Crew of Two Creates Dueling Darths on Dual 500MHz PowerMac G4s
By John Virata
view the 45MB movie, visit Crew of Two's Website
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.
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).
image for larger view
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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