This Cosmic Visual Art Film is Pure Macro-Aesthetic Mischief

“Technicolour nebula swirl like cyclones across a sub-atomic realm,” runs the opening line of text accompanying this dramatically detailed display of shimmering, explosive, slick, granular, and unendingly dynamic visual effects. Orbis Integra is a short-film symphony of aesthetic experimentation, cooked up by self-described “super-collaborators” Bradley G Munkowitz, Peter Clark, and Joe Picard. Motivated by a mischievous pioneer’s urge to test the effects of physical forces on a plethora of materials and build on past experimentation, this audiovisual treat is the best lab report you’ll never read, ft. soapy bubbles, cymatic vibrations, dry ice, fine crystals, and more.

The two-day shoot was carried out in an East Los Angeles studio on a shoestring budget and a PhantomFlex 4K camera, and captures what the trio call “epic material statements” at a spectacular range of anything from 240 to 1,000 frames per second. It’s “a statement of celestial birth, vigorous expansion and ensuing destruction, encountered through cinematographic vignettes,” and it’ll take you on a quasi-scientific journey to the limits of material aesthetics in macroscopic detail.


The high speed cinematography, specialised macro lenses, and a meditative complementary soundscape make for a truly epic exploration of the frontiers of material artistry. Bradley’s a heavyweight in this talented trio of creatives: an internationally acclaimed visual and design director, working under the name GMUNK and self-styled “Galactic Crusader”. We wanted to hear from him what it’s like playing with artistic fire (and crystals, and glitter, and coloured sand, and…).


THE PLUS: Orbis Integra started with a series of practical experiments – but what attracted you and your collaborators to this cosmic project in the first place?
Bradley Munkowitz:
I’ve always been a fan of origin stories, and also the psychedelic palettes of sound and vision. I wanted to combine all three into a film about the fragile origins of our celestial bodies – using natural phenomena that are the impetus of visual stimulation.


TP: You’ve worked with clients like Tycho and Samsung on similarly epic projects in the past. Is grand visual drama something that attracts you?
I work in a variety of visual palettes that force me to learn and be uncomfortable; I thrive on trying new things with my favourite collaborators. Having worked with cymatics on an identity for [Vice’s music label] Thump, I left that project feeling unfulfilled and knew we could do better – so this project was a power-up of sorts. There’s nothing worse than the feeling that you just didn’t do it right, and I always stand to correct those feelings.


TP: Any favourites effects here that you’d like to take us through?
I really loved using the mechanical vibrator with mounds of coloured sands on top to create a mountain of colour. We then embedded dry ice crystals inside the sand, so the vibrations quickly eroded the structure and – as a result of the composition – slowly shook out the dry ice from the sand, essentially creating a smoking volcano of sorts. We then sprayed the dry ice with water which propagated the effect even further.


TP: How do you get your creativity flowing when you begin a new piece?
Research and reference are my kick-starters. I’ve always been really good about staying organized with references, links and research, and I call upon studies I’ve done in the past to inspire new ideas and techniques. It’s an ongoing learning and experimentation spiral that never ceases – that’s what it means to be a creative.


TP: Have you always been interested in the cosmos? Do you have a favourite science/space fact?
I love the fact that we’re all made up of star matter, and the idea of extra-terrestrial life out there that we’re all related to. I wait with open arms for the day when there’s an arrival of sorts. I also love the fact that the most powerful psychedelic compound in the world, DMT, is found in plants around us and also in our own bodies, and is released in our pineal gland when we dream and die. There’s something quite poetic about these ideas.


TP: So space is a pretty big inspiration for you at the moment?
I loved loved LOVED the feature film Interstellar, and can’t get enough of some of those scenes – Christopher Nolan is a huge inspiration for me.