LAND OF MINE – The Story behind the Project

Welcome back!

This post is about my fourth experimental macro short LAND OF MINE. Another personal project which took it’s own way during the last 6 month and came out differently than expected. I deeply hope it will be an inspiring piece of film for anyone interested in organic visuals and macro cinematography.

In December 2016, I got a request from an advertising agency for a commercial shoot. The AD worked on a concept for an image clip about the European Coating Show, a leading fair for any kind of paint, pigments and varnish. But rather than going the SFX way, he was interested in organic visuals and practical effects to tell the story and asked me to exclusively focus on acrylic paint. For that purpose, I did a series of experiments with a variety of colors, oils, milk and dish soap. The client was especially intrigued by highly pigmented metallic paints because their glitter and glow effects perfectly promoted their contextual message of movement and impact. Even though the idea of working with these material isn’t new at all, it took quite a while to work out all the details. But after some time, I found a stable method with good and repeatable results.

Some stills form the video shoot, copyright R. De Giuli, 2017.

In January, we shot a plethora of footage, covering all stages of the storyboard, beginning with subtle monochromatic scenes to introduce the color scheme, building a middle part where elements unite and ending with a grand finale using almost any shade of color we had on set. It turned out pretty nicely. And I hope the results speaks for themselves.

This is the final image clip:

And this is a short behind the scenes video:

One the one hand, I was very inspired by this job and immediately started to think about another project in the same fashion. On the other hand, I shot so many plates of colorful pearls swimming and drifting in oil that I just had enough. Again, there are plenty of stunning experimental films out there which totally focus on this specific visual style. For example the fantastic Odyssey and Pacific Light from artist Ruslan Khasanov. And finally, Thomas Blanchard totally killed it with his mind blowing Kingdom of Colors, another outstanding work.


In short: when a story is told, don’t tell it again (at least for some time).

But I had a lot of leftovers from this production and just couldn’t resist. I started playing around with acrylic paint again, trying to find a new approach. After a while I got rid of any kind of additional fluids like oil and milk and totally reduced the workflow to the color itself, it’s consistency and flow. Furthermore, I decided to work directly on drawing paper instead of petri dishes. And finally, I tweaked my lightening setup to visually emphasize the surface of the color layers and it’s individual textures. Using additional torch lights to my existing setup was the most important improvement as I was able to pinpoint very tiny areas in my compositions. This helped a lot guiding the view across a scene.

Usually, I create depth in a scene by stacking glass planes one above another to create a foreground and a background. In this case, my surface was totally flat. That’s why I had to find other ways to create dimension. But this got solved easily because the paper bended over time as it got moist. I pushed this process by spraying water on it right from the beginning which made my surface flexible and soggy. Using a few sheets of extra cardboard below, gave me the stability to move and warp the scenes pretty much like I wanted. I was able to work up to 30 minutes with one single drawing paper until it was damaged and got littered. From time to time I preserved a piece to let it dry and see if it would keep it’s beauty. But it didn’t.

I kept a few pieces of paper…

The visual results reminded me on a volume of photographs from Bernhard Edmaier, a German photographer specialized on aerial photography. I studied his book “Atelier Erde” quite intensively and was absolutely fascinated by his work. His perfect compositions often appear like an abstract piece of art but without loosing its documentary character of a photo which was shot from a helicopter down to earth. He really kind of blends two visual realities within one image which leads the viewer to an alternating ambiguity…sometimes it’s an image, sometimes it’s a drawing. Exactly my cup of tea. Edmaier has a large portfolio and you shouldn’t miss this true master of photography.

“Atelier Erde”, copyright Bernhard Edmaier, available here.

Over time, I improved my shooting process to achieve the narrative of a flyover and started to establish sceneries with the same idea as in my short SINGULARITY. I tried to reenact planet earth and it’s landscapes while keeping this special organic and realistic touch I like that much. The macro scale was unnerving as usual, but it simply gave me a ton of narrative templates I was able to collect and develop further. Finally, I had a complete concept and started to shoot specific scenes for my purpose.

Find out more on my next post: “Land of mine – Landscapes on Paper”.

Freeze frames from LAND OF MINE, copyright R. De Giuli, 2017.

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