page will (hopefully) become a little resource to let people know how
things are going on making the film. It will also be a place to post
anything vaguely related to the making of Storm Ahead. I say hopefully,
becuase it obviously needs to be kept up to date in order to be any
use. Maybe it will be, maybe it won't.
Scroll to the BOTTOM of this page to read the latest diary updates.
first production meeting!
With the trailer out for a month filming for the actual shoot needs
to proceed. Whilst on holiday I storyboarded three quarters of the film,
and will soon have these roughs finished up. But they are really rough,
so Steve Rider (aka Darth Apporth) has kindly agreed to storyboard the
entire movie from my roughs. Click here
and here for a couple
of examples of Steves work.This is great news, becuase not only will
the storyboards become a lot clearer to the crew, but they will also
be posted online to make an interesting storyboard-to-finished shot
My sketches won't really convey this process well. Thanks Steve.
While Steve was at our house, Tony
Serpini (the cameraman - who we met while he filmed a Sat
1 interview about Dark
Skies) phoned to confirm that the camera we have scrounged (A GY-DV700WE
will be available for the week commencing July 17th.
Things are really starting to motor (at last).
As there are quite a few shots that require a bit more space that
the poor old dining room could offer, we have decided to shoot Storm
Ahead in a studio. We're 75% sure we have one on the weekend we need
it, but becuase it's a favour (again) we can't be certain. If a real
job comes along we are out on our ear. Hence we are walking a bit of
a tight rope at the moment, hopefully we won't fall off.
I have finally sent off most of the storyboards to Steve, so the ball
is at least slightly out of my court. It's nice to know the storyboards
are being done 'properly' and they will make a great addition to the
site when this is all over.
slow week really...
We have begun modifying the Stormtrooper Armour ready for the shoot
at the end of July. Nikki's movement when in the armour was severely
restricted becuase of an ill-fitting suit. Finally I have plucked up
the courage to take a hacksaw to it and custom fit the armour to Nikki.
However there are still a few shots in the film that just aren't possible
for Nikki to do, well fitting armour of otherwise. For that we have
(again luckily) managed to secure some motion capture data of various
movements, which we wouldn't otherwise do doing. A 3-D model of Nikki
is going to be used for these shots. It will be very interesting to
see if we can pull these effects off realistically. Suffice to say we
won't be saying which ones they are so the audience does at least have
other good news is we have sourced a prop 'shotgun' which is used in
one scene from a person I only know as Shaun. He emailled me a while
ago asking if I needed any help. Currently Shaun is making the gun appear
more beaten-up so it matches guns in the grand old Star Wars tradition.
There is still lots of work to do before the shoot, it's a shame 'real
work' often gets in the way.
Yesterday the cameraman and I went down to the studio to check out
the space. It really is ideal for what we need, and I'm very lucky to
have been able to pull in this favour for nothing. The studio is owned
by a photographer called Phillip Collins, and his company 'The Business'
has a full cove, and a gantry for filming overhead etc, so it's perfect.
We have ordered two tins of green chromakey paint (the 'real stuff-
not the usual apple green from B&Q'). Honestly I doubt it will make
any real difference, but since the other production values are being
raised a notch, we may as well do this properly to. We have managed
to source a green exercise
ball from a sports shop which will serve as an R2-G4 during a scene
where Nikki interacts with a droid, allowing me to key out the parts
I need and replace them with a CGI
droid. PVC and wooden lightsabre blades have been bought and painted
in floursecent paint, and our prop gun has been dispatched to us by
Shaun Allen, so everything is beginning to come together. There are
about 150 shots to film over the course of a weekend, so at the moment
we really have no idea how far we'll get through in only one weekend.
Ideally we will shoot the lot, but only time will tell. Some of the
shots are easy and can be rattled through, some of them are really complex
and will take time to set up. This is where Steve's storyboards are
going to be invaluable, as we can be so much more organised, and shoot
all of the shots according to camera/lighting set up for speed.
Nikki has been sourcing the various peices of equipment we need, including
a winch/pulley system for the flying scenes. Due to the highly specialised
nature of these rigs we have only managed to find one supplier thus
far, and the cost (even after 'look we're poor' discount) is 1000 pounds
per day, which is more than the entire budget of both Dark Skies and
Storm Ahead. So the search goes on. If we can't find anything suitable
(and cheaper) we will use a similar method to acheive the flying shots
as we used in the trailer.
The studio is now 99% secured for the weekend of July 28th, although
getting everyone to agree on this date is proving difficult. It will
be so good to get principal photography out of the way, and then let
the real fun can begin. It will also be interesting to rough cut the
film, if for no other reason than to see how long the movie will actually
run, my guess is about eight minutes. Post production, truthfully it's
the only part of the film-making process I actually enjoy...
After a conversation with 'Tumblemoster' over at the TFN
fanfilm boards, we have managed to sort out how to make Nikki fly.
