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Post-Production Report:
Visual Effects Revealed  

S o m e    E x a m p l e s    o f    D i g i t a l    E n h a n c e m e n t s 

Opening Chicken Sequence: Dynamic Moving Footage from Locked-off Source

Last year, before I ever started the official reconstruction/reincarnation of Hell is Texas, I did a test. I digitally "enhanced" the opening sequence with the source from my old transfer -- 3/4" tapes transfered to DV via a DSR-30. The results were so encouraging, I demoed them for a couple of friends, and even presented the sequence (and a "how-to" demo) for the IMAGE filmmaking group in Palo Alto. (Which went over very well.)

But because the source was soft and only a composite signal, these digital composites were actually very forgiving. When it came time to redo this sequence with my pristine new transfer to D-1 (then DV), sharp edges and crisp content made these shots quite a bit more difficult. In fact, even with the help of Richard McBride on two of the shots, we spent about 10 times the original time getting them right.

The end result was almost identical to my first pass: a much more dynamic sequence than the original rough cut. We obviously couldn't afford camera rigs and complex moving close-ups on location, but luckily I had shot other locked-off footage, for use in the montage before the cars peel out and start racing toward one another. These shots originally went unused -- they didn't work so well in the opening moments, but later I realized they were perfect camera angles for shots of the rushing cars on the road. All I had to do was make them rush.

 The "hero" vette composite on rushing road.

The first shot -- the "hero" vette shot looking over the hood and through the windshield -- was the most difficult of the three. In the actual plate, Charley is putting the picture of Ellie back on the visor and then shifting into first to peel out. I used the "shifting moment" as a shift into third gear instead. The car is isolated with a matte, painted by hand in Photoshop. It is hard-edged except for the area where Charley moves, which is a little soft to allow for that movement.

The Vette's matte, or alpha channel.

The background is made up of three main plates: a huge painted canvas of the horizon and road, which is slowly scaled down toward a constant point on the horizon where the road converges. Also, a clip of right-to-left panning yellow fields is skewed and dropped in in the upper right, with a soft blend fading it into the background matte painting. Finally, a bit of detailed road is scrolling by the lower left edge of frame, in the shadow of the vette on the road.

Additional touches, like a wobbling Lens Flare filter on the hot-spot on the hood, really help sell the image. Also, a bit of reflection -- again the yellow fields blurring by -- in the side of the car. And a few layers of the DigiEffects Earthquake filter to give it the proper camera shake.

Voila. Moving car.

The 66' Vette hood.

Reverse to the Mustang.

The second and third close-up shots are similarly achieved, though only moving road and reflections were needed, as well as a bit of yellow field in the mustang one. In all three shots it was the timing of the camera shake and the speed of the road that were critical to the general success of the shot. And then little details like blurred tires and moving reflections that cement and polish the illusion.

To see a QuickTime of these three clips in motion, select this QuickTime Movie (432K).


Hell is Texas ©1999 by Puppy Dog Head Productions. All Rights Reserved.
668 ©copyright 2000 by r zane rutledge. all rights reserved.