ShapeShifter, opens mysteriously on a dark car, speeding through the night on winding mountain roads. It is set to a haunting musical composition and prose poem, performed by Gabriel Byrne. Moments in, the car bursts into a new dimension - a dimension of dreams, creating a supernova-like explosion. The vehicle disintegrates into countless tiny bits that plunge into the variegated depths of space. The pieces plummet to the surface of a dreamy alien planet, where they alternately combine into fleet creatures representing the car's soul - a puma, a trio of sprinting antelope, a pair of swift-moving fish, and a massive bird of prey - all tumbling past a relentless explosion of flora booming to life. The film, concepted, created and finished entirely at Charlex, is both a showcase of the studio's creative and storytelling abilities and a testament to the teamwork, persistence and dedication that define their efforts. The Charlex team developed ShapeShifter from inception to final picture, working in teams as small as three and as large as 15, writing, re-writing, pulling reference, designing, storyboarding, modeling, rigging, texturing, animation, lighting and 2D and 3D compositing. The project began as a challenge of sorts, when Charlex Founder and Director Alex Weil - the creative force behind the 2006 classic One Rat Short - asked a handful of Charlex designers to imagine a project of their choice. "Our original intent was simply to have an unfettered creative outlet for the many talented people that are part of our company," Weil said. Charlex President Chris Byrnes weighed in, "We always like to have projects in the studio that allow us to experiment and explore. We started with an empty canvas and the mandate to make something great, with no limitation to our artists to submit their creative ideas and treatments, resulting in a great range of choices." Co-Director/Designer Diana Park created the original design that ultimately became ShapeShifter. "I wanted to try something different," noted Park. "My inspiration was crafting the image of a machine creating nature. Usually it's the other way around, but conceptually and aesthetically, I thought it would be fun and challenging to mix the two." The biggest challenge was creating a sense of story and continuity to what was initially a string of loosely connected ideas. As the project evolved from a tale of shape-shifting to an epic exploration of the car's spirit and soul, Charlex tapped Fitzgerald Scott, writer, author, poet - who had successfully collaborated with Weil in the past, to pen the powerful prose poem "Dreams" that accompanies the visuals. Together with a stirring musical track composed by Stimmung's Peter Lauridsen, the effect is that of being in a beautiful but disquieting dream. "It was a thrill to have Gabriel Byrne do the voice acting for our piece," stated Weil. "Adding talent of this caliber to this work really helped give it shape. Fitzgerald's deeply evocative words helped us to convey the idea of the dream, while Gabriel read the part as though he himself was in a dream state, giving the piece an entirely new life. It was a great experience and a wonderful example of the collaborative and additive nature of the creative process in filmmaking." Jesse Newman, Lead Compositor, "This is easily my favorite professional project - it strikes a perfect balance between exploration, design and effects. Because the team was so small, each of us has got our fingerprints on the project. The amount of problem solving required was awesome, one of the greatest components of the project. Pretty much a dream job." CONT; $creds = <<