The children's 'swingset/banana boat combo' is now the A-frame that
will support Nikki during the flying sequences. A trip to the local
mountaineering shop secured the purchases of support harnesses, carabiners,
and rope (that stuff is so thin!) and we have all we need to create
some of the more difficult effects if the film. Thanks Tumblemoster
for the great idea. I would never have thought of it myself.
the green light
We collected our two tins of Rosco
Chromakey Green paint today, and we are now setting about painting
all of the equipment we are going to use, but don't want to be seen
in the final movie. The paint is remarkably ordinary in fact, and just
looks like any normal shade of green you can buy from any DIY store.
I expected it to have it's own half-life, or at least leave an imprint
on my retina for a few minutes. Still, I suppopse it's nice to have
'the real thing' and obviously it is all dependant on how well it can
be keyed out. Hopefully there is some difference between this paint,
and the cheap stuff I normally use.
We have just found out that JVC (The people we are scrounging the camera
from) want us to insure the camera for a week, which I guess is understandable.
However, this is a £15,000 camera, so I'll find out on Monday
how much this is going to cost us, and basically if it's to much, then
no dice. A 'super duper widescreen camera' is always a luxury item fort
a low budget film, which would be cool to shoot with given the chance.
However, since this is a greenscreen film which rarely makes use of
the fully widescreen frame (since most of the edges are green, and so
can be widened however we want) I'm seriously pondering how much I am
willing to spend on camera insurance to get this thing. So far the budget
for Storm Ahead has been really small, and I want to keep it this way.
I'll post again on Monday after seeing how much the insurance costs.
If it's to much, I'll probably just shoot the movie using the mighty
XM-1 (GL-1) which was plenty good enough for me when shooting Dark Skies.
The path of amateur film-making is not a smooth one. As it turns out
we could get the camera insurance for £90 but there was a huge
excess on the policy, and knowing my luck, we would end up dropping
the camera and have to sell the car to pay for the repairs :) So with
this in mind I am dusting down the mighty XM-1
again, and shooting with this. We are actually filming on Friday and
Saturday, as the studio is now unavailable on Sunday. We have to paint
the cove first thing, wait for it to dry, and then begin shooting, all
on the same day...that should be interesting! We will use this 'drying
time' to set up the rigging, and get everything prepared. We are beggars,
so cannot be choosers. So that's it, finally we're going to shoot. It
could be a total disaster, it could work out brilliantly. The thing
I am happy about is if we need to do any pick-up shots, we have the
XM-1 all the time, so shots will look the same from shoot to shoot.
I was always a little nervous about getting a camera for only one weekend,
just in case there where any reshoots involved.
film has a total of 148 shots, of which 98 involved live action shooting
(yup that's quite a lot of pure CGI isn't it!) of those 98 about half
of them are easy, and half tricky. I'll repost after the shoot to let
everyone know how we got on, and how much of the film we actually shot
in two days.
for me to cross my fingers and re-read those storyboards...
Friday - The calm before the Storm.
Finally we are ready to shoot this movie. It seems to have been stuck
in pre-production for months, but at last it is upon us. We've had a
few good breaks since the bad news about the camera etc. The first was
that the owner of the studio phoned today and said if I wanted I could
paint the cove today. I pretty well went straight down there and began
painting. It took a good two to three hours, plus it was taking rather
longer than the 'fifteen minutes' is said it took to dry. If we would
have begun painting on Friday morning we wouldn;t have been filming
until Friday afternoon. The other bit of luck was something I kick myself
for not doing before. It turns out the studio has a support high on
the ceiling that is linked into the rafters, and it is very easy to
swing a rope over. We now have the perfect harness support all set up
and ready. This studio really does have everything we need.
studio is littered with massive diffuser screens, styrofoam reflector
boards, weights, boxes, tripods, lights, power, everything we need and
so much more than we have had in the past. It will be really nice to
be able to position the lights away from Nikki, becuase most of all
in this studio there is space. This is a lucky break for us. I hope
we make the most of it.
make sure we take a few pictures and I will post them here as soon as
I can. The next report will be 'post shoot' so hopefully I will be happy....although
if I don't post again for eight weeks, you know it didn't go as well
as I hoped! :)
way to paradise...
We had a good day today. We have 58 shots in the can. Only forty to
go. The peculiar thing about filming entirely again greenscreen is some
of the shots don't really look much until after the effects have been
applied. One section that really did look good though was a lightsabre
stand off in a dark antichamber. We were able to get far enough away
from the greenscreen to light that, but then have Nikki in total darkness,
only being lit by the flourscent tube of the blue sabre. The footage
looked really nice. I'll post a few screen captures over the coming
we can't break out the champagne yet, we still have a gruelling day
tommorrow. Plus the forty shots we have left are basically the flying
sequences, so technically these are the most challenging. But it really
is a case of so far so good. Nikki is indeed a Trooper, in every sense
of the word :)
I'm pleased to say we finished the shoot, and all of the shots we needed
are 'in the can' It'll take a good while to sift through all of the
footage to get the good takes, especially as I have a terrible habit
of forgetting to turn the tape off after a shot. Nikki did so well,
in what was a very physically demanding shoot. Much harder than Dark
Skies ever was. Afterwards it reminded me of a scene in Raiders of the
Lost Ark aboard Captian Kattangas trawler, where Marion said to Indiana
'dammit - where doesn't it hurt!?' Completing a movie shoot in two days
is great, but really we where doing it all at a more than comfortable
pace. The trouble is we where going to lose our tiny window of opportunity
to film, so we either shot it then, or faced losing the studio and have
to shoot in the dining room or an expensive facility. The decision was
basically a no brainer.
