12/11/09

New Jedi Temple Background, New Imperial Officer, and Improved R2-D2 Footage

We shot live footage last Sat.!

We wanted to see if we could get away with only 3 shots of Brad sneaking into the Jedi Temple so that we could use the Jedi Temple Processional Way matte painting instead of a kitbashed digital model. I think it turned out well, but you can judge for yourself...

Here's the original animatic of 2 Clone Troopers standing guard outside the Jedi Temple, compared to our new animatic using the Processional Way matte painting:

WAY cooler, right?

Of course, since the new animatic is still in the proof-of-concept stage, it's rough -- the lighting is incorrect on the foreground e-web gun, ammo boxes, and barrels; there are no digital shadows; etc. If we decide to keep this shot, I'll fix everything but I didn't want to waste a bunch of time on it if we end up dumping the shot.

Here's a before-and-after comparison of Brad arriving at the Jedi Temple:

(Brad's kneeling behind the 2 barrels in the bottom-right, in case you're having problems finding him.)

Remember, since we're using a 2-dimensional matte painting as our new background, we couldn't change camera angles so that's why Brad's approaching from a new direction.

Here are before-and-after comparisons of Brad using The Force to distract the Clone Troopers:

Again, since we can't change camera angles on the 2-dimensional matte painting of the Jedi Temple, we switched to a reverse-angle of Brad behind the barrel for the new shot (using our digital model of the Jedi Temple as the background).

Here's the old shot of Brad sneaking past the Clone Troopers into the Jedi Temple:

The problem with this shot (aside from the crappy, temporary 3D model and Clone Trooper stand-ins) was that Brad could only take 2-3 steps before going off our green screen background when shooting the live footage. Fortunately, we figured out a workaround...

Here are 2 screenshots of our new-and-improved shot:

In the first picture, Brad is Force-running past the distracted Clone Troopers (who will be looking off-camera to their right).

In the second picture, Brad has reached the end of the walkway and is Force-running to the left (Brad's semi-transparent image is below the red arrow). It's easier to see when it's video, rather than still photos and it looks pretty good, even though it's still a rough proof-of-concept.

Making Brad Force-run past the Clone Troopers not only improved our story, but also overcame our problem with Brad running off the green screen.

To solve our problem, Brad just ran in-place on the green screen, then turned to face left and ran in-place some more. In post-production, I digitally shrank him as he was running away from the camera and added motion blur. It worked surprisingly well because he looks like he's actually running.

Also, Brad is semi-transparent because apparently that's what happens when Jedi Force-run. Here are 2 reference pictures from "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" showing Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn Force-running:

In this picture, I put a red circle around them because they're so tansparent that they're hard to see! To make things easier, the red thing on the left is a laser bolt from a droideka, Qui-Gon Jinn is carrying the green lightsaber, and Obi-Wan Kenobi is carrying the blue lightsaber.


In this reference picture a few frames later (after the droideka's laser bolt explodes against the blast door), you can really see how transparent Qui-Gon Jinn is since the explosion lights the scene better. You can clearly see through him, so that's why Brad's semi-transparent when he Force-runs.

Brad brought his friend Aaron over on Sat. to help us film. Don't ask me how it happened, but somehow we realized that Aaron fit into the Imperial Officer costume and looked more like an Imperial Officer than Sarah's dad (who previously shot those scenes for us). We always planned on re-shooting or replacing Sarah's dad's footage anyway, so we shot Aaron as the Imperial Officer and got some great footage.

Here are before-and-after shots of a Clone Trooper approaching the Imperial Officer:

As you can see in the first picture, I added this shot to the script AFTER we'd already shot Sarah's dad, so we never had live footage for this scene.

In the second picture, you can see Aaron as the Imperial Officer. You can also see that we decided to relocate this scene to the "Venator" Imperial Star Destroyer bridge, rather than our previous "Jedi Temple Security Station" (which we invented).

Even though I always planned on improving the Jedi Temple Security Station digital set, I think the scene looks much better on the Star Destroyer bridge. Now I have to re-texture map the Star Destroyer bridge so that it looks more realistic...

Here are before-and-after shots of the Imperial Officer giving orders to the Clone Trooper:

I haven't decided if we're going to stick with the closer shot or not. If not, I can always change this to a longer shot by digitally-shrinking Aaron. Gotta love digital manipulations!

