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Charlex Creates Short Film ShapeShifter

Charlex's latest creation, ShapeShifter, opens mysteriously on a dark car, speeding through the night on winding mountain roads. It is set to a haunting musical composition and prose poem, performed by Gabriel Byrne.

Press Release from Charlex

Charlex's latest creation, ShapeShifter, opens mysteriously on a dark car, speeding through the night on winding mountain roads. It is set to a haunting musical composition and prose poem, performed by Gabriel Byrne.

Moments in, the car bursts into a new dimension - a dimension of dreams, creating a supernova-like explosion. The vehicle disintegrates into countless tiny bits that plunge into the variegated depths of space. The pieces plummet to the surface of a dreamy alien planet, where they alternately combine into fleet creatures representing the car's soul - a puma, a trio of sprinting antelope, a pair of swift-moving fish, and a massive bird of prey - all tumbling past a relentless explosion of flora booming to life.

The film, concepted, created and finished entirely at Charlex, is both a showcase of the studio's creative and storytelling abilities and a testament to the teamwork, persistence and dedication that define their efforts. The Charlex team developed ShapeShifter from inception to final picture, working in teams as small as three and as large as 15, writing, re-writing, pulling reference, designing, storyboarding, modeling, rigging, texturing, animation, lighting and 2D and 3D compositing.

The project began as a challenge of sorts, when Charlex Founder and Director Alex Weil - the creative force behind the 2006 classic One Rat Short - asked a handful of Charlex designers to imagine a project of their choice. "Our original intent was simply to have an unfettered creative outlet for the many talented people that are part of our company," Weil said.

Charlex President Chris Byrnes weighed in, "We always like to have projects in the studio that allow us to experiment and explore. We started with an empty canvas and the mandate to make something great, with no limitation to our artists to submit their creative ideas and treatments, resulting in a great range of choices."

Co-Director/Designer Diana Park created the original design that ultimately became ShapeShifter. "I wanted to try something different," noted Park. "My inspiration was crafting the image of a machine creating nature. Usually it's the other way around, but conceptually and aesthetically, I thought it would be fun and challenging to mix the two."

The biggest challenge was creating a sense of story and continuity to what was initially a string of loosely connected ideas. As the project evolved from a tale of shape-shifting to an epic exploration of the car's spirit and soul, Charlex tapped Fitzgerald Scott, writer, author, poet - who had successfully collaborated with Weil in the past, to pen the powerful prose poem "Dreams" that accompanies the visuals. Together with a stirring musical track composed by Stimmung's Peter Lauridsen, the effect is that of being in a beautiful but disquieting dream.

"It was a thrill to have Gabriel Byrne do the voice acting for our piece," stated Weil. "Adding talent of this caliber to this work really helped give it shape. Fitzgerald's deeply evocative words helped us to convey the idea of the dream, while Gabriel read the part as though he himself was in a dream state, giving the piece an entirely new life. It was a great experience and a wonderful example of the collaborative and additive nature of the creative process in filmmaking."

Jesse Newman, Lead Compositor, "This is easily my favorite professional project - it strikes a perfect balance between exploration, design and effects. Because the team was so small, each of us has got our fingerprints on the project. The amount of problem solving required was awesome, one of the greatest components of the project. Pretty much a dream job."

Director: Alex WeilNarrated by: Gabriel ByrneCo-Director and Designer: Diana Park3D Lead/Animation: Adam BurkeAnimation Development/Animation: John KarianLead Compositing Artist: Jesse NewmanExecutive Producer: Chris ByrnesProducer: Reece EwingCG Supervisor: Keith McCabe, Myung LeeLead Lighter: Salar SalehLead Character Technical Director: Steve MannLead Modeler: Alex CheparevLighting/Texturing: Mike Marsek, James Fisher, John Cook, Frank Grecco, Cesar Kuriyama, Keith McMenamy, Anthony Patti, Tom Cushwa, Jina Lee, Jeff ChavezMatte Painting: Jina LeeModeling: Hung Kit Ma, Han-Chin Lee, Anthony PattiAnimation: John Wilson, Sam Crees, Jay Randall, Carlos SandovalRigging: Andre Stuppert, Charles Le Guen, Andrei SavuFX: Greg Ecker, Johnathan Nixon, Mitch Deoudes, Santosh GunaseelanEditors: John Zawisha, Kevin MatuszewskiCompositing: Blake HuberDirector of Engineering: Robert MuzerChief Engineer: Jerry StephanoPipeline: Michael Stella, Dan SchneiderCoordinating Producer for the Director: Jen CadicAdditional Editor: Eli MavrosMusic Composition: Stimmung; Peter LauridsenSound Design: Stimmung; Andres VelasquezEP of Audio: Stimmung; Ceinwyn Clark

Mix: Headroom; Fernando Ascani

Associate Producer: Michael Kaufman

Color Correct: CO3; Stefan Sonnenfeld

Prose Poem: "Dreams" written by Fitzgerald Scott

About Charlex:Charlex is a full-service creative studio based in New York City. We specialize in visual effects, animation, design and live-action. We've thrown fancy mission statements out the window and simply embrace versatility. Our motto is design and build. We can take any seed of an idea and bring it to life.

Making great work is the product of forging great relationships. Our team prides itself on fast, efficient work at the highest level of excellence. Our reputation is founded on a commitment to creating compelling imagery, regardless of the assignment. We are experts at building a seamless experience from concept to completion, from client brief to end result.

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