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Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning

Pages:  production and shoot - post-production

Post-production played a especially important part in the making of Star Wreck. There were a lot of things that we had to do in post because doing them for real wasn't possible for us. We also had to fix up the shortcomings of our primitive filming equipment and even some of the mistakes we had made in the early days of filming.

3D modeling and rendering

Newtek Lightwave 3D (versions from 5.5 to 8.3)

Lightwave was our main 3D-application. Using Lightwave was probably the first technical decision made about the movie. Samuli tried using 3D Studio Max, but at the time it was way too slow for complex space shots. Lightwave 5.6 offered the best render quality for the price. During the making of the movie Lightwave has gone through several versions, adding features but the oldest scenes in the movie have been rendered with 5.6. Discreet's later revision of 3D Studio Max was used by our friends at Second Brain for a couple of shots, mainly the earth based shots.


Keying, compositing and 2D effects

Adobe After Effects (versions from 5.5 to 6.5)

Keying, compositing and 2D effects were done in Adobe After Effects. Much of the 2D effects are completely unnoticable, for example early in the movie when Pirk is speaking on the phone in the hospital. What you see on the screen consists of two different shots mixed together. There are many instances of multiplying crowds with mixing differents shots together, like the briefing room scene before the trip to the worm hole.

There is a lot of digital grading used in the movie. Colours have been tweaked in every shot, lighting has also been tweaked in many instances. For example many of the Baabel 13 scenes have had backgrounds edited and darkened, a process that required the actors to be separated from the backgrounds by hand, wich is a time-consuming task. Some scenes have had fake smoke added etc.

Primatte keyer for After Effects by Red Giant Software

Because more than half of the movie was shot against bluescreen, a fast and handy keying (for separating the actors from the blue background) tool was essential. Samuli tried out many different keyers and found out quickly that the main problem is the DV compression - especially the blue colour is compressed very heavily, which makes the edges of the character very blocky. Because of this it's hard to make actors blend in to the scene when working with DV video. Primatte's Prekey deartifacting (Read more) offered a way around the problem.

Overall the Primatte keyer by Red Giant Software was the best solution for us. It also offered the speed and the quality we needed.

Magic Bullet Suite for After Effects by Red Giant Software

The "movie-look" filtering was archieved with a plugin by Red Giant Software as well, Magic Bullet Suite. Of course similar filtering can be archieved with basic After Effects tools, but when there's only one guy behind the special effects, the workflow speed and simplicity is everything. Some people thought that the movie was shot on film!

Shooting the bluescreen scenes

Strecthing between shooting the bluescreen scenes.

Bluescreening is serious work

The limitations of our studio made a good keying tool even more important.

Editing

Adobe Premiere (versions from 5.5 to Pro 1.5)

Editing was done using Adobe's Premiere. Like Lightwave, Premiere went through many versions during the making of the movie, getting better and better. We would have saved a lot of time if all the editing could have been done with the current Premiere Pro 2.0 version.

The biggest problem with editing was the project files getting very big and complex and bogging down the performance. This, of course, was a problem that could have been helped with editing smaller parts at a time.

Graphic design and 2D graphics

Adobe Photoshop (versions 5 to CS2)

Photoshop, while having nothing to do with video has been (and is) an essential tool in making a movie. It was used in everything from creating fake newspapers, to removing filming equipment from shots to turning summertime into the dead of winter (a short transitional scene that was cut in the last days of editing).

Adobe Encore DVD

For DVD authoring we used Adobe's Encore 1.5. The DVD was done in a hurry, with the deadline looming right overhead, so it was a rather nice suprise to notice that Encroe was easy and intuitive to use. Unfortunately though, the older 1.5 versio we used had a couple of bugs that caused the entire project to disappear at 3AM the night before the deadline. Thank god for backups. Currently we are using the improved Encore 2.0.

Particle Illusion by Wondertouch

Particle illusion is a software for creating 2D particle effects. It was used to create many, but not all, explosions and smokes composited into live action video. The compositing was done in After Effects.

Creating the news in Photoshop

Jarmo creating the news headlines about Pirk's conquests in Photoshop CS2.

One of the edited fake magazines from the Star Wreck universe

One of the edited fake magazines from the Star Wreck universe.

The hardware

NOTE The text below was written in 2006. Today you'll get a lot more ppower for the same amount of money - and you'll need it if you plan on filming on HD. However working on DVD (or YouTube) resolution the hardware described here is still adequate.

With computers the aim was again to get the most calculating power for the money.

The processors

In the beginning Samuli's workstation was a Intel celeron 333Mhz. Next came a dual Celeron 500Mhz. With the power race heating up between the processor makers the next incarnation of the Wreck making machine was a AMD Duron 700, wich was updated to a 1.2Ghz Thunderbird. Next came a Intel Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz wich was replaced by AMD XP 2400+ and soon by AMD XP 2600+. Next came a Intel Pentium 4 3.2 Ghz (wich kept overheating like a bitch in springtime, but Lightwave 3D was better optimized for Intel). That changed to AMD Athlon 3500+.

Currently Samuli is working on a new dual prosessor system - Energia Productions received two high-end workstations from HP. The specs of the beasts are: HP xw9300-workstation with two dual core Opterons at 2,2 GHz, 4 gigs of ram and Nvidia Quadro FX4500.

Graphics

Before the new workstations we've used run-of-the-mill gaming cards, most of them made by Nvidia. Open GL implementation has always been better in Nvidia cards. Even though speed is important while working with 3D apps, it's not as essential as it is with new games.

Hard drives

Rest of the computer hardware has been too varied to list. One thing of interest for people working on video is hard drives. We've used basic drives, so no SCSI raid's for us. We did have a IDE-raid system for some time, but when hard drives got cheaper we returned to basic one disk systems. In the last days of production there was some 450 gigabytes of hard disk space in use at our studio, right now just the two HP workstations alone hit the half terabyte mark. With hard drives we went for reliability but even with manufacturers with good reputation we had some near-disasters with quite a few drives breaking down during production. You could make up a rule that the most important drive you buy is not the one you use for editing, but the one where you backup your data...

The render farm in Samuli's kitchen

The render farm in Samuli's kitchen during the summer of 2005.

A small jungle of wires

A small jungle of wires.

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