dear friend, i can no longer hear your voice
One of the more interesting and unusual projects I've worked on recently was Anne-Marie Creamer's visual poem Dear Friend, I can No Longer Hear Your Voice. It's a lament, in the voice of Sir John Soane, the polymath collector and artist who founded the eponymous museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. For anyone who has visited this museum will know that it's a veritable hodgepodge of Greek and Roman antiquity through a Victorian lens. It's a wunderkammer, and a repository for Soane's tastes and whims. Anne-Marie Creamer discovered the story of how, when Soane's wife Eliza passed away suddenly from a short illness, he had her bed chamber sealed up for two decades, a museum within the museum dedicated to the memory of his beloved wife.
John Griffin had taken photoscans on a previous visit to the museum in 2017, meaning that the bedroom's dimensions and colours could be remodelled by me at an extraordinary level of accuracy (within a centimetre). However, the inability to handle the artifacts and the low amount of ambient light in the bed chamber meant the scans were partial, incomplete and missing chunks. Initially briefed to take a month, I proposed making the project in Unreal Engine, to be able to handle the high poly count of scanned meshes and render cheaply, without much need for remodelling, retopology or render farms.
Then the pandemic struck.
The project was stalled for another 18 months, during which time I built up the model of the room, and John worked on the model scans. Certain assets had to be rebuilt completely, notably the fireplace and the lace gloves, which were beautiful scans with awful geometry. I was able to rebuild these and retopo the scans in Zbrush, which also meant that I could transfer the accurate colour of the scans onto clean geometry with good UVs in Zbrush.
The room was built in Cinema 4D and the amount of atmospheric volume light and god rays meant that I was inclined to render using Redshift, despite my strong desire to do the whole thing in Octane. Redshift is slightly more reliable than Octane for volumes, whereas Octane has far better lighting, the volumes almost always need extensive denoising and I wasn't sure we'd have the render budget.
The project was rendered and composited in After Effects with ACES colour and further colour grading and retiming was done by John Griffin in DaVinci Fusion.
I also did the titles, the typeface and style totally stolen from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover - another long title it hurt to type out.
The film finally premiered at the museum in March 2022, five years after its inital conception. If that's not testament to perseverance, what is? It enjoyed a short exhibition at the museum and was entered into festivals later in 2022.
Dear Friend, I Can No Longer Hear Your Voice
Director/Producer: Anne-Marie Creamer
Producer: Gary Thomas at Animate Projects
Photogrammetry: John Griffin
CG Artist: Edmund Brown
Additional Modelling: Christian Nunez-Flores
Music: Verity Standen
Lyrics: Anne-Marie Creamer
For Sir John Soane’s Museum, London:
Louise Stewart, Head of Exhibitions
Erin McKellar, Assistant Curator of Exhibitions
Fiona Smith, Public Programmes Manager
Helen Dorey, Deputy Director & Inspectress
Sue Palmer, Archivist and Head of Library Services