To build the future, we looked to the past.
January 30, 2013 7:43 PM   Subscribe

"You may find my actions extreme, but for a crew of sufficient numbers, if a suitable destination could be found, no return destination would be needed. Therefore, I have had to improvise, with our ship, with our crew." The goal was to make a short sci-fi film, but without CGI, greenscreens, or other digital trickery, instead relying on camera tricks, miniature photography, and stop-animation. And now it is done: C 299,792 km/s

The film cost $40,000, collected from two Kickstarter fundraisers. The movie website has some information, and Wired has more details of the making of the film, including an interview with one of the two brains behind the film.
posted by filthy light thief (41 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Won Short of the Week too. I was looking forward to this so much. Hoping it leads to something larger
posted by zombieApoc at 8:00 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


...I feel like there should be little silhouettes of robots in the lower right corner.

I mean this in the best possible way
posted by The Whelk at 8:00 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, they're using an RKV as a propulsion device?
That thing is going to hit something eventually. :X
posted by yeoz at 8:27 PM on January 30, 2013


Yes, more stuff with old school FX please
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:28 PM on January 30, 2013


That was much better than I expected. Not all the acting was great, and I thought the soundtrack was a bit... lightweight, but these are quibbles, really. Very enjoyable.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 8:30 PM on January 30, 2013


The soundtrack, while fine as music was not very fitting to the action on screen.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:32 PM on January 30, 2013


The soundtrack was awesome, and got the action on screen perfectly. The whole point seemed like it was to go for a retro 80's sort of feel, which it hit perfectly. I also liked the lack of over-exposition. We all know the drill, X years in the future, dystopian future, blabla. It felt good to have a movie assume I was already familiar with sci-fi tropes.

I liked it enough to make a donation from the movie's page.
posted by fnerg at 8:38 PM on January 30, 2013


Thanks for the post, I hope to see more of this.
posted by glip at 8:46 PM on January 30, 2013


C proposes a space-age manifest destiny in the shadow of extinction.

Poor choice of wording, but

In an era where science and technology are too often vilified,

Oh no.
posted by mobunited at 8:59 PM on January 30, 2013


If you like short science fiction try R'ha.
posted by unliteral at 9:11 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


If one is traveling close to light speed to a star 4 light years distant. How long does the journey take from the travelers frame of reference?
posted by humanfont at 9:16 PM on January 30, 2013


Loved it. SelloRekt, who supplied the soundtrack, has an EP on Spotify.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:22 PM on January 30, 2013


humanfront: not a physicist, but to the best of my knowledge at light speed time doesn't pass. at .9 c you don't really see too many relativistic effects, since I believe the time dilation mostly kicks in at an exponential rate in the last 5% or so.
posted by sandswipe at 9:28 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The goal was to make a short sci-fi film, but without CGI, greenscreens, or other digital trickery, instead relying on camera tricks, miniature photography, and stop-animation.

In other words, exactly the approach I pray J.J. Abrams is going to take with the new Star Wars movie.
posted by hippybear at 9:28 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The soundtrack is available on Bandcamp, if you liked it.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:31 PM on January 30, 2013


*time dilation as a human observable phenomenon kicks in after .95 C, I meant.
posted by sandswipe at 9:34 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


“No, no, no, light speed is too slow!”

“Light speed too slow?”

“Yes! We're going to have to go right to... Ludicrous Speed!
posted by XMLicious at 9:55 PM on January 30, 2013


humanfont: relativity calculator.

Say you're able to reach 0.9c, a really impressive feat. For you one year would pass while 2.294 years pass in the observer's frame of reference. So to travel 4ly you would experience 1.74y of travel time. If you were able to accelerate to 0.99c the factor would be 7, so a 4ly trip would seem to take about 7 months. At 0.999c, the factor would be 22, so a 4ly trip would seem to take 6 weeks.

For reference the fastest spacecraft yet launched (Helios) has attained a speed of 0.0015c on parts of its elliptical orbit.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on January 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


While this is all well and good.. I feel like it could have been crap, and people would still fawn from the effects of the expertly crafted PR campaign.

