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UEA Breaking Boundaries: Behind The Scenes.
12 Sep 2017 ·
When we were asked to create a short film to communicate the world-changing research happening at the University of East Anglia (UEA), we quickly realised that 60 seconds wasn’t long enough to demonstrate the huge breadth and depth of research undertaken.
We began by asking ourselves, what does the phrase “UEA research” really mean? Speaking to researchers across the campus, we were struck each time by the passion with which they described not just what they research, but why.
It seemed to us that the central importance - the tipping point, or spark, if you like - of research, is the moment where it deepens our understanding and actually changes lives.
To that end, our film doesn’t set out to describe the faculties or even disciplines in which UEA’s research lies, but more the global context in which we are trying to make a difference.
Discovering the story
We were told that our team was selected by UEA because we seemed to really understand what they’re trying to do: tell more people about their high impact research whilst creating curiosity and inspiring a new generation of students and researchers to discover UEA.
At its core, the film represents the leap of faith a person must sometimes take into the depths of education and research to realise their future. We then follow our main character through the different stages of an abstract journey as they explore how UEA is contributing to the world.
A great deal of time was spent working on the storyboard and script phase to drill down on the core visuals and bring the story to life, whilst representing the broad range of research that UEA work on.
What's with all the eyes?
We chose eyes as a central image for the film as we wanted people to look again at UEA and see their transformative research in a new light. UEA has a long tradition of ground-breaking eye research including discovering a potential cure for Cataracts.
The UEA branding features a ‘glint’, which felt like a metaphor for a glint of inspiration in people's eyes, or a spark of imagination, so the eye became the device to carry this forward.
We used a piece of optician’s equipment to ensure the models’ stayed still while their eyes were filmed in 6K definition detail on a RED Dragon camera.
Take the plunge
The film shows a figure standing alone in a white room (an abstract representation of boundaries) where they are left with the decision to plunge into the opportunities that lie before them.
In order to show our actor taking a leap into the unknown, we filmed live action in a white infinity cove studio. Our post-production team would later create a growing 3D hole in the floor.
Then it was off to an underwater shoot at a film studio with a specialist tank. Our actress was plunged into the warm water tank over 30 times to achieve the perfect shot.
Spoiler alert: we didn’t really film a whale in the sky! To show how UEA tackles the research challenges facing the world today, we filmed across several locations, suggesting how the research is carried out, breaking boundaries on a grand scale.
Once again, live action footage was mixed with digital technology to create a feeling that a spark of inspiration to pursue a field of research can come from anywhere.
We chose a whale because of course, UEA researchers are at the forefront of understanding the critical interactions of air and sea and the vital role ocean and atmospheric science plays in the functioning of the Earth.
Our actor is shown exploring an ancient forest and discovering a (real) forgotten door into another world, that world being the base of Ponte Tower.
The tower, once seen as an extremely desirable address but latterly known as Johannesburg's 'shanty town in the sky', symbolic of societal breakdown and urban decay.
Finally the team were up at dawn in the rain to catch the sunrise for the perfect lighting of that last shot, suggestive of witnessing the birth of a 'better, healthier world'.
A great team effort, with a challenging shooting schedule, pushed our video production team to create something unique for our client.
Blog post adapted from UEA post here: https://www.uea.ac.uk/research/blogs-and-comment/uea-breaking-boundaries-behind-the-scenes