Talk about some on-screen minimalism.
In a bid to “explore the limits of filmmaking,” IBM has created a movie that takes a character and reduces him to his essence—literally.
“A Boy and His Atom,” a new stop-motion short from engineers at the technology firm, shows what seem to be a series of white dots that form the image of a boy bouncing a ball, jumping on a trampoline and otherwise wiling the day away. Except these aren't dots at all: they’re atoms, and IBM has manipulated these particles such that they give the impression of action and (slight) emotion. The movie will recall the children’s game Lite-Brite—or a really, really primitive version of claymation.
IBM has subtitled its ditty “the world’s smallest movie.” How small? Unmagnified, the scene measures just 45 nanometers by 25 nanometers. The images need to be blown up by a factor of 100 million just to be visible.
As you’ll see from the 94-second film, there is no great momentum or payoff to "Atom." But there is a definite arc to it; in its way, it's storytelling just like anything else at the multiplex.
The scientists who designed the film may be making a point about how cinema can strip down the world to its basics, or perhaps simply having fun with atomic particles. But they also may have a slyer message in mind. We're entering a season when the film world looks to up the interest level by going bigger, richer, louder, It turns out smaller works too.
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