I need to jump on this crowd funding horse while people are still blindly and happily throwing their money at people even if the likelihood of vapor is high..

Wait.. I mean, I need to assure funding for my super amazing.. something.. details at the 100 dollar donation level.
posted by mediocre at 10:17 PM on January 30, 2013


Humanfont: From the ship's reference frame, there's a star rushing towards them at 0.9c; the distance it has to cover is length-contracted by a factor of sqrt(1-v^2/c^2)=0.44 giving a final time of

sqrt(1-0.9^2)*4 light years/(0.9*c) = 1.94 years

Pretty significant, that!
posted by Maecenas at 10:20 PM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love this so much, but the ADR is so distracting! The performances suffered in the close-mic'ed deliveries, it should have been live sound. The obvious ADR was perfect for the Cosmos homage, but the main narrative scenes are really brought down by the dialogue.
posted by scrowdid at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2013


this looks fantastic, thank you for posting.
posted by radiosilents at 11:26 PM on January 30, 2013


dhartung,

Shouldn't that be 1.74 light years of distance traveled from the traveler's perspective at the rate of 0.9 light years per year, for a travel time of 1.94 years (as Maecenas has it)?

If that is right, then it looks like the travel time from the perspective of an observer on Earth would be 1.94/sqrt(0.19) = 4.44 years, which is the same (I hope not coincidentally) as what you get if you take 4 (the distance in light years) and divide by 0.9 (the rate in light years per year).

(It's been a long time since I actually did any relativity calculations, so maybe I'm turned around here.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:31 PM on January 30, 2013


Not to mention that if you're actually planning on stopping once you get to your destination, you need to spend at least part of your trip deaccelerating at a rate that won't turn you to pulp.
posted by mikurski at 1:39 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Wikipedia article on time dilation is pretty easy to read, and the formulas aren't too complex. There's also a handy graph
posted by delmoi at 1:42 AM on January 31, 2013


Everyone got the reference to the kepler telescope's field of view right?
posted by delmoi at 2:04 AM on January 31, 2013


at .9 c you don't really see too many relativistic effects...

It becomes trivial to detect at .1c. At .9c, you're dealing with a Lorentz factor of 2.294. The time on the ship's clock slows1 to the reciprocal, or .436, so for every 1000 seconds here, only 436 pass on the ship. You could do the round trip to α Centauri in about 4 years, ship time, but over 9 years would pass at home.

Adding nines does make this more dramatic, but even at .1c, the factor is 1.005, and 995 seconds pass in ship time to every 1000 at home. At .99c, it's 141 seconds on the ship to 1000 at home, and .999c, only 4.5 seconds, and four nines, .014 seconds ship time per 1000 at home.

But at .9, it's still a very significant, and very noticeable, thing.

1Well, to you at home, it slows. To you on the ship, the clock runs just fine, but boy, are those clocks at home fast! This is why it is called "relativity", because everything is relative *to you*.
posted by eriko at 2:19 AM on January 31, 2013


If that is right, then it looks like the travel time from the perspective of an observer on Earth would be 1.94/sqrt(0.19) = 4.44 years, which is the same (I hope not coincidentally) as what you get if you take 4 (the distance in light years) and divide by 0.9 (the rate in light years per year).

Not exactly, from an observer's perspective on earth, the ship would appear to be moving more slowly through time then it actually would be (Just like we appear to be moving more slowly to it). If you think about it light leaving the ship (which we use to observe it) has a longer and longer journey it has to travel to reach our eyes.

The OMG particle was a proton detected moving at 0.9999999999999999999999951c, Apparently the time dilation for that particle is 300 billion fold, and from it's perspective it would reach the edge of the observable universe in just 19 days (you could get to the Andromeda galaxy in 3.5 minutes)

So from our perspective, we would only see the ship arrive 4 years after an observer
It becomes trivial to detect at .1c. At .9c, you're dealing with a Lorentz factor of 2.294. The time on the ship's clock slows1 to the reciprocal, or .436, so for every 1000 seconds here, only 436 pass on the ship.
In fact, if you happen to have an atomic clock, you can detect gravitational time dilation just by flying one of them around in an airplane. Relativistic effects on satellites orbiting the earth are large enough that they need to be corrected for in order to make GPS work.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really quite great, hews super close to that 80s feel, even the not-too-awesome acting.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:16 AM on January 31, 2013


That was really fun! A positive, far-future, Carl Sagan-esque outlook always gets me a bit emotional too.

