How'd They Do That? Berlin Block Tetris

Sergej Hein is a moving image, animation and fine arts student currently studying at the University of East London. His "Berlin Block Tetris" is a fantastic addition to a growing body of homages to the classic video game: there's human Tetris, Tetris on a skateboard at night, Tetris against a building, and now what might be called Soviet-era architecture Tetris. It took Hein two weeks to make this clip -- but just a few minutes to tell us about it:




What gave you the idea to make this video?
The idea is based on a kind of parody about the former socialist building style combined with pop culture. They used to build whole cities where each house was designed identically to create cheap housing for workers. These blocks were so similar that in Soviet times, you could easily wake up at a friends place in another city and still feel like you are in your own flat (there is even a Russian film about it!). Even the furniture was the same. I grew up in such a suburb of Riga, which was part of the Soviet Union at that time. When I moved to East Berlin I was again living in such a "ghetto" as the cool kids used to call them. Walking through that part of Berlin, seeing all these square blocks one day gave me the idea that they actually look like Tetris stones. I thought, "Hmm, why don't you make an animation of that?"

How did you make it?
Basically the animation consists of two parts: the sky time-lapse and the house with the background. I took a photo of the "block" building on the opposite side of the street out of my bedroom window. Then I had to rebuild the scenery in After Effects. To do that, I used Photoshop to cut out the shapes of the Tetris Stones and rebuild it with the 3D function of After Effects. So basically only the building and the Tetrisstones are 3D; all other elements are 2D images taken out of the source photo. The sky time-lapse is made with my DSLR. I took a photo every five seconds over the duration of three hours and compressed it to 1:21 min.

Why do you think people are fascinated with Tetris?
Tetris is a synonym for pop culture like no other computer game, but it was also invented by the genius Russian engineer Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union in 1984. I think it reminds all of us of the beginning of digitalization; computers became faster and started to become a part of our daily lives. I remember getting a Gameboy with Tetris in 1991 and fighting with my brother about who can play first. Seriously, I was highly addicted! Sometimes our parents had to take away the Gameboy, which always ended in tears. My family was living in East Germany at this time which had just joined West Germany. It was the time of change, everybody was excited, keen to find a place in the new system. The German Unity is now almost 20 years ago. Many things have changed but I think that Tetris will always remind people from all over the world of the early '90s.

Tell us a cool fact about this video that no one would know by looking at it.
A friend was living in a flat located in the fourth Tetris Stone. He got shaken up a bit! But luckily his line did not disappear.




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