FLITE: Art Department
Stevie is the protagonist of FLITE, the experimental short film set in a futuristic London of 2053. As the reigning World Hoverboard Champion, Stevie lives in a gilded cage under the watchful glare of her controlling manager Johnny.
Imagining the world that Stevie inhabits was a collaboration between the film’s director, our Chief Creative Officer Tim Webber, and the Framestore Art Department led by Martin Macrae. While the concept art drives much of the world-building in which the final story is set, it also imparts some important visual clues and shortcuts for the viewer to quickly understand the characters and what they are about.
Stevie’s apartment and style - in particular her hoverboard and futuristic prosthetic leg - are key elements in setting the scene for the audience. The entrance hall of her apartment portrays the meteoric rise of a young champion, marred by the death of her father and a life changing accident; key moments that would have made her vulnerable also providing opportunity for her manager Johnny to isolate her.
Martin Macrae, Head of Art Department at Framestore explains:
“Tim had a clear idea of Stevie's history and how that would be reflected in the apartment, that there should be an indoor boarding area and given the success of her career it should be a huge, warehouse style loft. One illustration of telling this story is to show how her space has expanded alongside her accomplishments, breaking through the walls and floors to incorporate other flats in the complex into her own. This is visible in the brickwork and the levels on show.”
Stevie’s hoverboard and prosthetic leg are designed to reflect her personal style choices. “It was important that these looked like something that she had customised herself, that hadn’t been bought off the shelf,” explains Martin. “We spent a lot of time looking at prosthetic legs, the design of Stevie’s has just been elevated with the implication that it was3D printed to her own custom organic, generative design. A conscious style statement.”
The Hoverboard concepts drop hints at the nostalgia Stevie has for better times. With an exterior made from Wood, in contrast to her previous hoverboards hanging in her hallway. Her latest board has more in common with the skateboards on which she began her career, before the death of her father.
“The use of texture and materials was really important to Tim, the design grounds the technology with the honesty and warmth of wood. It needed to be something she would want to have for herself and we see the connection she has to the board, the way she holds it and at some points, in the final shots on screen, she appears to draw comfort from it.”
A Semi-Submerged London
The futuristic London of FLITE is still recognisable however the Art Department has designed for the impact of the climate crisis where expansive bridges are needed to connect the north and south of a semi-submerged city. A skyline of glossy skyscrapers accommodate a densely populated London with flood pumps offering some protection against the rising tides.
“A lot of modern architecture looks like sculpture and even in London today there is a bold mixing of old and new,” explains Martin Macrae. “We’ve carried that idea forward in the bridge designs for FLITE, looking to create beautiful and sculptural silhouettes spanning the Thames, upstream from Tower Bridge.”
The Flood Pumps are integral to the story and the design is based on a rough sketch from Tim Webber, the movement of swirling water inspired by a plug hole. The Art Department undertook additional research, taking architectural cues from the Thames Barrier, which spans the River Thames today, protecting central London from flooding.
FLITE is the directorial and writing debut from Oscar-winning VFX Supervisor and Framestore Chief Creative Officer Tim Webber (Gravity, The Dark Knight). It bears all the hallmarks of Webber’s approach to filmmaking - the imaginative use of technology to push creative boundaries - with Webber opting to test the limits of FUSE - Framestore Unreal Shot Engine - a new animation and visual effects pipeline built around Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.
Watch the trailer here: