Peter Watts’ Blindsight looked at first contact with aliens in a different way when it was first published in 2006, and it’s been one of those books that friends have fervently recommended in the years since.
One fan has taken it upon himself to adapt as a short film, which he released this week: a short CGI short that looks absolutely stunning.
The project comes from Danil Krivoruchko, who’s spent the last four years working on it. It features a voice over that introduces us to the basic premise of the plot—a ship sent out to the edge of the solar system to explore an object broadcasting a signal, its crew of trans-human astronauts dealing with the strange extraterrestrials that they encounter. Along the way, we get a couple of scenes from the crew’s perspective as they explore the object, as well as some gorgeous space vistas. It’s well worth a watch, especially in 4K resolution.
Accompanying the short is a very cool website that Krivoruchko and his team put together (I found it easiest to navigate the site on my iPad), which provides an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the project. The space suit section, for example, details Watts’ description of the spacesuit from the book’s third chapter, then explains their thinking behind how they envisioned it, a number of reference photos, responses from Watts as they went through the production, and final imagery that they came up with.
In another section, Krivoruchko outlines how he came to the book and how the project came to be. He read it in 2009 when it was released in Russia. It was a bit of a cult hit amongst his peers in the design world, and he was “blown away by the amount of technical, scientific and psychological details Peter Watts packed into the novel while still keeping it a tense and fascinating read.”
After reading it again a couple of years later, he reached out to Watts with his appreciation, and spoke with some of his friends, wanting to create some digital renders of the novel’s scenes and elements. The project began to grow, he explains. “Initially, we wanted to make a bunch of still frames. Creating a full CG animated short felt too time-consuming and ambitious,” he writes, “but as time passed, more and more images were made, which helped attract even more incredibly talented people to the project. As the team grew, we realized that we now had enough resources to pull off animation.”
He and his friends realized they couldn’t do the entire novel, but they could adapt it. They took the story apart and figured out what scenes they wanted to create, then plotted it out, changing it up a bit from the novel’s structure, opting to tell the story from the end, and work their way forward. From there, they began modeling each element and scene, bouncing ideas off of Watts as they did so.
“Danil reached out to me pretty close to the start of the process,” Watts commented. “They were in the ‘Let’s make a tribute fan site’ phase, which as I understand it fell somewhere between the ‘let’s do a couple of CG illustrations for the rifters gallery’ and ‘Let’s blow off the doors with a trailer from an alternate universe where someone made a movie out of Blindsight’ phases.”
As Krivoruchko and his team came up with ideas, they sent them along to Watts, who provided some suggestions and what his mindset was when he was writing the book. “Essentially, I let them read my mind,” he says. “They’d come to me with their vision of a spacesuit or a scrambler, and I’d tell them how it compared to the images that were in my head when I was writing the novel.”
Sometimes they’d present an image that wasn’t much like the one in my head at all—but their vision was so much better than mine that I’d just nod wisely and say Yes, yes, that’s exactly right. And Danil would marvel at what a master of descriptive prose I must be, to be able plant such precise imagery in the reader’s mind using nothing but abstract black scratches on a page.
On his website, Krivoruchko provides some of the messages that he exchanged with Watts, who enthusiastically cheered them on as they showed him what they were coming up with.
The final result is a nearly five minute long take on the novel with its own unique vantage point, but which otherwise captures the look and feel of the book. On his blog, Watts calls it “a small masterpiece,” and says that he’s “honored and humbled” by the work of the team.