We move through a peaceful underwater world. Everything seems normal. At a second glance though, we notice that the sea creatures look somehow different. Almost like...plastic garbage. After winning Jury’s Choice Award at SIGGRAPH 2020 and the VES Award, THE BEAUTY just won the Student Academy Award with its combination of a very current theme and great visual effects. We talked to director Pascal Schelbli about the specifics of a VFX production like THE BEAUTY.
What is the topic of The Beauty?
The Beauty is a 3-minute journey through an underwater world where plastic and nature become one. For a breath of time, our worries and guilt dissolve between the eerily beautiful coral reefs and the mysterious depths of the ocean. But in the end, our guilt becomes true and we realize the extent of this misery.
Currently, the pollution of the oceans is being discussed in a very emotional way. Why did you decide to produce a film about it?
Since I grew up in the middle of mountains and I was always on or near them, nature is very close to my heart. That's why I always turn up my nose at every package or cigarette butt I have to pick up outside in the mountains or in the forest. Unfortunately, the pollution in the oceans is much more serious. To set a small sign, I had the idea to make this film.
How did the shooting under water in Egypt go?
The shooting went perfectly. Of course, there were doubts at the beginning. Will we find the right locations? How will the communication under water be? Is the shot material useful for our planned workflow? We went to Egypt with questions like these. But thanks to the good preparation of the team, a very talented cameraman and the diving school Diving.de, which had provided us with everything, everything went very smoothly. The garbage and some corals had to be filmed again here in Europe.
For the reasons mentioned above, I've constantly been dealing with the topic and try to avoid plastic at all costs. Rye flour instead of shampoo, block soap instead of shower gel, clothes without microplastics or made of recycled polyester. I also always make sure to have a cup or bottle at hand.
To see The Beauty between names like Star Wars and Lion King was impressive. And then standing in front of these people who are at the top of the VFX industry was very surreal.
It was very enriching to work with so many talented people! I was used to having everything from concept to the final result coming from my own pen. But here, the quality of the final result was taken to a whole new level, as everyone exercised their skills to perfection. This also made it easier to direct and give feedback besides my own CG tasks.
What was the collaboration with VFX Supervisor Marc Angele like?
Marc was a gift for the project and we complemented each other very well right from the beginning. Because he has a great technical know-how and works very accurately, we were able to create this photorealistic look. This was the biggest challenge of the project and together with his outstanding skills (lighting, shading, rendering, compositing) we did it quite well.
Originally, I am a trained graphic designer, but after my training I "drifted" towards motion design. As a motion designer I designed various broadcast openers, image films, advertisements etc. for Swiss television and before that for a film production. I always moved between 3D generalist and graphic designer.