The last major epidemic of the bubonic plague in England is known as The Great Plague of 1665. It happened at the tail-end of a 400 year long pandemic where pockets of plagues threatened to wipe out Europe with illness and disease. The Great Plague succeeded in killing an estimated 100,000 people, nearly 20% of London’s population at the time.
This is the inspiration behind, Miasmatic, a short film created by Claire and Maxime of Menilmonde. Miasma was a theory that these diseases, such as Black Death and the bubonic plagues, were caused by “bad air.” Plague doctors during that time period would wear bird-like masks with beaks and cover themselves head-to-toe to protect them from these airborne diseases. The beaks would be filled with herbs, such as lavender, to counter the “evil” smells of miasma and protect them from getting infected.
In this 5 minute film, the streets of London were digitally emptied of people, cars, and signs of life (except glimpses of a mysterious plague doctor figure that will surely appear in my nightmares tonight). Filming took place this past October and it took 72 to capture all the footage. To edit all the activity out of each scene, the pair used Photoshop Creative Cloud and Sony Vegas Pro 12, exercised much patience (with each shot taking up to 8 hours to “empty the streets,”) and according to the pair, emotional and psychological support from their two pet bunnies.
The film is cleverly edited with images of a plague doctor spliced in, screen static and eerie music to complete the effect, making this very clever video one you shouldn’t watch in the dark before bedtime.
Claire and Max share a detailed explanation of how they made this film on their website, including “Anti-Miasmatic,” which shows the actual footage before the people were extracted set to happy Disney music, giving the entire film a very different feel. It will also make you appreciate the amount of work that actually went into digitally altering the streets of London into a barren wasteland straight from the set of the Walking Dead…minus the moaning zombies (add scary bird doctor).
If you want to delve deeper into the making of Miasmatic, they also provide a tutorial showing the step-by-step post process involved. It’s all in French, so you can enjoy listening to the tutorial in the language of love, while reading the subtitles.