Six Mind Tricks to Inspire Creativity
We are all creative beings, despite what the uninspired might say. For some, being creative is not only a state of mind but the cornerstone of their career. For those whose livelihood depends on the ability to use creative thought on a predictable, consistent basis, what happens when the imagination well runs dry? Here are six techniques to help re-open the creative flood gates. Binge on Comedy
Comedians (or “stand-up philosophers,” as Marcus Aurelius Comicus would say), are some of the most creative thinkers on the planet. They dedicate their lives to taking ideas and premises and interpreting them in new and often bizarre ways that, chances are, you’ve never considered. These humorous outlooks on life can help open up your mind to new concepts and new ways of looking at things. Plus, laughter has been proven to help reduce anxiety and stress, which, in turn, makes you more relaxed — which is fertile ground for creative thinking. Look Through a Different
Looking Glass Imagine another person — a famous artist, philosopher, celebrity chef, former president, or anyone that comes to mind. Now, imagine what they would be thinking if they inhabited your body at this moment, doing whatever you’re doing, seeing whatever you’re seeing. For example, if you work in an office at a computer and you choose Bugs Bunny, what would he say, think and do if his consciousness was suddenly transferred to yours and he could see through your eyes? Think about his voice, his attitude, his antics, and how he would react. Next, imagine your life through someone else’s eyes. For example, if you choose Georgia O’Keeffe, what would you see through her eyes? What was life like in 1900? How badly would you botch the painting she was working on? The more details you clearly visualize from this new perspective, the deeper down the rabbit hole you go.
Practice Mirror Writing Mirror writing is the process of scripting right to left using backwards letters which, when finished, can be read properly in a mirror. Perhaps the most notorious example of this is a signature scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (redrum, anyone?), but has been practiced for hundreds of years by such geniuses as Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll, and now you. Give this a try and your brain’s left and right hemispheres will be chit-chatting like never before. Bonus: Try writing and doodling with your non-dominant hand.
The Paths Less Traveled As creatures of habit, we often engage in ritual de lo habitual. While mindless repetition can stifle creative thought, experiencing new things can literally build new neural pathways in your gray matter.
Music: Find two or three songs from two or three different genres of music that you’ve never listened to.
Travel: Walk, ride or drive somewhere you’ve never been. Once there, soak up the ambiance and question why you’ve never been there before.
Food for thought: Find a place to eat, preferably featuring an entirely new cuisine that you’ve never tried before.
The nose knows: It has been said that the sense of smell is our strongest sensory reminder. But what happens when you smell something entirely new? Try finding a new cologne or perfume that is foreign to you and, better yet, a fragrance you would not normally wear.
Shop: Blank Canvas
Approach Clear your mind and close your eyes. Picture a brand new, pristine-white canvas. Now, let your mind paint this canvas with the first thing that comes to mind. It can be a word, color, animal, object — anything you like — as long as you let it come instantly and without scrutiny. Once your initial idea has been anchored, continue building on this with new thoughts until the canvas is overflowing and your stream-of-consciousness work of art is complete.
Word Flow Pick any object within eyesight and start writing a story about it, the more fantastical the better. The only rule? No punctuation. Make this the biggest run-on sentence of your life. The goal is to have an uninhibited flow of ideas without your technical side (the side responsible for punctuation, for example) getting in the way. Only when your torrent of ideas has dwindled to a slow drip are you allowed to complete this exercise with a single, conclusive period. [ Martin Grebing is president of Funnybone Animation and can be reached via www.funnyboneanimation.com.
working on the movie were a trio of French companies: Mikros, MacGuff and Digital Factory. The final film has 2,355 effects shots.
“It was also Luc’s clear vision of what he wanted, and extremely clear, targeted comments that allowed all the VFX vendors to work very efficiently,” says Stokdyk. “Luc was able to edit his movie together almost a year before the release date, and didn’t change from the very first blueprint that he gave the VFX team.”
The most complicated example of this was the Big Market sequence, set on a desert planet where tourists put on headsets that let them see into a market in another dimension and shop for the most unique items in the universe. The action takes place in two different worlds, with the aliens within the market having a third point of view on the action.
“There was a rather complex set of rules about what something would look like in one of the two worlds, and what sci-fi technology was behind it, and what could be affected in each world,” says Stokdyk.
Besson had such a hard time at first explaining this complicated sequence to the cast and crew that he spent three weeks shooting a full previz of the entire sequence. Using as actors some 60 film students from l’École de la Cité — founded by Besson as part of his Cité du Cinéma studio complex in Paris — the previz was cut together with color coded tinting for each location, guiding the cast and crew through the making of the sequence to its finished form.
The Alien Hordes The alien creatures in the film were a huge challenge given the number and variety Besson’s script called for. Stokdyk estimates there are about 200 CG creatures in the movie, as well as live-action costumed actors.
Most notable among them are the Pearls, whose plight drives the plot and serve as the emotional heart of the movie, says Stokdyk. “They are in sync with their environment, and their energy is reflected via chromataphore an- imation in their skin when they emote,” he says. “Weta had to develop a complex skin-shading system to handle what was effectively ‘tertiary’ or ‘ quaternary’ animation, on top of the primary and secondary animation for the characters.”
