophy behind your studio Kizny Visuals?
Majority of advertising and brand communication is predictable, often boring and cliche. To some extent that’s how it is and has to be because it sells, but I have a deep belief that brands (and not only brands like Nike) can and should reach for novel techniques and unseen visual language. At the end of the day, in almost every brief you get as an agency or production company, clients express desire for novelty, fresh approach and innovation. Audiences get bored and expect the new. At least some of them.
The vision for Kizny Visuals is to partner with the most open-minded brands and producers to create more interesting content by using a distinct visual style and innovative techniques. While some focus on making it interesting mostly by the narrative and stories, we approach it more from a visual angle.
Are you a firm believer of embracing change when it comes to filmmaking and how the industry evolves around it?
For me it’s not about embracing the change. For me it’s about making one — that’s part of who I am. Although I don’t have ambitions (and superpowers) to change the whole industry, on a personal level I stand for quality, innovation and making new good things happen.
Why did you join Movidiam?
When I was starting with filmmaking Vimeo was a great community that contributed to sparking my career, at least with timelapse. Although it still retains advantage over YouTube or other places, thanks to gathering quality-focused creators, its role as a networking and audience building platform (at least for me) has significantly faded. Back in 2010 it was enough to put a good film out there. My productions were not as good as today, but the interest was higher. When I released The Chapel (the first timelapse piece to use HDR and motion control) it got over a million views in a matter of weeks. Today the Internet has become a content-saturated place and even if you serve top quality content, you can’t expect it’s enough to be noticed.
Today Movidiam is the new place where all the buzz is happening and where various visions melt. It’s interesting, inspiring and it’s a great place to find like-minded people.
How do you see the platform working for you and Kizny Visuals?
We did not start working on a business side (so making Movidiam work for the Kizny Visuals studio) yet, but I’ve been using it personally since the first days and it’s an invaluable tool for me for networking. And it’s really cool for that.
Do you think Movidiam could play a role in the way you and your team collaborate in the future?
Not sure about that yet. So far the networking part has mostly been my focus, but for sure will give it a closer look.