Visualizing Zero Matter

zero-matter-in-actionWired has a video piece about the VFX work done on Agent Carter to bring the substance known as “zero matter” to your screens. They very kindly mentioned me, which is a pleasant surprise. There was a lot of conversation early on with the writers, show runners, and the head of VFX (Sheena Duggal), discussing what it might look like, and what kind of aesthetic drivers were in play for the look of the show overall (less ZAP! and more ooze and flow), and what you see on screen is the result of a lot of that conversation. It’s really great to see so much of what we brainstormed make it up on screen. The main physics input I wanted to use as a guide was the idea that this is some sort of special fluid from “elsewhere”, in a very special physical phase (inspired by various super fluids and perfect fluids in actual physics from our world, which I explained a bit about to them…Sheena was also very taken with ferrofluids, which was a very smart design input to use as reference). We also talked a lot about the idea that zero matter manifests itself in different ways depending upon the biology of the host. (See a post I did about other aspects of zero matter here, including the naming of it, and “elsewhere”.)

The amazing company Double Negative played a huge role overall, doing the rendering and bringing all sort of techniques to bear to make it all work. You’ll maybe recognize that name since they were the people who worked with physicist Kip Thorne to do the visual work on the movie Interstellar. They also just won the Oscar for their work on the movie Ex Machina. Amusingly, what they learned about rendering black holes from Interstellar shows up a bit in the zero matter context. While the space-time rifts in the show (through which it enters) are not actually black holes (they do not have the gravitational effects that would be appropriate for a black hole of the size you see), some of the styling used for them borrowed a lot from dneg’s work on black holes, and you’ll see signs of the lensing distortion on the accretion disc that was used on Gargantua in the film. This is of course artistic license – light would not be bent so much by gravitational effects of the rift – but it sure looks great!

What a fun team to work with overall!

Enjoy the video. (Click the link, their embedding code does not seem to work).


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