Also, this shot will look REALLY cool after I re-texture map the Star Destroyer bridge model!

Here are before-and-after comparisons of another scene, when the Imperial Officer appears as a hologram on the "Imperator" Star Destroyer bridge:

No offense to Sarah's dad, because he really worked hard on his footage, but we think Aaron looks more like an Imperial Officer and we were able to get a better performance out of him. Of course, shooting during the day also helped tremendously (we shot Sarah's dad at night when we were all tired). Now we have to find another role for Sarah's dad to play so that he can still be in our super-cool movie! :D

Here's a close-up:


And here's the "choking to death" scene:

I actually liked Sarah's dad's performance better in this scene. He really got into it and gave us some great footage. Aaron's footage was also good, just not quite as dramatic.

Funny side note: Aaron doesn't like to make choking noises, so we ended up having Brad make the choking noises off-camera as Aaron shot his scenes. You can't even tell in the final footage. Too funny.

Finally, we were able to shoot live footage for our R7-D5 shots! Since Nicole and I own a Nikko R2-D2, we shot it against the green screen just like a live actor!

Even if I improved the texture maps on the R2-D2 digital model, it would never look as realistic as live footage of an actual R2-D2. Sweet!

There's so much work to do that I have no idea what I'll work on next week so you'll just have to wait and see!

Later,
Bob

12/4/09

Improved Fire and Jedi Temple improvements

Here's Brad's latest fire test at the Carinda homestead:
video
Pretty cool, huh? As soon as he adds the fire to a few more places, we'll render new background animations, composite them with our live footage, and have some close-to-final shots at the Carinda homestead!

I spent last week improving the geometry and texture mapping on the Jedi Temple exterior. Here's a sample before-and-after comparison:

I replaced that fake, CG-looking doorway with a "real" Jedi interior. Not only does it look much better, but it's also simpler because it's just a screenshot that I took from "Revenge of the Sith." Funny how a 2D picture looks more 3D than our previous 3D doorway...

I also changed the scale on the exterior floor tiles because they looked too small to me.

Anyway, as I was searching for "Star Wars" reference pictures online, I stumbled across an amazing picture of the Jedi Temple's Processional Way entrance:

Sweet, huh? This is EXACTLY the kind of matte painting we needed for the scenes of Brad infiltrating the Jedi Temple. If we use this new matte painting, Brad sneaking into the Jedi Temple would change from:
to !
Hard to believe those are the same scene, right? (BTW, the 2nd picture is a quick-and-dirty composite that I threw together just to get an idea of how the new scene would look. There's no color correction, lighting consistency, digital shadows, etc.)

Unfortunately, we only have that 1 matte painting of the Processional Way, which means we can't change camera angles. We're going to try reducing Brad's "Jedi Temple infiltration" scene down to 3 shots and cheat the backgrounds, because we really want to use this new matte painting for the Jedi Temple background. But if it doesn't work, we'll go back to our 3D model and I'll resume improving the texture mapping and geometry.

We're shooting live footage tomorrow, so we'll see how many scenes we can fit in. After our last few sessions of shooting live footage, we learned to strive for quality rather than quantity. The reason is because we banged through a bunch of shots, but couldn't use any of them because of poor acting (not Brad's fault since he isn't an actor -- we just should have done more takes), poor lighting, framing problems, etc.

Anyway, we should have some cool pictures next time with our new live footage.

Later,
Bob

11/27/09

Improved Jedi Temple Hallway Texture Maps, continued

Brad's making progress on our digital fire and smoke. Here's his latest test footage (using the Carinda homestead model):
video
Pretty sweet! He's making more improvements, like making the flames shorter and less "stringy." But we're a big step closer and I can't wait to get my hands on the final version!

I spent last week improving the texture maps and geometry on our Jedi Temple Hallway model.

Here are before-and-after comparisons of Scene C115b (when Brad is escaping from the Jedi Temple):

I improved the lighting, added reflectivity to most of the surfaces (which makes everything look more 3D and realistic, rather than CG), and stuck a vase in that bump-out to make it look more Jedi Temple-like.

