WATCH: Disney Research Produces Short Film, ‘Lucid Dreams of Gabriel’

Disney Research is expanding into the film business with its first short film titled Lucid Dreams of Gabriel which will be released in August. A teaser trailer for the film was released today, showcasing some of the special effects and filming techniques Disney Research employed using what it is calling ‘The Flow-Of-Time,’ consisting of ‘local frame rate variation, local pixel timing and a variety of artistic shutter functions.’

The film, which was shot at 120 fps in RAW format using a Arri Alexa XT with Zeiss prime lenses and is 11 minutes in length, is the product of a collaboration with the university of ETH Zurich. Written and directed by Sasha A. Schriber, the synopsis is described as ‘a surrealistic and non-linear story about a mother achieving immortality through her son, unconditional love, and the fluidity of time.’

According to Disney Research, effects used in the film include: high dynamic range imaging; strobe and rainbow shutters; global and local framerate variations; flow motion effects; super slow motion; and temporal video compositing. Some examples along with brief descriptions of the techniques which can be seen in the teaser trailer itself are as follows:

Shots with a dark corridor and a window (0:08); a man sitting on a bed (0:16):
Our new HDR tone-mapping technique makes use of the full 14 bit native dynamic range of the camera to produce an image featuring details in very dark as well as very bright areas at the same time. While previous approaches have been mostly limited to still photography or resulted in artifacts such as flickering, we present a robust solution for moving pictures.

A hand holding a string of beads (0:14):
As we experimented with novel computational shutters, the classic Harris-shutter was extended to make use of the full rainbow spectrum instead of the traditional limitation to just red, green, and blue. For this scene, the input was rate converted using our custom technology, temporally split and colored, then merged back into the final result.

The double swings scene (0:20):
Extending on our experiments with computational shutters, this scene shows a variety of new techniques composed into a single shot. Fully facilitating the original footage shot in 120 fps, the boy has been resampled at a higher frame rate (30fps) and a short shutter, resulting an ultra crisp, almost hyper-real appearance, while the woman was drastically resampled at a lower frame rate (6fps) featuring an extreme shutter which is physically not possible and adding a strong motion blur to make her appear more surreal.

Car driving backwards and a flower (0:30); a train (0:36),
For these scenes, we were experimenting with extreme computational shutters. The theoretical motion blur for the scenes was extended with a buoyancy component and modified through a physical fluid simulation, resulting in physically impossible motion blur. As shown, it is possible to apply this effect selectively on specific parts of the frame, as well as varying the physical forces.

Super slow motion closeup of the boy (0:44); a handkerchief with motion blur and super slow motion (0:47); an hourglass (0:50):
These shots show the classical application of optical flow – slow motion. However, with our new technology we have been able to achieve extremely smooth pictures with virtually no artifacts, equivalent of a shutter speed at 1000 fps. At the same time, artificial motion blur equivalent of a shutter of far more than 360 degrees can be added to achieve a distinct ‘stroby’ look, if desired, while maintaining very fluent motion in all cases. We are also able to speed up or slow down parts of the scene, e.g. to play the background in slow-motion while the foreground runs at normal speed. All of these effects can be applied on a per-pixel basis, thus giving full freedom to the artist.

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