The only thing that bugged me was the nagging thought that the space hippies have just condemned a whole ship of angry people to slowly starve to death with no chance of ever seeing their families again. It looked like they weren't accelerating at much more than 1G. My brain is too rusty to tell if that matches up with the projected trajectory shown at the end, or if there's any chance of them actually reaching another system in their lifetimes.
posted by lucidium at 5:24 AM on January 31, 2013


That was fun. I'd love to see it expanded into a feature, if only to flesh-out the story, and hopefully fill-in some of the gaping holes/questions.

If I had spare cash, this would probably be my very first Kickstarter.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:33 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


mikurski: Not to mention that if you're actually planning on stopping once you get to your destination, you need to spend at least part of your trip deaccelerating at a rate that won't turn you to pulp.

I smiled when I saw someone finally pointed this out.

Right now I believe our theories show that we would have to spend half the trip slowing down; though there are so many sci-fi possibilities as to how the drive would function that I have to believe we could achieve a point where we can slow down at a point when we have basically hit our destination. I suppose that would depend on the local gravity of the star system we were jumping/traveling to (if you're far enough away from your source of gravity I would think you could stop faster and with less risk of injury than if you came to a complete stop at the same rate when you were a few factors closer to the gravity source).
posted by zombieApoc at 5:51 AM on January 31, 2013


Loved it! I especially like the Kubrick-inspired console readouts. I do wish it was a bit longer, though.
posted by odinsdream at 6:42 AM on January 31, 2013


For the retro science documentary Beyond the Infinite, the lighting situation was much simpler. For authenticity the team left behind the digital gear and filmed using a 16 mm Eclair ACL camera.

Nice.
posted by odinsdream at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2013


If your maximum acceleration is limited by your cargo (squishy humans) and you want to get your cargo (squishy, mortal humans) to their destination as quickly as possible so they can make more squishy human colonist babies, then you want to maximize the amount of time you spend accelerating at that maximum acceleration.

Of course, you want to be able to stop safely without pulping squishy humans, which means you need to slow down at the same rate you were speeding up; this generally results in a flight plan where you spend the first half of the trip accelerating, then at the halfway point turnover and spend the second half slowing down.

...space hippies have just condemned a whole ship of angry people to slowly starve to death with no chance of ever seeing their families again. It looked like they weren't accelerating at much more than 1G. My brain is too rusty to tell if that matches up with the projected trajectory shown at the end, or if there's any chance of them actually reaching another system in their lifetimes.

According to Wolfram Alpha, 1g of acceleration would get you to light speed in about a year, and you'd cover (I think) about 1/2 light-year in the process (constant acceleration makes the velocity integral easier). Assuming the Kepler imagery is foreshadowing and they're headed towards the constellation Cygnus, that means that a reasonably close star is Psi Cygni at 11 light-years out.

With this information, the math works out to one light-year over two years (speeding up and slowing down), and then ten light-years at about the speed of light. Trip time, twelve years.

So, it's feasible for a mathematician. Engineers might have more problems with it.
posted by mikurski at 9:37 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


1Well, to you at home, it slows. To you on the ship, the clock runs just fine, but boy, are those clocks at home fast! This is why it is called "relativity", because everything is relative *to you*.
Actually, it's a little stranger than that. To an observer at home, the clocks on the ship run slow. To an observer on a ship, the clocks at home are running ... slow! The fastest clock is always the one that you carry with you in your own rest frame; it measures your "proper time".

