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