A mix of vintage filmmaking and modern technology.
Google paid homage to renown French filmmaker and illusionist Georges Méliès on Thursday with its first virtual reality homepage doodle. The doodlecommemorates the 106th anniversary of the release of “À la conquête du pôle,” known in English as “The Conquest of the Pole.” Google teamed up with the Cinémathèque Française to put a modern twist on the aesthetics and techniques that propelled Méliès to stardom.
In a Google blog post Hélène Leroux, the project art lead, explains how she took inspiration from some of Méliès’ most iconic scenes to bring this VR doodle to life. Leroux stitched these individual shots together by approaching the video as if it were a ballet or play that viewers would watch in a theatre. This created a journey through some of the filmmaker’s most memorable work.
Setting the Stage
"The main elements of the story, such as the primary character animations, take place in the red section. Secondary scenes, such as musician characters playing the score, take place in the yellow section. Finally, loop animations of decorative elements and special surprises take place in the blue section"
The video plays out as if the viewer is standing in the middle of a stage. They can spin around to observe all of the small details and easter eggs the virtual area has to offer, but the caricature of Méliès breathlessly holds their attention as he jumps out of boxes and flips through the air. Everything else going around served to further immerse viewers into Méliès’ mind, says Leroux.
The production team chose to represent Méliès' diverse color palate by incorporating a strong dominant color (e.g. cyan, red, or yellow) in every scene of the film.
“I wanted the art in the Doodle to represent the handmade worlds Méliès created in his films,” she said. “He created and painted all the assets himself! To do this and achieve that warm feeling, I focused on a heavy painted look and added plenty of textures to the characters and elements. The team then did an incredible job adapting the 2D designs into the 3D modeling!”
Framing the Shots
Aside from filling the stage, the video offered insight as to how Méliès would pull off some of his signature movie magic. From putting a black panel in front of himself to make it seem like he had severed his head to using puffs of smoke to make it seem like a character had disappeared, this VR doodle entertained and revealed some of the tricks behind his movie magic.
The production team managed to merge techniques that changed the way people saw films with modern-day technology that is changing the way we view entertainment. The perfect salute to innovation that happened a century ago.