Some people think that this leads to paradoxes, before they realize that the observer at home and the observer on the ship can only compare "well, what time is it now?" exactly once, while the ship and the home are in the same place. If somebody turns around and comes back, you have a more famous problem.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 10:36 AM on January 31, 2013


I've got the ultimate kickstarter. The relativistic oven. Microwave and convection ovens can never replicate the true flavor of traditional baking. The relativistic will allow your food to be cooked in a reference frame where the baker's experience of time is dramatically slower than the reference frame inside the cooker. We will market this as the Ultimate Slow Food Experience.
posted by humanfont at 11:26 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose that would depend on the local gravity of the star system we were jumping/traveling to (if you're far enough away from your source of gravity I would think you could stop faster and with less risk of injury than if you came to a complete stop at the same rate when you were a few factors closer to the gravity source).


That doesn't really make any sense. The "gravitational" force you feel on an accelerating ship isn't gravity at all - it's just due to inertia. Also, all the matter in the observable universe is a "source" of gravity that you feel. The gravity of whatever star your near by won't have much of an effect at all - the sun's gravity at earth is just 0.0006g.

However, you could use the "gravitational slingshot" effect to change your speed without a noticeable increase in the forces acting on you. If you were traveling to a black hole or something with really strong gravity that was also moving away from you might be able to slow down quickly, but the problem is your speed relative to the object you slingshotted off wouldn't change. So, if you tried to do that with, say, the black-hole core of a distant galaxy, you'd just end up speeding off, away from that galaxy, in the opposite direction. (that might be useful if you just want to collect data, then go home, though)
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2013


Not exactly, from an observer's perspective on earth, the ship would appear to be moving more slowly through time then it actually would be (Just like we appear to be moving more slowly to it).

Yes, which is why it looks like the trip takes 4.44 years (to an observer who stays behind), when it takes only 1.94 years from the traveler's perspective. Right?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:04 PM on January 31, 2013


Yes, which is why it looks like the trip takes 4.44 years (to an observer who stays behind), when it takes only 1.94 years from the traveler's perspective. Right?
Well, no. What I mean is, you know with the mars lander, we only found out about it's landing 14 minutes after it "actually" happened due to the time it took for the signal to propagate from mars to earth. We knew that the rover had landed but we didn't observe it until later.

We would know that the relativistic craft either reached it's destination or was destroyed in 4.44 years, but we wouldn't be able to actually get any confirmation or actually see it happen for another four years.

Likewise, if we sent a signal at 4.44 years, they should get the signal exactly 4 years after they arrive. If they sent a signal 0.44 years after they left, they would get it when they got there.

That's just the regular-old speed of light between two frames of reference at about the same speed, which is totally different from the time-dilation effect.


In the Wikipedia article, they talk about a clock created by taking two mirrors and bouncing a photon between them. So if you have two mirrors one light-nanosecond apart (about 33.35cm), at rest the photon looks like it's bouncing in a straight line from one to the other, but if the mirrors are moving perpendicular to the photon then in another reference frame the photon is bouncing at an angle so it has to travel further to get from one mirror to another, so the clock would seem to be 'ticking' more slowly.

But, we can't actually observe the photon, we can only reason about what it's doing. If we setup the system so that it would send a signal each time the photon bounced off a mirror, then we would also have to adjust for the amount of time it would take for that signal to reach us. If it was traveling towards us, the signals would come more quickly, and if it was traveling away from us the signals would come further apart. You would need to calculate how far away the clock was to figure out "when" the signal was sent. But once you do that, the clock's ticks after adjustment would appear to be constant and slower then you would expect if the thing were in the same frame of refrence.

Remember how GPS works. Each satellite sends out a time code, and by comparing the time codes from multiple satelites you can figure out how far away they are, just by assuming that the signals are reaching you at the speed of light.

but in order for that to work you have to adjust for the fact that the clocks move more quickly (I think) because they are farther away from earth's center and because light travels on a curved path.
posted by delmoi at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2013


Yes, which is why it looks like the trip takes 4.44 years (to an observer who stays behind), when it takes only 1.94 years from the traveler's perspective. Right?

This seems like the perfect place to link this folk song from the future. '39
posted by hippybear at 5:53 PM on January 31, 2013


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