Jesus‘ Psychedelic Space Journey: Immortalys

For the trailer for Ivan Torrent’s new studio album, David Ariew sends iridescent sea creatures into space.

by Meleah Maynard

David Ariew, a San Diego-based 3D generalist, is someone who likes to work under pressure and also has enough imagination to master all kinds of creative challenges. Spanish artist Ivan Torrent emailed David wanting to know if he would create a trailer for his second studio album Immortalys ( Since David had missed all of Ivan’s previous mails he only had three weeks production time left – but he still didn’t hesitate to take the job.

Fortunately, the cooperation between Ariew and Torrent, who had already gathered excellent reference images. including fantastic cover art by the Venezuelan graphic artist Carlow Quevedo, worked well. Ariew primarily used Cinema 4D and Octane as well as a pre-animated whale from Turbosquid to create an aesthetically interesting trailer in which an iridescent whale travels through a magical universe to a futuristic city in the clouds.

We spoke with Ariew about the trailer’s creation and how his long hair together with his growing passion for publishing Octane tutorials have earned him the name Octane Jesus.

O. K., let’s start with the Octane Jesus thing. How did that develop?
David: I was creating Octane tutorials together with EJ Hassenfratz and they somehow became increasingly popular. More and more people saw me and some started calling me Octane Jesus. Some also said that I looked like Grizzly Adams. I had no idea who this was so I decided to stick with Octane Jesus because I am definitely an Octane evangelist. I like to explain things and be creative at the same time, which goes hand-in-hand for me. Just take a look at this tutorial:

What was the next step after you saw Ivan Torrent’s reference images?
David: Ivan had thousands of ideas swirling in his head even without any reference images and an entire Dropbox folder full of videos that he had collected. He then went on to explain to me how he wanted the whale to float so it appears gigantic. I was thrilled that he had so many ideas but was also a little intimidated. I thought he would expect the same image quality and thought, ‘OK, what you’re showing me here was done by a thousand artists over the course of an entire year and I’m a lone ranger with three weeks’ time.’ His expectations, however, proved to be really down-to-earth and the tight deadline turned out to be an advantage because we could let our imaginations run wild and reduce them to the essential elements.
Instead of having the whale burst out of the water, I suggested to Ivan that we should let its journey begin in space. This was much simpler and still looked really cool. He agreed. Ivan was the perfect client. He had a bunch of ideas but also had realistic expectations – and when I created something he liked he was really enthusiastic! He had worked two years on his album and making the trailer was a very emotional experience for him. We both had the same goal: to make the coolest video possible in three weeks. I wish I could have worked on it for a whole year – he was a great art director!

Tell us a little about the scene in which the whale reaches the city in the clouds.
As soon as it reached the city you can see a type of signal buoy in one of the buildings that emits the same energy as the whale. Ivan wanted to create a connection with the cyan-colored glow on the album cover so I applied it to the whales, the buoy, the windows and the particles in the final settings. The scene with the transition from space to the city in the clouds was one of the biggest challenges and I’d like to mention that my fiancé Chelsea Starling was a great help. She was very interested in the project and her suggestions inspired me to work much more intensely on many shots. I had stitched two camera moves, for example, and she said that, although it looked good, it would be much better if I added the city on the horizon so the viewer can get a taste of what’s to come.

Where did you create the cloud scenes?
David: For the first half of the trailer I used VDB Mega Pack, which I had borrowed from my buddy Mitch Myer, for all clouds. The only exception was the thin layer of fog in the background, which I had created several months earlier for a tour intro for Katy Perry. In the second half of the trailer, the golden city over the clouds, I used Octane’s Fog Volume objects to create the clouds. To prevent the clouds from looking computer-generated, I created a second Volume object with very patchy clouds that were positioned just outside of the depth of field to break up the contour of the clouds to make them look more realistic.

How did you create the whale’s magical shimmer?
David: Because of the tight deadline, I was forced to take several shortcuts – starting with buying a whale at Turbosquid. This ended up working really well. I didn’t use the whale’s texture maps. Ivan wanted to have the glow to come from beneath the whale’s skin so I did a lot of experimenting and finally decided to use Trapcode Form in After Effects to apply an animated texture to the whale. I created the gold flakes and the iridescent look in Octane and I used the Octane Thinfilm shader to create the shimmer. I love the extremely green or cyan-colored highlight on the whale’s contours. It’s a really magical, mermaid-like look and also reflect the colors on Ivan’s album.

How did you create the city?
I used a kit from Kitbash 3D. The kit’s elements all have the same style and I used the Art Deco Kit. The kits are very affordable for what you get – a few hundred dollars will get you a complete city that you can assemble, texture and light. I created my city almost symmetrical, with the bridge and main building as core elements through which I could fly the camera and then pull up. The buildings in the background are asymmetrical and rather scattered rather than placed manually but I really liked the irregularity. This mass of background buildings added a nice level of additional detail and helped make the city look huge.
Here you can take a look at David’s KitBash 3D tutorial:

How did you create the closing credits?
avid: The closing credits had to be legible, of course. The way I had lighted the scene, however, didn’t make this possible so I had to find a solution to set the typography off the background. I ended up widening the aperture a lot to create a very low depth of field, which would only let the text appear in focus. At the same time, I reduced the background illumination, which brought out the text even more. If you look closely at the top of the scene, you will see that I used several small light sources in front of and between the text elements.

I wanted the closing credits to have the same epic, deep mood as the album’s music. The piece with the deep rumbling and the whale song was so inspiring. It was a lot of fun to animate! Ivan’s music is really unique and it was really cool working with someone who can add fantastic sound design elements and adapt the music to match the imagery. This was a special cooperation and it made the project to something very special as well.

Meleah Maynard is a freelance journalist and author based in Minneapolis, MN

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