Archive for August, 2012

Those are some big frames

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2012 by electrictownmovie

A single OpenEXR frame exported from RedCine at full 5K resolution is 83 MB on the hard drive. Just so you know. ImageThey look kind if weird and milky, too, which apparently is just because they’re so jam packed with color information the default image viewer just can’t handle the full awesomeness.

No idea at this point how exactly I’m going to handle this. Is a 4K finished product crazy to even attempt? Should I just go for HD and be done with it? It’s not like this movie will ever be screened in an Imax theater. Will it?


…and we got it!

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2012 by electrictownmovie

Whew! I thought I’d post at some point while filming, but I just couldn’t find the energy. What a week it’s been! Exhausting, exhilarating, at times a little bit nerve-wracking, and incredibly productive. We’ve got almost everything we need shot, and the few shots we still have to pick up later in September are ones that are much less demanding in terms of limited resources (we had exactly three days to get the indoor house scenes, for example, before the set had to come down so the house could be prepared to be rented out, etc.) What we did get looks amazing. If it all cuts together nicely and I don’t screw up the post-production (of course, there’s a ton of that with all the CG to add) this movie is going to look like a million bucks.

The cast and crew were awesome. It’s a real credit to everybody’s skill and professionalism that we got everything shot in time. Like with any film shoot, there were a lot of constraints on when, where, and how long we could shoot, and we came in just under the wire every time. We got lucky again and again with locations and permissions, so we were able to shoot everywhere I’d originally wanted to shoot (sure, we stretched an hour shooting permit in a park to four hours worth of shooting, but who’s counting…) We’ve shot older folks, younger folks (a total of five different kids ranging from age 4 to age 12 have parts in the movie) dogs, and a fly. And everybody survived except the fly. Most impressive of all, everybody had fun, including the crew, and pretty much the whole, grueling time. Which of course is also a big credit to everybody on the set.

Rob got on his plane back to Seattle this morning (I hope so anyway. He was running late for the Narita Express last time I saw him). I just woke up from a long-awaited afternoon nap. Life is getting back to normal. Soon I’ll get a terabyte worth of footage from Ivan and start working on a preliminary edit, before I spend the next six months to a year Blendering the thing into completion. Can’t wait to see what I’ve got to work with!

Here are a few production shots Rob took:

Here we go…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 18, 2012 by electrictownmovie

I spent yesterday with Ohta the production designer and his assistant Sakurai working on the house and workshop interior sets. Man, those guys really worked some magic. It’s really an incredible privilege to have a team like this working on the sets. It’s kind of uncanny to watch them do their thing, and see the set appear from nothing. You’d never guess from looking at the room now that nobody ever actually lived there.

The watch-repair workshop was also amazing. In addition to the house he’s let me use, Omori’s family also owns an old warehouse in the center of Tokyo that was once the hub of an electrical networks business. It’s an amazing old place in itself, and it’s going to be absolutely wonderful as the set of the old man’s watch repair workshop. I started to think it’s a little bit of a pity it will get such a small amount of screen time, but for the time it’s up there, it’s going to look great.

That’s all good of course, but the big news is that today we start shooting! It’s 7 AM and I still am planning to go out on my bike for an hour for some very last minute location scouting. We’ve got a big day today of mostly guerilla shooting out and about in public places. It’s gonna be fun.

Time to go break some legs!


Production design

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 by electrictownmovie

It’s the last week before we shoot, and things are picking up. I’ve been spending my days picking up props and equipment, doing last-minute location scouting, and rounding up the remaining crew and cast members. Toshio’s been doing wardrobe stuff, making tons of phone calls, communicating with the production designers, and various other things. Ivan’s been organizing camera and light stuff, and Rob C has been doing miscellaneous preparatory work from far off in Seattle, including—but by no means limited to—catching flies with a Dustbuster (seriously, do you have any idea how much a decent prop fly costs? It costs $200, which is almost $200 more than my budget allows for a fly).

The art department, as I mentioned, is Kikuo Ohta and his assistant, who’ve been hard at work preparing the set design for several key locations. Today I received Ohta’s sketches for the old man’s bedroom/living room:

…and for the dodgy (fake) Akihabara electronics shop:


I’m really happy with them. They’re just what I’m looking for. Getting this stuff all together next week is going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited for the shoot!


Locations etc.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 13, 2012 by electrictownmovie

Some snaps from the last few days.









One more thing out of the way

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2012 by electrictownmovie

I’m pleased to say that after about 10 months of working on it I’ve finally turned in the last chapter of the second edition of Mastering Blender. This is only tangentially related to Electric Town in that I’m now officially free to devote 100 percent of my energy to the movie for the next couple of weeks. It’s just nice not to have it hanging over my head, and just in time.