got some good stuff in there I know, the flying sequences worked very
well. It took us a long time to set up, and get Nikki into the harness
and costume, but once she was in the rig there was no hanging around
(har-har) We rattled through 15 shots in about forty minutes.
that's it, all of the stuff I hate about film-making is finally over.
I'm sure we will do a few pick-up shots in the meantime, but really
it's the fun part for me now; editing, effects and 'fiddling' with the
movie to get it how I want. We have passed the first big milestone.
We still have a few more that aren't even on the horizon though.
leave you with two thoughts. 1. Storyboards are a must have. 2. Stormtrooper
armour just isn't close to being comfortable.
Having returned from a trip away it's now time to capture the footage
and really begin to work. Whilst in the US I bought a nice new (fast)
100GB internal hard-drive, I captured all of the footage (about seventy
minutes) and now have to work my way through this footage to get the
five or six minutes of 'good shots' that I can begin keying and applying
the myriad of effects to.
are a lot of shots that I'm really pleased with, on the whole it all
came out pretty well. Nikki's bruises have healed, and now it DID seem
like a good idea to shoot it all in one go. During the shoot I'm sure
I said it was a stupid idea.
is a sequence set in a dark anti-chamber where Nikki has a smackdown
with a couple of droids and the Sith
Trooper, and we used a floursecent tube for a lightsabre. That sequence
turned out much better than I thought it would, and wouldn't have been
possible in the dining room, we just wouldn't have been able to get
far enough away from the greenscreen to light that, but keep Nikki in
here for a quick
close-up of one of those pictures, and here
for another picture from the shoot.
it's going to be a rough cut of the film (including storyboards as placeholders
for the fully CGI shots) as I want to get a feel for the length of the
film, and don't want to do any effects work for shots that I will later
cut from the film (which I did before with Dark Skies) plus it'll help
me know whether we need to do any pick-up shots or not.
Anyone who has ever worn trooper armour will know that you really can't
do an aweful lot in it. Movement is restricted at the best of times.
We don't actually want this to restrict the storytelling though, so
I am building a 3D trooper, for the more athletic feats in the movie.
Once it is finished, I can prepare it for animation, and the motion
capture files we have.
The 3D Model needed to be done even if we could have filmed everything,
since the Clones tubes should actually have troopers inside, hence the
need for the model anyway. So at least the work won't go to waste on
only a few shots. Next up I think I'm going to redo the Sith Trooper,
he plays such a big part in the film the model has to be as good as
I can make it. Basically I've got a little better at modelling since
I first did him, so I'm probably going to start again with him.
Either way, I'm now really starting to get into post-production, I'm
looking forward to having all of the models complete, so I can begin
putting final shots together - this is however, still a little way off.
The trooper test was pretty successful, and I'm sure we can get that
to work well in time.
I'm now in the process of creating all of the 3D models that will be
used throughout the film, and there are a lot, since the film in entirely
greenscreened. Everything in the background has to be created from scratch,
plus a lot of shots are entirely CGI with no actors at all. It's slow
progress, but progress is being made. I'm pleased with the way things
are going, and the look of the film is improving, and actually going
away from the storyboard now.
like sticking to your gameplan - and this is nothing like sticking to
your gameplan. That is the luxury you have with a greenscreen movie,
if you want to change the entire setting, you can, even after the movie
has been shot. I wish I could wave a magic wand and have all of the
3D models completed, but even though this is a fantasy film, the actual
production methods are alas very much based in reality.
Wow these entirely greenscreen/CGI films are hard work!
is often said that shooting in a forest is a cop out (usually by people
who don't actually make films) but I can really see the beauty of these
ready made locations right now.
wanted to make a second Star Wars move becuase there where so many things
I wasn't happy with in Dark Skies, mostly the effects (or rather lack
of effects) in certain areas. So this film is everything Dark Skies
wasn't. But just when I thought I knew what went into making a Star
Wars movie, I went ahead and wrote a story that totally disregarded
how hard it would be to make.
think it's fair to say I am stretching myself again this time, and when
you are learning how to do things as you do them, it takes time. Weeks
are quickly going past, and huge sections of the film are NOT being
finished. But progress is being made, and I am so, so much happier with
the look of this film than the last one, hopefully it will all be worth
the wait, becuase there is definately going to be one...
