Checkpoint: Operation Big Ba Da Boom

Posted Sunday, March 22, 2009, 3:30 PM


This weekend was supposed to be when I was shooting my first short film. But it was not to be, I cancelled the shoot when it all fell apart before my very eyes. As I have mentioned before, I have few regrets, and it is possible I'll revisit it later in the year.

But as the camera and dolly tracks were already booked, Rob thought he might take advantage of the opportunity of a weekend where a team were available to assist. We had gotten a review of the edit of Checkpoint so far, and there was one suggestion that it was a shame there wasn't a single cutaway shot of one of the other British Soldiers. At the time of the original shoot, no other British soldier was in the cast, so it wouldn't have happened even if we'd deemed it necessary. But it is glaring in its absence, in the current cut.

Well, a single shot isn't enough for a big hassle - we probably could've done that with a simpler camera and a quick dash outside with a mate in a tin hat. But Rob and I detected another feeling of absence in the film, which is the whole back-story of the mission our main Brit character was on.

Originally we were going to gloss over it entirely, and then meet the Soldier properly later in the film where he describes that it all went wrong. The problem is, we didn't really show what their mission even was - it was implied, but only in a single shot that gave away very little. We as creators knew it all, but an audience coming in cold would not be satisfied by this. It needed just a few additional details to fill in the blanks.

So we sat down and went over a few things that we both wanted to see. I wanted them to run amongst the trains. Rob wanted them to attack a couple of German soldiers. We also wanted to build up the similarities between the British soldier, Finn, and the Germans at the Checkpoint, Kleine and Weiss.

We have recently learned a lot about what we were capable of with greenscreen keying and motion tracking, and my 3D rendering is getting to be quite realistic. We set ourselves a few really fun challenges with these shots, including following the soldiers along as they dash between the trains, soldiers marching up to the C-47 plane and climbing in, a brief burst of gunfire as the Germans discover them, and an overhead shot of Finn sneaking up behind and disposing of a Guard.

Every one of the shots we did, and there were at least 30 of them, will have some kind of greenscreen keying and background elements added. Many of the backgrounds will be digital mattes, pieced together from photographs, and many will be 3D graphics, especially the shots with the planes and trains in them.

We have basically put another six months of work on our plates. Though I have made the train and plane already, they don't stand up to extremely close scrutiny, so some parts of the trains will need to be rebuilt in higher resolution. And there are new things to make, such as a suitable period car and a German army truck that drives up a road.

Wow, it's not going to be easy!

But then, that's what makes it fun to do.

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