Thursday, March 06, 2008

Animation and visual effects for REPERKUSSIONZ have been in progress since 2005. That progress has been painfully slow. It's been gnawing at me like a hungry weasel. I recently took stock of what has been finished so far.

Each fully 3D-animated, photoreal-textured, meticulously rigged and carefully composited shot in REPERKUSSIONZ has required 3-6 months to complete. At this rate, it will be finished in approximately 225 years. It's one of those realizations that jumps up and smacks you. There is no budget to hire additional hands, and CPU horspower has been a real bottleneck during renders. My render farm is slow, and old, each node probably one-quarter as powerful as any PC of recent vintage. Two major things have thrown monkey wretches into the works: I underestimated how long preparation and renders would take, and my routine expenses unexpectedly went way up, requiring that I take on more outside work than I used to.

The thought of ditching the project is intolerable. I have a ton of work and a bit of money invested, and I owe the three live-action stars of REPERKUSSIONZ, at the very least, a finished production for their efforts. They were good sports who delivered efforts above and beyond the squall of doody - wearing odd costumes in public, bouncing off concrete floors, forced to speak endless pages of incomprehensible dialogue wrote by a schizophrenic.

I've spent months messing around with the footage from REPERKUSSIONZ, trying various things, to find a less technically demanding, less time-consuming way of completing the project. I tried an "impressionistic" style, similar to that of best-movie-in-the-world FORBIDDEN ZONE, with the live action only loosely composited, without 3D tracking, into sets made of simple, artsy-fartsy doodads rather than photoreal models. That approach sucked.

Then I thought, hey, REPERKUSSIONZ could be turned into a "cartoon" of sorts, preserving most of the style and narrative I originally intended. Software solutions that didn't exist in such refined forms in 2005 have become available in the last couple of years. Using DeBabelizer to apply new Photoshop plugins, such as SNAP ART, to frame sequences, I can turn the live action plates into rotoscoped animation, without laborious and expensive hand-tracing, and with some qualities that, in my opinion, are superior to the interpolated vector rotoscoping of A SCANNER DARKLY and many current TV commercials.

There are some issues with the process I'll be using. The conversion from live action to 2D is not perfectly "clean", and there's no time or budget for conventional cleanup. By necessity, the swimming line, the shaky, ersatz hatching, the popping highlights will be assimilated as part of REPERKUSSIONZ' new esthetic. Rendering these frames takes a fraction of the time as the 3D shots. Compositing is fast and easy. Shortcuts used in conventional anime can be employed. Live action and 3D can be mixed with 2D fairly seamlessly. Getting textures "just right" with endless iterations and multiple render passes is no longer a problem.

As a bonus, the show can be completed in HD, which has become important for distribution and broadcast. The standard definition DV footage which served as the basis for completed composites was not HD-friendly, despite many upconverting attempts. 2D line art can be more successfully goaded into the HD transition.

Preparing REPERKUSSIONZ shots in 2D can be done at 100 or more times the speed of the underfunded big-budget approach I was using. The tests done so far, using partially completed setups, convince me that this can work, and it's a better alternative than simply quitting.

Keep your eyeballs slit open and squashed against your monitor for news as it develops. Meanwhile, here are a couple of quicky tests that show REPERKUSSIONZ in its new cartoony form.

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Blogger Madduane said...

At first I wasn't sure I liked it, but this time through I have to say I liked it a lot! The design work is all there, and that's strong. The thing which makes a movie work, sorry to tell Hollywood, is a good story. That's why Star Wars 1-3 suck so bad, because Lucas forgot that the story is way more important than the effects.

So I would say, if you think you've got a good story (and I'm totally looking forward to seeing this movie, dude) you should not worry about the realism so much. Tell the story the best you can.

but tell the story.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Benedict E Bowen said...

Squarejawhero from AN here - just took a look at the new aesthetic and I dig it! I can't wait (but will ;) ) to see the finished article. I hope you don't mind my saying so, but it actually looks more interesting this way. Best of luck finishing it!

2:52 AM  
Blogger Frank Panucci said...

Hey, thanks for the positive response. Changing to 2D was a practical decision, but I think it will work out. It actually gives me a lot more options in terms of format. It can be feature-length, or chopped up into episodes with greater flexibility than the live-action would have allowed, etc.

If I had thought all this through, though, I could have avoided building a green screen studio, and buying all those props, and spending months tracking/stabilizing shots and so on. Duh!

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Stiiv said...

I like the new "look", & if it makes things easier to the point where you can put this baby OUT, hop to it!!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Madduane said...

So... No news is good news, right? ;)

8:43 PM  
Blogger Frank Panucci said...

Uh... yeah!

Actually, I'm working on someone else's movie right now. Direct to DVD, science fiction space stuff. When I have permission, I'll post stills in my gallery at

Why work on that project when REPERKUSSIONZ lies pleading for attention? Because that project pays money, to which my landlord feels entitled for some reason.

REPERKUSSIONZ still creeps along in its new cartoony glory. It will be finished before THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS is published.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice stuff fist time ive seen it

randy mann

5:52 AM  
Blogger K.D. Lett said...

Digg it.

2:05 PM  

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