Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

May 9, 2012 |  by  |  Case Study

James Shaw published a making-of the Istanbul Seaport project by Squint Opera on his blog back in January, and it was a great read… especially with the breakdown videos attached to it. I rarely dealt with such scale and never in motion, so I was fascinated by the result and intrigued about the process behind the scenes that took place to get this done. How does one (a team actually) get started with this… manage it… and so on. I asked James Shaw & Nicholas Taylor about it, and they kindly offered their valuable insight.

752 view06 v011 extended resize mini thumb Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

About Squint Opera and the Film

Squint/Opera offers full design and digital production services across moving and still image, interactive design and editorial content for all marketing collateral. They have built their reputation on their ability to communicate complex and compelling narratives and construct believable spaces, with a strong sense of atmosphere and occasion. Squint Opera have studios in London, Istanbul, Melbourne, Abu Dhabi and Sao Paulo.

The Istanbul Seaport film was Directed by Nick Taylor of Squint Opera and shows a local fisherman encountering an ocean liner en route to the new seaport development which grows out of the water before his eyes, before he samples what this new island has to offer.

The team at Squint Opera include
  • Lead 3D: James Shaw
  • 3D Team: Steven Fayers, Dan Fells, Bruce Garnham, Nic Hamilton, Jack Hunter
  • Lead Compositing & Grading: Rory Lowe
  • Motion Graphics: Jack Hunter, James Merry

Behind the scenes…

Before you dive in, do read the blog post that started it all on James’s blog. This article / interview is more of a follow-up on the things you will read there…

Istanbul Seaport – The Making Of / James Shaw – Blog

Now that you are up to speed…

Go ahead!

752 view01 v13 resize mini thumb Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

Ronen : The first thing I would be interesting to know about is how do you even get started on a project like the Istanbul Seaport?

James : In the initial contact with the client we discuss what they want out of the project and possible ideas and information they want to see. From this we start to draft up a storyboard, trying to encompass their ideas and come up with a storyline that might complement those ideas. These idea sessions often take place downstairs in the Doodle bar over several cups of coffee, and are usually quite a fun way of collaboratively coming up with storylines.

Storylines within our animations are an important part of Squint Opera’s work and give an all important character and flow within the films. It’s also a good time to set pace, look at timings overall, lighting, graphic element integration, whether it all fits within budget, and generally plan the thing out. It is this stage that sets up the rest of the film process. This static storyboard is then taken to the clients and discussed to see whether everything fits well and that they are happy with it.

At this stage this is only really sketching and after this point we start to think about possible locations for these shots to be taken. In the case of Seaport we wanted to shoot in location to get a real, local feel. Nick talked with the client about possible locations and a number were set.

Often things like Google street view or Google Earth can be used to get a rough idea of what these places might look like and offer for a shoot. Because we were on a limited budget we decided to do the shoot over some places in Istanbul within a 30 hour period, so it was a high stress, exhausting time for all. It always helps to have different people concentrate on different aspects during these times, so Director to concentrate on the story overall, Director of Photography (DOP) to get the lighting and technicalities of the filming correct, and VFX supervisor to take measurements of everything to translate into the CG environments and HDR images to light them.

752 view02 v010 resize mini thumb Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

Nick : A film is always a collaboration between us and the client. They are paying money with a certain end in mind and we want to make good movies and have fun doing them. With some clients the two are mutually exclusive but others are more up for it.

In the initial pitch for the film I presented a montage of a cruise ship flying over the main shopping street in Istanbul. This went down well which set a good precedent for the rest of the film. The clients needs in such a project are about showcasing the things on offer to potential investors and partners, namely floor space for hotels, malls and offices, apartments, etc. Generally quite boring and standard fodder but has to be well represented and there was literally a list of spaces that needed to be shown.

The nicer thing was that it had to be clearly set in Istanbul, which is a very beautiful and lively place. We got around the problem of having a central character walking around the essentially mundane place in a state of awe by having the place come out of the sea in front of his eyes so that to him it is incredible and he is not sure that it is real, and at this point he just goes on a fantasy shopping spree ticking off the clients check list of spaces. Once we had all the shots more ore less agreed it was about hunting for ways to do them and locations to do them in.

