About the Film:
In his short film Whitecap, director Bernard Ong from Illinois in the United States makes himself the matter that goes into a quantum experiment. He tells how it happened.
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What’s your background in film or physics?
I was a media arts and animation major and also have a master’s degree in film. I studied 2d and 3d animation and motion graphics, and have been working in this field professionally since 2003. First I was at a gaming company doing character drawing and animation, and then I started working a TV station. I do graphics for them, and on the side I do music videos and other projects.
I’m currently working on a film - it’s in post-production - with sci-fi elements. I would call it a tech noir. It’s about a detective who loses his memory, and through neuroscience they find a way to recover them from the victim of the crime.
I was doing some research for my next project when I stumbled on quantum physics and got really interested. Then I found this competition and I was like, oh cool, it combines two of my favourite things. I’m really into sci-fi and I make films, so this was a chance to combine my two interests.
My favourite sci-fi films are Blade Runner and Gattaca, and I grew up on Star Wars and the Alien films.
How did you do your research?
I get a lot of information through Google Play’s newsstand. You click on the things you’re interested in, and it feeds you all sorts of articles from different places. Physics is one of the categories. When I got interested in quantum physics, I also started reading books and watching videos. It’s really fascinating.
One article that stuck out particularly, I remember showed how a microscopic scan of neurons has a similarity to the structure of galaxies. That was crazy, that something so small could be so similar to something so large.
There’s also the idea that waves could be particles, and I felt like it all blended together. I was trying to put it all into one project. In my film’s ending, you question where he is, whether he’s in the same universe or not. That’s the debate in quantum physics about there being multiverses.
Your character wants to know what it feels like to be the wave. What did you want to get across?
I love this idea that the smallest thing kind of hosts a whole universe to itself. You get that feeling you are part of something bigger. It gets into philosophy, the idea that everything is one, everything is connected.
How did you do the special effects?
The first shot where the brick was breaking up, that’s an actual cinder block in my office. I used a program called Cinema 4D to create a 3D model of the brick, and I composited the photo over top of the model. On top of that there’s a movie with smoke and particles – and that’s just the first scene. The face breaking used the same process. I took a photo of myself, put it in the 3D program and fractured it. The galaxy shots are all done in Adobe After Effects with all still images.
How did the rest of your team help with the film?
I actually worked on this project completely on my own from start to finish. All the names in the credits are derivatives of people I know to make it look like a full production. A lot of established directors in Hollywood only like to put their names in the credits once, because seeing it several times diminishes their primary role as a filmmaker. I’m letting it out there for all aspiring filmmakers to know that you don’t need a big crew - just a story, camera, and a computer!
What do you think of there being physicists watching your film?
I haven’t shown the film to anyone else yet. I told a friend who was into science and he said I think people are going to laugh at you. I said it’s science fiction – you’ve got to remember it’s fiction!
How do you feel about being shortlisted?
It’s awesome: a great feeling. I kind of just made it because I wanted to learn more. It was a perfect opportunity with a deadline.
About the filmmaker(s):
Bernard Ong is a director living in Illinois, United States.
FINALIST | Quantum Shorts 2016