For the geeks
This revolutionary new filming technique draws ironically on early days of the film industry using Stop Frame Photography to painstakingly create movie motion.
Using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) at high magnification, hundreds of images of the nano sculpture were captured as a Piezo stage was rotated to a precision of below one ten thousandth of a degree. Each individual frame in the sequence can take several minutes to capture (depending on resolution), meaning that one second of film can take up to 4 hours to film. A painstakingly detailed process, in which any micro-blip means starting again from scratch. This is all done with an ground-breaking optical system developed by Stefan Diller, Wuerzburg, Germany called Nanoflight.Creator. The only system in the world capable of SEM film.
An SEM does not use photons (normal light) to capture an image. Electrons are focused on to the specimen which is coated in gold and rebounds are measured, forming a “picture” based on the reflection intensity of the electrons. The effect of this from a filmic perspective is that one is not operating in an environment of light. Shadows and “colour” behave differently and at this quantum level and our traditional expectations of light have to be thrown out the window. All manageable for a single picture, but when compositing thousands of individual photographs it becomes a different story completely. A series of techniques and technologies drawn from the special effects world needs to be applied in post-production to create a stable film.
In summary, the creation of these films involves a wonderfully diverse set of technologies from bespoke electronics and software, to quantum physics and leading-edge scientific tool to modern special effects. A feat of art and science at its most beautiful.
How is the Elephant sculpture Made?
The structure is created using a ground-breaking new 3D printing technology and a technique called Multiphoton Lithography. Ultimately these works are created using the physical phenomenon of two photon absorption. Art, literally created with Quantum Physics.
If you illuminate a light-sensitive polymer with Ultra Violet wavelengths, it solidifies wherever it was irradiated in a kind of crude lump. Some of you may have experienced a polymer like this first hand at the dentist when your filling is glued in with a UV light.
If however you use longer wavelength intense light, and focus it tightly through a microscope, something wonderful happens: at the focus point, the polymer absorbs TWO PHOTONS and responds as if it had been illuminated by UV light, namely it will solidify. This two photon absorption occurs only at the tiny focal point - basically a tiny 3D pixel (called a Voxel). The sculpture is then moved along fractionally by a computer controlled process and the next pixel is created. Slowly, over hours and hours the entire sculpture is assembled pixel by pixel and layer by layer.