Here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene C115c (Brad muttering, "I have a bad feeling about this" before opening the blast door and revealing a bunch of droidekas):

As you can see, I removed that weird middle-wall (on the left) and added our Jedi statue to the background. I originally created that Jedi statue for our exterior Jedi Temple set, but we changed the exterior camera angles so the Jedi statue was no longer visible. Rather than waste our super-cool model, I stuck it in the background of this shot. :)

Here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene C115d (the background of Brad's reaction shot after he opens the blast door and is confronted by a bunch of droidekas):

This camera angle probably shows the most modifications to our Jedi Temple Hallway model. I completely changed the windows to look more Jedi Temple-like, and I also added those Jedi columns (which I kitbashed from the Jedi Council Chamber model).

Here's the final before-and-after comparison of our droidekas (which, unfortunately, aren't animated yet -- that's going to take a LOT of work!):


Of course, these are not final images. They're just another iteration in our evolution towards final footage. I still have to fix the lighting, improve the texture maps even more, etc. But it's another important step towards our final movie.

Later,
Bob

11/20/09

Improved Jedi Temple Hallway Texture Maps

I've been busy with other stuff, so I haven't had much time to work on our movie lately.

Plus, I spent a bunch of time trying to add "dirt" to our texture mapping to make buildings and other objects look dirty (and more realistic). Unfortunately, I haven't figured it out yet so I burned a bunch of hours with nothing to show for it (yet).

I'm currently improving Jedi Temple Hallway model. Here's a before-and-after comparison of Scene C115d (Brad's reaction shot when the blast door opens revealing a bunch of droidekas):

I replaced that sculpture (which is seen in "Return of the Jedi" in the Cloud City scenes) with a hologram of a planet, which I got from this reference picture of the Jedi Temple:

If you look carefully at the top-left of this picture, you can see the planet hologram that I'm talking about. Here's a close-up:


I'm still improving the geometry and texture mapping on this model, so that's the only picture I have so far. Even that picture may not be final, but it's what I have for now so you can at least see the work-in-progress.

We've scheduled 2 more shooting days the 1st 2 weeks of December. Most of the footage we shot over the past 1-2 months turned out to be animatic-quality, so we're pretty much re-shooting everything.

However, not all was wasted. If we hadn't shot that live footage, we wouldn't know how to improve the shots for the re-shoots. We'll re-shoot as many times as it takes to get the quality we're after.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Bob

10/30/09

Brad's Jedi Costume and Jedi Temple Footage

As mentioned last time, the Jedi belt pouches finally arrived the day before shooting. Upon their arrival, we finally had a complete Jedi costume for Brad. Here's Brad's Jedi costume compared to Obi-Wan Kenobi's costume:

Not bad, right?

Since we had a COMPLETE Jedi costume, we could finally shoot live footage below Brad's waist (before, we were limited to cockpit shots).

Here are a ton of before-and-after pictures using last week's live footage:

Here's Brad using The Force to distract 2 Clone Troopers guarding the Jedi Temple:

Not only have we replaced Brad's "Stormtrooper size reference" in the original animatic with live footage, but we've also improved the Jedi Temple model.

Although it wasn't in the original script, we shot a close-up of Brad using The Force to distract the Clone Troopers so that it would be more obvious to the audience what was happening. Otherwise, Brad's a tiny little figure in the background and it was easy to miss. So here's our new, unscripted close-up of Brad using The Force:


After distracting the Clone Troopers, Brad sneaks past them into the Jedi Temple:

I had to change the camera angle to match our live footage.

We may have to reshoot this scene anyway, because our green screen was too narrow to get enough footage of Brad running right-to-left. He could only take 2-3 steps before going off the green screen. We tried shooting this scene in parts, intending to hide the splice when Brad disappears behind each Clone Trooper, but it didn't work very well because his feet and speed were inconsistent between takes. Oh well, we'll figure something out...

Here's footage of Brad sneaking down the corridor towards the Jedi Databank. This footage appears on a security monitor in the background when an Imperial Officer is talking to a Clone Trooper:

I didn't have a screen shot of the original "security camera footage" (i.e. with the on-screen text, horizontal lines, and other effects), so I included the original animatic before adding the "security camera" effects.