During the making of Dark Skies
I spent many, many nights trying to get half decent keys using the standard
Colour Difference keyer in After Effects (a tutorial of which is available
since then I bought the Composite
Toolkit from DVGarage, which
contained, among a host of other things, the DVMatte
keyer. (incidentally there is a 'testimonial' and examples of Storm
Ahead on their web page) This entire package makes keying so much easier
than before, meaning I can spend my precious time improving the overall
look of the film, and not just acheiving an adequate key.
thanks to the keyer I have completed quite a few shots this week, and
(although I have a heck of a lot more to do) I can honestly say progress
has been made. I am really happy with the look of this film so far,
it is visually much more interesting (to me!) than the last one.
really torn between showing a few more 'Select' images, and just keeping
the entire thing under wraps until it's all done. It's hard to do, but
I'm going to try keep it a big 'secret' for the time being. Sorry :)
you want to get ahead
One of the things I really wanted to do this time out was create all
of my own 3D models.
did I know exactly what I was letting myself in for. The main thing
I have really struggled with are Übernurbs (the name for Electric
Image' Subdivision modelling system) and without being able to crack
Übernurbs I could not actually model the all important head of
the Sith Trooper. This failing was seriously hampering production, since
the Trooper is a major character in the film.
the good news is today I actually finished modelling the head. After
five failed attempts I finally managed to get it using pesky Übernurbs.
Now I can finish texturing the model, and then begin the fun part of
setting it up for animation. This is a huge breakthrough for me, and
one that really is a milestone. I cannot begin to tell you how long
I have been trying to learn and understand how to use Übernurbs.
If you look int he trailer, you will see the angle used for the Sith
Troopers enterance was very deliberate, you basically cannot see the
head, becuase, at that point it was not finished.
now it is. This has been another good week for production, after too
many quiet/slow weeks.
When I thought about making Storm Ahead I sat and thought 'what did
I want to see in this film' and set about creating the story and set
peices, with absolutely no idea how I was going to make any of this.
Therefore each phase of production has been a challenge. To take that
initial idea and make it actually happen. We've figured out the flying,
we've finally figured out the Sith Trooper, and the last peice of the
basic puzzle was how to show hundreds and hundreds of Strormtroopers
inside their cloning pods.
the trailer for Storm Ahead came out, I hadn't figured this out, which
is why all of the pods are always empty. Now it has been sorted out,
so another hurdle has been overcome, which this film is really - creative
problem after creative problem, solving 'how am I going to do that?'
time after time.
are no-one will actually notice this stuff when the film finally plays,
but for me it is very satisfying to have figured out. So currently I
am rendering out the 3D backgrounds where a large chunk of the movie
takes place, basically inside the main Cloning facility. Rendering these
backgrounds takes a long time, and each night I set up a different render
for a different background. Once they are all done a lot of shots should
start falling into place. Creating a Stormtrooper inside a cloning pod
which was small enough to render eighty at a time was a major stumbling
block for me, a block which thankfully has been passed. In the end the
solution was painfully obvious, but I just took a long time to figure
is an 'artsy' picture of one of the cloning pods. Times that by eighty
and you have one very slow render...
Well, I've now managed to get quite a few clone tube backgrounds into
place, by setting each one up overnight to render. One of them took
two days to render, and I'm not entirely sure whether I will use it
now. I have a laptop and a second G4 sat in the room as well, so I am
seriously considering setting up a little 'render farm' to spread the
load of these renders over three computers.
the shots get more complex I can see this taking weeks to render. Most
of the stuff renders really fast, but the clone tubes (I guess becuase
of the way I have set them up) take an age. Hopefully it is worth it.
re-textured the SIth Trooper head to a point that I think I am happy
with it, and will begin adding him to a few of the shots which I am
really looking forward to. He is a mean looking thing that Nikki says
is frightening, and Sophie (our daughter) always gets scared over. Personally
I only see a CGI model with texturing issues, but there you go. Click
to download a 995k on2 movie file of just his head spinning around and
see what you think.
a peice of Junk!
In order to enter the cloning facility undetected Jade posed as a cargo
delivery trooper on a routine part drop for the still under construction
cloning facility. So basically I wanted a ship that was a little beaten
up around the edges, almost like the 'Landrover' of space ships. I have
had an image in my mind for quite a while now, and I assumed it was
Boba/Jangos Slave 1 that I got this image/inspiration from.
I saw a trailer for Minority Report (a favourite of mine - great art
direction) and I realised I had the image of the PreCrime Hovercrafts
in mind, and not Slave 1 at all. Having seen a picture of this to confirm
my inspiration Jades ship was finally born. I have spend the past week
re-modelling my last effort (which I wasn't very happy with) and re-texturing
it. The ship is chrome, albeit a beaten up chrome, and it is the fifth
select picture on this site. Click here
to go to a select picture of the ship approaching the planet where the
Cloning Facility is.
the next week I will finish off the detailled texturing, and render
a static view of it, to put it into the 3D Models section for closer
inspection. Chrsitmas is coming soon, and I am really hoping that the
'proper' workload slackens off so I can spend a large chunk of time
movie-making. My wife has promised that the work will end since January
'02- Nikki has either been fibbing to me, or her crystal ball is well
and truly broken.
