Creation of the Universe

Section: Creation of the Universe
Duration: 1 min 30 secs
Format and style
: 2D images in 3D space, camera flying through
Director: Martyn Pick
Lead Animators
: Leo Murray, Bill Porter
Studio: Basement of the Royal College of Art

Leo writes: The brief Franny gave us was simple – recreate the beginning of the universe, through to the formation of our own dear planet Earth, in under two minutes, "and don't make it look computer generated".
 Bill had recently done some lovely work using composited shots of milk in water, and so we decided to take this as our starting point, asking the technicians in the glass and ceramics department of the Royal College of Art to knock us up a couple of glass spheres in which to make the magic happen. Here's what happened next:

That last one's in the final film. We did 100 odd takes, in between each one having to empty out the water in the orb and refill it again from a tap down the corridor. We were very pleased with the Kubrick-esque quality of the footage, but it still needed a lot of work to make it look anything like a big bang.
With the milk as our base, we then spent the next few weeks compositing all manner of things together into the astronomical epic Franny was after. First we chucked in a load of live-action footage of explosions and fireworks, slowed the timings down and laid them over the top of a particle generator in Adobe After Effects that looked a bit like this:

Very ugly on its own but with the beautiful milk shots and slow-mo explosions things were starting to come together. Adding in some sneaky 3-D fireballs created in Maya moved us on a bit, as did making up some new-born stars out of high-res shots of the sun with some solar flares going on, with a whole family of effects applied. 
Finally we rounded off the flight through the early universe with some gorgeous (and copyright free!) images of deep space from the Hubble Space telescope, like this one of the Crab Nebula:


Adding some motion brought the stills to life, and at long last we decided we'd nailed it. Luckily Franny and Martyn thought so too.

Three months later, we saw our sequence on the big screen at the Curzon cinema at the crew screening. Seeing and hearing it with Chris's music, Nick's sound effects, Nigel's 5.1 mix, Perry's colour grade, Greg's title card, David's credits and Barney's countdown totally blew our minds!! And to think it all started 13 billion years ago, with just one drop of milk.