Saturday, May 27, 2006

Halloween Costume and Special FX

As you can probably tell from my blog posts over the past few days, I’ve been taking advantage of my high-speed connection and have been watching a lot of Star Wars fan films.

There’s an awful lot of them out there, and most of them are quite frankly, awful.

Two or three caught my eye though.

Now, fanfilms tend to get a very bad rap, because as I’ve just stated, the vast majority of them are complete and total crap. They usually consist of a few 15 year olds, in bad Halloween costumes with extremely poor looking lightsabers rotoscoped in.

If you’ve seen the short ‘experiment’ I posted, let’s just say that my uber-crappy effects are in the upper-echelons of most special effects.

One or two I’ve seen, however, rival Industrial Light and Magic in their special effects. In fact, Ryan Webber, a prolific fan-film creator got ‘noticed’ and called in to create a lot of the effects for Star Wars games. He’s also a talented stage-fighter, and his fight-scene only video “Ryan Vs. Dorkman, is actually one of the best light saber battles I’ve seen…and I’m including the actual movies in that.

Forgetting special effects for a moment the number one thing that absolutely ruins most fan-films is that absolutely terrible, ‘scraped through the bottom of the barrel and came out the other side’ acting.

I’ve seen fan films with absolutely spot-on special effects, movie quality 3D models, extravagant sets and locations (IE, there are some fan-films which cost upwards of $50,000). You watch the opening CG scene, a majestic star destroyer orbits a planet, it cuts to the interior, and a guy in a movie-perfect costume comes on screen. Your expectations get high…

And then they open their mouths.

Of course, the worst offenders aren’t the films with bad acting, but good special effects, or above average acting with poor special effects. It’s the ones with awful effects AND acting.

One film was obviously created by three guys still at school.

Picture this. The special effects where directly cut and pasted from the early 90’s PC game, X-wing. Straight polygons, with no texture mapping. It was unintentionally funny. The bad guy character had a double ended Lightsaber, but the prop was obviously a flexible rod, so as he ran, the blades actually bounced up and down. The world’s first bendy Lightsaber blade.

As for the acting, give two four year olds a cardboard box, and tell them to pretend it’s a spaceship. You’d get a much more convincing performance. There’s nothing like watching an ‘actor’ tell a fellow actor that the ‘shields are down and one more hit is going to destroy us’, with all the enthusiasm and emotion of someone saying: “I have a dentists appointment on Wednesday”.

This isn’t just the kids either. I watched a movie called “Reign of the Fallen”, that starred adults, and one or two performances that weren’t ‘terrible’, but they still make soap opera actors look good. The worst thing about that movie, though, was the pacing.

You know that scene in Episode IV, where Luke looks wistfully out at the dune sea, under the twin suns? ‘Reign of the Fallen’ is 99% that scene. There’d be a short bit of inane dialogue, then one character would leave, and the other would look off camera wistfully. I actually timed it. Over one third of the movie is people looking wistfully off camera,

Oh, and the story was crap.

ARGH! Get off my computer, you no-talent fool.

My favorite fan-films, as a result of this, fall into two categories. The straight fight scenes (There’s no actual acting), and the comedic spoofs.

The most famous of these is the one I’ve already mentioned (Ryan Vs Dorkman), which features two people, in non-Star Wars clothes, just going at it with lightsabers and force powers. The special effects are ILM standard, and the choreography is absolutely amazing. Not just for a fan film, but in general. If I was a movie producer, I’d hire those guys to choregraph sword fights for me.

Another one that caught my eye, which had a little bit of bad acting and story, was the short film ‘Contract of Evil’ (basically a guy playing Darth Maul fights two other guys). The costuming, location and 90% of the special effects on this are on a par with the ‘Stargate’ TV series.

The absolute best fan-films, though, are the comedies.

For example, ‘Pink Five’. This movie was actually made by industry professionals, so the effects are great, and the storyline is essentially ‘Valley girl meets Star Wars’.

‘Injured Stormtrooper’ is also worth a watch. It’s a very short (5 minute) film about a Stormtrooper who gets shot, but not killed, and the other Stormtroopers just can’t get their heads around it. “Wooon-ded? I thought these suits where designed to make sure you got killed when you got shot! Why else would we wear them?”

“Troops” is a Star-Wars based ‘Cops’ parody, centering on a report of stolen droids with the Jawas, and a domestic disturbance with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

Finally, “3 o’clock in the Afternoon”, is a short comedy about three flatmates who find three lightsabers left mysteriously outside their door…and they react like any true Star Wars geek would.

All the films I’ve mentioned are either available, or linked to, on Theforce.net

Give them a look. As well as the comedies, there are numerous FX projects, which are interesting, because its amazing what some amateurs can do in their spare time on home computers.

And, if nothing else, even the bad ones are entertaining in a “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way.

My recommendations:

Contract of Evil : Purely for the effects.
Ryan Vs Dorkman : Special Effects and Choreography
Troops
3 O’clock in the Afternoon
The Pink Five series
Injured Stormtrooper.

6 comments:

MC Etcher said...

'Troops' is a classic! It was the first SW fan films I ever saw, and it gave me pretty high expectations for the restnhtshe.

MC Etcher said...

oops. that was supposed to say "rest"

Paulius said...

"Oh, it's your cousin's droid? Is that your cousin?"

BallsDeepInYourMom said...

You piss on these movies but where is your movie? Oh right, I forgot, you are retarded dork that posts in blogs and sits on the internet. Maybe if I post about it on the internet, someone will care about my opinion!!!!! Less people care here than in your real life. Truth is, if you made a fan film using nothing but your own money and free time, it would suck ass. Want to know why? Because you are a fucking idiot. If I was your father I would raise you like a little donkey who likes to be anally excavated twice a day with the claw of a hammer. Your mom smells like brocolli.

Paulius said...

Hmmm, you appear to have posted a comment without actually reading the post...for example, the end part where I make a list of recommendations of good fan-films.

By the way, good job at threatening me over the internet. We all know how much balls it takes to swear a lot to someone you don't know or will ever meet in real life.

I think we know who the idiot here is.

Paulius said...

Oh, and you live in New Jersey.

That alone means I don't have to listen to you.