The main character in the frame-by-frame short animation is only 300 microns in height or 0.3 millimeters. That’s about as large as a grain of sand, which is almost imperceptible to the human eye.
The scale of production is so tiny that director Tibo Pinsard had to use a scanning electron microscope (SEM) developed at the FEMTO-ST Institute in Besançon, France.
SEMs use a specific set of coils to scan the beam in a raster-like pattern and use the electrons that are reflected or knocked off the near-surface region of a sample to form an image
In daily scientific work, SEMs can be used in a variety of industrial, commercial, and research applications.
In order to give the impression of movement, the filmmakers made hundreds of these tiny 3D-printed figurines that eerily resemble David Bowie and carefully placed them inside a vacuum chamber where they were imaged frame by frame by the SEM.
The SEM’s camera records in greyscale, which coupled with the effects of electric charges paint a mysterious atmosphere.
It’s no coincidence, then, that the film was named Stardust Odyssey, a tribute to Bowie as well as to the fact that the miniatures are the size of dust particles.
Stardust Odyssey was co-produced by the French movie company Darrowan Prod, the Université de Franche-Comté represented by the FEMTO-ST Institute and the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.