The book is a complete update of the first edition, plus a ton of new material (especially related to live action VFX, unsurprisingly, with a whole chapter on camera tracking, new stuff on rendering with Cycles, image-based lighting, compositing, etc). Not only that, but I also included essentially a full second edition of another of my books, Bounce Tumble and Splash: Simulating the Physical World with Blender 3D. So instead of two different second editions, there will be just this one, but it will be considerably fatter than either of the others. Basically two books for the price of one. Can’t beat that!

Thanks also to Jonathan Ball of Poked Studio for the awesome cover.

Tomorrow I’ve got meetings with a sound guy, an art guy, and at least one actor. Then comes the last full week of getting props finalized, schedules sorted out, some remaining locations scouted, a few straggling parts cast….


Had some people request a TOC, so here it is:

Part I: Fundamentals of Blender 3D

Ch 1: Working in Blender

Ch 2: Modeling with Sculpt and Topology Tools

Ch 3: UV Textures and Texture Painting

Ch 4: Rendering and Render Engines

Part II: Physics and Simulation

Ch 5: Soft Bodies and Cloth

Ch 6: Working with Particles

Ch 7: Working with Fluids and Smoke

Ch 8: Rigid Bodies and Collision

Part III: Video Post-production in Blender

Ch 9: Render Passes and Composite Nodes

Ch 10: 3D/Video Compositing with Camera Tracking

Ch 11: Working with the Video Sequence Editor

Part IV: Blender Python

Ch 14 12: Introduction to Python for Blender

Ch 15 13: Working with the Blender-Python API

Part V: Creating Interactive Content with the Blender Game Engine

Ch 14: Logic Blocks and Interactivity

Ch 15: Materials and Textures in the Game Engine

Ch 16: Python in the BGE

Long days begin

Posted in Uncategorized on August 7, 2012 by electrictownmovie

Last Thursday was an exhausting but productive day. I got some great location scouting done with Toshio, and some more low-light test footage + location work done with Ivan in the evening. During the day, we mostly ran around Akihabara Electric Town trying to line up permission to shoot what we need there, and then hunted around Kanda for good external locations for the character’s house. Shooting permission for where we want to shoot is not at all easy to get. The vendors are incredibly leery of film productions of all stripes, so mostly the people we spoke to just kicked the can and told us we needed permission from somebody higher up. Toshio did a fantastic job presenting our requests and following the leads to the various dodgy shachos. We got a few maybes, a few don’t cares, a very few yeses, and a few nos.

Our luck turned better when we started banging on the doors of ordinary homeowners in Kanda district. Strangely enough, people seemed more flattered than freaked out that we wanted to use their housefronts and entryways in our movie. Everybody we talked to, about 4 in all I think, gave us at least qualified permission to shoot their house. The one pictured above is the one I most want to use, but the permission didn’t come with any particular promises, and these people were the least eager to have us tramping around their doorway taking pictures. Hopefully they’ll be around on the 25th, when I want to shoot these scenes.

Toshio noticed that the transformer substation happens to be directly across the street from Ghibli Studios. That was amusing. I’d never even noticed. Sure enough, peeking in the window I could see a roomful of computers and animators working hard on whatever it is they’re doing next.

The transformer substation is great, but A) it’s surrounded by a high wall and I need to imply that the robot dog gets
into it. So I’m not entirely sure exactly how to do that. And B) although it’s lit at night and the Red Epic is an awesome freaking machine, it’s still too dark in areas for me to get all the shots I want too using only natural night-time light. So both of those issues I’ve got to deal with. I’m leaning towards using some CG to chip a little hole in the wall and shooting the scene day-for-night to get everything sufficiently illuminated. I’m not sure there are any other realistic possibilities.

Man, the scheduling is knocking me out! So many factors. Everybody’s busy, and slotting everybody in on the days they can make it along with the other people who need to be there on the same days is crazy.  The dog needs to wait until after 4:00 so as not to get overheated in the weather during the day, and the lead actor is knocking off that day at 4:30. One sound guy is available only weekends, but all the other scheduling constraints are forcing the sound-intensive shots into the middle of the week. I’m not really used to all this. Obviously, with the stuff I can do alone on my computer, like CG and writing, it’s not an issue at all. But even in my live-action filming experience, the projects I’ve been involved in have usually been small enough that only a very small number of people had to be available at any given time, and locations were mostly limited to places where we had total freedom, like our own apartments. This is definitely a notch up from all that. Everybody’s been incredibly cooperative, but making everything fit together in the space of 8 days is turning out to be close to impossible. Fortunately, I’ve got some really good people helping me.

Actually, I think it will be impossible. I’m pretty sure there will be about a weekend’s worth of shots that will need to be picked up later. I’m mainly trying to schedule it all so that those shots are forgiving in terms of continuity. Nothing that needs matching weather, nothing that needs the house, nothing that needs… Good grief. I don’t even know.

Whatever. I’ll get this thing shot one way or another.

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