In March 2021, Action On The Side ran a virtual Work Experience for Level 3 Media students. This article has been written as part of that, by Luke V.
Dust is a channel that specialises in Science Fiction Short Films. I watched a series of short films on their YouTube channel, and this is what I learnt...
What I have learnt about the Sci-Fi short films I had watched were that they all have a build-up that either starts with the character[s] trying to resolve an issue or to work on something to help the human race and then has a happy ending or a twist in which the main character has to sacrifice themselves, such as in The OceanMaker, or they have accidentally done the wrong decision, for example, Sky Fighter. Why I love Sci-Fi films is because there are always mysteries yet to be solved as all Sci-Fi films start with what is happening and why are they doing this? Then later on in the films it would answer the questions, for example, FTL starts with a man in some type of space ship, but at first, we do not know why? Until later on in the short film, it was to test if mankind can now make and now how to use ships in space to fast travel to other planets, such as Mars, and instead of waiting for the pilots to land on the planet for months, instead, it would take a few minutes.
However, when the character has travelled to Mars and plans to return something wrong happens to the ship and then fast travels further into space where the main character disappears off of the space radar and is somewhere unknown and we see two some type of organism ships slowly making their way to the ship and then the main character disappeared, leaving the audience at this point wanting to know more as we get more questions than answers. Such as what are those two weird looking things are and what did they do to the character? Next, the audience gets sent 21 hours into the future and there is something entering the Earth’s atmosphere and then in the main character’s front garden with his family there the exact two weird, organic-looking ships then put the main character back with his family and then they take off.
Sci-Fi helps all people to open up their imaginations and create their own world[s] and creatures, it allows people to feel free and escape from reality and the depressing things reality puts on us and Sci-Fi allows people to think of the most unique looking and talented creatures and also places, even if the place is Earth, but evolved or has become a desolate place.
Another thing that nearly all of the Sci-Fi shorts had in common was that all of the characters had their families or friends involved, someone the main character had a strong love connection with, and all the main characters risked something important to them too, such as their lives to protect, help, or both for their loved ones. For example, in Hyperlight, towards the end of the short, the female character had killed the second version of the male character that she was in love with because if both of the same people was in the same world one of them would die, so she had to kill the one she loved to also save him at the same time. Another example is Seam as during the whole short the male charter was trying to save his girlfriend from being killed, by taking her to the border of the robots as the girlfriend was a machine herself. But, in the end, she was badly injured and could not control her fears even when the boyfriend tried to help, so the girlfriend warned him to get back and then she sadly exploded and then the boyfriend continued across the border to completed their mission. These short films send a message to the audience that no matter how bad a situation is or how different the world has become everyone needs some type of company that they can rely on and that love will still keep going and is the glue for holding the characters altogether through every event, no matter how long or dangerous it is.
With the music in the Sci-Fi shorts, I noticed that when the characters are getting ready for a mission or in a battle the music would be very energetic and electrifying to give the audience a pumped-up feeling as the characters are getting ready for something that will go down in history or it is a life or death situation. For example, at the start of FTL and Sky Fighter. At the start of FTL when we see the ship in space the music sounds exhilarating which portrays that the character is getting involved in something that is very important in the short film story and will lead to something else further into the short film and the fight scene in Sky Fighter the music makes the audience also feel how the characters feel in that scene as being attacked in an asteroid field, anything could happen. The character could accidentally take a sharp turn into an asteroid or somehow outmanoeuvre the enemies and defeat them, there are many possibilities that could happen to either side and gets the blood rushing a bit more in the audience as everyone would want the main character to be ok and also the female character to give the audience some answers about the main character, what is going on, where are they, etc.
