Devastating News

There's no easy way to say this, but unfortunately this project is dead.  :(

My laptop had a catastrophic hard disk failure last week and I lost all of the files for this project -- the raw video, the edited video, the 3D models, the recorded audio, the music, EVERYTHING!

Although I perform weekly backups, I didn't include these files in my backups simply because there was too much data.  I didn't have enough space on my backup hard drive to include these files.  Of course, in retrospect, it would have been well worth the money to invest a couple hundred bucks in a huge backup drive.  But hindsight being 20/20, that bad decision resulted in the loss of gigs of data representing thousands of hours of hard work.

Maybe if I'm lucky I'll stumble across a copy of the animatic buried somewhere and upload that so at least we have something to show for our efforts.  Otherwise, this blog is the only record we have of all of that hard work.



Taking a short break...

As you can probably tell from the lack of posts recently, I'm taking a short break right now.

I'm the only one working on this project right now, and it's pretty much been that way for the past few years, so every year or so I get a little burned out.

After recharging my batteries, I'll jump back on this project and resume updating this blog.



Improved Coruscant Spaceport, continued

I've been busy lately with graduations, parties, etc., so I only have a minor change to the Coruscant Spaceport.

After consolidating the different shots into a single CGI model, there were some problems.  One of those problems was the fact that the matte painting I'm using for the background wasn't tall enough to fill the sky in the shot of the Jedi Starfighter landing:
  The red arrow shows the seam between the top of matte painting #1 (the Coruscant skyline) and the bottom of matte painting #2 (the Coruscant sky).

Of course, we couldn't live with such an obvious flaw in the shot, so I extended the sky on matte painting #1:

Yay -- no more seam!

Hopefully I'll have more time to work on the movie in the near future...



Improved Coruscant Spaceport

Great... Google changed their interface, so now my text formatting is screwed up and I can't figure out how to display the pictures side-by-side anymore.  What a pain...

Anyway, after consolidating most of the scenes at the Coruscant Spaceport into a single 3ds file, I improved some texture maps to make the model look more realistic.

Here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene B102b when the Jedi Fighter lands at the Coruscant Spaceport:

Admittedly, the changes are minor -- I made the buildings shinier and I made those crane things (immediately below the Jedi Starfighter, and also in the background on the bottom-left third of the screen) rusty.  Small improvements, but I still think they make the scene look more realistic.

Here's another before-and-after comparison, with a more obvious change:

I hid the Jedi Starfighter in the "after" picture, just so that I could see the ground and background more clearly.  Aside from that temporary change:
  • I changed the ground to look more realistic.
  • I removed that concept Jedi Starfighter from the background -- it seemed like it made the scene too busy.
  • I replaced some of the boxes with more detailed and realistic-looking boxes.
  • I changed the background sky image from the smoking Jedi Temple (which wasn't tall enough to fill the screen) to the new Coruscant skyline.

There will undoubtedly be more improvements in the future, but that's it for now.



Still Working, Despite the Silence...

Wow... it's hard to believe it's been a month since my last update.

Despite the lack of posts, I have been working on the movie as time permits.  Unfortunately, the work I'm doing right now doesn't lend itself to pictures.

Back when we created the animatic, I often split a CG model into separate files for each scene.  For example, if there were 5 scenes at the Coruscant Spaceport, I split the Coruscant Spaceport model into 5 separate files so that each file could focus on the elements necessary for that scene (lighting, background, etc.).  The benefit was smaller file sizes that reduced the frequency of 3DS crashing, and faster render times (since I deleted unnecessary geometry).  The downside was that changes to one model (ex: improving texture maps) didn't propagate to the other scenes.

So... right now I'm consolidating all of the different versions of each model into a single "master" CG model.  For example, right now I'm consolidating all of the different Coruscant Spaceport scenes into a single "Coruscant Spaceport" file.  That way, when I make improvements in the future (like texture maps), those improvements will be reflected in all scenes at the Coruscant Spaceport.

It's very tedious and time-consuming, so I don't know how long it will take.  However, the hard work will be worth it because when I'm done consolidating the models, I'm going to resume improving the mdoels (primarily texture maps) to give us the photorealistic imagery we want.



Possible Improvement

I keep watching our animatic looking for areas that can be improved. One of the scenes that stuck out recently was when Ryke drops a cargo container on a bunch of Stormtroopers in the Star Destroyer hangar.

Even though the cargo container model we used is from the "Star Wars" universe, I thought it might look better if we dropped a more iconic Star Wars object on the Stormtroopers.

So... I replaced the cargo container with a TIE fighter. Here are comparison shots:

I had to change the camera angle because Ryke dislodges the object by shooting it with a blaster, and if I kept the old camera angle, you wouldn't be able to see the blaster bolts knocking the TIE fighter loose because the TIE fighter's wing blocked the view.

BTW, if we decide to keep this change, I may add more TIE fighters hanging behind this one.

And yes, I made sure that they DO have TIE fighters hanging in the Star Destroyer hangar. Here's a reference picture from "Return of the Jedi":

Here's another comparison, which is after the object has crushed the Stormtroopers:

Again, I had to change the camera angle a bit in the revised scene.

As much as I like the TIE fighter instead of the cargo container, my only concern is that it supposedly crushes 4 Stormtroopers beneath it. I'm not sure a TIE fighter is heavy enough to crush 4 Stormtroopers and still lie flat on the floor. A couple possible solutions are:

1) Cheat the size of the TIE fighter, making it larger and thus make it look heavier, and/or
2) Have the TIE fighter lying 6-12" off the floor, so it looks like the Stormtrooper bodies are keeping the TIE fighter's wing from lying completely flat on the floor.

What do you guys think? Do you like the TIE fighter better than the cargo container? If so, do you think I should make the TIE fighter bigger and/or a few inches off the ground?



New-and-Improved Master Animatic

As you know, we've been gradually improving our CG models to provide photorealistic backgrounds for our live actors. However, for the most part, I have NOT updated our master animatic with the new material.

Believe it or not, our master animatic was last rendered on 7-8-10! That means we've had almost 2 years of improvements that weren't reflected in the master animatic.

Although I obviously can't post the updated animatic here (it's too big), here are a few before-and-after comparisons so you can get an idea of the improvements.

Scene C115b (Ryke Thale leaving the Jedi Temple after planting bombs in the databank):

Scene C115c (Close-up of Ryke Thale as he suspects something may be wrong):

Scene C115d (Moments before Ryke Thale's reaction to seeing droidekas behind the blast door):

Now imagine about half of the animatic looking as new-and-improved as the sample screenshots, above, and you'll get an idea of how much better the new master animatic looks. The entire movie has a different feel now -- much more like a realistic and immersive. It's pretty sweet!