a film by R. Zane Rutledge


F R O M    T H E    T R E N C H E S
Post-Production Report:
Visual Effects Revealed

 by R. Zane Rutledge,


writer, director, co-producer
(...editor..visual effects supervisor...3d animator...compositor...)

S e p t e m b e r    1 9 9 9


The digital rebirth of Hell is Texas was about as crazed and over-ambitious as the original project itself. That is, my plans tended to vastly out-reach realistic expectations. Heck, I've learned a lot about visual effects in a decade of computer graphics commercial work. But then again, we usually have a team of people working for six-to-ten weeks to produce less than thirty seconds of material. And I had big plans for expanding and augmenting and digitally-modifying eighty-something minutes of live-action western.

Needless to say, it didn't all get done.

Still, some wonderful stuff happened. Some really cool stuff, considering absolutely no budget and only seven or so months of mostly weekends and late nights. That and a team that for a week or two expanded to about five volunteer artists working at the same time, but was mostly just one -- me.

It proved some things. It helped me form a much clearer perspective on the use of visual effects in indie film projects; the time involved; the value to the production. I'll likely cobble out my own "digital manifesto" soon and call it "Why CGI? (Computer Graphics Imagery)," because now I know you better have a good reason for spending the time, even if you can avoid spending lots of money (which most people can't).

For those who are interested, here's a little rundown on some of the effects I produced. Most of them are "transparent effects," fixes like wire-removal or background replacement. Things that if they were done right, you'll never even notice. Things that improved continuity, or timing, or mood. A couple sequences had more overt effects work -- some "ghost" sequences, with people appearing and disappearing in wisps of smoke. Plus a few smoke-clouds and bullet-hits we didn't get on location with squibs.

For the techies, here's the rundown on hardware/software used: Most compositing was done in Adobe After Effects on a Mac G3; roto and paint-fixes were accomplished with Puffin Design's Commotion; some shots were finished or helped by Flame artists using discreet logic's Inferno/Flame/Flint running on respective SGI machines. The 3D work was mostly Softimage (on SGI Octanes), with particle systems (smoke) being produced exclusively with Alias PowerAnimator.


T h e    E f f e c t s

Here's a little glimpse into seven of the sequences enhanced with digital trickery. There were others, but this should give you a taste of what DV technology and effects post-production did for Hell is Texas:

Opening Chicken Sequence: Dynamic Moving Footage from Locked-off Source
Thorn's Bar: Matte Painting Enhancements and a 3D Synthetic Hand-Held Shot

Boca Seca Saloon: Green Trees Replacement (Tilt-up Shot)

Cemetary Sequence: Charley's Visit by Ellie's "Ghost"

Boca Seca Exterior: Matte Painting with Camera Projection

The Spinning Ranger Badge: Camera Projection and Simple Texture-Mapping

Little Details: Smoke from Gunshots, Flashback Treatment, Color Correction


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