Minimal Space: Solus

An Adventure Story Animation, Exploring Space, Loneliness and Love

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With an aim to tell an adventure story inspired by classic 2D side-scrollers, director at Identity Visuals, Zachary Dixon, told us that he originally imagined that the company’s first animated shirt film would be ‘even more minimalistic form that what it became.’

In the initial idea generation of Solus, the spaceship protagonist was just a simple red triangle in Zac’s mind, with no gradients or shading. However, he quickly realized that this complex adventure story would need ‘a hero with more personality than a simple triangle can offer.’

Identity Visuals is a US-based creative visual media company who create a variety of videos for clients, such as Claris Networks. Although they focus on creating narrative driven films, the making of Solus allowed them to think even further outside the box.

‘It gave us the chance to do something a little different, in that it was centered on an original story, which is something we hope to do more of in the future!’ Zac told us. We explored more of Solus with him:

The Plus: How long did it take to create in total?
Zachary Dixon:
The team helped to carve out a week of free time between projects to get started. Leading up to that week, I spent a several nights brainstorming and shot-listing. This made it much easier to get straight to work when the free time finally arrived. After the week, I continued to create, tweak, and polish until the film slowly came to life.

TP: Could you give us a snapshot of the technical and creative process of creating it?
Each scene in SOLUS was illustrated and animated entirely in After Effects. One of the reasons I illustrate directly in After Effects, is because I believe that iterating quickly is essential to creating great design. If something isn’t working, I need to know as soon as possible, and changes need to be fast and simple.
After finishing each shot, I rendered each individually and brought them into Premiere for the editing process. I rendered each shot with about 5 seconds extra on the front and back, which allowed for easy adjustment of the pacing in Premiere without the need to re-render.

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TP: What was the most technically difficult thing to achieve?
Creating the asteroid fields. For a few shots, I needed asteroids to exist in very specific locations, but also stay out of the path the space ship was traveling. This meant I needed to have direct access to each asteroids’ position, speed, and direction. By using a few expressions (which is basically just code in After Effects) I was able to set up a controller that procedurally placed asteroids, controlled their movement speed, as well as size, direction, and rotation.

TP: What do you hope the viewer thinks about or feels after watching Solus?
A few people have commented that the film is like a visual poem. I like that. My goal was to create something beautiful, as well as something that had meaning and depth.

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