Making a load of rubbish!

Over the summer Real World Visuals brought a pile of rubbish to life, in Bristol. Commissioned by the Bristol Waste Company, the two films show dramatic piles of waste and recycling material in Ashton Court Estate in Bristol. The aim was to actively engage residents and businesses in the opportunity to reduce waste on the streets and going to landfill. For more about the project see here

Real World Visuals works with a range of specialist companies to complement our in-house creative team. Duncan Fraser (DF) is responsible for CGI (computer-generated imagery) at A Productions who partner on a number of Real World Visuals films. Chris Bates (CB) has been a Director and Cinematographer for a decade and in 2012 founded Skyhook, now a leading drone services provider which works across the UK and abroad. Data, concept and script in hand, Real World Visuals brought the talents of Duncan and Chris to help make piles of rubbish real and engaging.

Chris: I thought this was a really interesting task from the start – to shoot the Bristol skyline from above and combine it with CGI material to show clearly how much waste Bristol produces. We do a lot of Industrial surveying and filming for TV, and this project touched on both areas. This waste project was a form of digital design, a media product in essence but using a whole range of skills.

Duncan: Early on we saw how the combination of to-scale visuals, the setting, CGI and drone footage would create a truly real world feel for the waste data for the audience. Bringing the piles to life and helping people understand the scale. In the past we might have used a helicopter to get the best approach to physical projects like this. However, a drone is more flexible and cost effective.

CB: Movement is critical if you want something visually arresting as required by Real World Visuals projects. Drones can make that happen. The average audience has become more demanding, and they expect more from their visuals. It takes more effort to engage them - drone footage helps with that engagement.  

DF: Adam and Antony from Real World Visuals always bring unusual projects to the table. And we have some really interesting conversations to get us to the point of production. For example, in this case we had to look at if we were going to show the material in piles or cubes. We look carefully at the dimensions given by Adam and I will say what is possible in terms of animation looking at several million items – as there are in a pile of rubbish.

CB: You can really see the importance of a storyboard in this work. Antony from Real World Visuals and Duncan wanted very specific shots, they were really clear about this and you can see the results in the film. Take a look at the footage of the drone curving around the table and then as it tracks over the park. Though it was created digitally for the film, the rubbish pile is a real thing and its size has to be visually accurate. On the ground we had to work out the correct flight altitude so that once the rubbish pile was created afterwards, we didn't cut the top off it by flying too low!  

Duncan Fraser of A Productions

Duncan Fraser of A Productions

DF: Back in the studio we used cones and spheres to roughly in position on the footage so that we can check it all going to work. Then we make the lighting work using exposures from the filming session, and realistic piles of waste using CGI. A pile of hundreds of thousands of objects is actually made from 8 or 9 different objects replicated. Actually, in the computer’s mind the pile is one sided and hollow so that we don’t need to process data of the unseen objects within the pile. Shadows are added between the litter, each one. We then pass the film on to have sound added for the final bit of atmosphere!

CB: The drone world is now about more than just shooting pretty pictures from above. Drones provide access and visuals like nothing else does, to give valuable real-life data. For example you can monitor heat loss from building, inspect flare stacks in oil refineries without having to shut them down, and model the quantity and value of material leaving a quarry each day. Understanding resource use information from above will help whatever data we are trying to visualise. Using drones can provide lots of potential in the fields of resource efficiency and environmental data.

For more on the technique, data and visual process uses on the Bristol Waste Company films please visit the project page.

Chris Bates of skyhook

Chris Bates of skyhook