Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Shadows at the End of the Tunnel?

Most of this blog has been written between renders, when the visual effects software is engaged in giving me a preview of how my current scene is looking, and so all I can do is sit and wait for the computer to do its thing.

Not many people see us as we’re busy at work so it would be understandably difficult to know why this film is taking so long to complete.  For me it has become something of an obsession – pretty much every available moment I have I’m working on the visual effects.  Most nights I’m also ‘working’ on it in my sleep.  My dreams have become an incomprehensibly surreal mélange of layering and adjusting parameters and composing realities with my fingertips as I do during my waking hours.
I once had a dream about a scary half naked clown too, but that's a story for another time.

For those of us who don’t know our story till this point, let me give a brief recap.  In 2009 I presented my partner in crime Chris with a script of mine.  We decided at some point that summer that somehow we were going to get this film made.  Because of the nature of the script, and the fact that we had very limited resources, Chris suggested that we shot everything on blue screen.  Late that summer we shot a sample scene to see if this whole thing would be feasible… We judged that it was.
A still from the original Shadows showpiece. Chris has undergone 217 hair colour changes since then.

It wasn’t until the following summer (2010) that we went into full production, shooting most of the film in a dusty barn down a remote fen road.  Post-production started during October of that year, once we’d deconstructed our blue screen studio.  Our first task was to create a rough cut, or a ‘blue edit’, as everything was still against our monochrome background.  It wasn’t until April 2011 that we’d edited the entire film (clocked at over 2 hours long) and the next stage of post-production could begin.

And, nearly two years on, that’s the stage we’re still on now – getting rid of the blue and creating the world that our characters live in.  We always had a good idea that this stage was going to be very intensive and very time consuming.  I guess the one thing we’ve learnt is that no matter how adept you get at creating these visual effects, there are never any easy scenes and there’s no quick way of going about it.

At first, I personally wasn’t hands on in creating the visual effects, but seeing that we were progressing at a slow rate, I decided it was best if Chris trained me up on the techniques so that I could be working on it too and take some of the workload off him.  Fortunately I’d been on hand to see most of what Chris had already created, so I was in the best possible position to take on the job.
The art direction department had an easy job in the blue screen studio.

So that’s how we’ve been operating since June of last year.  We’ve often been asked during the post-production stage how far we are through it, and we may have glossed over that subject in our answers.  I have actually had a very good idea about how many scenes we’ve completed for a little while now.

And how many have you done, hmmmm, Richard? Well... the good news is we’re past half way now, the bad news is we’re not that far past half way.   However, we have been doing the more difficult scenes first.  At the beginning of January Chris and I had a good look at everything there was left to do and shared the scenes out between ourselves.  Based on what we’ve completed so far, we’ve also come up with a realistic timescale for completing the entire thing.  We anticipate we’ll complete the visual effects some time in the summer, and then use the remaining months of the year doing the next edit, sorting out the sound, finalising the soundtrack etc.  Our goal is to have a finished film by Christmas (and yeah I know we said that way back in 2011).

Don’t be surprised if we go over that schedule and complete it in 2014 (as much as I don’t want to), but I can’t see us going very far into 2014 at all if we do.  For now we’re definitely focused on completing this year.
An artist's impression of how the future will look when Shadows of a Stranger is finally completed.

And there we have it.  That’s exactly where we’re at.  Better get back to work now.

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