I’ve just figured out that if I composite 10 different shots per day I should have a rough cut of the Killer Robots Next Movie by then end of December (2013). The workload is somewhat daunting but the notion that the film could be finished by February is inspiring.
Here’s a shot of some model work and compositing. I like the abstract form it takes on when frozen.
Just another Sunday afternoon waiting for a 4 second shot to render – 9 hours and 4 minutes to go. In the meantime I’ve been putting some thought into how how better to promote the new Killer Robots movie. Unfortunately, I’m not too fond of promoting. As someone hoping to be a successful artist and filmmaker, I realize this is something I should probably put more energy into.
Photo by Mike McGowan
So in the spirit of promotion, here is a shot of actor, Scott Yuken as a club-wielding barbarian battle machine. One of hundreds and the reason the above described shot is taking so long. Can you guess what recyclables were incorporated into this costume? This is of course assuming that Scott is not actually an android sent from the future to help us finish our movie.
Aside from that, still at work on the new KR movie. Currently in the middle of tons of rotoscoping for Strobo’s footage. His legs keep disappearing so there’s been quite a bit of layering and patching.
Also making quite a bit of headway with miniatures. Having built the majority of required models, they’re currently scattered all over the house awaiting paint jobs and filming. Yesterday I was able to shot some footage of the Towerbots – 3 story tall machines built to annihilate unwelcome visitors to the planet Vidya. Now working up the motivation to film some Galaxon battle-cruiser shots.
As of today we’ve been in production on the Killer Robots Next Movie for a little over 2 years and it looks like we may have another year to go.
Once this movie is finished I hope to produce at least 3 movies per year and make a career of it. I think with a smaller cast and scope it can be done. I look forward to telling stories of mutants, supernatural forces and other fantastic myths that folks find that they identify with.
Despite the long hours in making the Killer Robots movie, I’ve been enjoying the process. The slow pace has allowed me to experiment with old school special effects, costuming and modelmaking. Plus I get to work with a variety of talented actors and artists.
Is it worth it? Yes!
Sam Gaffin, Charisse Lefebvre and Nicole Campbell secure Scott Yuken in his Robo-Zombie uniform. Photo by Mike McGowan.
I love Computer-generated imagery (or CGI) for opening up the possibilities of imagination and allowing one to bring their visions to the screen without limitations. For a reasonable price you can be your own visual effects unit with off-the-shelf software. Despite all of this, I find myself building models and compositing photographic backgrounds for The Killer Robots Next Movie.
For my first feature, The Killer Robots and the Battle for the Cosmic Potato, I utilized Lightwave 3D to create the worlds that the characters would inhabit. Now, I did have limitations: my computer was old and slow and my experience with 3D modeling and texturing was basic at best. But, I had a list of 800 shots filled with sets, locations, costumes and alien characters that would have to be realized somehow. Without the resources to build sets and miniatures, I felt CGI was the way to go.
To get around the aforementioned limitations, I modeled everything simply. Instead of gritty realism I went for a cartoonish hyper-reality. All of the monsters and aliens had giant pool balls for eyes. Every set and spaceship glowed with color. The subject matter leaned toward the absurd so I felt an absurd presentation would be best. Some might say that it all looks like a video game and they’re probably right, but I’m ultimately satisfied with the final product in all of its primitive glory!
As happy as I was with the Cosmic Potato I couldn’t help but wonder what it all would have looked like with miniature sets, puppets and models. With production of The Killer Robots Next Movie underway, I thought to myself, “Would folks be more inclined to sit and watch my movies if the settings were more rooted in reality?”
I did some more CGI tests to see if I could approximate a more realistic look. I added extra detail and worked on my lighting. Finally I had to admit that although it was no longer cartoony; my CGI work still looked like illustrations. I decided then that the old-school style of special effects may be more conducive to what I was trying to achieve.
