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Archive for November, 2011

YouTube recently lifted the limit on the length of videos I can upload, so I thought it was time to republish “Fallen Star Episode 1” as a single 53 minute video, rather than a 10-part playlist. Here it is, one more time:

Eagle-eyed fans might have noticed some minor differences. George Lucas once said a film is never finished; you keep working on it until someone drags you away, kicking and screaming. (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it.) So it is with Fallen Star Episode 1 that I’ve been through and made some minor visual effect tweaks, improved image clarity in a few places and made some subtle alterations (some of which will hardly be visible on YouTube anyway). I haven’t added anything silly (or anything at all for that matter), nobody shouts “nooooo!!” at any point and no little CGI critters scuttle across the screen; it’s just minor visual improvements.

On the whole, I was quite happy with how the film turned out, even if our script wasn’t great and our camera work was shoddy and our acting could have been better and our-… wait, what was I saying again? Oh yeah, generally pleased. Particularly with our space shots and other effects, which were all new territory for me.

Unfortunately, one of the main problems we had was a ‘stuttering’ issue, whereby our spaceship sequences were rendered at the incorrect framerate, leading to movement that didn’t look smooth. It was a rookie mistake and it won’t happen again. I was outputting these sequences at 30 frames per second, but the project was 25 frames per second (standard PAL DVD format). Imagine a one second sequence as a series of images, 30 of them. It’s like having 30 pegs and trying to fit them into 25 holes – inevitably 5 pegs are going to get left out. So it was that every second of these sequences was missing frames, causing a stutter or ‘jump’ in the animation.

There were two ways I could see to address this. The first was to stretch these sequences out, so that each 30-frame second would fit into 1.2 seconds (25 of the frames fit into one second, the remaining 5 carry over to the next second, and so on). That would smooth out the animation, but also make them longer/slower. The other way was to go back and re-render these sequences at 25 frames per second. Considering the amount of sequences present in the film, I didn’t fancy doing this, so I compromised by changing just a few of the key sequences here and there. Actually, on my new computer, the rendering time was greatly reduced anyway, so it wasn’t too big a deal.

Another problem we had originally was with some of our ‘greenscreen’ footage looking really fuzzy. I’ve since found a way to remove most of this fuzziness, and now the worst of it is gone, and several scenes look considerably better for it.

Other changes are just to bring some of the visuals in line with the ones I’m working on for the next episodes. Eventually, this revised edition will make its way onto a complete DVD set.

Below is a complete list of all changes, just in case you were interested:

