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Advantageous (2015)
Creating a Science Fiction Film on a low-budget
13 August 2015
Making a believable science fiction film is hard. Making a believable science fiction film on a low-budget is nearly impossible. Well at least it used to be until director Jennifer Phang came along and proved otherwise in her Sundance festival hit, Advantageous. Phang was able to create a futuristic world with minimum visual effects by altering mundane human perception. There are three important techniques she uses to achieve this effect.

The first is the deceleration of time for background objects while objects in the foreground continue to move at a regular speed. This mixture of various speeds becomes a motif for understanding the futuristic world she presents to the audience.

The second technique is the compression of space achieved by using telephoto and zoom lenses. The human eye perceives depth of field in three dimensions. Objects farther away are small and objects closer to us are big. This is normally replicated with a dolly shot in films where the camera physically tracks forwards or backwards. However, in Advantageous, the zoom lens is used to compress the space in front of us. The camera stays still and we simply get closer to the subject. This causes a flattening of space to the point our eyes are no longer able to perceive the distance between the foreground objects and background objects.

The third technique Phang uses to create a believable science fiction world is silence. Yes I talk about silence a lot, but it does wonders. Our ears are not used to hearing complete and utter silence. In every moment, even at the quietest moments, we are subjected to some level of constant ambient noise. Whether it's coming from the Air Conditioner, the Fridge, the Wind, there's always something preventing us from experiencing complete silence. However, when we do finally get the chance and we see a character on a big screen screaming and crying in complete silence, our ears are hit with a new level of sensory experience. The new sensory experience is foreign to our ears and forces the audience to take the character he or she is watching out of his assumption of the character's world. This means, the audience finally recognizes that the character he or she is watching does not have the same sensory understanding of the world as he or she does.

These three techniques were vital in Phang's ability to successfully create a sophisticated and at the same time genuine science fiction world on a low-budget.
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