This exciting production involved delving into the matter of neutron scattering, creating animations of atomic proportions and filming inside a nuclear reactor.

Neutron scattering is a very effective method to explore the structure of all kinds of matter, from proteins to aircraft wings. The Jülich Centre for Neutron Science (JCNS), based at renowed Forschungszentrum Jülich, develops the required instruments, has created a globe-spanning research infrastructure and is also involved in the actual science.

To capture this breadth of activities while also explaining the basic scientific principles in a ten-minute film proved to be quite a challenge: The first draft of the script could have easily filled a 45-minute documentary. Through many iterations the script then became leaner and focussed only on the most important aspects. We also had to strike a balance between the two main target groups: the general public and undergraduate science students.

Shooting neutrons

on set photosMost of the video footage was shot at the FRMII research reactor in Garching near Munich. It being a nuclear facility required a precise schedule because of all the security checks on the way in and the contamination checks on the way out. Filming for half a day in the actual reactor hall (with the “swimming pool”) was probably the most exciting part of the entire shoot for the production team.

Most time was spent, though, in the adjacent “neutron guide hall” where the experiments are set up. It’s a fascinating place, cramped with machinery for all kinds of neutron scattering methods, but there are easier locations to shoot in. The constant noise of pumps and cryostats was not exactly helpful in recording two interviews, and the 24/7 neon light ruled out dramatic lighting in many places. Then again, this is the environment in which the scientists work and the film does a good job in giving its viewers a realistic glimpse.

Animating neutrons

design testsAnimations play a big part in the film, explaining what neutrons are and how neutron scattering works. After a few design tests we settled for a “virtual photo studio look” which works very well both on the atomic scale and with macroscopic objects. Finally, a couple of extra elements were added to give a little hi-tech feel to the animations.

Coming up with a general design for the animations was a piece of cake compared to figuring out exactly how to portray the basic neutron scattering experiment. Should we zoom in on the interaction between neutrons and the sample on an atomic level? (No, because we don’t know the atomic structure at that stage - that’s why the experiment is being conducted.) What should a neutron beam look like? (Homogeneous.) These and other questions had to be answered before the actual production of the animation could start and it was here that a background in science came in most handy.

Editing neutrons

Editing is the art of chipping away at a block of footage until the final film is revealed. And with five hours of footage for a ten-minute piece there was a lot of chipping to do. Many great shots did not make it into the film, because of the strict time limit. But they are not lost forever because another goal of the project was to build a footage library for other video productions./a

Project details

Client
Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany
Goal
A new film about the Jülich Centre for Neutron Science, JCNS, aimed at the general public as well as science students.
Responsibilities
Script development, storyboard; shooting the main video footage; design and animation; editing and post production
Testimonial
"Working with Tricklabor was a pleasure, and the film is very well received. We would choose Tricklabor again!" - Angela Wenzik, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Written and directed by
Angela Wenzik, Thomas Gutberlet, Marc Hermann
Camera & Lighting
Christoph Ißmayer
Production Manager
Fabian Bollig
Narrators
Dulcie Smart, Ben Posener
Additional Images and Videos
Forschungs-Neutronenquelle Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II), Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, European Spallation Source (ESS) Scandinavia, Ralf Biehl, Maik Boltes, Martin Brodeck, Paul Kögerler, Aline Leon, Tobias Schrader, Werner Schweika, Wenzel Schürmann, Joachim Wuttke
Translation
Language Services, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH
Software
Fusion, Lightwave, Vegas, Modo, Syntheyes
Also on these video sites
YouTube (HD) | Vimeo (HD)
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