Fullscreen capture 09052012 115838 thumb Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

We decided early on that our film was to be a series of locked shots (no camera movement) to make the thing easier/cheaper, no cranes or dolly tracks and much easier in post. The flying ship shots were easier to plan and didn’t change much from the earliest storyboards. The growing scenes were predominantly all 3D. There was the shopping trip for which we did most of it entirely in camera but the tricky shots were the ones where we had to get the character and his boat into shots that were clearly located in their development. We tried to cut the number of these shots as much as possible but these are the shots that the clients really wanted icon wink Istanbul Seaport by Squint Opera

Here the initial storyboard we made…


the wires are not that exciting tbh.


also the 'shopping reverse animation' was done with a series of controlled rayfire explosions of 3d shops filled up with random objects, negative gravity and a curve on the timescale to get the timing whip. ended up easier than manual animation.




What catches the Attention of this whole Project is the way they have carried out the process of Finishing up the project and the end product to the Client is Just so superb :) 

Though would really love to have an Workflow Some Wires of the Whole Project @ronenbekerman  :)


I've been a fan since i saw CHIPS video made for will alsop :)

excellent work as always.would like to know how many man hours went in to making this video?


keep up the good work ;)

Pedro Fernandez
Pedro Fernandez

Great work,had a chance to see them at 3ds London,let's not forget the micro creative hub which is battersea (Vyonyx are neighbours,shout out and props to that awesome team)

Hai Minh Banh
Hai Minh Banh

Amazing to see it turns out like this. Still keep the very initial 2d concept of this project. Awesome work!

Muhammed Baykul
Muhammed Baykul

how 3 G artist draw wonderful,like that?:(I want to draw like that but i dont know how.

Christian Miranda
Christian Miranda

Excellent work! It´s great to see archviz films with larger and larger productions. Congrats to Squint Opera for expanding the borders of this field!

I was really interested in the pre-production, planning of the shots and in the details of the production itself. This article along with the making of on James Shaw´s blog have answered most of my questions. Great work on the article, Ronen!

Saleh Okby
Saleh Okby

i like it alot. but is it a real project or just an own project

ronenbekerman moderator

I still have lots of questions regarding this project, but I'll set the stage for all of you to ask some too ;) So go ahead...

Recent Posts
PETER GUTHRIE HDRI Skies Submitted Image Winner / Maciej Kozlowski

PETER GUTHRIE HDRI Skies Submitted Image Winner / Maciej Kozlowski

10/18/2014  |  No Comments

Congratulations to Maciej Kozlowski for winning the second stage of the August 2014 PETER GUTHRIE HDRi Skies giveaway! During the month of... more

Designconnected Submitted Image Winner / Alexander Nozadze

Designconnected Submitted Image Winner / Alexander Nozadze

10/14/2014  |  2 Comments

Congratulations to Alexander Nozadze for winning the second stage of the August 2014 DesignConnected giveaway! During the month of August... more

SOA #AcademyDay5 - Interview with MIR

SOA #AcademyDay5 – Interview with MIR

10/13/2014  |  21 Comments

I first interviewed Trond Greve Andersen & Mats Andersen, co-founders of Norway based architectural visualization studio MIR, back in March... more

SOA Academy Day #5 - The Gathering

SOA Academy Day #5 – The Gathering

10/07/2014  |  6 Comments

I'm seating at SOA's studio, as I write these lines, going over the recorded interviews with Roberto and and thinking... more

Venice, Round Number 5!

Venice, Round Number 5!

10/02/2014  |  2 Comments

October is here and so is the State of Art Academy Day #5. Years fly by fast for sure... it... more

Free Venice Loft's Dresser by Patric Verstraete

Free Venice Loft’s Dresser by Patric Verstraete

10/01/2014  |  6 Comments

In anticipation for SOA's Academy Day #5 taking place this weekend, Patric Verstraete embarked on a personal project titled "The... more