A fairly slow time for the fanfilm, but a way to busy time for work. A few
things have happened though, one is that I have rendered
out a little test animation of Jades Ship, althogh now I've seen it I want
to change a few of the textures. I wanted the back end of the ship to be
'beaten up' and the front end fairly new looking. The theory was that this
cargo ship is a little like container lorries that pick up an entire back
end before each trip, therefore the back end was meant to look older than
the front. The difference isn't really working, so I'm going to grunge
it all up. Here is
a link to a 880k test animation of the ship straight out of the renderer
(sorry about the lens flare ) it is compressed using the on2 codec. The
wording on the side says....Cargo. Pretty creative huh?
now realise that this site is so slow that it's almost
grinding to a halt, suffice to say I am working on this problem
and will have a solution in the next month or so, in the meantime,
apologies for the shocking transfer rates.
main interest (at least for me) is that I have finally managed to
set up four computers (our older Mac's) into a little network
render farm. I bought an airport basestation and three card and installed
this weekend. This will literally cut render times by two-thirds
which is great news, since there is still a lot of rendering to be
done. Renderama, the EI Universe networking programme is so simple
to use, and it works really well. So I'm very pleased with this bit
Viewers of a website called TFN Fanfilms may
know about something called the
TFN Fanfilm Teasers,
which are small fifteen seconds slots where anyone can publicise their
film. There are quite a few of these 'in the queue' and one of them is
for Storm Ahead.
expect an extensive plot, becuase in fifteen seconds you won't get
one. But you will see a little bit more of the film, and I am quite
pleased with the teaser. I'll post a larger version here on the Storm
Ahead website once it is shown on TFN.
a few emails and phonecalls to my server hosts it turns out my suspicions
where correct, and my bandwidth was being capped. I'm pleased to
say it is now back to full speed after the pathetic transfer rates
of before, so hopefully things will continue as nromal, which is
reason why I wanted to create a teaser. There hasn't really been
any new content for a while, and this seems like a nice way to show
a little more of what I have been doing.
of the render times are horrendous for this film, which is obviously
making things go a lot slower than I thought they would. One of the
shots in the teaser has been rendering for the past week. I can render
about ten frames per night, even using Electric Image which boasts
'the worlds fastest renderer' those dang pods are real render hogs!
Anyway, this is the last post before Christmas. Merry Christmas
everyone, and I am looking forward to having a period of no work,
of free time to devote to film-making and rendering.
for the teaser on TFN in a couple of weeks.
working on this project off and on for over a year I have decided
to put Storm Ahead on hold. Please allow me to
explain the reason by telling you the story of this particular
this post is SO verbose I have highlighted the main paragraph in
Purple. Scroll down to that if you just want to cut straight to the chase.
If not, enjoy the novella...
I initially saw a few fanfilms on TFN and decided I wanted to make
my own. There where three things I really wanted to do. I wanted
to make a fanfilm with my entire family - this could serve as a really
cool 'photo album' for all of use. I also wanted to make a film that
TFN might host (after all that's where I discovered the entire genre
in the first place) I wanted to make a fanfilm
that actually set a deadline, and hit a deadline. On August 12th
2000 I was really pleased when Darryl at TFN told me they would host
the film - basically I had achieved all three of my goals right there.
For me this was total success, and everything I ever wanted from
the project. However towards the end of making the film I began
how dodgy some of the film really was, but since I didn't want
to tinker around forever I released the film, and was already planning
Star Wars epic - Storm Ahead. I began production of Storm Ahead
weeks after the release of Dark Skies, planning a film that really
pushed my knowledge, with the sole purpose of seeing just how good
I could become at creating special effects. Dark Skies taught me
one thing early - I have no interest in being a Movie Director.
The physical shooting of a movie is such a chore for me, just a
an end. But
the footage into a computer, and begin to tinker with it, and I
am in my element. When I 'marketed' Dark Skies I basically told
about it's progress, I released two really short trailers one month
and two weeks before the launch, so it effectively came out of
nowhere. It was really important to hit a deadline for me, since
where notoriously late in coming to fruition. With Storm Ahead
I wanted to
try the other extreme - so I started to 'hype' the film by creating
a website as soon as I had anything to show. I would add to it
every week with something new to show how things where going. I
early on that I would set a few release dates that I had no intention
hitting, just to see what this did for the films interest/hype.
After a few months of friends coming around to our house to watch
Dark Skies (since no-one we knew in the UK could download a 70
file) Nikki suggested we hire a cinema for one night, invite all
of our friends, show the film and then end those tedious ‘movie
nights' at our house, where we had to sit through Dark Skies over
and over. I was dead against this, since this was a pretty big
250 seat cinema, and I was convinced about eight people would show
But Nikki being Nikki took the bull by the horns, booked it, paid
for it and demanded I produced an invitation for the event. I procrastinated
- until in the end Nikki took that bull again and 'designed' her
invite. It was a valiant attempt, but made me cringe even more
than the thought of showing my film in a cinema to eight people.
produced an invite and she emailled them out to friends. At best
we where looking
at eighty people, which was adequate if not spectacular. One of
the people she emailled had a son who was a reporter. He saw the
and decided it would make a cool news story for the local paper.
