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Spotlight #9
Pixel Heaven 2013 by Bartek Hlawka

‘Pixel Heaven 2013′ is a fabulous project created by Bartek Hlawka. Most of us will be able to remind yourself the uniqueness of 80s and 90s associated with the legendary 8/16 bit computers and consoles. This spotlight is definitely worth seeing for those, who remember the early days of computer gaming, comics and arcade parlors.


And what’s your latest project? Share your interesting stories in the next spotlight.

Patryk Kizny: Bartek, could you tell us the reason for creating this project?


Bartek Hlawka: Once in a while I try to make interesting personal projects. Projects like this where clients and time don’t limit my work.


At the beginning of the year, the organizer of the Pixel Heaven asked on his facebook fanpage if anyone is interested in making promo video for the show. We sent a few e-mails to each over and then it all began.


PK: Could you indicate the main inspirations, that influences on the final look of the project?


BH: I was inspired by many things, but the most important was my childhood. All those years of reading comics, playing computer games, watching sci-fi movies when I was a kid, just got alive back again during this project. There is a lot hidden elements in this pixel heaven world which lead to 80′s and 90′s icons like first Tron movie, famous joystick moves and others. Final shot was inspired by work of Anamorphosis artists like Felice Varini and Georges Rousse.


PK: What was the reason for painting everything in white?


BH: General idea was to make real objects look like 3D clay models, to create an illusion of CGI animation, but with real life inaccuracies which are very hard to make in 3D.


One color unifies all shapes and items, allowing viewers to focus on a composition, shapes etc. almost like in black and white photography. I tested different types of paint, but matte white worked best.


PK: How did you manage to collect so many retro items?


BH: Most of the items were delivered by the organizers of the Pixel Heaven, other were gained from friends, family or from a dump. The budget was low so every source of items was good.
All of them were incomplete or dead, I didn’t want to use working stuff and cause displeasure of 8/16bit fans.


PK: Is there any particular reason for avoiding CGI and greenscreen in that production?


BH: I love visual effects from the 80′s, when most of things were made on the set or in other analogue ways like optical printers, matte painting etc. I’m always trying to make as much as possible on the set without CGI. Of course not always it’s possible, but in this case I had time to make everything from scratch. Working on set is a unique way of using all senses to create image in frame, you can touch, move items by your hands. There are problems like making complicated camera moves or lighting issues but all those problems enhance creativity.


As far as this project is concerned, I have never considered using greenscreen, because it almost always causes significant post-production which I wanted to avoid in this project.


PK: Could you tell us more about visual effects and shooting techniques used in this project?


BH: The main concept was to mix live footage with stop motion animation. In many scenes I was the only person in the studio and I had to act and direct myself. For example in the Low Bit Beats scene we have 3 passes of the camera: first – when I’m playing on the keyboard, second – stop motion pass with equalizer, third – with the floppy disk.


In scenes where I had an assistant, there was always work for another additional person, so we had to use simple triggering system for moving items in the frame, like in Flipper Heaven scene. Besides DitoGear OmniSlider we used only small ordinary camera jib.


PK: Could you mention about production and post-production techniques?


BH: Most of the techniques which were used in this project are well known, but this was my first time mixing live footage and stop motion. After including anamorphosis in photographs in my MA thesis, at University of Arts in Poznan a few years ago, I always wanted to use this technique in moving images.


PK: The ‘Making of’ shows that you were using laser for creating some items. Could you please tell us more details about it?


BH: Cutting with laser was very helpful, but still all items needed a lot of work like sanding, gluing and painting. The most complex model was PacMan maze. All comics and game characters were made using laser. Preparing files for laser and cutting them took me 20 hours.



PK: How long have you been working on the project?


BH: I have worked on the project for about two months, including research, planning and production. It took me almost 200 hours to finish it. Post production was an easy task, only editing, minor compositing and color correction was done. The most important thing in the post-production was choosing right music, but after a few days of searching I found Jake from The Virus Empire and the choice was obvious.


PK: How many people were involved in this project?


BH: For the most of the time it was only me, but a few shots in the studio required more people. I asked my friends, Tomek and Pawel, and they were willing to help. It would be extremly hard to make final scene with “anamorphosis shot” in one person.


PK: Could you tell us about the challenges you had to face? Have you encountered some restrictions during the implementation of the project?


BH: I think the biggest challenge was to survive to the end of the project and move images created in my head to the screen. Because of small budget there were technical limitations, especially in lighting and grip setups, but I tried to make the best I can from what I had. Of course it would be better to have more people and money involved in this project, but overall it was ok.


PK: What kind of DitoGear™ products were used in this production? Would you like to give any advice to our clients?


BH: I used the DitoGear OmniSlider, OmniHead and Evolution.
In simpler shots which required only one axis, Omnislider with normal video head attached to it was enough, but in complex shots like opening sequence we used all available equipment. DitoGear stuff was used in all stop motion shots.


Because it was one of the first stop motion projects, the great advice for me at the beginning was to mount the slider firmly to the ground to have perfect repeatability in each pass.


PK: What expectations did you have regarding the project? Have you managed to fulfill it?


BH: First of all I wanted to push myself to the limits and transfer images from my imagination to the screen and I’m quite satisfied with the result. Second – I wanted to reach viewers nostalgia for the “good, old times”. One of the viewers wrote “You hit me straight in my 8-bit heart”, for me, this is the best comment.


PK: How would you sum up this project?


BH: That was all I wanted to do during my childhood!


PK: Thank you very much for sharing the production details with us. I look forward to seeing more fantastic projects from you in the future!


Interested in Multi-axis Motion Control Kit?


Check DitoGear™ Evolution Multi-axis Motion Control Kits


Follow Bartek Hlawka and the video:


Pixel Heaven 2013
Making of Pixel Heaven 2013
Mnono – Production company

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