Gossip Part 1 (also how I got into VFX)

I noticed my blog isn’t blowing up the internet yet so I’ve decided to pivot from this dry crap about style and Tarkovsky and get on with some steamy gossip. Stay tuned and in coming paragraphs I will reveal all dark, dank secrets happening on our movie sets (which are populated by cool people who do cool things).

Before we get to the gossip I want to discuss visual effects. In my previous film Faraway (2014) there are I believe two visual effect shots in the entire picture. In The Monsters Without (20??) there are more than a hundred. How we build up the resources to make the jump from practical filmmaking to effect driven work? With very little planning.

I’ve always dabbled, as any filmmaker does, in greenscreen and simple effects available in Adobe Premiere. After completing Faraway I discovered the magic of Blender. The first part of that magic is that it’s free. After that is functionality. It can seemingly do everything. There are many nay-sayers of Blender. Those people are professionals using extremely expensive software that produce huge budget movies. They are right: Blender can’t do everything. There is a very small sliver of things that Blender can’t do which Maya and Houdini can do. With that one terrible sacrifice, and my several thousand saved dollars, I decided to become a devotee of Blender.

The two VFX shots in Faraway are both during the sequence when Audrey enters the world of the Diwata. Against a stock video of bubbling water a 3D model of Audrey gets pulled through time and space. This seemed appropriate, as these scenes are quite surreal and any lack of realism in the VFX would be okay as long as it remain interesting and stylish. It took me a long time to learn how to download models for Blender, how to animate the rig and camera, and how to export properly into something that could be composited in After Effects. At this point I was not well versed in After Effects either. But I clumsily pulled it all together and those shots are forever a part of the film and you can laugh at their primitive nature on Amazon Prime.

Ready now for gossip? Even at this very moment there are people, somewhere, performing elicit acts about which you want to hear! Shameless behavior galore! Stay tuned to hear every juicy tidbit.

Luckily post production doesn’t have much in the way of gossip material. Going into The Monsters Without, it was my intent to write and plan it as though we had no limit to the budget. I felt that between the advantages of filming in the Philippines, and careful planning and implementation of Blender, we could really do anything story-wise. We couldn’t quite achieve any specific shot I might imagine, but there would always be some version that could be done. Giant tower, no problem. Evil creature made of crystal? Just make sure to film carefully.

There were a few tests done. You can see these in the promo video we created for the Kickstarter campaign. Just things to make sure that we’d be able to get the effects done. The most important one is a shot of the tree monster. I spent more then two weeks just on this one shot, learning how to track properly, how to model and texture the monster tree to look exactly like the real tree, how to rotoscope. This shot became a symbol of the intention: as close to photo-real as we could possibly go. Somehow this shot exceeded even my hopes. To such an extent that I’ve now placed it as the opening shot of the full feature, even though it was never intended for that purpose. Blender had proven that it could do what we needed, and I realized that any VFX we couldn’t hire someone for could be entrusted to myself.

Because at that point I imagined that we would somehow hire a team to help with the effects. I hadn’t yet considered that it would all just fall to me.

Looks like we’re out of space. That’s really a shame because now is finally the time to spill the beans on this hot gossip I’ve been holding on to. It involves people, and relationships, and most of all limbs. Arms, legs, what-have-you. Intrigued? Well, we’re just about to completely run out of space, but I’m going to keep my word and dish out all the dirty laundry info y

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