Video: Tree of Life Visualizes the Cosmos Without Computer-Generated Effects

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Wired just posted a short but great article on Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winning The Tree of Life, discussing how the director opted to not use CGI for the “creation of life” sequence in his film. Mallick recruited visual effects genius Douglas Trumbull and specifically requested no computer-generated visuals for the movie. Trumbull is best known for his for the special photographic effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner.

Here is what Trumbull had to say about the process of creating the effects in The Tree Of Life:

“We worked with chemicals, paint, fluorescent dyes, smoke, liquids, CO2, flares, spin dishes, fluid dynamics, lighting and high speed photography to see how effective they might be,” Trumbull told the moviemaking website. “It was a free-wheeling opportunity to explore, something that I have found extraordinarily hard to get in the movie business. Terry didn’t have any preconceived ideas of what something should look like. We did things like pour milk through a funnel into a narrow trough and shoot it with a high-speed camera and folded lens, lighting it carefully and using a frame rate that would give the right kind of flow characteristics to look cosmic, galactic, huge and epic.”

The Tree of Life is expanding upon its limited theatrical release and opens in additional cities Friday. Be sure to listen to episode 273 of the Sound On Sight podcast, in which we reviewed the film. Also check back in the next few days, for our Terrence Malick special. In the meantime check out the latest clip from the picture, showing the creation of the universe. Enjoy!


2 Comments
  1. Red Beard says

    No CGI my ass. There are dinosaurs in the movie. Did Malick clone them?

    1. Simon Howell says

      That’s specifically in reference to the “Creation of Life” sequences rather than the 45 seconds of dinosaurs. Fixed to please the pedants.

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