Posts Tagged ‘space’

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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Here is a collection of visual effects sequences from my Fallen Star project, concentrating on the 3D modelling that was used for the space scenes.

This is noteworthy for being my first attempt at 3D modelling. The Britannic was made over a period of a few months, adding bits of detail gradually, as I got more used to using the software. I do wish I could have added more to it now. The underside looks too smooth. If I had the time and ability, I would have made detailed shapes on the hull, rivets, panels, screws, dents and so forth. This simply used a generic metal material, which looks fine from a distance, though perhaps the close-up shots suffered.

Space scenes were reused as often as I could get away with, so some shots were repeated or reversed. The renders were output with ‘transparent’ backgrounds. That meant I could put anything I liked behind them, be it a planet or just stars or another ship or whatever.

On the subject of stars, for the vast majority of space shots, the background is just a static picture of a starfield. If the camera needed to move, I would just slide the background around accordingly. The one exception is the opening shot (seen at the end of the showreel above) in which the camera takes quite a complex course over the hull of the ship, spinning around and so forth. To get the background right for this, I had to apply the picture of the starfield to an environment map – effectively the inside a huge sphere – so that, as the camera moved within it, the stars stayed in the right place.

You’ll also notice from the showreel that the pink nebula was not part of the 3D model. This was added afterwards as layers in the background and foreground (the foreground layers are partially tranparent, so they look like nearby clouds or mist). Additionally, the pink-ish hue on all the ships was purely colour grading after the rendering was done. I had thought about doing some advanced lighting within the model itself, maybe having swirling patterns of light hitting the hull of the ships, but in the end I didn’t have time to learn how to do this. Additionally, doing it this way allowed me to reuse space shots and just change them to pink!

So, there was a lot of corner-cutting, but frankly, “spaceships in space” are the EASIEST thing you could possibly model. It’s just static objects with limited lighting and no backgrounds. I like to think that I’m good at making the most of a limited skill-set and finding creative solutions, but I’m also eager to pick up new skills that will let me do more ambitious things. In future, I hope to do just that!

Part 2 of the Fallen Star showreel will be focusing on green screen (chromakey) effects. Keep an eye out for that.

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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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