Ever since the completion of Protein in 2018, I had intended to make another horror short. When I worked with Max Rael in shooting the various music videos for Decommissioned Forests, he had expressed his desire to act in a narrative film with dialogue to perform. In late 2022 I had a script together for such a project and Oracle came into being.
We did all the practical photography in one day, in late November that year. Post production took more than one year, although this film was a 'back burner project' which I worked on only when my other work schedule permitted.
Once the edit timeline had been roughly constructed in Adobe Premiere, I began the visual effects work by designing the various creatures as ink sketches and then sculpting these characters using Zbrush.
The high rise block of flats which features in two exterior shots (as well as the poster) was constructed in Maya, using a block close to Clapham Junction as a rough reference. Even though it is only viewed from one angle within the film, the model is a complete one that can be looked at from any angle. The numerous textures used to skin the model were derived from photographs taken at different locations around London.
Tarot card graphics, drawn in a style reminiscent of the famous Rider-Waite deck. I found a printing company who were able to reproduce the Rider-Waite cards with my additional ones added in - not all of my designs were seen in the finished film, but hopefully they provide some amount of foreshadowing for what comes later on.
The 'Newborn' creature which emerges from John's mouth was achieved primarily as CGI and a 3D model was sculpted and textured in Zbrush (later rigged in Maya). However there was one practical shot, seen when it first emerges. This was a 3D printed model based on the same design which the actor had to bite down on during flming.
Cast members Max and Marni enjoy a quick break during filming.
Concept art for the three demons which manifest in the room after the Newborn has arrived. This scene was originally intended to be the final one, before the script went through an extensive re-write, and one of the creatures was supposed to be Dismantler. However this got changed so that Dismantler would appear later on during the dream sequence.
The creatures wear gold ceremonial items to suggest that they are Dukes of Hell and their flesh is corrupted. They were sculpted and texture painted in Zbrush, then rigged, lit and animated in Maya.
The hallucinatory/dream sequence which closes the story was not part of the original script, but I wrote it in after being inspired by reading The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. In this sequence we take a flight over an alien landscape far removed from the urban setting of the rest of the film. This landscape is one of the most detailed environments I have ever modelled in Maya, containing well over three million polygons.
Dismantler is seen sitting within a stone throneroom and this enabled me to show him in a way more consistent with his depiction in the tarot card illustration. Like the other creatures, Dismantler was sculpted and texture painted in Zbrush, rgged, lit and animated in Maya. The smoke and flame effects in the dream sequence were taken from real stock footage and added in during compositing (using After Effects).
Copyright 2024 Howard Gardner
Howard Gardner CG