Happy Holidays! It’s been a couple of weeks since we had an update about our entry into the 100hr Film Race. The last thing I wrote was pretty optimistic, this post here.
We were heading into Sunday, effectively day 4, with what we thought was a top-notch concept. The script seemed pretty solid, and so was the acting.
We had made the choice on the evening of Friday, day 2, to go fully green screen, and build an environment in Unreal as our ‘set.’
Long story short, it ultimately wasn’t a compatible process with the amount of time we had. I’ll go into more detail below, but first I want to present the film. This is the ‘Christmas Cut.’ We submitted a significantly less complete version of this to the festival, and were not among the 10 finalists.
This version may not be the final version, but it’s good enough for now. Please enjoy!
As you can see, those of you who watched the film, there are some residual particles from the green screen here and there, and some discolouration in the background. Some hair was a problem, and some reflections. We need a few tweaks to our lighting setup, and a few additions, to get things perfect.
Naturally there were a lot of compromises made. Coverage was sacrificed for time. We didn’t do a lot of takes, which is normal for these competitions, but it meant that we had no alternative if the green screen was bad in a critical shot.
For the backgrounds, we used photos of our walls. All the paintings are real. I edited using DaVinci Resolve, and I can say it has a really simple way of removing green screen backgrounds. I used this tutorial to get me up to speed. It is an extremely useful skill/tool that I will be using a lot in future.
Speaking of the future, let’s talk about the Unreal environment thing.
First off, the good. It’s definitely a technology and production pipeline of the future. The idea is that you have a 3D environment that appears in proper perspective with proper depth and lighting. You can have digital assets, like props and furniture. When everything is set up properly, you can have as close to a real environment as you can make it look. Asset quality and texturing go a long way, but with something simple like an art gallery, it’s very possible to make it look real.
Currently the technology is used for previsualization environments like those found in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the like, where creating them and housing them is full of costs and logistics. Digital environments are comparatively easy to manage. But as the technology and textures and such improve, it’s going to be viable as actual backgrounds.
Here’s the bad. We needed a camera component to have any hope in hell of completing the project on time. We didn’t have it. Had I known, I would have purchased it. It’s moderately expensive, but would have fit in the budget for the film, and would be a focal point of production going forward. It creates a position for the camera in Unreal, which can be used to match the perspective of the backgrounds quickly and easily, instead of doing that by hand.
Here’s the ugly. The computer that was required to run Unreal in real time so we could use it was a hot rod of computers. It was not something the average person has, and we couldn’t do it without that computer. While it would be nothing for a big studio, or even somebody with a hefty grant, it’s way out of our capacity to pursue that pipeline right now. The owner of the computer would similarly be required for every step of the post process, and that’s way too much for a volunteer.
As well, while Unreal assets can be created, that’s a very real cost, either in time or money. I don’t know what the assets we would have used would have cost. As a producer, the scope of that cost needs to be worked out in advance. Things can’t simply be added as the production goes along, because costs can get out of control really quickly.
But there are a lot of silver linings to be had here. We learned so much.
We also made a film entirely on green screen. We could do it again, and stuff with tricky backgrounds, like science fiction, is now totally in play for us. It’s also going to be very viable for small-scale production, like stop-motion.
If you have questions about the details of what we tried, or anything else about the production, leave us a comment, or contact us at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading, watching and supporting our little group! We’ve had a crazy 2022, and hopefully 2023 is going to be even better! Happy Holidays to you and yours!