Internal Project
FITC
Concept Creation
CG (Computer Graphics)
Motion Design
3D Modeling
3D Animation
Animation
Experimental
VFX/Visual Effects

In The Year 2525

This retro-futuristic gem was a passion-project it took us a year to craft.  A cautionary tale that blooms at the end with hopes for a bright tomorrow, it now lives on as an official music video for the song “In the Year 2525.”

Play “In the Year 2525”
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Futuristic Speculation

Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity: Design and technology event producer FITC fosters all of it—hence their title. The stream of events, workshops and panels they host are an invaluable resource for digital creators worldwide. Chief among the events: FITC’s annual flagship conference in Toronto. FITC traditionally kicks off the conference with the premiere of a stunning title sequence from a leading digital creator. This time, we were given the honor.

The retro-futuristic gem we created, a cautionary tale that blooms at the end with hopes for a bright tomorrow, was a passion-project it took us a year to craft. Delighted with the result, it now lives on to be the official music video for the track!

Its theme is deeply relevant for our times: An exploration of the ways in which technology and innovation—if not used wisely, can manipulate and homogenize humanity. At its core, the message is a call to celebrate individuality and the power we have as a community to make better decisions for the future of our planet.

Set to Zager and Evans prescient song, “In the Year 2525,” we created an extraordinary modern-day Metropolis, executed in a photo-real look that we stylized to the point of feeling illustrated.

The film opens with the vision of a robotic eye beaming on rank-in-file robotic masses, all receiving computerized messages from a metallic-clad leader under a glowing new-world insignia. We see zombie-like humanoids in transit and at home silently receiving visual inputs through tubes connected to their eyes. Pills float and explode with psychotropic messages. A glowing brain is inputted into a robotic shell. Embryos take shape in tubes arranged in the shining pillars of a looming sanctuary. The camera pans past icons of world architecture with the planetary insignia glowing overall, until we see a human with outstretched hand dissolving, its facemask rusting in the cracked earth. As a glowing remorseful teardrop falls, resolution comes with our fantasia of an other-worldly flower, reaching up and blooming in a symbol of rebirth.

Conceptualizing the piece, we wanted it to work with the song lyrics, which warn that while technology can delight, it can also be used to manipulate and homogenize.

Even further, we wanted our piece rooted in the futuristic speculation that technology could disastrously push humanity into a totalitarian structure. “That isn’t just a national issue, it is a global issue,” says director Erin Sarofsky. “And we wanted to key in on the need for humans to start seeing the beauty in our natural differences, because total homogenization is waaaay scarier than individuality.”

The Music

Creating the soundtrack, Groove Guild first used ribbon mikes to record the piece performed with electric guitar, vintage guitar amps, bass amps and drums, recreating the sound of ‘68, when the piece was first released. For a “live band” feel, each track was recorded as a complete take.

Later, GG went back and “modernized,” adding additional synthesizer parts and musical sound effects, finishing with a pass of orchestral instruments to bring the whole production together with an epic feel.

Groove Guild’s Paul Riggio explains, “To represent Sarofsky’s vision, we wanted a female voice to sing the lead. Jean Rohe is someone I’ve worked with many times over the years. She has a powerful voice, and I’ve always admired her ability to bring a sense of nostalgia to new work. The mix of her voice, the occasional bubbly synth, retro recording techniques, and a 60’s style rocking arrangement with a touchingly dramatic ending brought the sonic portion of Sarofsky’s vision to life. It’s an awesome piece, and I’m grateful to have been asked to collaborate with Sarofsky.”

“Sarofsky’s vision for this project was clear and inspiring. We had the challenge of creating an arrangement that played well against an updated retro-futurist look while also giving the nod to the nostalgia invoked by the original song.”

The Inspiration

Some of our visual referencing came from the films Metropolis, 1984 and Citizen Kane, as well as art deco illustrations and architecture. But the deepest inspiration came when listening to “In the Year 2525.” We loved the old, folksy sound; the dark, strange lyrics; and that the story in the ballad left things open to interpretation. As we listened to the dystopian lyrics, visuals started popping into our heads immediately. Thematically, a lot of the verses related to events and scientific/technological advancements we are seeing today. In all, the song was a great base from which to tell a visually rich and compelling commentary on where we could be headed.

The Process

To add nuance to all of this in scenes that could best illustrate the future we imagined, we broke the script/lyrics into verses.  We imagined a scenario for each verse and created a storyboard for each to rough out the content and composition for each shot. Once we cut the sketches to the song, we had the animatic. We then used that to start creating assets in 3D.

Putting it all together, we used a combination of Cinema 4D, After Effects, Houdini, X-Particles and Arnold to create the piece.

Our biggest challenge was developing a consistent look. To do this, we used a very limited color palette– mostly black and white, with some metallic tones of copper, gold and gun metal throughout. But the biggest solution to the continuity challenge was our use of strong design elements—such as rays of light– in various scenes. Some were natural to the scene, others heavily manipulated, but all were design driven, while still being focused on telling the story.

Hope & Rebirth
Bringing resolution, the flower at the end of the sequence is all about expressing hope and the rebirth of the planet. To give the flower an “alien” look, we discussed how lovely it would be to have it unfurl feather-like tendrils rather than petals. We took that challenge straight into Cinema 4D.
In Conclusion ♥

While the finished film is quite a dark piece, we do see it as a hopeful expression. The themes we’ve explored are thought-provoking with the potential to change the way people look at the world, hopefully influencing better choices and behavior.

Project Credits 
  • Directors
    Erin Sarofsky
  • Duarte Elvas
  • Executive Producer
    Steven Anderson
  • Producer
    Kelsey Hynes
  • Lead Artists
    Jake Allen
  • Matt Miltonberger
  • Josh Smiertka
  • Tanner Wickware
  • Motion Designers
    Dan Moore
  • Ally Munro
  • Griffin Thompson
  • Andrew Hyden
  • Tobi Mattner
  • Nik Braatz
Music Credits 

Additional Contributors are Jamie Gray, Andrew Rosenstein, Mark Galazka and Kenny Albanese.

Thank you to Mark Cernosia, Liam Clisham, Roger Darnell, David Koss, Matt Milstead, Jacqueline Poole, Shawn Pucknell, Paul Riggio, Al Risi, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Amanda Scoblick and Judy Wolff for all of your support.

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