A Sci-Fi Comedy

John lies on the ground (Signal Failure)A couple of years ago we decided to make a low-budget indie feature using whatever resources available to us.  Our philosophy was to ‘quit planning and start doing’, which happened to be one of the themes of the film.  Over the next few years we shot scenes whenever we were all available (and in the same country), exploiting our digital format as much as possible: lots of coverage, move quickly and keep a lean crew.

The result is SIGNAL FAILURE, a 110-min sci-fi comedy about the desperate attempts of an ‘almost-30’ year old inventor to make his mark on a world in which security cameras follow his every move and thwart him from fulfilling his potential.

It is said that making a feature is a marathon and not a sprint, and SIGNAL FAILURE has been no exception.  The hours that have been poured into the project by everyone who’s worked on the film, all of whom volunteers, has been nothing short of staggering.  And there is plenty more to do.

As we begin working on the visual effects — and there are a considerable number of shots — I thought it interesting to document some of the work required to get the shots out the door.  I’ll try and share some of the problems we encounter and solutions we come up with, as well as what tools we use and what we build ourselves.

Our starting place is Final Cut Pro 7.0.3 in which we have 9 reels of approximately 12mins each.  Our aim is to create a Dropbox type folder containing shots that artists can work on irrespective of their location.  Our compositing tool of choice will be Nuke v6.3 or later, so each shot folder should at least have a ‘nuke’ and ‘render_comp’ directory.

The film also includes a variety of effect that will have to be accomplished using either Houdini or Maya, but more on that as-and-when.

For now I’ll also just mention that our plan is to work through the film reel by reel so that everyone involved can get a sense of the overall progress.  Fortunately there are a lot of ‘same-as’ shots so that things should pick up as we move from each reel to the next.

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