In Nihilo (Maria Spahn, Thuy Nguyen): transforming virtual materials to concretize ideas

In fashion, we’re always very keen to explore the work of seamstresses; they are the ones who sublime the vision of a designer. With the booming of digital, new crafts are opening: they are magicians with computers and cameras; they amplify the dream machine of creative industries.

We met the two founders of In Nihilo in Paris. A new territory of inspiration between arts, new technologies and storytelling.

 

 

Your job, for the uninitiated, what is it?

 To give a common designation to our activities, I would say that we image the needs of our customers. This stretches from space design, 3d animations, as much as corporate visual creations and video-art installations. We work for fashion industry, events, exhibitions and private individuals.

 

Who does what in your tandem?

 Translating the abstract ideas of our customers into image always means stimulating our creativity conjointly and find a new balance in our duo.

Coming from theater scenography, Maria is particularly sensitive and competent for all aspects of space, sound, and the merger of these dimensions.

She takes care of set design, 3D animation, and sometimes she creates the musical arrangements.

Thuy, by her training as photographer, is particularly attentive to framing 2D images, creating the composition and to accomplish the narrative. She takes care of photos and videos, from filming to editing.

 

In nihilo, why this name?

 “Ex nihilo” means creating out of nothing. For some, it is only God who creates ex nihilo. We, modestly, create “in nihilo.” We are not starting from scratch, we transform virtual material to render ideas tangible. Whether in 3D animation or the creation of video content, we handle primarily pixels. This explains “in nihilo”, a play with words to express two ideas: creation and virtuality.

You worked for Bureau Betak: strong memories of this adventure?

 We are impressed by Alexandre’s ability to consistently reinvent himself. He has a very modern approach to design. He is someone very sensitive to shapes, colors, and materials. He is very specific on the use of lights and on staging ideas. Alexandre de Betak is certainly one of the most creative people we encountered.
It is a great adventure to work with the entire production team of Bureau Betak, an enormous pleasure to travel around the world, to confront us with different local cultures through our work, and to rise above our distinctions to arrive at the end of a project. This certainly remains an unforgettable experience.

What are the creations, you are most proud of?

 There are no creations that deserve being singled out in particular.

What drives us first of all is that every project provides an opportunity to learn again and again, to renew ourselves, and to escape repetition as far as possible.

Perhaps a recent example of a project that has enchanted us is that for the bicentenary of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Karlsruhe. It was to tell the history of this institution, from its origins to today, with very abstract 3D animations. We had total freedom of creative proposals, which is very enjoyable when working for an institution.

Creative industries are undergoing a transformation with the digital: how do you see the market evolve in the coming years?

 In our sector, we are at the heart of digital, first by our tools, but also by the particular form that characterizes our creations.

Following our different backgrounds, we initially were trained in more traditional techniques such as assembling theatre design models out of cardboard, or developing films in darkrooms.

But soon, we were sensitive to cultural and social changes and exploited the extraordinary offer of new technologies to develop our expertise.

In our business, everything evolves very quickly, so it’s a must to keep yourself informed. We permanantly have to adapt and form ourselves to stimulate and renew our creativity.

Digital is a modern creed, but for us it is important not to become a slave of it. What counts most is content, otherwise it would be an abuse of technology to hide the paucity of ideas.

Take the example of video mapping that we see more and more. The video projections on buildings or other surfaces are often poor in content, we often see animated geometric shapes, certainly beautiful, but completely meaningless.

There is no doubt that innovations are continuous, especially in the digital, and we certainly cannot ignore them. However in our relationship between creation and technical developments, we always take into account the specificities of our customers. While offering our own visions, we are attentive to their culture and needs and then decide how to adopt novelties.

 

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