Responses by Stephen Middleton, creative director, Art&Graft.
Background: The purpose of this film was to raise awareness of Google’s Quantum AI project. Like a letter sent from the frontier, it’s intended to spread the word about the awesome potential of quantum computing, encouraging viewers to come and join Google on this journey. The film was aimed at a range of people, from scientists interested in joining the expedition to any person who may be curious—all with the intention of saying here’s what Google is up to. Quantum AI is incredible, and there’s absolutely no danger of these machines trying to take over the world.
Design thinking: From the outset, it was important that the film effortlessly blend ideas of nature and technology, so we courted visual metaphors that spoke about quantum computing without becoming too dense or difficult to grasp. There are something still completely unknown about the future of quantum computing; we can’t even imagine the problems that it will overcome. That’s what makes it so fascinating. It’s also why we wanted to include elements that were surreal or unexpected, like the repeatedly blooming flower or the endless golden bridge.
Favorite details: If we needed to pick something, it was actually the collaboration of the team on this project. Everyone worked together flawlessly, and that really shows. From storyboards to the final render, the perfect combo of everyone’s skills made this film really special.
Challenges: As this was a project about pioneering, we wanted to push ourselves and our animation techniques. We experimented with using a beta-stage software called EbSynth, which uses computer learning and AI magic to apply the style of individual styleframes across a full video sequence. This gave us some beautiful painterly results and glitchy artifacts that fit so perfectly with our concept of blending nature and technology. Sometimes, we would get happy accidents; at other times, we had to wrestle with our results a bit more. But it was a great experience, and we’re excited about the potential for this technique in the future.
Time constraints: Actually, time constraints helped us focus. It could have been easy to get lost on the quantum frontier, endlessly exploring the visual possibilities it holds. But the timeline of the project helped us quickly get to the right answers, and everyone kept on track once we’d found them.
New lessons: We definitely picked up plenty of useful tips and tricks for working with EbSynth, and we even learned some things about quantum computing. Please don’t ask us to explain how it works, though.