ITP Thesis | Adelphi - The Myth of Selym & Myles

// July 2013 Update

At the moment, I’m in the process of rendering the scenes from Adelphi. Considering that I’m not blessed with a render farm & the graphics card in my macbook recently burned out, it may take some time.  Below are some screenshots of Adelphi built in Cinema 4D & composited in After Effects:

// End of Update


/*It’s been awhile since I’ve last written in my blog.  At the moment, I working on my ITP Thesis which is a series of 3D Animations. I will write more about the inspiration for it when I have more time to play in this space. I’m also brushing up on my Unity 3D, Cinema 4D, Maya, Java, C++, Objective-C, and Javascript skills when I have a moment. As far as this blog, a revamp is long overdue, and I promise to update it more with my little side projects.  So, without further ado, below is a progress report for my thesis. More to come at the same bat channel*/

Since February, I’ve been struggling with the story and the interactive elements of my animations.  After brief meeting with Marina Zurkow and Georgia Krantz, I had a better sense of direction. Both of them encouraged me to focus on figuring out the story that I wished to tell as well as my intentions for my audience in terms of a response . Focus on the story and not worry so much about the ideal interactive element(s) yet – that would (hopefully) come later.

So, for quite some time, I focused on the moments that stayed with me after the passing of my little brother as well as the formative stops along the journey that shaped me from that moment of loss to the present day.   The more and more I thought about this journey – The more and more I felt that this story was one that resonated with me, but I questioned whether or not  the story would connect with my intended audience.   I felt that I was walking the fine line with a story that was personal but one that my audience would not be able to relate to in the end.

So, after a marathon shower session (some of my best ideas come in the shower), I decided to frame my journey within the context of 3 separate myths.  One myth would revolve around loss while the others would follow the themes of being lost and then found.  Even now, I debating whether or not the narrative will be either linear or non-linear, but I will figure that out very soon.

After a bit of soul searching and writing, the story of the first animation came to me.  At the moment, it is tentatively called – The Myth of Myles & Selym. The myth is one of loss, so I looked to other myths about loss and separation as inspiration such as the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  I also wanted to tinker with the concepts of the call to the quest, a goddess walking among us in the guise of an old woman, choice,  thresholds, and threshold guardians.  Here is a synopsis of the 1st animation:

// Beginning of Story

For many centuries, the world was covered in boundless green, but the great ocean swallowed all land as far as the eye could see. So, that known world was no more.

Yet, high in the sky, hidden within the clouds, the floating city of Huma sparkled in the night sky. The people of  great city only knew the world as seen within Huma's walls. The had no memory of the lands below - just the vastness and the terror of the infinite blue ocean.  

Due to the fear of the infinite blue, all remained confined within the city walls content with their existence. Huma was seen as a refuge in the sky protecting all from the dangers of the outside world. Due to this belief, all inhabitants were forbidden to leave it walls. Flying has been forbidden for nearly 100 years because it is believed that no lands exist below, no other cities reside above. So, there is no point in venturing out since the outside world is uncertain and dangerous. As a result, all modes of flying have been eradicated and have disappeared fromt he consciousness of woman, man, and child .

In Huma, lived to brothers - Selym the younger & Myles the elder.

For many years, the two of the same blood were inseperable. But, as Myles the elder entered manhood. The two brothers of the same blood grew distant and began to walk along seperate paths. At times when the two crossed paths, they rarely spoke or they simply argued.  

When Myles and Selym were children, they once dreamed of crossing the threshold of the city walls to discover the lands of their ancestors below. Yet, when Myles aged, he turned his back on that dream and merely saw it as a child's fantasy. His reality was a life within the confines of Huma. Instead of looking to the sky - he should only look what was right before him and lead a contented life within Huma.

But, Selym the younger was different, he held onto the dream of conquering the infinite blue below to disover new lands, people, songs, and journeys. Instead of a refuge, Selym saw Huma as a city trapped within a golden cage.  All around Selym saw him as a fool because the unkown outside the confines of the city were seen as a danger that could not be surmounted,  Selym saw the unknown as an opportunity for adventure. 

Despite all of this, Myles tirelessly attempted to bring Selym back to reality. So, the two brothers argued often. Myles truly loved his brother, so the intent of his words were to draw Selym's gaze away from the sky towards the road right in front of him, but it seems that his words did harm instead of good because instead of looking forward - Selym's eyes remained downward cast  riddled with anger and doubt.