Music artist Rihanna appears in the movie as Bubble, an alien who transforms her clothing and her shape at will. “The story required transformation from human to creature VFX, and we did not want it to seem magical or too much like a simple CG morph,” says Stokdyk. “Weta solved the challenge on a shot-by-shot basis, using both 2D and 3D techniques. Creatively, it was always about anticipating where the audience would be watching the transition, and trying to move the shapes in those areas around in an interesting way.”
Leclerc says Besson had his film editor working in parallel with principal photography, allowing the crew to turn over early entire sequences to the VFX vendors, which each had a year to complete post production.
“(Besson) knows exactly what he wants, which helps a lot with planning — logistically and financially,” says Leclerc. “He very much
those closeups, you get not only a higher sense of fidelity but you also get better shadowing,” Letteri says. “The detail really comes out because now every hair is casting exactly the right shadow on its neighbors and on the skin, and that extra kind of detail gives you the contrast that your eye can pick up on.”
“The preservation of the performances is paramount for us,” says Weta animation supervisor Dan Barrett. Toward that end, each shot uses multiple references to get it just right.
Performance Reference One of the biggest mysteries of the process is how much of what’s onscreen comes from the actor’s performance and how much comes from the animators. Letteri says in the case of Apes, most of the captured data is still there, with amendments mostly made to translate the human’s performance to the anatomy of a chimp.
For example, an actor playing a chimp traveling on all fours would use arm extensions to get accurate movement. But if that chimp was to stop and pick up a prop, like a gun, the actor would need to drop the extensions and use his or her hands. That’s a change in anatomy that involves the length of the performer’s arm seeming to change, which needs to be smoothed over digitally to appear natural.
“A similar thing happens with the face as well because chimps have a very protruding muzzle and they tend to make very wide expressions and that doesn’t always work for dialogue,” Letteri says. “So a lot of times with dialogue we’ll have to kind of focus the expression a little bit more, you know, in towards the center of the muzzle so you read it in a way closer to how you read human shapes.”
Each ape is different, as well, requiring the translation of expressions to factor in timing as well as anatomy all on top of the capture data.
One example is a scene in which Bad Ape, played by Steve Zahn, is talking and eating. When Bad Ape is talking, the performance is timed to match Zahn’s performance perfectly, but the eating had to extensively refer to real chimpanzees and their anatomy. “Chimps have a very distinct way of eating, and they’ve got these prehensile lips that kind of control the food, so animators referred to chimp reference on a shot like that.”
Weta took a new approach to extending the environment via a new software application called Totara that grows vegetation and land- scapes. For example, in extending the mountains and trees around the prison, Letteri says Weta created a landscape and then let Totara “grow” the pine trees to match the way real trees grow, factoring in elements such as how close the trees were to each other, how much sunlight they received on which sides, and whether a tree was older or younger.
Look Out Below! The climax to the film includes an avalanche that was created using a series of simulations. “Avalanches are interesting because when they’re moving they almost behave like a fluid, but when they hit things they behave like a solid,” Letteri says. “It’s constantly rocketing outwards as well which gives it a lot of its power and its really scary nature, so we tried to play that up wherever we could.”
As a fan of the original Apes films, Letteri says it’s been a thrill to revisit this world and create apes that are convincing as real characters. “Being able to create that kind of a character arc on a species that’s not human but obviously close to human has just given the films a really compelling reason to watch them,” he says. [
idea when we were shooting what CG shots we would be expected to do, which made it easier for us to capture the right type of material,” she says. “That meant we wouldn’t have to do full CG builds, but could target the needed area.” Digital Hair
Styling There were times when a digital sword and shield replaced the practical versions, but the most difficult task was simulating Gadot’s long, flowing hair. “We developed new controls for her hair simulations,” says Norman. “It always gives the best result when you try to get the simulation to get there but her hair needed to look fantastic so we would go in and control it when needed.”
Parts of the Belgian village sequence were shot in Luton Hoo, outside London, with the rest being captured on a backlot set at Leavesden Studios that consisted of a town square and street.
“We did top-up work on the buildings and on the roofs,” says Norman, who made use of the picture library at MPC to assist with the set extensions. “They built a practical tank, which we scanned. For the shots where Diana picks it up, we had a big foam green thing held by two guys on either side so that she would have something to interact with.”
Norman adds: “There are a whole range of shots with a lot of stunt action. It’s a combination of face replacement, full CG, and wire removals.”
Diana is not in complete command of her powers. “When she first runs into the Belgium village, an explosion throws her into this building and, at that moment, Diana has no idea what she can do but still manages to recover and kickoff,” says Norman. “Imperfections and subtle things were put into a lot of those shots to make it feel that this is not easy or an obvious move for her.”
The title character was the biggest challenge because there were so many aspects that had to work well, such as her skin, facial performance, hair and muscle system. “The animation was key in making sure that it felt like Diana was real and could do special things,” Norman says. “I’m happy that everyone likes no man’s land but we also had a lot of fun with the beach battle.” [