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Posts Tagged ‘parody’

It’s been a little over three years since I finished work on the first “episode” of my Fallen Star film series, which was, at the time, only to be a one-off (although initially planned as a series). Those three years have been spent working on another five episodes simultaneously, but the last year has seen the final push to get Episode 2 out the door, and now it’s finally available to watch online. Check it out below:

We learned a lot on episode 1, felt what our limitations were, and decided to push against them here. With a better camera and improved image clarity, I was able to make more extensive use of our greenscreen background to put our characters into a wider variety of locations, most of which did not physically exist. I’d also improved upon my animation and rendering, and with a faster PC, was able to create longer and more dynamic space sequences.

We paid closer attention to our camera work and editing for this one, and more time was spent on the scripts and trying to flesh the characters out a little more. The practicalities of working on scenes from five episodes at once were difficult but we got everything we absolutely needed in time for this one, and more episodes are still being worked on now.

I personally think what we all, as amateurs, have achieved here, on practically no budget, is something to be proud of. However, I want to keep this blog focused on my technical skills, which I will get to in a later article, accompanied by a visual effects breakdown video. Thanks for watching!

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I did a bit of ‘remastering’ this week, so to speak, so I thought I’d talk about it. Sorry if it’s boring or technical.

In film and television, remastering is the process of creating a new master copy, from which all other copies are derived. This can be anything from a spliced reel of film, to a tape or, more modernly, a digital video file. Remastering involves taking the elements that built the master and putting them together again in an improved manner (usually this would be done to update a film or TV show into high definition – the original celuloid will contain more detail than the master tapes it was copied onto).

When we made Premium Bond: The Spy Who Taxed Me, I had, frankly, no idea what I was doing. I chose to edit the project at 24 frames per second (the framerate of movies) and at a weird square-pixel widescreen resolution of 480 lines (by 853). I’m not sure that’s actually supported by anything, and since it was ultimately ending up on DVD, it led to problems with the conversion (DVDs author at 576 lines, at 25 frames per second, and widescreen is always anamorphic [ie. the pixels are rectangular]). This is just one of those things that you learn through doing. The original run of DVDs had a formatting error, and the film came out cropped to the wrong ratio. When we included the trailer as a bonus feature of our Fallen Star DVD, I converted it again so it displayed correctly, however because the framerate and resolution had to be adjusted in the conversion, it was still somewhat blurry and the frames blended together weirdly.

So, four years later, I decided to fix it!

All of our footage was shot in standard definition on digital videotape, at 25 frames per second, which is exactly what the new master needed to be. I had shrunk this down originally to the bizarre size that I chose back then, so all I had to do was not shrink it down this time. The project files were still sitting on my hard drive and everything was intact, so I opened it up, resized the project and corrected the framerate. All the video clips were correctly edited, so it was simply a matter of resizing them to fit the larger project area. Some of the animation keyframe markers didn’t line up anymore due to the change in framerate, but this didn’t seem to affect anything.

As the video was cropped or framed a particular way in certain places, the remaster actually has some minor framing differences, a little bit of extra image around the edges, and so on. The few FX shots, eg. the gun barrel, had to be repositioned piece by piece as it wouldn’t scale uniformly. The credits at the end were kept the same absolute size to allow for an overscan area that I never bothered with the first time around.

Ultimately, the differences are minor. The point of doing it was to create a new master copy that looked better on DVD (smoother motion and less blurry). We don’t have any plans to make a new batch of DVDs, but if we include the film in any future projects (wink, wink!), this will be one we’ll use.

Premium Bond Remaster comparison 1

Because of the mismatch in speed, frames were blended into each other in the original conversion. The remastered circles slide across the screen smoothly. They’ve been upsized a tad, but that’s purely by accident.

Premium Bond Remaster comparison 2

Where the frame size has been increased on all sides, some of the shots have been expanded. This isn’t really detrimental to the composition, and it does mean the image is a tad sharper, but it wasn’t done on purpose – I just didn’t bother to check they matched.

Premium Bond Remaster comparison 3

Again, the mismatched framerate of the original caused effects like this when it was converted to DVD (the online hosted video seems fine, incidentally), but the remaster eliminates the problem entirely. You can also see the reframing again here, making the plane look a little sharper.

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Over 18 months in the making, Fallen Star is finally finished. This was a big project, far bigger than our previous ‘film’, and involved a lot more work and new skills to bring it all together. Here’s the link to watch the whole thing on YouTube. It is 53:25 long, and in ten parts:
Fallen Star – Episode 1 (all 10 parts)

Here’s part 1. You’ll need to open YouTube to see the rest of the parts.

Work on Fallen Star started as early as February 2009, when Rob and I were considering making another film, after the success of Premium Bond. We wanted to do something a bit more adventurous, and liked the idea of a Star Trek spoof. We spent some time coming up with a vague story outline, characters and sketches of our ship. Then we scouted around for a place to build the set. The first few months were a planning stage; eventually we had a script and had cast friends in the roles of our characters.

Several months passed, during which time we gathered supplies and equipment for building the set. This was principally hardboard, wood, cardboard and paint. We were lucky enough to borrow some sturdy stage flats to serve as the backbone of the set, and taped the seams with masking tape, which was then painted over. Control panels and lights were added, as well as a fake door and little buttons and switches.

It was in the Summer of 2009 that we started filming. We had a six week slot to put the set together, get the filming done, and take the set down again. It was very tight; we finished on literally the last day. Towards the end of the filming, the set was partially deconstructed and rearranged to make the other rooms of the ship. Additional rooms would be handled with CGI. I was not adept at computer modelling, but I thought it was worth a try. A green screen was setup to film our actors on any artificial backgrounds (corridors and rooms that didn’t exist).

By the time the indoor filming was completed, it was getting into Winter, the nights were drawing in and it was getting cold outside. Although we had outdoor scenes to film, we unfortunately had to wait for the weather to pick up. It wasn’t until late Spring that we eventually got outside to finish the last of the filming.

During the break, I had time to complete most of the special effects sequences. I had been teaching myself 3D modelling and animating the entire time, right from the start of the project when we had nothing but some sketches. It took a while to render many of the scenes used in the film, so the extra time was appreciated in the end. We also decided about this time that the audio would have be completely redone, including all the dialogue. We arranged several dubbing sessions, and then I spent several weeks synchronising all the dialogue to match the original. I also used this time to add sound effects to everything.

Outdoor filming could have gone better. Scheduling problems meant that many scenes had to be filmed in poor light, while others were in broad daylight. It was a challenge to correct the footage to make it look consistent. Poor lighting leads to grainy footage, so I had to try to make it match. We got the shots we needed in the end and made do with the quality.

After this, it was simply a case of finishing the editing, adding the last few special effects, sound effects and dubbing, and finding some suitable music to use as the soundtrack. Perfectionist that I am, I chose this moment to add an additional scene to the film – an extended prologue, a chase sequence set in the forest. Originally, the film was going to open aboard the ship, but I felt this extra scene was needed. We used a steady cam rig to film it, which was quite tricky, but I’m pleased with the result.

I will be posting VFX showreels soon, which show how I put the visual effects together, with some before and after comparisons. I hope you find them interesting.

Thanks for watching (and reading).

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