He phoned and asked us if we wanted to be 'interviewed' We chuckled
agreed, thinking it would be a nice momento and some real icing
on an already fully baked cake to get into the local paper. He
around talked about the film and then watched it, and said he would
get it in the local paper and perhaps more.
Two days passed with no more thought about the news story until
Peter (the journalist) phoned and said that ''The Sun' newspaper
circulating UK newspaper) wanted to run with the story and asked
if this was okay. Now I was officially freaked out. Contrary to
popular belief, I get slightly embarrassed at this kind of limelight,
Nikki for bringing this upon us all. Nikki was loving it :) That
evening we got a call from GMTV (The biggest breakfast TV show
in the UK) asking
us to send them a tape of Dark Skies since they might run
with this story as well. By this time I was reaching for the Oxygen
and Nikki was jumping up and down with glee. A film was biked up
to the studios, they watched it, and at 8.00 PM we got a phone
call asking if we could come in
the next morning to go on the show. Not just Nikki and I, but the
entire cast. Sadly Jason (Anakin) couldn't make it because of work
but the rest of the cast got ready for a 4.00 AM wake-up call and
a car to take us there.
We got to the studios and the butterflies had already begun for
me. I tried to convince myself that everything would be fine, and
we where on so early everyone would probably miss our appearance
anyway. One of the first things that happened was a PA came up
to us and said
'You're the people that made that Star Wars film aren't you - they
love it, they've already played two clips (and the show had only
been on for 20 minutes) Butterflies began to swarm inside my stomach,
then I saw a copy of the Sun newspaper on the table. I opened it
up and saw a tiny picture on Page three and started to calm down
that wasn't to bad - but then I read 'See centre pages for story'
I opened the centre pages to see a Double Page spread all about
Dark Skies, and at that point I new this wasn't going to slip by
My kids where 5 and 7 at the time, and likely to do/say ANYTHING
in front of the camera (as had been borne out whilst filming)
and we where
just going onto GMTV - live. Anything could happen. The first thing
that did happen was the 'grown up' cast (dressed in full robes)
walked down some steps into the Studio with dry ice pumped around.
tripped down the steps and almost fell flat on her face - cut to
David Nutley who looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.
fears seemed about to be coming true. The UK was going
to see a bunch of freaks who made a Star Wars film make utter fools
of themselves on live TV. But
from then on everything went okay - Jack and Sophie answered their
really well and made both Nikki and I such proud parents. After
our stint we all went off again and I breathed a sigh of relief,
we where on again in about 45 minutes, in the real 'primetime'
slot. We did this segment, they showed loads of clips from the
I started to relax a little.
Once it was over we got into the taxi, and everyone was talking
over the top of each other. I was fairly quiet, honestly just so
that we had got through everything and hadn't made total asses
of ourselves. I began to actually reflect on the entire morning
how weird it
had all been.
Then Nikki's mobile started ringing.
By the time we got home there where seventeen messages on the answer
phone from various media companies asking for TV, Press and Radio
interviews. In a period of absolutely no good news to report this
was a ‘fun
story’ for the media, about one happy family who made a film.
A story to make people smile. Nikki has always said that when you
are presented with an opportunity you must take it, in case you
regret it later. So we decided to basically do all of them and
We did interviews for BBC1, ITV, Channel 5, BBC Radio, Wales, Leeds
etc, etc. We even did radio interviews as far away as Australian
and South Africa. Emails where flooding in from all around the
in Japan had seen our story in their local paper, Switzerland,
New Zealand, Poland, it was totally out of control, and out of
(It appears The Sun newspaper has a HUGE and fairly influential
The webstats on our site went through the roof. We had 250
thousand hits the day we went into the Sun Newspaper, and kept
up these figures
for weeks. In the end our bandwidth was measured with a TB after
the figure. People where slaughtering the Dark Skies site.
Throughout this period we actually contacted no-one, they where
all coming to us. However this changed when I phoned up Adobe and
to their PR agency. I was getting heaps of publicity that was totally
useless to me. Nikki and I run a tiny advertising agency, nothing,
nothing, nothing to do with special effects, Star Wars fanfilms
or TV shows. Because everything exploded we didn't have time to
anything. Our company website was woefully out of date (and sadly
so I thought of other ways to turn this publicity to some use.
Someone must want a site that was gaining so many hits - so I phoned
and Apple Computers. I asked Apple if they wanted to loan me an
Apple monitor for a couple of weeks, so when I was being filmed,
be filmed in front of their computer. I would then talk about how
I made it on an Apple, and show the’ digital hub' in action,
in the real world, by a normal person. Perfect right? Wrong, they
told me to get lost - which is why throughout all of the interviews,
radio, tv and Press you never hear me mention their name, the most
I'll do is say 'created on a home computer' Bitter - moi? :) Adobe
on the other hand where great, and could see an interesting PR
story. I did an interview with them, and blagged a raft of free
doing it. My much loved Adobe After Effects 4.1 (which I made Dark
Skies with) was now AE 5.5. Premiere, Illustrator and Photoshop
where the latest versions, and Adobe had a link on the Dark Skies
and a little PR story to boot.
