The Secrets of Hillsong

The FX documentary series, The Secrets of Hillsong explores the scandals and criticisms of an American clout-priest and the Australian group’s religious founders he aligned with.

Our motivation for the concept and design of the episodic package came from the language of these franchised hype-churches, these digital revival tents. Where in the past spitting preachers were enough, now lights, lasers, LED panels and screens command the congregations.

We created a package primarily using in-camera, photographic effects. Real lasers, real smoke, real LED effects, real aberrations of light and lenses were captured and sequenced to deliver a predator and prey narrative, all in keeping with Sunday school traditions. Custom cut screens were intricately built to allow for novel transitions between cruciforms and live action plates. These screens echo the massive electronic onstage LED panels used by these church groups and also the low tech dividers of traditional church confessional booths. Further manipulations were performed with motorized acrylic and glass lens elements between live action plates and high output light setups. As the series exposes the charlatans as constructions, so too does this majority analog package we assembled for FX.

“You know there’s a lot of people wanting someone, to tell them what to do.”

Link to more stills, etc.

irregular8mm / 03

Once we got a handle on the irregular8mm technique in regards to color, lens, sprocket skipping, shutter angle, etc., the next step would be to figure a process for a reversal black and white emulation. But, that’s going to be much more difficult. In our minds, BW reversal 8mm is synonymous with hand processing which results in scrapes and cuts in soft emulsion when it’s wet and you’re cramming it in buckets between developers, bleach, and fixer.. How can you get the same physically scarred effects in camera? The point is to figure out a way to get these effects in one go, or at least 99% in camera before any shot assembly in post like traditional film with a telecine process. Not sure if we have the time to wrap our heads around that one right now.

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irregular8mm / 02

Non particular irregular8mm test shots. In camera Fuji digital. Unimportant subjects. Casual stuff trial-and-erroring more and less glass, more or less bounce, how much faux-sprocket skipping, focusing on flares, chasing that feeling of being inside those tiny viewfinders, reflex or otherwise. Shooting out of old S8 and reg8 cams sometimes felt like you were looking out of tiny well up at the sun with your fingers crossed that the fresh cartridge of Ektachrome wasn’t going to bind up and leave you 25 dollars poorer. Test shots here on unimportant scenes of how to reach into the past and pinch off a part of that feeling. Though, shooting this way, you don’t have to wait a month for the Kodak E6 kit to arrive by mail to pick up at Dot Dotsons on Willamette St. so you can sleep while the open chemicals dance on your brain in your bedroom hand-process-DIY-super8-darkroom/lab in 1990’s Eugene, Oregon. Oh, that was just us? Was it the color developer that was most toxic? Had to be the chems in the glass bottles and not the plastics. A little color developer never hurt no one.

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Irregular8mm / 01

Test shots from our irregular8mm in-camera mechanical emulation of nikon and quarz 8mm film cameras. Not a software setup, but a physical and mechanical endeavor towards capturing a particular aesthetic using Fuji digital cameras and profiles to get footage straight out of camera, echoing light leaks, bad sprockets, jammed cartridges, and non-pin registered gates. A random sampling of one of many camera tests. Don’t know if anybody cares about this BTS stuff, but nearly every project we win or lose has us coming up with new ways of making sights and sounds. Maybe we’ll post more 🤷‍♀️ 🤷‍♂️ Or maybe it’s boring and niche.

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Kindly asked by FX to package season 5 of their anthology series Cake, we thought of all the ways you get CAKE in your body. You don’t just watch it with your cry-balls, but you absorb it through your sound lobes, your feets, your dainty digits, your beaks, and your teefies. Like a forced feeding of unique content you innocently pretend not to want, this CAKE is getting in.

Building out these ideas into physical realities resulted in a series of automated constructions we termed ‘Mechanicakes’. We built numerous body parts to interact with novel CAKE shapes in distinct fashion. Lifecasts were duplicated from silicon molds, hand sculpted appendages made from foam, and two part epoxy wonders were chemically brought into existence and combined with simple mechanized workings to loop actions over and over. Just FYI, we left out the automated butt cheeks to keep everything safe for work and safe for client, but know we were thinking of you.

Ten episodes, a Mechanicake for each episode. A metric cake-ton of deliverables.

The Mechanicakes are real mechanical constructions built, automated and photographed in the meat-space. Further post manipulations drive the resulting devices into the Venn diagram overlap of motion design.

Hey, we made the music, too.  Built from field recorded percussion, we took domestic items like silverware shakes, table top thumps, dough punches, güiro styled knife serrations, mixer motor noises, and other CAKE making related sources for programming.  Additionally, these sources were used within granular synthesizers to create melodic tones and lush pads.

But Kaniel, Delly… Why is the song called Waterlanding? What’s that got to do with CAKE?  Well, when we are invited to pitch creative ideas on a project, many concepts are left behind. One idea was a sentient bundt cake that soared above the clouds. With deadpan expression, it interacted with sweeping vistas and airline ephemera. With CAKE air travel on the brain, and needing a file name, Waterlanding was one of many proposed music directions. Filenames are weird.

Link to: Individual Episode Main Titles + Bumps Videos & Stills
Link to Process & Gifs: All Things CAKE