However, the music in Dedalo and Final Offer are calmer and foreshadowing to make the audience feel on the edge of the seats and portray that there is something that is hiding, such as a creature or information that the audience does not know yet about the short films. In Dedalo the music was dark to put more fear into the audience and so that the audience feels about the same type of fear the character is going through and how stressful and hard it is for the character to survive as she has to go past one of the aliens that are feeding on a member and during the whole short film not to make any sound or the aliens will come after her and it is bad enough that she is injured and needs to heal which can cause screams of pain. It shows the extreme danger she is in. With the Final Offer, the music is calm at first as the character and the audience are lost with where they are and what is going on, but at first, it looks like an ordinary and professional room where you would talk about deals. However, when the audience progresses through the films and find out the women is actually an alien, it is a life or death deal, and the character goes through the book about the deal to get answers the music intensifies. This makes the audience feel the pressure that both the characters are going through at certain points, such as when the main character goes through the book for answers, the music helps show that the main character is working through the deal and has found a way to win the deal and save humanity, the main character is not playing around. Then at the end of the Final Offer, the music becomes calm again and then a bit heartwarming as the main character has won the deal and the conversation is over, but then also finds out that the alien is just like himself when it comes to working and when people see him and treat him. So the main character offers to have a talk with her sometimes and they both agree to talk with each other and they both make a friendly bond, even though they are different species. The music helps spread love at the end and no matter what you look like, what you do for a living everyone should be treated with respect and that you can make friends with anyone, no one should be alone.
I noticed how all the character behaves in Sci-Fi shorts, especially the main characters. With all the main characters they would all have a build-up from start to the end of how the main characters act and think. For example, in The Speed of Time, we find out that the main character time travels to the past of his wedding day and the main characters past self was weak and less skill for, for example, he was nervous to use a weapon, his past self, whilst his future self would kill anyone that he needed to. Then at the end of the video his past self went back in time and killed another past self and then the future also came back and killed the past self he was helping, so it gives mixed emotions and thoughts of what the main character is like as he is friendly with people that need help, but also a big killer. This conveys that in Sci-Fi films you cannot trust anyone, even the person who claims that they are helping you because in the real fact they could actually be helping themselves. The only person you can mainly trust is yourself.
Animation and visual effects
The animation and visual effects were out of this world, the giant robots in Seam looked very realistic and seeing the Starship in space in FTL astonishing. When I watched the first Dust video, FTL, and I saw the starship I looked exactly what space would look like if there was a live camera just floating around and the ship looked like some type of light speed ship, it looked really cool and out of the ordinary. Also with the organic blue looking ships, they appeared so realistic that because the ships looked as if they were made out of light when the got close to the windows of the Starship there was an actual light and the same type of light power and colour as the organism ships. Even when the took the man from the ship and took him back home when the main character disappeared and reappeared, it looked as if the character was being coded away and then back again like a droid and when the ships took off in the sky there was an actual blast sound and puff in the sky to give that extra realistic effect. The giant robots in Seam were really perfect and the creators did a great job. They made the robots and everything else look so realistic that during the fight scene the robots actually grew from the ground and had sand falling off of them and all of the explosions actually made the giant robot looked as if it had got hit. All of the animations and visual effects interacted with its surroundings which were what made the robots and everything else extremely realistic as everything had interacted the way it would of if it was a real battle. The only visual effect I was not sure about was In FTL when the pilot was fast travelling as the colours sort of made the fas travel a bit weird and that he is more time-travelling, but I was fine with it as it still looked as if he was travelling at an extraordinary speed.
The sound design for the creatures, ships, robots, etc, made everything that was clearly fake more realistic as it made the objects sound like the size that they are and the types of noises that they would make. In the Sci-Fi short Seam because the robots were enormous all of the movements of the robot’s legs were deep, loud and sometimes had an echo to portray their stature and also gives the realistic look to the robots as things that are big normally give a low and deep sound, which also portrays the power that they contain, something that no one should mess with and could get easily destroyed. In the short film Dedalo, the aliens would sometimes make a screeching sound, such as when they are in pain, to convey that the aliens are swift killers, as they have short and screeching sounds, and also when they are talking in their own language they are they do not sound deep or have an echo as they are not huge creatures,m they are bigger than a human, but not a lot bigger compared to the robots in Seam. All of the sounds work well in my ears as they make deadly creatures look dark and dangerous, robots big and bulky, blasters sounds like beams of a light being, fired etc. It makes all of the videos appear better as without the sounds all of the animations and visual effects just appear as something that is not actually there.