With the advances in digital editing and compositing I began to realize those older techniques were actually within my grasp. I built a couple of robot monsters out of recycled plastics and broken toys. My friend, Samuel Williams began building a series of miniature buildings. I found some open-source photos of engines, tunnels and refineries. I then composited everything in Adobe After Effects and added some rich color grading to the proceedings. I must admit I was quite pleased with the results.
Personally I felt more immersed, but then again I am immersed, so I’ll let you be the judge!
Storyboards! One of my favorite tasks while preparing for a movie. They usually start out with a lot of detail and shading. Eventually, about 60 pages in, they start to resemble abstract scribbles. This is from one of the first sequences assembled for The Killer Robot’s Next Movie.
When we shot it we didn’t have a lot of room as our green screen didn’t stretch but a few feet. Our actress, the indomitable Jenna Hellmuth, made the most of it with slow motion leaps and short hops that, in our mind’s eye, would translate into high intensity action once the backgrounds were added and the shots trimmed.
I’m happy to report, the sequence was a nice confidence booster. On the road to production I wrote and drew all kinds of way-out stuff with just a hope that it would all somehow come together in the final product. Seeing the puppets, performers, editing and effects come together in a final cut scene is a rush every time.
Check out the finished sequence below. Hope you enjoy!
Producing a feature length Sci-Fi spectacle on a zero budget can leave one with very few options when it comes to locations, actors and crew personnel. In the case of the Killer Robots Next Movie we were blessed with a number of individuals who have given generously of their time and energy and have allowed us to turn their garages, barns and cat dens into temporary movie studios.
It’s a challenge to create something of scale with limited resources, but also a joy to see footage come together that is so far removed from a small room with a green screen, treadmill and kitty litter. It’s as if dreams too fantastic to realize were manifested into reality by sheer willpower, cameras, duct tape and recycled plastics.
Even with writing the script and directing the scenes, the film still takes on a life of its own. Actors bring their personalities to the characters while costumes and props take on unexpected forms based on the materials at hand. Sometimes I feel like the universe is creating the movie and I’m just riding the wave and trying to keep my balance.
Mike McGowan steadies Trog played by Charles Harris
Back to the vortex. Thanks for reading!
Check out some info on The Killer Robots Next Movie (not the official title) and other projects over here.
Check out killerrobots.tv for information about the Killer Robots band along with very infrequent news updates!
With my first feature, The Killer Robots and the Battle for the Cosmic Potato I got an idea for the story in a flash. I could hear the voices of the different characters and the jokes just seemed natural. I wrote the script in a couple of days and added in bits and pieces throughout production. The final script was 65 pages and to those familiar with screenwriting, that’s about 65 minutes of actual finished movie. After producing a couple of shorts and the one feature I can attest that somehow it really does work out to about a minute of movie per page.
Dax delivers useless insight.
Now normally movies are about 90 minutes long while a few might get away with 70 minutes. I decided I needed an 80 minute movie and so added a lizard-like floating head between the different chapters of the movie. He would recite various philosophical platitudes that really made no sense but somehow related to the story – but not really. He turned out to be a lot of fun though. Folks got a kick out of him popping up at various times through the narrative. Usually by the end he would be mercilessly booed, but that was part of the fun.
To further extend the movie to the 80 minute mark I constructed a rather long credit sequence at the beginning of the movie. There were lots of flybys of computer generated planets while the names of the amazing cast and crew flashed by on-screen – all in a rich yellow and blue color scheme. Personally I love it, although watching it with an audience at Spooky Empire in 2009, I couldn’t help but think it should have been a couple of minutes shorter.
Finally I kept my shots at a leisurely 5-6 seconds long. With dialogue extending some shots longer and some action bits coming in at around 3 seconds. I’m quite happy with the final product although when I watch it, I sometimes have an urge to trim the hell out of certain shots. But I guess that what happens when you take on a project like this. You’re never really done with it. You just have to walk away at some point and hope it flies.