This essay? Can you call this an essay? Surely you could but, you’re reading this on a tumblr post, so for now let’s call it an essay. This essay is going to be breaking down the cinematography techniques Sausage used in the opening to episode thirty one of his second Empires SMP season. I’m also going to go into why these work so well, and what they imply, a fair warning, this will be long, and I’m taking this 100% seriously. I’ll be using the correct terms for the things I’m talking about too, I’ll presumably have a list of definitions at the end of the post, and if it gets too long and I decide to not include that this link has every definition I will have used in this essay. Now that’s out of the way, let’s start from the beginning.
I’d like to first talk about the music, this is the first thing that really hit me when I was watching the episode for the first time (and the multiple rewatches I’ve done of the intro since then), and the effect it has on the person watching it depending on prior knowledge to Octagon as a whole.
Firstly, viewers of Ren and Doc’s season 8 will know that Octagon’s signature for their ‘cutscene’ music was very heavy metal inspired, it’s powerful music that The Octagon is absolutely deserving of, its intense sound helps the viewers understand what Ren and Doc are trying to portray. Octagon was built to utilise lightning as a powersource and employed game breaking technology in game to create some of its prominent features (Power Node 1, The OctaPortal, ect). Because of this, the shift to orchestral music as it’s introduction in Sausages opening is so incredibly interesting. Strings take the forefront of the music Sausage uses here, and strings are often used to portray elegance and grandiose, something Octagon wasn’t given in Season 8 itself. Octagon was threatening, but never elegant, always being added to, that process of violent construction the heavy metal symbolised is gone here, there’s nothing being added to The Octagon. And the music crescendos with each panning shot, emphasising the power this place holds, even just aesthetically, getting more and more powerful as it rises like a Wave. The dichotomy between Octagon's previous violent, aggressive and powerful portrayal through the music Ren and Doc use, and the elegant, imposing orchestral music Sausage uses, both to portray the same thing, is incredible. Octagon was awarded its elegance in death, and the music choices here reflect this beautifully.
People who never watched season 8, who have no idea what Octagon's whole deal was, are seeing this place in its tomb. It's an elegant coffin and that’s all they’ll know it for unless they go and watch season 8, and I think that’s wonderful, because it’s what Octagon deserved.
Next I’d like to draw attention to the shots in the opening itself, so we’ll start and progress through these in chronological order.
Firstly, we have a sweeping shot of the Lower left side of octagon, containing the base for the elevated boardroom, and the fully charged central power node, it’s an incredibly strong start to the episode, with the scale of Octagon being shown through the height of the warped vines that cover the islands floor. The wide angle shot used in this scene helps make the viewer feel small and vulnerable in comparison to the powerful elegance of The Octagons architecture.
It then cuts to another, fairly low angle shot of the bridge, the sun is positioned behind the massive mechanical bacteriophage that holds up Octagon’s bridge, this shot utilises and amazing use of chiaroscuro and creates a sense of unease in the viewer, the blotting out of the light and the emphasis on the size of the structure continues to aide the threatening aura Sausage is clearly trying to portray. Both these shots (as well as many many other shots in this opening, utilise the ocean as a means to portray scale, the ocean is usually seen as quite a large and domineering thing, you can’t get much bigger than the ocean, however, due to the framing of the shots the ocean and surrounding landmass The Octagon sits on, completely dwarfs the viewable ocean. And it helps create a beautiful sense of unease, and powerlessness.
The next shot is my favourite in the entire opening, a tight, zoom shot of the inside of Octagon itself, the sleek glass flooring reflects the dark walls of The Octagon itself, and it really truly does present itself as an grandiose structure just due to the use of shaders, the slow zoom into the center of Octagon itself; It’s almost reminiscent of the evil lair in a spy movie. Octagon looks sleek, polished, the high walls and the tight shot create almost an air of claustrophobia, that’s only offset by Octagon's open roof plan, and the sheer scale of it, knowing the walls visible are three walls of eight. This shot really helps establish Octagon as a powerhouse and to indulge in a little anthropomorphism, a Baroness.
Our fourth shot is an Aerial view, with a high angle shot, a slow zoom out from the LOGZ Crane and its cargo. This high positioned zooming out from a central point really helps gauge a sense of scale here, only one and a half walls of the overall structure are shown in this shot, once again, using Octagon itself, and now the LOGZ Crane to dwarf both the island and the ocean around it. Our music is rising too as these sweeping shots help guide the eye to the important parts of the shot, adding to the mise en scene of the opening.
Moving on to the 5th shot in the opening, I’m actually going to talk about the music some more here, but this shot, a beautiful zoom shot of the bridge, covered by the calcite coral reef, is paired expertly with the introduction of a louder brass instrument in the orchestral score, these two elements together contribute to help provide that dramatic, powerful flair that Sausage is trying to convey in each of these shots. The music here perfectly fits the pace of the shot when paired with the illusion at a deep focus shot here on the Phange (sadly something not possible within the world of Minecraft). This continues to build up this sense of vulnerability and powerlessness in seeing The Octagon rising up out of the ocean. Sausage utilises a quick switch from a shallow depth of feel to a deep depth of field to create the illusion of a deep focus shot on the Bridge.
We now come to another of my favourite shots. Octagon’s right wall, with a slow pull out, with its name etched in the side in Bright Blue Copper. Once again the ocean is used to portray the sheer size of The Octagon here, with liminal land viewable, all these ocean shots help to aid a sense of loneliness that each of these shots have been oozing out. The Octaportal is visible in this shot, and very briefly, so is Sausage, the inclusion of Sausage himself is a powerful tool too, He’s almost unnoticeable against the sharp spires and spindly legs of Octagon, and it really does aid to this Real sense of unease, scale and the aforementioned vulnerability.
Here we get the near climax of our crescendo, the wave of music has ramped up as we focus our attention on Sausage, a close up shot on him that barely lasts a second, but is so important. Sausage is our protagonist here, He’s the character we see the world through, who we must trust to portray things as they are. He should be the most important thing in this shot, and yet our camera pulls out, and he is rendered unimportant against the violent architecture of The Octagon. Sausage isn’t important here, he’s a spec on the impact of this world, a visitor, an observer; and this sprawling, wide angled shot portrays this Perfectly. Sausage is not who we should be turning our gaze to here.
And at last our final shot. We are greeted with a tight centered view of the OctaPortal itself, a creation only possible through game breaking, a feat of this size deserves its own shot, we have another zoom in, a centered shot focusing entirely on the portal itself, where Ren emerges from, his clothing a stark contrast against the purple of the portal, Ren is in the Center of the shot. He is who we must pay attention to, he created half of this insane structure, in its threatening elegance and our focus is drawn to him.
However, in these two shots, an interesting thing happens. Our zoom out from the Sausage shows the scale of The Octagon. But the zoom in to Ren, focuses him in the shot, and yet never allows him to take up a large portion of it, it’s symbolic of how this was a monumental task, the workload and goal Doc and Ren carried on their shoulders was meant to be shared, not shouldered alone.
All of this together carefully rewraps Octagon, and gives it the recognition it deserved. Octagon was a Monumental feat, a beautiful mix of jagged violent architecture and classy elegance. This will be some peoples first introductions to The Octagon. This behemoth of a Building style, of a story, shared between Doc and Ren. And it feels cathartic to me as someone who holds Season 8 and The Octagon close to my heart, to have it be shown in the way, I presume, Ren and Doc wanted to present it too. It’s an amazingly well edited opening, the timings with the music and reveals of each section are utterly amazing, and Sausage, whether he intended to or not, created a beautiful homage to a silly corporation; that whilst it made no money, looked positively cool as shit