A Call to Blender & 3D Artists – Help Produce a Live-Action Short Film!

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Mark DeMaria on August 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hey guys,

I’m trying to produce a short film this Summer for my high school film festival/youtube.
Very briefly, it’s based on the Half-Life universe, more specifically the Seven Hour War. Hence the title. :P

Here’s the teaser trailer I created that won Best Commercial at this past year’s high school film festival:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LwWWRgS6Vo&feature=plcp

I. Plot Synopsis

“The short film takes place at the beginning of and during the Seven Hour War; the war that enslaved humanity. The plot centers on two teenagers, Dan and Hannah, and their struggle to make sense of the alien invasion as it unfolds around them, unbeknownst to the two that they are being manipulating by an enigmatic, sinister, interdimensional bureaucrat known only as the “G-Man.” “He” is known to display peculiar behaviors and capabilities beyond that of a normal human, such as possessing the ability to stop time to insert or extract individuals from that time in order to change the events in his favor. The G-Man’s identity and motives remain almost completely unexplained, as he uses the protagonists as means to an end, whatever end that may be.”

I’d like to start by outlining a few things that I’ve done in After Effects/Vegas/Blender (Basically my Portfolio), and then go over what would be required, should you volunteer for helping us out.

II. Portfolio/Qualifications

First, I’ve been using Blender for about 2.5ish years. I started right before the jump to Blender 2.5, and I’ve stuck with it since then. I’ve done a few projects with it, including making custom bumpers for a low-budget production company called “Lingering Finger”, custom bumpers for this past year’s film festival at my high school, as well as 2 Valentine’s Day animations (one of which I used to ask my girlfriend out) and finally, I’ve used Blender to composite Half Life 2 models into live-action footage.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jcrZHTpZkc&feature=relmfu
^^My first real animation done in Blender^^

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNgEOksiw4k&feature=relmfu
^^My second “real” animation done in Blender to ask my girlfriend out^^

Here’s some of my compositing work:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4BJOWuJ4BY
^^A Sky-replacement/random VFX test^^

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjDZEgB64oU&feature=youtu.be
^^An excerpt from the trailer with just the Strider rising from below.^^

http://puu.sh/On1Y
^^2D effect using a single image plane and a rectangle made to warp using a lattice in After Effects^^

All of my DSLR photography can be found at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markymarkv/

I’ve taken my film making very seriously, and I want to minor in it if I can. I own a Canon T2i, a vintage 50mm f/1.4 lens, and a vintage 28mm f/2.5 lens. I’ve been doing photography for about 3 years, and doing sports photography for 2 years before that. I definitely know my way around a DSLR and how to use it effectively. I own a shotgun microphone, 4 clamp lights + assorted bulbs, color temperature gels, a decent-sized green screen, as well as a DIY boom pole, hand-held rig, and slider.
I’ve only directed one short film, from which I have learned an enormous amount of things, from directing actors, lighting, cinematography, editing workflow, etc. I have no worries about actually filming the short film. I’m more worried about the post-production aspect. Some of my scenes are entirely CG, and will have to be done in Blender. Unfortunately, my older laptop isn’t able to handle rendering entire scenes photo-realistically.

I’ve tried to do as much as I can on my own to try to get around this, but unfortunately, the results are just sub-par. For instance, my laptop can’t handle smoke simulations whatsoever, nor can it handle even basic shattering physics if the shatter count gets above 10 or 15. I’ve tried using billboards/sprites, but the results just aren’t where they need to be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huFhfJbYtHk&feature=youtu.be
^^Sprites for the vortex cloud structure^^

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVYd27zlVNc&feature=youtu.be
^^Sprites for the beam of energy. Looks terrible at low-res, but at a higher res, it only looks decent.^^

As you can see, it isn’t enough to get the job done and do the fan film justice. What I am able to do is some 3D tracking in PF Track and I’ve figured out how to use that data in Blender 2.6. I’m proficient in After Effects, and I would be doing all of the final compositing there with any footage rendered on alpha.

III. What You Can Do To Help

Essentially, if you volunteered to help with this project, you’d be doing a lot of scenes that are entirely CGI. A wide landscape shot, wide shots of a city, close-up shots inside of the city, buildings being destroyed, smoke, the portal storm that I’ve been attempting to do , some green screen stuff, and a few other things. I’ve been able to extract all the source models into a format Blender can read. I have all the textures and normal maps extracted and usable, and I have all of the animations import-ready as well.

As far as a time-table goes, we’d film in late August, and then submit the film for judging and viewing at the beginning of January. So you would have August-December to do all of the VFX, which I believe is a fairly good amount of time.

Additionally, you would not be paid. This is purely for our interest in making films and our love of Half Life. I’ve given you my portfolio, so you may be the judges of how trust-worthy/reliable I am to fulfill my end of the film. I love what I do, and I would love to make this as best it can be, so please, if you are even slightly interested in reading the script to see exactly what you might be getting yourself into, I would be happy to email it to you.

Any further questions are appreciated as well. I know that this is an amazing community, so I look forward to hearing back from all of you.
Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,
Mark DeMaria

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