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“As the World Around Me Fell Apart this Year… I Shifted My Focus Beyond Our Earth to the Darkest Edges of the Universe”: Eliza McNitt | SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime

Spheres: Songs of Spacetime

As you made your film during the increasingly chaotic backdrop of the last year, how did you as a filmmaker control, ignore, give in to or, conversely, perhaps creatively exploit the wild and unpredictable? What roles did chaos and order play in your films?

Both in life on Earth — and the birth of black holes from the violent death of supermassive stars — order appears out of chaos. SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime is an interactive VR experience where you dive into the heart of a black hole to uncover the hidden songs of the cosmos.

Space is not silent. In fact it is full of sound. For thousands of years we’ve looked to the stars to find our place in the Universe, but for the first time we listen to its music. The breakthrough discovery of gravitational waves, has transformed the way that we see the Universe.

As the world around me fell apart this year, one of the greatest scientific achievements shifted my focus beyond our Earth to the darkest edges of the universe. One billion years ago two black holes collided creating a gravitational wave, a ripple in the fabric of spacetime. The Music Of The Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that long ago predicted that the movement of celestial bodies created a form of music. But for the first time we actually detected these signals here on Earth. And through this violence, we heard the cosmos sing.

My fear of black holes dared me to venture inside. Past the boundary of darkness that we cannot pierce through with our eyes awaits strange things. In SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime we send you on a journey inside of a black hole to realms where the laws of space and time no longer apply. Virtual reality is the only way to truly make you feel as if you are plunging into a black hole. You slip over the edge, with no promise of return.

Developing this experience is very similar to the chaos of the scientific process. Through the many challenges and mistakes, failing upwards leads to new discoveries. Virtual reality is a medium where the technology is still developing. The limitations we face challenge us to dream up new solutions, break the code and imagine innovative ways to tell our story.

One of the greatest obstacles has been visualizing the invisible universe. These are the worlds that we cannot see. No human has ever ventured inside of a black hole. In this experience we wanted to capture the effect of gravitational lensing, where black holes bend starlight. This was not easy to achieve in a game engine. The team of artists that I collaborate with at Novelab led by Clément Chériot cracked open a solution to create the illusion of gravity bending the universe. Capturing moments like these strange distortions in the fabric of spacetime are central to our experience.

Stephen Hawking predicted that humans may only have 100 years left on this planet. If we continue on our destructive path forward, humanity risks losing this fragile Earth that is slipping out of our fingertips. Through this series, I want to take you to the deepest corners of the cosmos in order to look back at our Planet Blue.

Fall into the darkness, and you will find the light.

Sundance 2018 Responses

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