From Saturn with View

Nov 12th, 2013 | By | Category: Feature
copyright sv2studios

copyright sv2studios

The Greensboro film project, “In Saturn’s Rings” by Stephen van Vuuren, has a trajectory for cyberspace and it is about to be kick started into orbit.

The funding campaign begins this week and will run for 28 days in order to pay for the recording costs, global music rights and mastering fees totaling $37,000. If all goes well, van Vuuren plans to bring his space film to the Westover Church on January 17th to record two versions of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra conducted by Music Director Dmitry Sitkovetsky performing “Adagio for Strings.”

The major inspiration for this not-for-profit film, derives from the spectacular photographs sent back to Earth in 2004 from the Cassini-Huygens space probe. Images will also be used from the Hubble, Apollo, and Voyager missions.  Vuuren is utilizing photo-animatic techniques to put 1.2 million of these photos to motion, in order to simulate a journey through space.

“I think this project is more than just about In Saturn’s Rings. I think it is about the fact that you don’t have to go somewhere else to be able to put together a project.  It can be accomplished locally using the people and resources that are entirely here, and then it can be distributed and shared with the world,” said van Vuuren.

Vuuren’s odyssey began under the title “Outside In.” Looking for the most effective way to show off the marvelous photographs taken by Cassini, he made three short films that he has never shown.

“It just didn’t work and then one day I was listening to a trance-remix version of “Adagio for Strings” by Ferry Corsten in 2006, and I had this vision of a flying through space film set to music.”

Not knowing how to do that, it took some time for the local filmmaker to figure it out.

After a chance encounter in Las Vegas with James Hyder, from the LF Examiner, Van Vuuren was convinced that an IMAX project could be done. Then, he set off to compile the footage in his basement in his home in Greensboro. By using innovative ways of manipulating the photographs, he avoided the aid of computer-generated imagery. In the course of screening the footage to the IMAX industry, he received less than stellar feedback over the title “Outside In,” and therefore changed it accordingly to widen its appeal.

“Finally, in 2010, I figured it out and was technically able to render out some actual high-resolution 6k footage, said van Vuuren.”

Submitting one minute of the footage online, along with “Adagio for Strings” accompanying it, he says it went viral. The feedback of the footage along with the music had moved an overwhelming amount of people. Of course van Vuuren was thrilled to reach an audience, but now came the legal particulars of how to use “Adagio” since it was not a member of the public domain.

He explains, “Not only do you need the publishing rights to the song, but also the performance and synchronization rights.”

Enter Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Music Director and Conductor of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, who just happens to have played “Adagio for Strings” for the man who composed it, Samuel Barber.

“It is a match made in Heaven,” says Mr. van Vuuren.

“Kickstarter is the only way that we can really afford to do this, but with the fan support and the viral we have a good shot.  And because of the local angle, we think we are going to get the community excited about the fact that, not only is this groundbreaking film being made here and there has never been a photo-animation film like this ever made in the history of film; but it is going to have the score performed by the premier musicians in town.”

Premiering at the Westover Church seems to be the perfect venue. It has a seating capacity of 3200 and is located 100 yards from Vuuren’s own basement where he created the project. To do the recording properly, it would call for each individual musician to be recorded on an individual track. Westover talked to MIDAS, a UK company who specializes in audio mixing consoles, and they are donating a 96 multi-track performance console. It will work in conjunction with the existing MIDAS console that Westover currently has. This has made a huge difference financially, shaving the costs of recording considerably.

BIG & Digital are the distributors who expect to bring this exciting movie to giant screens in early 2014.

Stephen van Vuuren’s initial impulse to make this film was to shed light on this fascinating subject that people seemed disinterested in as a whole. As Carl Sagan would say: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

I asked van Vuuren why he thought the public lacked interest over such universally amazing events.

“I think that there are a few different reasons.  One is that, if there is not a human out there, then we kind of have difficulty having an emotional attachment to it. So, that is a lot of the reasons that I decided to do the film the way that I did.”

Providing a first-person perspective he hopes to immerse the viewer in the images by giving them the impression that they are actually there.  Also, the choice of traditional music over electronic, he believes will create a deeper emotional attachment between the viewer and the screen.

Vuuren explains, “With an 8-story screen you’ll feel like you are flying through it, the humanity in the film is through the music and that’s my hope. And that when people experience these images in that way, they’re going to feel that sense of why aren’t people out there? Why are we not exploring?  You know this is so beautiful and so emotionally powerful when I see it. And the perspective of seeing it and then seeing Earth from that perspective. I think that was what was missing from the initial Cassini arrival, that people just couldn’t connect Earth to Saturn.”

“I hope In Saturn’s Rings, is just one of many things that happen like this (in Greensboro), that people start to believe, yes; this is the place where we can do this stuff.”

You can follow Stephen’s project at

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