The VFX house tells us about its work bringing online chats and a wealth of data to life for We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.

Creating a visual representation of the events that led to the explosive release of confidential diplomatic cables in November 2010 is tricky to make exciting – as much of it happened over online chat sessions. This was the task set to London-based VFX house Framestore by the director of new documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.

“The chats needed to feel textural and alive, sinister and at times, lonely,” explains senior designer Maryanne Butler. “So much of what the logs expressed was a personal outpouring from Private Manning, so we had to stay sensitive to the subject in visualising these.”

The firm also created the title sequence, which uses particle systems to represent both the networks of information that the cables were passed through, but also the emergence of patterns within the wealth of data that journalists have spent time interpreting. The sequence also sees footage and images broken down into data elements, which move through systems before recomposing themselves later. All were created in Cinema 4D and After Effects.

“[This] network-inspired world [had] to contain a sinister edge in keeping with the film’s content,” says senior design director Marc Smith. “To this end, the colour palette was kept dark and minimal throughout, and the camera work would at times suddenly lurch or dive. What would start as a seemingly random set of pixels, would organically shift, twitch and grow to reveal an interconnected whole."

We Steal Secrets premiered at the Sundance film festival earlier this year, and will be shown at Edinburgh International Film Festival from June 19-30.