We have an Imperial Sympathizer and an improved Star Destroyer hangar!

Brad and Sarah were supposed to help me film on Monday, but Sarah and I both got sick. :( Apparently, our infamous "monkey poo" fights can spread germs and disease. Who knew? ;)

Anyway, we canceled filming, which sucks because:
  1. I really wanted to shoot more Stormtrooper footage, and
  2. I wanted to shoot as much as possible in December because it's a pain to setup and strike the set. I have to strike the set every month before my housekeepers come because I don't want them breaking anything. (This fan film is expensive enough as it is!)
Still, I couldn't get over the nagging feeling of needing/wanting to film Monday night, so I decided to film by myself. Unfortunately, that ruled out Darth Vader and Stormtrooper footage because I need major assistance when I'm in those costumes. After reviewing our shot list, I decided to shoot Imperial Sympathizer footage because it's a "soft" costume (as opposed to a "hard" costume like Darth Vader or Stormtrooper, which limit my range of motion, mobility, and visibility). (Unfortunately, the Imperial Sympathizer still had a mask, which is NOT a good idea when you're stick with a runny nose... :( ) That's O.K. Discomfort is temporary, film is forever.

Anyway, we hadn't actually figured out Imperial Sympathizer's costume yet, so I clunked one together out of:
  • HALO Master Chief helmet
  • Brad's Jedi robe
  • Misc. accessories (belt, pouches, etc.)
I think it turned out pretty good, but you can judge for yourself. Here are before-and-after pictures of Scene I502 when the Imperial Sympathizer spots Brad and Katinka in the Med Center:

Not only did I replace the Tusken Raider "size reference," but I also cleaned up the texture maps and lighting on the Med Center Hallway 3ds model. The digital set still isn't final, but at least it's one step closer.

Can you guys tell I used a HALO Master Chief helmet? Here's what he looks like normally:

We were planning to re-paint the mask, not only to make it less recognizable as the HALO Master Chief, but also to avoid having to rotoscope the final footage (since you can't use a green helmet against a green screen, because the helmet becomes semi-transparent when we chromakey-out all green).

Since we weren't planning to film the Imperial Sympathizer yet, the mask hadn't been customized yet. I didn't even get a chance to add any additional "stick-on" stuff (ex: respirator hoses/filters and/or other random crap) to make it even less recognizable as the HALO Master Chief.
Despite the fact that I used the mask as-is, I think the Jedi hood and color-correction change its appearance enough that hopefully only die-hard HALO fans will recognize it.

Anyway, here are before-and-after pictures of Scene I505:

The 1st picture is obviously the old, CG-only animatic.
The 2nd picture is the new, "live action" animatic. You can barely see it, but I'm holding the comlink prop that I made. I just glued a "switch" on an old cartridge from my carbon monoxide detector, then taped-on a coiled cord (like a phone cord) that attached to a pouch on my belt. Good thing you can barely see it in these shots, because it looked pretty retarded. :)

Here are before-and-after pictures of Scene I510b when the Imperial Sympathizer is tailing Katinka:

I improved the texture maps on the buildings, and also added some set dressing. Still not final, but a step closer...

Here's the Imperial Sympathizer reporting Katinka's location to the Galactic Empire:

Here's the Imperial Sympathizer entering Bibble's Bar behind the Stormtroopers:

The Imperial Sympathizer has been missing for so long (not even a CG "size reference" stand-in) that I almost forgot he was in these scenes!

Finally, here's the Imperial Sympathizer getting shot by Katinka:

"Before" and...

Boo hoo... that's what you get for ratting out a Handmaiden to the Galactic Empire! :D

In addition to the Imperial Sympathizer scenes, I also spent a TON of time improving the texture maps in the Star Destroyer hangar. Here are before-and-after shots that give a good overall view of the changes:

I left out the Stormtrooper "size references" in the 2nd picture so that you could see the hangar more clearly. If you look closely:
  • The floor is blacker (which is more accurate with the real Death Star hangar decks)
  • The reflections in the floor are distorted, which look more realistic. The old floor had a mirror-perfect reflection which looked totally fake.
  • I re-texture mapped the walls. Although they look better, they are NOT the same as the real Death Star hangar set as seen in the "Star Wars" movies. I think I'm going to change these texture maps to match the Death Star hangar reference footage exactly. Hopefully I'll have new-and-improved pictures in the next blog post.
  • I changed the color of the lighting to more-accurately match the Death Star hangar reference footage.
  • I changed the bottom floor lights (barely visible on the middle-left of the 2nd picture) from white to blue, which is now movie-accurate.
Here are hangar deck reference pictures from "Return of the Jedi":

The 1st picture shows the blue floor lights (they're kind of washed out in this picture, but you can still tell they're blue, especially if you look at their reflection in the floor). You can also see that the hangar deck is black and the reflections are distorted.
The 2nd picture shows a detail of the floor, showing that it's well-worn (which means reflections are distorted, rather than mirror-perfect) and made of tiles.

Here's a "semi-before" and "after" picture of the hangar floor:

The 1st picture is a "semi-before" picture because I forgot to take a "before" picture. This picture shows a temporary tile that I tried out, but eventually replaced (see 2nd picture). It also shows the mirror-perfect reflections, which look way fake. And that track running along the floor (on the R) looks TOTALLY CG and fake!
The 2nd picture is what the floor looks like now. I used a different tile that matches the real "Death Star hangar" tiles almost exactly. I also "weathered" the floor so that the reflections are distorted. And the track has been re-texture mapped. Much better, right? Almost like we had a camera on a real set, pointed it down at the floor and took a picture! Sweet...

Here's the final before-and-after comparison showing the changes to the hangar:

These pictures look much better full-size -- a lot of detail was lost by shrinking the pictures. Still, you can more clearly see the re-texture mapped walls, blue floor lights, "weathered" hangar floor, and even the Imperial Shuttle's landing gear has been re-texture mapped.
For me, the litmus test is to look at a picture and see if it looks like it may have been taken on a real set (as opposed to a CG set). The 1st picture looks totally CG and fake. The 2nd picture looks a lot more photo-realistic, although I'll be the 1st to admit it still needs some work.

That's it for this week. I hope you guys like the new blog format!



Quick links to our videos

Here are quick links to some "Episode 7" videos (the project that started it all):

E7 Movie @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l70lajd9OvU
E7 Bloopers @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=943742
E7 Teaser 1 ("Statistics") @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=869541
E7 Teaser 2 ("Good vs. Evil") @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=945556

And here are quick links to some "Remnants of the Force" videos:

ROTF Teaser 1 ("Remnants of the Force") @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=8080076
ROTF Teaser 2 ("Vader Breathing") @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=25879259
ROTF Teaser 3 ("Jedi Chamber") @ http://myspacetv.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=31836845

We're moving to a blog format!

For over 2 years, I've been sending weekly "CSD Studios Update" e-mails to friends and family. It contained behind-the-scenes stories and pictures, updating everyone on our progress on our "Star Wars" fan film ("Remnants of the Force").

What started as a small list has steadily grown to a pretty sizable list, with new people asking to be included on a pretty consistent basis. I finally realized that these weekly updates would be better suited for a blog format than weekly e-mails.

So... that's why I started this blog. Starting tomorrow, all future CSD Studios Updates will be posted in this blog.