The "after" shot shows the new-and-improved shot, including the "security camera" effects and a digital reflection in the floor.

Here's more security camera footage, this time inside the Jedi Databank:

Since we don't have a crane, and since I now live in a one-story house, we couldn't get the correct downward camera angle shown in the original animatic. That's why the camera angle changed in the new-and-improved shot.

Here's Brad removing the holodisc from the Jedi Databank:

After seeing this scene in the new animatic, I realized we need to shoot a close-up of Brad removing the holodisc from the databank. It's just too easy to miss in this shot, and it's such an important plot element that we need to emphasize it.

Here's Brad planting a Merr-Sonn command-detonated bomb in the Jedi Databank:


Here's Brad planting a second Merr-Sonn bomb, interrupted by the arrival of 2 Clone Troopers:

We had to shoot Brad from the waist up because he had to stick the Merr-Sonn bomb prop onto something so that it would stay in-place. Unfortunately, the only thing we had that he could stick the bomb prop onto was about 3 feet tall:

So... we had to cheat the shot by cropping it below his waist and digitally-moving him down so that it looks like he's standing up in the final shot (above).

Anywho, the 2 Clone Troopers shoot at Brad, but he deflects the blaster bolts back at them with his lightsaber:

Everyone used to make fun of the old animatic because it wasn't even animated. It was just the Stormtrooper size reference with his lightsaber in 2 different positions. I don't see what the big deal was... the shots pretty much look the same to me! ;D

BTW (Brad), I only did quick-and-dirty rotoscoping in this shot, so you'll have to do real rotoscoping if you want your lightsaber blade to look right.

After killing the 2 Clone Troopers, Brad leaves the Jedi Databank:


After checking the corridor to make sure it's clear, Brad exits:

(No, that is NOT final texture mapping on the "after" picture. Don't worry, I'll improve it before we have final footage.)

Also, we shot 4-5 versions of Brad's exit from different angles because the flow was choppy and confusing in the original animatic. After having lots of options to experiment with, this camera angle worked best.

Here's Scene C113c (after Brad exits his first flashback, interrupted by the arrival of 2 Clone Troopers):

Again, WAY temporary texture maps in the "after" picture. I haven't had time to re-texture map that model yet. Ditto on the lighting.

Here are the 2 Clone Troopers confronting Brad:


Brad uses The Force to pull the Clone Troopers towards him:

I moved the camera to show inside the Jedi Training Veranda (and the dead Younglings). It was a more interesting shot, rather than just seeing a wall behind Brad.

Here's Brad slashing through both Clone Troopers with his lightsaber as they fly through the air towards him:

Is it just me, or does Brad have anger management issues he needs to work on? :D

Here's Brad encountering a roadblock during his escape from the Jedi Temple. He's asking R7 (via comlink) to make sure there are no life forms behind that blast door on the left:

You may notice that the model in our "after" picture is totally crappy. I forgot that I hadn't yet cleaned it up, so that's yet another item on my infinitely long "To Do" list for this movie. :(

Here's a close-up of Brad after receiving R7's confirmation that there are no life forms behind the blast door:

Again, the lighting and texture mapping is totally messed up in our "after" picture. Sorry about that...

Here's Brad right after the blast door opens:

Nothing against Brad's acting -- he's never claimed to be an actor -- but I wish he could evoke the same emotional response that our Stormtrooper size reference has in our original animatic. ;D

Here's what was behind the blast door, as Brad runs off-camera to the left:

R7 was correct, there were NO life forms behind that blast door! :)

BTW, I am NOT looking forward to animating those battle droids! Maybe we'll let Brad do it...

Here's Brad running out of the Jedi Temple:

We'll have to re-shoot this scene because Brad could only run a few steps before going off our green screen. However, please note that I still added a digital shadow, even though this isn't a "keeper" shot! :)

As you can see, I just did quick-and-dirty chroma keying and color-correction on these shots, so they're still animatic quality. I didn't want to waste a bunch of time in post-production in case we end up re-shooting.

Nevertheless, our new-and-improved master animatic looks WAY better than the previous version. Almost the entire first half of the movie now has live footage (well, for Brad at least -- the Clone Troopers are still temporary CG stand-ins). Progress is good.

Later,
Bob