FRIEDRICHSDORF, GERMANY — 3D artist, motion designer and filmmaker Mike Winkelmann, known professionally as Beeple, has been using Maxon’s Cinema 4D software toolset on his most ambitious short film to date. Manifest Destiny, which is available on YouTube and Vimeo, features the soundtrack "Legend Has It" by Run the Jewels (RTJ).
Beeple, who is revered for elevating the craft of 3D storytelling, began work on Manifest Destiny four years ago (the title loosely inspired by the 19th century doctrine of the same name). The film’s over-arching theme centers on an explosive, dramatized vision of the future that explores income inequality and the US national debt.
“Money and the rise in income inequality are pervasive aspects in our culture that drive the decisions on how things get made in the world,” Beeple says. “People in the US don’t realize how much money they have and think they’re getting ripped off by other countries that are in fact much poorer.”
Using visual symbolism created in Cinema 4D, the film is set amidst a fiery, bleak dystopian landscape where naked, oversized and distorted armed infants, children and adults are at war with one another – greed gone wild, infrastructure in flames, false idols and money at the heart of it.
Throughout the piece Beeple juxtaposes flashes of material symbols and greed such as dollar bills, melting coins, slithering snakes and a giant golden calf with overlays of 3D text imagery with hard-hitting statistics and quotes from news sites and financial celebrities such as Warren Buffett describing the disparity in the distribution of income between the world’s wealthiest nations and those at the very bottom. The hard driving music score by rap artists RTJ adds an underlying dimension of rage and defiance that propels the narrative forward.
Working entirely independently on the nearly three-minute short feature, Beeple tackled the demanding content creation process for Manifest Destiny relying almost exclusively on Cinema 4D, without the need for compositing. Final color passes were done in Adobe After Effects while editing was done in Adobe Premiere. Lighting and rendering were completed in OTOY Octane.
“Cinema 4D is a tool that allows you to touch various aspects of the creative process without needing to know a lot about the tools and production values to get a great result,” Beeple adds. “I find the short film format allows for experimental freedom and using the 3D software gave me complete flexibility to artistically explore the debt crisis and offer the audience various viewpoints so they can come to their own conclusions.”
During the creative process Beeple first blocked shots and set up scenes using no formal storyboards. Animated 3D characters were created using Mixamo. The Instances and Cloner features in Cinema 4D’s MoGraph toolset allowed him to efficiently manage and populate his animations with objects to better choreograph crowd scenes of warrior characters fighting over money. Beeple also relied on the rigid and soft body Dynamics tools in the software to lend dynamic behavior in creating realistic motion.
For the creatures and landscapes, Beeple used 3D models from Turbo Squid that he would alter and make his own by attaching animations and other geometric elements. The backdrop of burning buildings, for example, made extensive use of the Voroni Fracture tools in Cinema 4D letting him shatter and control the distribution of elements while the dynamics feature provided parameters such as bounce, gravity and friction.
“From the moment I conceived of Manifest Destiny, I knew I wanted to use RTJ’s Legend Has It. After contacting RTJ who was familiar with Beeple’s earlier work, he was given permission to use the song which he edited into the film following the completion of production.
In addition to his visual effects work, Beeple is one the originators of the “everyday” movement. For the past 11 years he has created a new motion graphics design every day from start to finish using Cinema 4D as his central 3D design tool which he shares daily with the global creative community via social media.
Beeple’s boundary-pushing body of award-winning short films dynamically challenge viewers on social issues ranging from the apocalyptic takeover of robots, cyberwarfare, computer transparency and privacy to the subprime crisis, and have screened at Miami Art Basel, onedotzero, Prix Ars Electronica, the Sydney Biennale, Ann Arbor Film Festival, and many others. After he began releasing a set of widely used Creative Commons VJ loops he continues to provide concert visuals for the world’s top musical artists: Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Zedd, deadmau5, and many others.