Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Happiness In Simplicity - The visual effects of A Broken Line

By returning to basics, you can actually make remarkable visual effects with virtually no means! Sure, you can't make a new Transformers using too much legacy stuff, there's a reason the technological advancements is called "progression" and not "recession", but letting old cafts fall into oblivion just because they're old is as stupid as rejecting new technology just because it scares you!

If anyone had told me a year ago "Soon you are going to make your debut movie as a director using no script, no CGI, using a cellphone as a camera...and by the way (and mind you, my normal work is sound designer and soundie, I spend my days preaching the importance of good location sound) - you will not have as much as a single sample of location sound in the entire final film." (a sample being 1/96000th of a 96KHz digital sound) I would say "You're nuts, noone is that stupid. Whatever you're smoking, kick it, you have lost enough braincells."
Yet, I will not write an actual script, I could never afford CGI of high enough quality to make it worthwhile even if I wanted to, my camera is my old iPhone (but using an app called Filmic Pro instead of the nauseating built-in ditto)...and I will not have a single sample of location audio in the final mix. And I'm very happy with it for this movie!
Still, over time, visual effects did become more and more important as the simple flick evolved into a real movie intended for international release.

What has occupied my thoughts the most last week is quite frankly the effects. I have edited a lot of material, and I now have a very clear view of what I have, what I need, and where it's going. Right now it's mostly different locations roamed by the protagonists, as well as the collection of monsters I have already made (still mostly using my crude but effective animatronics, mechanical effects, and found stuff, though now also with the first real actors, for example The Lisa Ghost (called Lumaphobe as it's invisible in light, topmost picture), meaning the most important pieces of this humongous jigsaw-puzzle is practically all there for me to get a very good overview indeed.
The first cut of the sprawling but dead district called Machineworld is more or less done already, as is the Hellish and decaying Inferno Halls. It was some of the first districts I ever made, meaning I have had a lot of time thinking about it. In the world of the dead, an area being dead itself shouldn't necessarily be confused with it being neither inactive nor unpopulated. On the contrary, the echoes of the past leaves remnants in the present that will never fade.
This is quite frankly not really an action-movie - The protagonist, as a carnal being, has no ways of defending himself against ethereal creatures, and the hostile environments leave little to no shelter against hazards. Even with the help of his companion, he must avoid confrontation at all cost and shun all light as far as possible. With that said, the beings is a very important part of the film, and must be treated accordingly.

In this project, the rules for for the visual effects is: It must be doable in edit. If I can't do it in Premiere (using CS6 for now), then it wasn't meant to be. That means lots of puppets, backlight projection, double exposure, physical light-effects, mechanical constructs, various optical illusions, pure edits...and a shitload of keying.

What makes the keying pretty difficult at times is the fact that everything is recorded with hand-camera and extremely dynamic light. Superimposing a guy over a background easily looks fake if movement and light doesn't match. This was something I was fully aware of from the very start, but by planning the photage with this in mind, and learning to repeat movements with necessary alterations, that isn't a problem anymore. Actually, the solutions I found actually lead to new funny stuff I hadn't thought of! I love happy accidents!

At first I was gonna edit on an ancient Core2Duo-based PC even the neanderthals would make fun of, using Premiere Pro 2. Back then it was intended to be nothing but straight edits, and as such, it would had worked. For anything else that would have been the very definition of hell. Now I edit on an i7-based computer with lots of cuda, and still I often gets frustrated by the endless renderings. The material is recorded with cropping in mind, and to be sure the material work, I edit everything with full 2.35:1-matte and filters. That means everything must be rendered no matter if there are any effects or not.


In mention of nothing particular...didn't Disney
 use to at least try to conceal their innuendos? ;-)

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