Our actual film premiered the week after to a packed house - some
coming to see a Star Wars film, some coming because there where
crews there filming the event. Either way it was a wild roller
coaster of a week that just came totally out of the blue. Once
the dust had
settled it felt really strange trying to go back to making Storm
Ahead. In some ways it was almost guaranteed to be 'less successful'
Dark Skies depending on how you measured success. Over Christmas
I asked myself why I was making this film, and came up with the
answer I already knew. I wanted to see how good I could get at
and use Storm Ahead as a 'shop window' to show my skills.
I remember a member on the TFN fanfilm boards (ironically called
Fourfools) posted a thread saying that a company called DVGarage
where going to
release a product called the '3D Toolkit' It seemed to be just
what I was looking for. A raft of tutorials held my hand through
of my own 3D models, the site also seemed to say that it
came with a product called Electric Image - a 3D programme
that had been used
so effectively in my all time favourite Star Wars fanfilm Duality
(If you haven't seen it yet - you really should. It's my kind of
Star Wars movie and beautifully done) EI had cost a fortune, but
here seemed to be the same product for an 'early bird' price of
leap of faith and ordered the kit. A few months past (where I occasionally
wondered if it was a scam!) and then the toolkit arrived. It was
jam packed full of great stuff, and tutorials that showed me how
my own 3D - something I'd always wanted to do. Dark Skies used
models other people had created, which I always felt was such a
cop-out for me. This time I was making my own. Fairly quickly I
was up and
running and making my own stuff, and I realised this was why I
was making another film - because I really got a kick out of creating
my own stuff, on a computer for people to see. I made a trailer
basically showcased everything I knew at the time and I was happy
I was on the road. This diary basically charts the course of the
next year as the film gradually started to go from germ of an idea
Attack of the Clones was about to premiere and GMTV again phoned.
They asked Nikki and I if we wanted to go to the Royal Premiere,
the film and then review it on the programme the next day. This
time I was all for it! Yeah GMTV. Sadly, since they had left it
no-one could get tickets for the hottest show in town so that didn't
happen, a real heartbreaker for me at the time. Instead they did
a couple of little slots on the programme showcasing the trailer
Ahead, and again The Sun ran a double page spread - and again the
phones started ringing. But this time we decided to say no to them.
few reasons. 1. I didn't really have anything to talk about, it
was only a one minute trailer, and 2. I was paying a fortune in
bandwidth charged for my website. Literally every time we went on
anything I got a bill the next month to prove it. There was no
nothing to gain. We went on GMTV, the Sun Newspaper and Meridian
(our local TV station) because all three where so great to us last
really professional, and did a slick job that we where pleased
I also got a call from a person in Sweden who wanted me to go over
there, and talk about how I made my Star Wars film, all at their
expense. Amongst others the roster included a person from ILM,
a person from Digital Domain, and
a guy who made a Star Wars fanfilm from England. Adobe phoned me
soon after our return, and asked if I wanted to do a lecture on
how I made
these films, and how I used Adobe products to do so.
Because I love
their software I was happy to evangalise about it to whoever would
listen, I prepared five shots from start to finish, took a video
with me and Nikki and headed to London. It was at a place
ICA and I talked through the shots, how I'd done them, before and
after etc and then I showed the film. To end the talk we gave away
Software to people in the audience. Someone somewhere has the After
Effects Production Bundle for successfully telling me that Anne
Mears played the part of Emperor Palpatine. :) After the talk we
the bar and where swamped by people from the audience, everyone
was interested in the film, how we made it and what we had produced.
I got to talk to the lead UK programmer of Adobe After Effects
said he loved to see his software being used by someone like me.
He also told me just how easy some of the stuff should have been
had used the programme to it's full capacity :).
There were people from the BBC (staff - not cameras!) Aardman animation
who said they just came along because they'd heard on this strange
Star Wars film made by a family from the South.
Looking back if I
could only have two things to take from this entire advetnure this
would have been one of them, and having a tape of my children being
absolute angels on GMTV would be the second (much watched and adored
- closely followed by my Mother-in-Law falling down the stairs
:) ). It was a blast for us, and really nice to see these people
in our film. I was supposed to be paid for doing the lecture, a
sum of money, and one piece of software of my choice. Instead I
could keep the cheque, I wanted more software :) So along came
the Adobe After Effects Production Bundle, Go Live, Live Motion
It's fair to say I now have all of it, and I now use it all the
It is interesting to note how the stuff I learned while making
these films has seeped into the work I was doing most of the time.
a clients website would have a 3D file on it, or a movie clip,
or a fancy
title sequence, all things I learned from making a Star Wars fanfilm.
