The Adam Project tells the story of time-traveling pilot, Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds), and his decision to go back in time and team up with his younger, past-self to save the future. Since The Adam Project is heavily involved in the theory and concept of time travel, our team at Perception came aboard for a four week consultation to help conceptualize how different aspects of time travel and manipulation could be visualized in this film.


Visualizing Time Travel

Conceptualization is a vital step in the filmmaking process. Development of a concept or thought will help make the final product much more rich and full of backstory. Some ideas, like time, are more abstract than others and need a careful hand to help figure out a clean, exciting, and unique way to make these ideas seem real and tangible. This is where our team at Perception came in.

We worked with Director Shawn Levy and the VFX team early in the film’s production to bring their ideas and thoughts revolving around time to life. We helped crack the ideas of how to portray certain effects while laying the framework for what these effects could look like in the film. Essentially, our team was world-building and creating the basis of what these concepts could eventually turn out to be. Our visualizations were then sent to other VFX vendors to serve as reference material and inspiration to help them bring their own final effects and the director’s vision into the film.


Research and Inspiration

Much of our inspiration for our concepts were rooted in the worlds of science and math. Like all of the design work we do for both film and technology, we wanted our designs to come from actual research, theories, and academic findings. Everything we create should feel real, or as if it could become real overtime. Through our careful research, we began finding pieces of data visualization, gesture based work, and more to help us manifest how the manipulation of time could appear physically. Some pieces that really stood out to us were ripple effects, tendrils, and magnets and magnetic forces.


The Mag-Cyl Weapon

The Mag-Cyl weapon is a weapon used to cause people to disappear in time with a single strike. The Mag-Cyl weapon is a telescoping weapon, so it expands into a larger staff than it initially appears. We helped develop the appearance of this weapon, as well as how it could expand and the aura it radiates.

The most important aspect of this weapon was that it should not feel magical and that its look, feel, and function should be as practical as possible. The larger staff had to feel like it could really fit inside of the original cylinder. We experimented with different industrial designs and energy emissions to perfect this unique and functional weapon.


The Weapon’s Movement

One effect we conceptualized was the movement of the Mag-Cyl weapon. When this weapon moves around, what kind of trail or effects would radiate from it? This question was the main basis behind everything we crafted.

Even though the Mag-Cyl weapon is a familiar looking element, we wanted the effect to feel very distinct and unique to this film. We experimented with different wavelengths, ripples, and even the effects of air resistance and velocity to help create this effect.


The BYE Effect

The BYE Effect is another effect emitted from the Mag-Cyl weapon. Our team helped figure out what this effect would look like and how it would ripple through the human body. The core concept was to drive everything with as much logic as possible. This isn’t just an effect that comes from a weapon, it’s using the instability of time travel to make people disappear into time itself. They are getting destroyed in a time displacement and that idea was incredibly interesting fuel for our concepts. We looked for ways to play with the idea that a person could disintegrate, but we did it through the use of waves and tendrils. These waves and tendrils are actually emblematic of the way time separates or branches. It’s shattering this person across multiple planes of reality, and that was the basis for our visualization.


Time Wormhole

Our team also visualized how a wormhole that helps Adam travel through time would look. We tested different colors, patterns, and motions to make up this wormhole effect. One concept we played with was the idea that this wormhole would be made up of memories or people from the character’s life, symbolizing that they are not only traveling through time, but traveling through their time.


It was an honor to work with our friends at Netflix for the conceptualization of so many facets of The Adam Project. Our team loves diving deep into how abstract concepts could work and function practically, so taking on this challenge was incredibly fascinating and riveting. You can stream The Adam Project on Netflix!