Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hey guys, it's already been 3 months since the release of Sands of Fire. We're getting a lot of feedback, mostly from the Youtube channel and we're very pleased with the comments. Looks like most of you enjoy the final movie. That makes us very happy. And again, it proves we made the right choises. In the end, it turns out to be all worth it. Thanks for all the positive comments, it really means a lot to us.

For those that haven't seen it yet, here's the embed from Youtube:

Anyway, the reason I'm putting this post up, is that a lot of people have been asking me to post some behind the scenes material. So, here it is. Some rough material I collected from the 6 years of production, and this is only a small portion of the many hundreds of gigs of data we have of this movie. Mostly it consists of testfootage we shot and quickly/roughly put together, without compositing, without any special effects, just the raw footage that we captured from the game. Many of you will definitely recognize the scenes, and I bet you'll all be amazed how the shots were worked on the achieve their final looks. Again, this is why we spent so much time on it, we wanted it to be perfect.

Well, for those interested, here we go.

1) The Intro. I think we haven't spent more time on anything else but the intro. We have dozens of different versions of the intro, all taking a different direction and look/feel. Some were done with onscreen text, others were done with voiceover, some only graphic, some text and music. The intro we ended up with was very much the same like the intro we did for The Fallen One, the flyover of the Blackhawk, we felt we had to stick with our directional style.Introducing the story or giving background information is not easily done as we slowly found out during production.


2) Part 1 - The Insurgent Suicide attack. As you will see, the early test footage pretty much turned out to be the final cut. Early on, we had a clear view on what had to happen and how the action should flow. The post-production made it so much more dramatic, especially the 3D explosions.

3) Part 1 - The rescue team debriefing/departs. These scenes are after the events of the attack. A recue team is sent to the last known location of the missing soldier and they will have to fight their way into town. These scenes lack a lot of shots, much action and battle/fighting shots had yet to be recorded. But this edit lay out the blueprint for what we had to accomplish, a parallel cut from the fighting happening at the mosque and the rescue of the soldier. We tried to reach a climax (the rescue of the protagonist) while at the same time, we wanted to have an anti-climax (the slaughter of the rest of the team at the mosque). Pushing on the dramatic moments of rescuing one person for the sake of loosing all others.


4) Part 2 - Operation Sands of Fire. For those not knowing what the title is about, well this is your answer. Sands of Fire is the name of a Military Operation. Much like Operation Iraqi Freedom or Phantom Phury. But this name is fake, we made it up. However, many of the events in Sands of Fire are inspired by real operations or events (such as the Blackwater insurgent attack and the Battle of Fallujah). These scenes are just one big exposition, establishing time and place. We tried to create a desert storm look and feel, with lots of yellow/orange and red, darker colors in general. For the final cut, we were inspired by the effects and compositing of Jarhead. For those that have a sharp eye, you can see that one burning oilfield is exactly the same as used in that movie. Yeah we copied it :). Just saying, we were going after that Iraqi desert feel.


5) Part 2 - Extraction. For this next clip we're skippig in time. We're in the middle of the operation and Soldiers are being extracted at various locations, by Blackhawk (fastropes) and by ground vehicules. Their goal, try and find their lost men. These men (former rescue Team and our protagonist), are hiding in a small room at the town market square, waiting for their rescue. In an attempt to make contact with their teams, they sent out a radio signal. Now the various squads have to move on and fight their way to the location of that signal. These scenes show some heavy close combat fighting, we wanted to create a claustrophobic feeling, with tight alleyways and insurgents being all over the place. One thing I really wanted in these shots, was blood, a lot of it, excessive use of it. I wanted to show the true horrors of war, soldiers being shot at close range. If you look closely in the final cut, you will see an insurgent laying on the ground with a leg torn off.

6) Part 2 - The final battle. These are the big battle scenes at the town market square, a map that was especially created for this movie. And it took us forever to capture. If Peter Jackson had his Battle for Helm's deep, we had our Battle at Market Square. Seriously, we were going nuts on the days of recording. Sometimes we had to manage 30 different players at the same time and put them all in place for the acting. Imagine how stressful that was. But eventually we got the shots that we needed and we were perfectly satisfied. It helped us a lot to have a storyboard in these huge scenes. Some of the shots in this clip will actually show some of the storyboared shots I'm talking about. So don't make a funny face if you see them :). As it turned out, soundfx and music would be very important in this scene. Lots of things happening, explosions, weapons firing, soldiers getting hit, soldiers dying... If I remember correctly, the final battle scene runs 11 mins, and we worked on it for almost 2 years.


Isn't it amazing how all these raw images turned into the final movie? I still can't believe how much work and time we put into this. I still have lots and lots of stuff to show and talk about, maybe one day we should release a bluray version with all the extras on it. I can only hope ;)

Anyway, hope you liked it, leave a comment or post any questions you may have. I'll be happy to answer them for you!