One day, as the two argued, Selym spied a peculiar beggar on the side of the street.  His peculiar dress did not match any of the inhabitants of the city, and the beggar hid his face behind an even a more peculiar mask.  Right by the beggars feet lay an empty cup and a sign that read "Spare Change in exchange for Change". On a whim, Selym tossed a coin into the beggar's cup. The beggar looked up to Selym with his expressionless mask and spoke.

What is your name? Selym answered back. Come with me and I will give you a gift for your kindness.  The beggar arose and motioned Selym to follow him into the neighboring alleyway. Selym had a child's curiousity so he followed the beggar without hesitation. 

As the exchange between Selym and the beggar occurred, Myles watched with silent suspicion.  When the beggar motioned for Selym to follow him into the alley, he urged his younger to relent. But, Selym acted on his own and Myles words were unheard.

So, in order to protect Selym, Myles followed his brother into the alleyway. When the two brothers were in the space. The beggar looked for a moment  at the curious eyes of Selym and the suspicious eyes of Myles.  He then asked for Myles name but he remained silent. Selym revealed his brother's name. Selym asked the beggar his own name and simply replied Anan. 

Immediately after giving his name, Anan immediately raised his hands and out of nothing - something  appeared. Eight brilliant keys appeared on the fingers of Anan.

Selym was drawn in with wonder while Myles was repeled in fear.

Anan asked Selym to choose one of the eight keys as a gift for his generosity. Selym quickly chose one. Upon his choice, Anan fixed his gaze upon Selym for quite some time. He then fixed his gaze upon Myles and said that - "though you did not give as your brother did. I will let you chose a key as well because the two of you are one of the same and of the same blood but you will follow different paths"

At first it appeared that Myles would not take up Anan on his offer, but he decided to take a chance and chose a key out of simple curiousity.

Once the two brothers had their respective keys in hand. Anan motioned as if he were to leave. As he walked away, he spoke out loud -

Every key has a lock meant to be open. Every choice has an opportunity and a consequence.  Selym you will find your way soon enough but your brother may take some time. Again, I want to thank you Selym for your kindness. Now, I may finally be able to return home.

Selym reached out and asked Anan where his home was. Anan simply replied  - in the lands beyond the clouds and the infinite blue. 

In a blink of an eye, Anan was gone. 

In the moment after, one brother believed  while the other  was filled with doubt and did not believe.

As the days and weeks followed, Myles soon forget about his chance encounter with the beggar Anan and continued on with his mundane existence. His key was soon forgotten.  Yet, Anan's words stayed with Selym every waking moment of the day. Wherever he went, Selym carried the key given to him.  Wherever he went, he wondered where he could find the lock to his key.  In a moment of despair, he thought of discarding the key given to him - and within that moment of despair - it came to him. Their was something in the key that he had seen before. Immediately, Selym ran into the night to the edge of the city where his had seen that symbol before. Upon sight of the symbol, Selym drew out his key. 

As a result something miraculous happened.

A way appeared where there once was none.

A shining path appeared in the night sky connecting his conccious world with one hidden within is unconcious- and in the distance something appeared.

Without fear and with all his might, Selym crossed the night sky leaving the world of Huma and crossing the threshold into another world.  What laid before him appeared to be a temple of the ancient lands he once read about as a child. As he entered, he was overwhelmed with a feeling of remembrance - as if he had been here before.  This feeling  guided him with each step in the space. Some call it intuition. Knowing without knowing how.

When he reached the alter of the temple. Selym found the one in the missing pair. The key was finally joined with the lock. Leading Selym to what was once hidden. Leading him toward an experience that had been waiting for him the moment he drew his first breath into this world. Leading him from constraint to freedom. 

Knowing without knowing how. Selym awoke this mechanical bird from its sleep and rose up into the night sky.  He flew over the city of Huma looking down. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of the city of the night sky. Whenever his eyes moved away fromt he light of the  city, he saw the darkness of the night sky surrounding him.

Now was his chance to see what laid beyond the confines of the city walls.  He simply wanted to see beyond what he had known.