  • Master volume raised by 10dB.
  • The porthole in the captain’s cabin has been made slightly larger, to more accurately match the exterior ship proportions. The starfield outside the porthole moves slightly slower. Noise has been added to match the video noise (various shots).
  • The first reveal of the Britannic has been re-rendered at the correct framerate (using the new Britannic model) to eliminate the stuttering problem.
  • The zoom through the bridge window shot has been improved. The bridge interior comes into clarity more gradually and better fits the movement of the camera over the ship.
  • Minor reduction of sharpness and increase in noise to all computer monitor graphics throughout the entire film, to better match the focus and noise level of the footage (various shots).
  • Very minor reduction of sharpness to the corridor backgrounds when characters walk through the bridge doors (various shots).
  • Additional noise added to CG wall / floor on numerous forward-facing bridge shots, to better match the overly noisy chromakey footage of Davenport (various shots).
  • Adjustments made to the chromakey settings for many of the greenscreen shots, reducing the ‘fuzziness’ and improving clarity as much as possible (various shots).
  • Minor increase of blur effect to many of the static starfield backgrounds to reduce their sharpness compared to the foreground elements in some of the space shots (various shots).
  • Subtle blur effect applied as the ship moves further away from the camera (or reduced as it moves towards the camera) in many of the space shots (various shots).
  • Slight adjustments made to the shot of the Britannic entering orbit over the Brinstar planet. The ship has been shrunk to appear further away, and reflects the yellow hue of the planet as it draws closer to it. The planet and starfield elements drift slowly to avoid the background looking like a static image.
  • All animation ‘stuttering’ in the title sequence is eliminated. The close pass sequences of the Britannic are now interpreted at the correct framerate (thus they move slightly slower and are cut slightly shorter). The ship flying away at the end is a re-rendered sequence at the correct framerate, using the new Britannic model.
  • The strip of light that appears around the main viewscreen whenever an image is displayed has been altered so that it glows a pale purple (various shots).
  • In the two shots of the Britannic leaving orbit of each of the planets, the movement of the ship is altered slightly so it doesn’t appear to stop and turn so abruptly. The Britannic is subtly colour-tinted until it moves away from the planet, then the background goes out of focus as the ship passes over the camera, to give a momentary sense of depth to the scene (2 shots).
  • The green helm station display screen at the beginning of the episode has been changed to a less vivid shade (various shots).
  • One instance of visible tape on the wall of the captain’s cabin has been partially erased so it is less obvious.
  • The moving stars in all external fly-by shots of the ship at zoom speed have been altered. The stars are either replaced with new CG ‘streaking’ stars, or the original graphics are sped up and stretched with a radial blur effect so they appear to streak in the same way (various shots).
  • The moving stars viewed through the main window whenever the Britannic is at zoom speed have been stretched and sped up so they appear to streak (various shots).
  • Slight adjustments made to the shot of the Britannic entering orbit over the forest planet. The ship has been shrunk to appear further away, and reflects the green hue of the planet as it draws closer to it.
  • Slight noise added to the CG corridor backgrounds during the weapons locker scene, to match the video noise on the characters.
  • The slow sweeping camera pass over the top of the ship to the briefing room windows at the back has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model at the correct framerate, eliminating the stuttering. The model is also now lit from a different direction, leading to greater contrast between the side and the back surfaces of the ship. A blue glow has been added to the rear of the starboard engine tube as it comes into shot. The original moving stars have been replaced with CG streaking stars that match the movement of the camera properly. The interior of the briefing room through the rear windows moves a little more smoothly as the camera zooms in on it.
  • During the briefing room scenes, the CG wall and ceiling have had noise added to them to match the video noise of the footage (various shots).
  • During the briefing room scenes, new streaking stars are now visible outside through the windows (various shots).
  • Noise has been added to the CG wall behind Jenkins and Darling in the briefing room, to better match the overly noisy chromakey footage (various shots).
  • Corrected the colour on Jenkins and Darling in the briefing room when Jenkins raises his hand, so the green tint is less pronounced. Also added additional video noise to this shot so that it better matches the following shot.
  • Erased the visible tape peeling off the wall during the door opening shots in the briefing room (3 shots).
  • The external shot of the Britannic dropping to sublight speed and flying past the camera towards the nebula has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model. The moving stars behind the ship have been repositioned to better match the angle of the ship, and made momentarily streaky.
  • The first shot of the Britannic flying into the nebula has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model at the correct framerate (a repeat of the sequence already rendered for the closing shot).
  • The second shot of the Britannic entering the nebula has been interpreted at the correct framerate, eliminating the stuttering. The ship movement is slightly slower as a result.
  • The external fly-by shot inside the nebula has been adjusted so the Britannic is now very blurry until it draws closer to the camera, making the nebula seem even more misty.
  • Davenport has been correctly colour- and brightness-adjusted from two previously missed forward-facing bridge shots (2 shots).
  • In the shot of the space station rising up over the hull of the Britannic inside the nebula, the movement of the cloud layers has been tweaked to better match the camera movement.
  • The colour of the Smegulon station’s laser beams has been changed from yellow to green (3 shots).
  • The close-up shot of the ship from behind as it flies through space has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model to show the new hull detail at the rear, at the correct framerate to eliminate the stuttering, and with motion blur applied to make the movement smoother. The rears of the engine tubes now glow blue, and the stars have been made streaky.
  • The shot of the Britannic flying past the camera during the captain’s final mission log has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model at the correct framerate to eliminate the stuttering and show off the new detail at the rear. Motion blur has also been applied so the ship passes the camera more smoothly.
  • The dark outline around Volgin as he stands on the bridge (caused by the previous colour correction of his uniform) has been almost entirely removed. The sharpness of the background has been reduced and mild noise has been added to better match the footage.
  • The closing shot has been re-rendered using the new Britannic model at the correct framerate to fix the stuttering and show off the new hull detail at the rear. The angle of the shot has been shifted slightly at the beginning so the bridge exterior more closely matches the orientation of the bridge interior. The movement of the interior through the window now appears smoother and better matches the movement of the camera as it pulls away.

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