Tag Archives: VFX

What’s Left!

As we said before, “The Sheol Express” is almost done, there’s just a few VFX elements that need some smoothing out.  Today, Perry Kroll and I make this VFX chart.  It shows everything that has yet to be done on the film – every index card contains one shot (or set of similar shots) that need some tweaks.

As you can see, sixteen shots await their final destination.  To give you an example of some of the things we’re going to be working on over the next few weeks, here’s one of the most complicated index cards:

Shot: Jump-cut Train Reveal

- Swing camera out more into the tracks by straightening the roof-line. This will make us see less of the train.

- Comp in new 3D train model.

- Atmospheric elements – dust, etc. – kicked up by and around the train.

It’s been a long journey, but Perry, Bryce and Vlad, our post-production team have been rock-solid and committed to the job, and we shall reach the End of the Line soon.

Sheol: Inception

The VFX department is getting a little restless. I received the latest proofs from them for the sandy, dirty, run-down Araboth Ferry scene.  Turns out they’ve been watching too much Inception.

Owen... at Araboth Ferry?

We’ve Submitted to Palm Springs!

Big news!

We just sent in our application for the 2010 Palm Springs International ShortFest, the biggest exhibition, competition, and marketplace devoted to the short film!  This marks a huge milestone in “The Sheol Express”.  After hearing people say, for several months, that we’ve got a good movie on our hands, it’s nerve-racking to send it off to someone else to evaluate it!

Palm Springs is a very important festival for us because it’s not only the largest exhibition of short films, but also has attached to it one of the largest short film markets attached to it.  Markets are where buyers – people who are looking for content – come to find that content.  We’d love to sell “The Sheol Express” to a cable network or someone similar, in order to gain exposure for the film, and possibly pave the way for a feature film.  Getting into Palm Springs and attending the filmmaket will be an important part of that!

We submitted an in-progress version of the film, something that’s common for film festivals to receive for applications, because films want to exhibit as soon as possible after they’ve finished – meaning that even though we will complete the film in April or May, we’ve submitted in in March, so we can premiere in June.  Hopefully.

Perry and Bryce have been working feverishly on the visual effects, and we’ve got about half of the matte paintings in the film done.  We focused on the ones that were integral for the story.  Vlad has done the first pass of coloring, and we have Joy’s rough sound mix, paired with the almost-final mixes of the score!  Everything is so close… but seems so far at the same time!

Here’s a little taste of the work that they’ve been doing…

Araboth Ferry

You may remember the other “evolution of a shot” images that we posted during production for this shot… perhaps it’s a good time to bring those back!

Pretty cool, huh?

Also, for the festival submission, we updated the synopsis, which you can find updated under the links at the top of the site, or below.

Now we begin the wonderful waiting game, as we approacah “around or about May 25th”.  Cheers!

Our new synopsis:

Tired of traveling the underworld, Owen Turner boards The Sheol Express, a fantastical train that ferries souls to their final resting place at the End of the Line. En route, Owen meets Rachael, a visionary who proclaims the existence of Araboth, an alleged paradise near the second-to-last stop before the End of the Line. Contesting her claim is the charismatic peddler Diggory Venn, who is as critical of Rachael’s radicalism as he is devoted to sensory pleasures. Scoffing at Rachael’s outlandish beliefs, Diggory encourages Owen to kick back, forget about Araboth, and enjoy the ride to the End of the Line. As The Sheol Express plows through the night, Owen wavers between the guarantee of a final resting place and the possibility of a better life: if he leaves the train before the End of the Line and Araboth is no more than Rachael’s wishful fantasy, Owen risks wandering the world alone. But if Araboth is more than a delusion, he stands to reclaim a hope he lost long ago.

Sheol is a wasteland without water, inhabited by souls condemned to travel from town to town along the railroad servicing The Sheol Express, a mysterious train bound for the End of the Line. The End of the Line, they say, is the final resting place for souls weary of wandering the parched frontier. To board, passengers must forfeit their citizenship and are never heard from again. This closure is precisely what Diggory, the train’s charismatic peddler of luxury wares, purportedly longs to embrace. He entices Owen with promises of material pleasures at the End of the Line, endeavoring to make the best of an otherwise meaningless afterlife. He’ll have nothing to do with Rachael and her zealous belief in Araboth, an alleged paradise teeming with everything that Sheol lacks: water, light, and green. Although Owen wants to believe Rachael’s radical claims, he can’t shake his suspicion that she might be making it up. As Diggory is eager to point out, Rachael has no real proof of Araboth. Can Owen leap into the unknown, sacrificing comfort and stability for the hope of a better life? Should he?

Hope is a human phenomenon, as necessary as it is absurd. In “The Sheol Express”, writers and directors Michael Koehler and Ryan Patch explore the connection between hope and intellectual integrity. Hope is found where certainty is not: it dwells in the most unlikely of places, in the hearts of people who are themselves confused, in the folds of hypocrisy and doubt that pervade postmodernity. Raised in religious families but educated at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Koehler and Patch approach the possibility of truth from a unique perspective. Their encounters with other cultures and deep, personal struggles with faith inform what is not just a social question, but a spiritual one: what place does truth have in our relative world? In 27 minutes, they bring audiences face-to-face with the same question that faces Owen: what, if anything, is Araboth? Where is it today? And finally, what are we – as individuals weary of our endless routine – willing to risk to find out?

Second Cut is HERE

So, we received the second cut of the film, and we’re pleased to say that we’re making progress!

Something that is very interesting about our film is that it’s rather long – we initially wrote a 23-page script, which should translate to a 23-minute movie.  23 minutes is already quite long for a short film, but we decided to work with it, as it was a really good script that we thought would hold people’s attention.

When we received the first cut, it became clear that we were looking at a bit longer film – 27 minutes, in fact, without any of the closing credits!  That’s very long!  The good news is that it feels like 10 minutes – which is impressive for one’s own movie that you’ve already seen a million times.  But, we thought that we’d make some cuts, tighten it up a little, and it’ll shrink right down.  We love the movie, but it’s always better to have a shorter movie, we’ve been told, so we dutifully began looking for ways that our editor, Evan, could cut it down.

Not so fast.

Mike and I screened the second cut, with 1:30 cut off, with Perry and Bryce (our vfx wizards of studio free radical) and Vlad (our colorist, of Vladlab), and it became clear that even minimal trims made a HUGE difference in the story.  It appears that the script is so tight, and even loosing a few lines here and there dramatically alters the story.  A compliment to the script’s tightness and succinctness, yes, but difficult as we try to tighten up the cut.

So, we’ll just continue cutting, and continue updating.  Just as we felt during the entire production process, we constantly find ourselves saying “This film is Amazing!  The people we’re working with are so talented!  But there’s SO MUCH work to be done!”  True… so true, and we’re reminded of both our peer’s talents every day, how fortunate we are to have them working with us, but also the sheer amount of work we all need to do.  The same is true of the edit, which we shall keep taking our “baby steps” on.

We’re trying to have all of the scenes that use visual effects locked by Thanksgiving in order to give Bryce a headstart on creating those amazing matte paintings!