The Crew of Two Creates Dueling Darths on Dual 500MHz PowerMac G4s
By John Virata
Senior Producer


To view the 45MB movie, visit Crew of Two's Website

The Crew of Two, out of Santa Barbara, California, just finished a demo reel showcasing Duality, a tribute to the Star Wars films. What is unique about the The Crew of Two is the two principal artists do not work at effects facilities. Dave Macomber, who choreographed the battle scenes between the two Darths in Duality, is a karate school owner/instructor, and Mark Thomas is a type designer and landscape/portrait painter. The film was shot entirely with Canon XL1 and GL1 DV camcorders, with the footage transferred for editing and effects into a pair of dual 500MHz G4 PowerMac workstations, each with with 512MB RAM, and two 40GB ATA drives. The software that The Crew of Two used included Eleictric Image, Adobe After Effects, Apple's Final Cut Pro, and the Primatte plug-in for most of the keying in AE. Mark Thomas spoke with DigitalProducer.com, discussing how The Crew of Two created this very cool tribute to George Lucas and Star Wars.

All 3D animation and modeling was done in Electric Image on dual 500Mhz PowerMac G4 supercomputers.
Click image for larger view


DP: How many people worked on Duality?
MT: There are just the two of us, myself and Dave Macomber, hence the name "Crew of Two." We're in Santa Barbara, about a 15-minute walk from both Santa Barbara Studios and Alias/Wavefront. We did all of the pre- and post-production, meaning the writing, directing, editing, CG work, sound editing, etc. Dave's mother was kind enough to offer her sewing skills for free, so she got the seamstress credit, and we had two machinist friends make our sword handles. Most of the people credited at the end of Duality are people who helped us during our three-day shoot, when Crew of Two became Crew of About Twelve!

DP: Duality looks like it could have been a scene cut right out of The Phantom Menace:
MT: All of our footage is original footage, and all of the designs are original except for the seekers, which are modeled directly from the training seeker Luke uses in the original Star Wars (A New Hope).

Click image for larger view

DP: How many hours did it take to put together all the elements to the film?
MT: Hard to say. All told, we worked on Duality for more than a year, while simultaneously living more or less normal lives -- Dave is a karate school owner and instructor, I'm a type designer and landscape/portrait painter. The last five months, starting at the end of September when we had our three-day bluescreen shoot, were the most intense.

DP: Why did you use the tools that you used? Were there any reasons why EI and Final Cut Pro were used? What do you like about the tools you used?
MT: Electric Image was used [for some scenes] in The Phantom Menace, so it seemed only natural that we go with it for our CG shots. Being long time Mac users limited our options anyway, and EI is currently a Mac-only application. It was just good luck that EI also happens to be fantastic -- fast, with beautiful output, and a lean interface -- perfect for this project. Though some people criticize its modeler, we found it to be intuitive and a pleasure to use. Final Cut Pro made sense for a number of reasons. It's a native DV editor, it includes Velocity Engine support, and was highly regarded. It's a solid application that we'll definitely use again. We used Commotion to create selection outlines for our saber glows, and also to touch up some shots. And, of course, After Effects for compositing. We used the Primatte plug-in in AE for most of the keying.

Sound effects were dropped in as the final edit was made, and were sampled off the Star Wars Trilogy and Phantom Menace laser discs using Pro Tools FREE. Pro Tools was also used for looping. Click image for larger view

DP: What kind of planning process did you partake in to finish the film? This is a pretty great endeavor that really showcases solid skills. How did you develop the movie and carry out your plan?
MT: Shooting against bluescreen and creating our environments digitally was a part of our original concept for Duality, but since we had never done anything like this before, and had only rudimentary knowledge of filmmaking and computer graphics, we knew we had to keep things as simple as possible.

MT: So we created a few rules for ourselves: we would keep the camera locked down, we would keep our number of CG sets to a minimum, use diffuse lighting, and keep the movie short. We did an enormous amount of pre-production, partly to get a better idea of exactly what we could accomplish with the tools at our disposal. We used this period -- approximately five months -- to learn our software and get as much done ahead of time as possible so that our post-production would go smoothly.

The temple interior and training platform where most of the action takes place -- was a complete set built in Electric Image. Click on image for larger view.

Many of our final CG shots were completed long before we shot any live action. Our main set -- the temple interior and training platform where most of the action takes place -- was a complete set built in Electric Image. Many weeks were spent building, texturing and lighting this set so that once we were ready to render plates, it was simply a matter of adding a camera, positioning it, and clicking Render. Of course, we didn't follow the plan exactly. For a few key shots we DID move the camera, and then just match-moved things by eye. Also, originally the entire fight was to take place inside the temple. Moving the last third of the fight outside was a spontaneous decision made about halfway through pre-production.

DP: How about the soundtrack. It really sounds like Star Wars music. Who composed the soundtrack?
MT: That's actual Star Wars music and sound effects you hear. Lucasfilm is extremely flexible when it comes to using their copyrighted material for this type of not-for-profit project. So long as you don't use actual Star Wars movie clips, or try to sell your movie, you're okay. We would have liked to have done our own score, but Star Wars just isn't Star Wars without John Williams.

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