He wished to transform the unknown to the known but he had every intention of returning home.
He wished to transform the unknown to the known but he had every intention of returning home.
He wished to transform the unknown to the known but he had every intention of returning home.

He thought that, If he could find the lands beyond the infinite blue ocean, he would return home to his brother and show him that their shared dream as children was indeed as true as the warm bond that they once shared.

So, a determined Selym disappeared into the night sky. 

The morning after, Myles was surprised when Selym did not return home night before. He simply thought that Selym lost track of time being lost in his daydreams which was always the case.   Yet, as the day transformed into night. Myles became more concerned. So, he wandered the streets of Huma in search of Selym, but he still could not find him.  Many days and night followed without Selym returning home, and Myles grew more into despair and regret. Every night, he would wander the streets in search of his younger brother. 

In his search, he had heard from others about a shining bird appearing above the the ciy of Huma disappearing into the night. From then on, Myles knew without knowing how that his brother would not return, but in denial he continued to search for his brother every day and every night.

Some believe that Selym was able to cross the clouds and overcome the infinite blue ocean to find the ancient lands below and new cities above. While others believe that Selym reached the heavens instead transforming to a brilliant star in the night sky residing in the company of the old gods. 

What became of the brother, no one knows but it is believed that whenever the the star of Selym appears in the Western Sky. His Adelphi star - Myles hovers quietly in the Eastern sky as if in waiting before it eventually disappears going on a path of its own.  

// End of Story

After finalizing the story of The Myth of Myles & Selym, I had to make a decision as far as the visual aesthetic of this animation.  For a time, I toyed around with the idea of creating a 2D animation solely in After Effects; but, after a few initial sketches,  I decided to attempt a 3D animation instead.

Despite my best wishes, my experience with 3D animation software was limited.  So, I tracked down a 15 hour tutorial of Cinema 4D R14, and I holed myself in my apartment until I had a solid grasp of the software. In the tutorial, I learned about C4D’s  User Interface, Modeling Tools, Materials, Rigging, Particles, Animation, & Rendering.  Below are renders of the world of Semele that I built.  I also modeled the flying craft that I intended to use in the finals scenes for Selym with help of the tutorial.

Cinema 4D Screenshots

The City of Semele requires a few more tweaks. At the moment, it appears that the city is floating in space when it should appear to be floating in the night sky. So, I will need to add clouds as well as the proper illumination to represent moonlight for the night scene.   The first animation needs to reflect the passage of time as the story progresses, so I felt that I needed to create an environment with both a day/night cycle. So, that took a bit of time to build and figure out. Yet,  I’m very happy with the results, but I still have a ways to go.

During Spring Break, I really need build the 3 main characters (Selym, Myles, and Anan), rig these characters, and build the scenes.  The inspiration for Selym & Myles is a pen sketch that I did some time ago. Here is a scan of that sketch:


If you look closely at the sketch, you will the side profile of two faces conjoined much like the Janus Coin.

The face on the left is a representation of Selym and the one on the right is a representation of Myles. The sketch is bit abstract, but I like it. I think that I will base the characters on this sketch by utilizing both ZBrush and Cinema 4D.

All these tasks have been rather difficult since I’m visiting Austin, TX for the Spring Break to see whether or not I will stay in New York or possibly relocate to Austin (or maybe San Francisco if the right opportunity presents itself) after graduation.

At the rate that I’m going, I’m fearful that I may need to condense the last 2 animations into one, but I cannot worry about that at the moment. If I can pull off one animation of high quality that has interactive elements, that would be a success in itself.  So, the worst cast scenario is that I complete on great animation.

Also, I’m reading the Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler as a recommendation from Katherine.  Actually, Eric Rosenthal brought up the book after my Midterm Presentation.  He asked me whether or not I had read the book. Mistaking the book for another that I read, I answered that I did.  A day after the presentation, I realized that I had not read this book, so I decided to purchase a copy and read it for the first time.

The Writer’s Journey is a book that explores the structure of mythology and storytelling to assist writers, screenwriters, game designers, etc.  Vogler’s work is inspired immensely by the works of mythologist Joseph Campbell & Psychologist Carl Jung.  Since I’m also a fan of both of these figures, Vogler’s approach within his book truly resonates with me and will be a true guide for me in this challenging process.

I will be sure to give another update sooner than later.

Until we meet again,