Another personality the videos had was the stories. With all of the short films, the story would start off with a slow start by introducing the characters, where they are (for the time being), and sometimes what they are planning to do. Then the more you watched the short videos the more the story built up and I would understand more of the story and then the awesome ending, where sometimes there would be a twist. For example, in Perfectly Natural the parents of the baby got a device that gets put in the babies head and then shows their future, later in the short film we find out that the device helps the bay for the future and teaches the child subjects such as how to speak Chinese. But, you also learnt that the device is also taking the baby from the parents in the present as I want the bay to stay in the bed and the virtual parents are always playing with the baby. The device even calls the baby their baby and not the actually parents baby, as if they were sharing. I loved all of the stories of the short videos as there were so many twists, emotional moments, and sometimes laughs. A perfect combination to attract the audience as it makes the film interactive with everyone, makes people want to talk about it and makes people talk about how they felt. A good film reputation.
I noticed the locations that the Sci-Fi short films are supposed to be based in. The locations that the shorts were mainly on Earth (past, present, or future) and in space. It is understandable for the locations for Sci-Fi shorts as Sci-Fi is like a different dimension or world. In space, we do not know exactly what is out there, how big it is, if there are any life forms, etc, and we do not know what could happen in the future. But, with the past and present, those are different worlds as we know things like alien attacks, or time travelling has never happened, Sci-Fi films about the present and past are created with ideas of what could have happened or been happening if someones future self-time travelled, or some other situation occurred. Locations of a Sci-Fi film has to have something that is out of the ordinary, what could be hidden from the world, like a monster in the woods, or something that is barley and at the moment impossible to find all sorts of information, such as space, as places that are odd could have creatures that have never been seen before and also the creatures could have powers, healing or destructive. The locations also have to make sense for the creatures and characters, for example, in Dedalo it makes sense that the short film is in a space station as there are aliens, which come from space, and also somewhere for the humans to live and breath in space. I love all the locations I saw in all of the Sci-Fi shorts on Dust and I can not think of any complaints, all of the locations made the scenes feel how they want an audience to feel (creepy, tension, etc), they make sense for the characters to live in, and the locations make everything look and feel more realistic, creature, robots, story, human characters, etc.
The pace of the Sci-Fi shorts would depend on the video’s scenario if the character had to silent sneak past something it would take time because if they rush they will be heard or if it is to save the world or life it would be fast so the enemies would not get a chance to win with their evil ways. For example, in Final Offer at the start of the video, the pace was slow as the main character had just woken up in a room that he is not familiar with or the other person that is also inside the room with him, then the pace of the video starts to pick up more whilst the main character finds out the woman is actually a giant alien and they start going through the deal. When the main character is going through the book to save Earth’s sea and mankind that is when the video’s pace is at it’s highest point as the main character is processing everything that the female character had said and what the book says to find an answer to save mankind and then when he does the pace of the video dies down as all of the tension has been released and at the end, there is a steady, calm pace as the alien and the man both have something in common and both agree to have some nice calm talk with each other to help each other feel better about themselves. The pace of the video connected with the tension as the pace would only pick up when the tension does, drama, and the pace also dies down when there is less tension, less or no drama.
The costumes the actors had to wear for their characters were very detailed and in my opinion, actually made the characters appear the way the aliens and characters should look like and the scenario that the video was about, escaping, discovering, etc. For example, in Black Hole, the character appeared as a normal everyday businessman and that he did not appear much as a threat or someone who would do wrong, but when the character gets the piece of paper with the black hole and learns what it can do the character starts to become greedy. First, he takes something from the vending machine and then becomes a different man than what he appears and tries to see if the black hole will work on the safe to a large sum of funny, and it works, so the character keeps bring out pills of money until he has to go in to get the last bunch, but in the process accidentally knocking the sheet of paper with the black hole of the safe and then the character is stuck in the safe until someone comes back, which leads to his demise, death or arrested. This teaches a valuable lesson, never judge a person by the way they look or dress, good or bad, because their personality could be the total opposite of what you think and any decisions you take forward you might regret in the future.