With the newly acquired software we now offer way more than we could
and even my skills in programmes like Photoshop (which I have used
since Photoshop 2) have greatly improved. This has been a huge,
exciting learning curve that I have been able to bring to bear
on my normal
work, allowing us to do more interesting, exciting things for us,
clients, and ultimately their customers.
But it doesn't end there. No-one has ever mentioned it (and I haven't
either) but my Uncle is called Colin Nutley. Do a Google search on
Colin Nutley and you will see that he is a pretty 'big cheese' in
Swedish cinema. One of his films was nominated for an Oscar a few
for best foreign film (it didn't win - he was robbed :) ) He watched
Dark Skies and seemed to like it, not so much the content, but the
look of the film. When he saw the Storm Ahead trailer
he asked me if I would be interested in working on something with
him. Throughout all of this stuff it never really occurred to me
this knowledge in a truly commercial way. I guess because I'm still
learning, still have a lot to learn and will continue to learn. But
suddenly I was being gifted a chance to work on something big, and
real. This week the project has been 'green lighted' and I am beginning
to do test shots at 2k resolution for a film. This is a huge opportunity
for me, and the reason why Storm Ahead is being put on the shelf.
In a way Storm Ahead was being made as a stepping stone to special
- because of a lucky break and a family connection I am being given
that stepping stone early. Even the biggest fanboy can probably
appreciate that this is just too good an opportunity to turn away,
and also understand
why I cannot do all things - A full time day job, special effects
for a film, and make a fanfilm. There just aren't enough hours in
and I don't want to compromise the special effects by 'wasting time'
on a second Star Wars film.
Storm Ahead isn't canned forever, but it is in deep, deep hibernation.
Basically I will be working on this real project for the remainder
of 2003 so I apologise to anyone looking forward to seeing the
film. Thankyou so much for all of your kind words of encouragement
emails, they where a great help. Because of this I have also decided
release the teaser trailer just yet. Maybe later, in a few months,
but at the moment there is nothing to gain for anyone. People interested
will be frustrated, and I will have to answer new emails saying
'Sorry, I'm not doing the film any more'
Talk about ending on a low point huh? The reason I have told you
this long winded tale is (a) to explain why I am not making Storm
any longer and (b) to hopefully encourage anyone who is thinking
of making a film to pick up that camera, that mouse, and get working.
Star Wars fanfilms can be an incredible opening into other things,
for people that take the time to actually make a film, and not
just talk the talk. What has happened over the past two years has
blast, and WAY beyond my wildest dreams when I started making a
fanfilm with set goals. I thank Nikki for most of this, for her
persistance in screening the film - without this (and if I had
had my way) the
journey would have ended
with TFN, and I also thank her for her constant support and encouragemnet
throughout making both films. In fact, I'm sure Nikki will probably
pursuade me to finish Storm
once this next project is out of the way.
really hope this story
is proof that the world is crying out to see what people can
do when they put their minds to it. Fanfilms are really hard work,
are a long road to travel, but with a little luck (or a lot in
my case) the rewards are there to be taken. I can honestly say
that even if
making a Star Wars fanfilm wasn't life changing, it certainly
may end up being career changing. It's been a great ride, that just
better and better. I wrote tutorials, and I write this in the
that it might inspire even a few people to pick up a camera,
finish that effects test, or make a movie. If you are looking
to make the
world stand up and notice, turns out you can do a lot worse that
make a Star Wars fanfilm.
Okay, I guess it's a shame not to show anyone the 'TFN' teaser,
especially since I quite liked it. Since the post above
has been up for a good few weeks, and anyone that is interested will
know that Storm Ahead isn't coming out any time soon, I feel it is
now okay to show the teaser.
is being posted onto TFN
fanfilms tomorrow morning, so if you are a
really early bird you might consider this a sneek peak. But chances
are you are actually reading this after it has already been and gone
TFN. So without further ado, I present to you the TFN 15 second Teaser
It's a pathetic update, but I finally got around to fixing the
front page which had a fair few rollovers that didn't work correctly.
Plus it now has a healthy dose of SHINE on the type to give it some
the introduction of a Windows Media file in the TFN
teaser section I have also recompressed the original
trailer and now offer that in
Windows Media format as well, especially for the PC community who cannot
download Quicktime becuase of firewall issues.
Gone also are the on2 versions of the teaser and trailer, so now it is
only available in Sorenson 3 or Windoze Media files. I may get around
to updating the other files on the site to Sorenson 3 - then again I
long time ago...
been a while since I posted anything on this site, and it'll be long
time before I probably will again. Sadly this has nothing to do with
STORM AHEAD, but I have nearly finished a website for my Uncle (the Uncle
whose film I am working on at the moment) Not much interest for a Star
Wars fan, but possibly interesting for people wondering what I am working
on instead. That said, the film I am working on isn't posted onto the
site yet, but will begin to appear in the coming months.
aside click on www.colinnutley.com to
see what he has been up to over the past twenty years, and what I
have been working on for the past few weeks...