The Film that never came to be

Blog Post created by 1-4EQZK9 on Dec 13, 2013

Back in the spring of 2011, on the heels of the successful showing of Dream to Design at SWW2011 in San Antonio, a new initiative was launched to do a next-in-a-series of short films. I’ve always enjoyed using SolidWorks to promote inspirational videos and for a long time I had a script that I was working on to tell the story of a physicist / SolidWorks user who while working late one night, dreams about discovering and inventing the strongest material known to man. The material would come to be known as “Nanovim” and it would be commercialized to the point where it would make the Space Elevator, popularized by Arthur C. Clark's novel "Fountains of Paradise" a reality.

The protagonist inventor would then travel to space on the space elevator to witness the inauguration of the LANSE (Large Array Network Solar Emitter) which would eventually provide clean, limitless power to earth and eliminate hunger, poverty human strife – well you get the picture… After all, it is a dream and our protagonist does wake up eventually.


Supported by Product Marketing, I wrote and revisit the script with the help of Chin-Loo Lam and live action sequences were shot a Cramer Studios in Norwood MA  in the summer of 2011 and post production was that summer and fall. Jay Patternson, a fellow SW Product Definition Specialist at the time was the technical consultant. Because of budgetary constraints that year for SWW, the film was never finished.  I contributed and collaborated with Greg Leuenberger, of Sabertooth productions, who help with the CGI on the first film (Dream to Design) and Paul McCrorey of McCrorey Digital to do the extensive CGI for the film.  Anna Wood of Renderbay provided her render farm to do rendering and Andy Brown also helped out with modeling. We accomplished approximately 75% of the post production. A good number of the space ships and sets were conceptualized in SolidWorks and then finished in Modo and all animation was done in Modo and Adobe After Effects.


I had a lot of fun working on this with Paul and Greg, and some of the work they we did together culminated in some of the most complex models I’ve seen created – especially the space station and solar array.  Here is just a short sample of a sequence. You can view the entire rough cut test of the film here. Many of the scenes are not yet rendered and most of them are unfinished but it gives an idea of where the story goes.


A few fun facts:

  • The protagonist’s workplace, the building shown at dusk at the beginning of the film is actually our Waltham build (just after we moved in.)
  • At 00:25 there is an Easter egg that establishes the time frame of the film, can you spot it?
  • At 00:50 the idea here is in the near future SW designer would be able to do simulation on a molecular level and with a massive amount of cloud computing resources.
  • FOS=1000 I think that says it all…
  • The Word NanoVim comes from the combination of Nano (Micro) and Vim (Latin for Force)
  • At 2:00 the scale model shown with the government officals and our protagonist was designed in SW and then 3D printed by Jeremy Luchini on a Stratasys printer.
  • At 2:52 – The design of the Space Elevator vehicle is such that the cabin is on top while a heat shield is on the bottom (and cargo hold in the mid section) so that in the last part of the trip fast gravity reentry would be possible. Three arms that extend from the vehicle are the conveyors for crawling up the 3 flat-ribbon Nanovim cables.
  • At 3:38 the entire space elevator cabin is CG, created rendered and animated by Paul, with the exception of the actors and the recliners that they were seated in.
  • At 3:50, meteor termination site; the idea, per Clark's Vision is that if a space elevator could work, it would need to be tethered to a counterweight positioned 22,000 miles above the earth. A meteor which is positioned into geosynchronous  orbit would suffice as that anchor but also be a manufacturing site for the raw material “NanoVim” (at 4:08.) So the elevator actually originates from the meteor and is built down to the earth termination site where the Elevator vehicle first departed.
  • At 4:11 – We had to establish that after arriving at the meteor, our protagonist would travel from the meteor to the space station so that he could witness the ignition of the LANSE. This was a fun shot for me since I’m a hugh BSG (Battle Star Galactia) fan and wanted to do a hand-held look from space which is such a signature element of BSG. I spent months figuring out how they (Lightwave guys that did the CGI for BSG) did this effect. What finally worked for me was to shoot live video of a posted note against a wall with my wife’s canon power shot and then use the overlay of that in After Effects to assign “Tracking” to move (shake)the original CGI frames around.
  • At 4:36 - the space station is a very detailed Modo model with >50M polys and hundreds of custom textures. The  hundreds of view portals reveal fully modeled rooms with "Baked-in" textures. There were three different room versions built and then distributed about the hull of the space station. Although there is a lot of detail, much of it is bump map textures to create the intricate look. the design of this station is an updated version of the space station that was created for the "Better Products for the future video" shown at SWW2007.
  • At 4:42 – this was to be our “big reveal” shot where the viewer first discovers the real reason for the protagonist traveling to space: the Large Array Network Solar Emitter. The shot is not rendered but you can get a feel for the massive detail (in stills below) that Paul and I put into the space station and array.
  • At 4:52 – the Array is built in space and is comprised of thousands of motorized mirror/reflectors which focus on a central collecting tower and transfer an energy beam down to an earth-based collector site and converted to electricity.
  • At 6:11 – I wanted to establish the event from an earth based perspective also.  As a passer-by driving at dusk, witnesses the energy beam coming down to earth. This scene is done entirely in After Effects with still image content.
  • At 6:21 – the protagonist back in the real world - the green screen would eventually show that his present day simulation had succeeded and all was well.


Following are some HD stills from the post-production (click on them to enlarge)


before and after of GenMo building.jpg

Live film of our 175 Water building on Waltham campus and with 3D CGI sign added by Mark B.


Future SW simulation screen (0-00-04-02).jpg

The future of SolidWorks Simulation by Mark B.


practice nanovim test composite.jpg

Practical test for Nanovim  live action sequence and CGI added by Greg L.

Scene 14 (00000).jpg

Live action testing equipment closeup of Nanovim practical test with CGI screen added - Cramer and Mark B.

government meeting composite.jpg

Live action sequence of protogonist meeting government officals and Space Elevator scale model - Cramer and Mark B.

ariel view of site3.jpg

Daylight test of ground-based Termination site - no textures - Mark B.

potagonist view.JPG

Lighting test (no textures) to establish size and scale of ground based termination site - Mark B

elevator cabin composite.jpg

Live action sequence of Space Elevator Cabin and with CGI added  - Paul M.

meteor site.jpg

Space Elevator - Meteor Termination Site - Greg L.

nanovim factory composite.jpg

Live action sequence of NanoVim factory and CGI added - Greg L.

Scene 49 - station identifier- (0-00-02-12).jpg

closeup of space station 5 identifier - Mark B.

Scene48a -  eye candy (0-00-04-06).jpg\

Space Station 5 - Mark B.

scene47 - shuttle approaches space dock (0-00-00-18).jpg

Docking sequence of Shuttle with Space Station - Mark B.


Closeup of Space Station 5 before reveal of LANSE - Paul M.


Protagonist arrving at Space Station 5 dock - Mark B.

LANSE reveal.jpg

Reveal of LANSE (Large Array Network Solar Emitter) - Paul M.


Closeup over topside of LANSE - Paul M.


Reactor (bottomside) of LANSE - Paul M.

arrary reactor.jpg

Ignition of LANSE - Paul M.