This Episodic Audiovisual VFX Series is a Mystery in the Making

Broken Angels is the enigmatic working title with which London-based artist David Webster has dubbed his episodic collection of abstract audiovisual shorts. You’d be wrong to fall for the title’s intriguing narrative suggestion, though: “it doesn’t mean much,” David tells us; “it’s not allegorical or anything, that’s not the idea of this.”

The idea of Broken Angels, instead, is to create an exquisitely inventive series of audiovisual and abstract episodes using audio-generated effects, with each episode ending with the first frame of the following episode. It’s hard to plan a narrative, for sure, when even David isn’t sure how the series will all pan out – not until all the episodes get finished and stitched together. It’s still, as it were, broken.

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Dundee-born David is a VFX/CGI artist drawn to the field “because you can literally do anything – the only limit is technical know-how and ambition.” He’s currently striving to push high-end VFX into the service of music enhancement. In the case of Broken Angels, each episode’s concept is extensively moodboarded; David then bounces between the visuals and the audio, refining each to fit the other. But what goes into audio-generated visual effect? We got David to break it down for us.

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THE PLUS: Take us through the visuals generation process you use here…
David Webster:
In simple terms, I split the music down to the components I want to drive visual elements. I then extract the MIDI or audio signal, and bring this signal into my 3D program and process that to drive certain visual parameters. It can be anything – from simple transformation or colour of the geometry, to controlling complex growth patterns.  There are often up to 8 audio -generated visual elements happening at any one time, but as most of them are very subtle, it’s intended to produce a feeling rather than seeing things obviously dancing to music.

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TP: This is a great project – how did it come about?
DW:
I have a small (and failed, obviously) background in electronic music, which I have always made visuals for, even if it was just pretty footage. The more I experimented with the visuals reacting to the music, the more I got excited about the synergistic potential of fusing the two from scratch.

TP: The episodes are tied together with a loose narrative, but each episode is pretty abstract in isolation. Do you have an overall narrative in mind?
DW:
I do, but it’s loose and subject to changes and diversions, which keeps the process interesting and open to new ideas or technologies if they pop up.

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TP: This episode is about the contrast between digital/analogue – people can feel quite strongly one way or the other (especially in photography) – do you have a preference?
DW:
It’s not a preference as such, but as a VFX artist, it just doesn’t make sense , time or cost wise, to incorporate film photography into my particular workflow. I’ve not heard a valid argument other than marketing or nostalgia that would change my mind.

TP: What are you hoping for once you join all the separate episodes together?
DW:
I just hope it all makes sense! Some episodes will have been made years apart, so they may have jarring technology / ability leaps, a bit like star wars…. Also, I’m hoping to adapt the final piece into a live visuals / vj set that can be played on the fly with other more conventional live visuals to any music.

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TP: What are you most excited about in the future of VFX and CGI?
DW:
One of the unfortunate things about VFX is that despite its limitless creative potential, the majority of the work tends to be in service of big dumb blockbusters. There are however, pockets of weird and wonderful hobbyist work out there, which will hopefully filter through to the mainstream.

Broken Angel Ep2:

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