Film Review: 8Bits

This past summer, I attended the Brooklyn Short Film Festival and had the privilege to see the animated short film “8Bits,” directed by Valerie Amirault, Jean Delaunay, Sarah Laufer, and Benjamin Mattem.

A vivid take on early forms of video games, the film centers on an average Joe main character clad in underwear, pistol in one hand and cigarette in the other. The audience follows the man as he calmly makes his way into a loud business party and suddenly challenges the main tough business man in the room, by shooting a bullet to disrupt the party. The plot takes the viewer on a colorful whirlwind thriller as the average Joe fights the tycoon to stop him from fully draining the life of an innocent girl. With undertones of criticism on society, mixed with nostalgia for the simplicity of early video game forms, the film takes the audience into a virtual world of classic 8-bit video game style, effects, and story-line in which the simple everyday man is victorious over the huge, wealthy new wave of entertainment.

What caught my attention the most wasn’t the clever underlying meaning of the film or the stunning  animation — it was the magnificent sound design. Dialogue within the film was scarce, and if the film were stripped of its background sounds and effects, the magic and power of the animation video-game styled film would be completely lost.

One of the sound designers for “8Bits, Nikola Chapelle explained, “I had to make every little sound effect, folly, ambiance noise, from scratch or on my computer. The sound design was inspired by early versions of video games. All the sounds of the characters running or fighting or shooting at each other, all the effects of glass breaking, the sounds as they gained or lost life points- it was all created to transform the film into an early version 8-bit video game. When you see the characters running, you hear sounds similar to those of Super Mario Bros. At the beginning the film opens up with digital computer interaction noise and sounds of bits, then throughout the middle it evolves into a more complex and modern video game sound effects and once again, at the end of the film, the sound design returns to the most basic forms of pinball machine sounds.” Indeed, the sound design of the film takes the viewer on a digital adventure into the life of the animated characters.

Within two weeks of its release online, the film reached 500,000 views and has been screened at multiple film festivals throughout the country, including Sundance. Luckily, the short film is available for free on the official film website, so everyone can view this truly well-crafted and inspired film!

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