Lights, Camera, ACTION

Posted: 14th November 2008 by Anthony van Winkle
Categories: Behind-the-Scenes Photos, Digital Production, Episode 1 - "Ashes"

On the workflow for handling HDR images in Photoshop CS4

As promised, a little action and a little blood. These sorts of sequences are by far the hardest to coordinate and the hardest to produce, but they sure are a blast. Over the past year of creating Night Zero, we’ve shot four large-scale scratcher fight sequences, and those have been some of the most fun times we’ve had. From a freezing night in January to a scorching cloudless day in July, our scratchers have been real troopers, and I cannot emphasize enough how much they rock.

This week we upgraded to Photoshop CS4, primarily for its 64-bit compatibility. Previous versions of Photoshop (and most software) are only capable of understanding up to 4 gigs of memory, which is way more than most people would ever need, but is a difficult limitation for Night Zero. I’m a huge advocate of data redundancy and non-destructive editing, so every iteration of our photos is self-contained. The major advantage here is that nothing is permanent, and any change or alteration we make can be reversed at any time, without undoing everything that happened after the change. The disadvantage is that every progressive file contains all the data of all the previous files.

For example, a typical HDR photo (composited from three exposures) would be ~80MB as a destructable file, but ~450MB as a non-destructable photo. Take a multi-layered shot, which features a foreground photo, a background photo, and a matte background, and blend the three together. A destructable file, containing just a snapshot of the blend, would be ~200MB. A non-destructable photo, containing the full information of the three source files, plus all the information about how they are blended, weighs in at ~1.2 gigabytes. Add in a few dozen megs’ worth of special effects, and we’ve completed a single frame… one of five on a page. As you can see, we deal with monstrous amounts of data, and being free of the 32-bit RAM cap will be a boon to our post-production speeds.

Also this week we finished up another major shoot of Episode II, and have scheduled out the remainder of the episode over the next few weeks (with the exception of the final page, which will be shot as part of Episode III). Although this next episode will be completed by the time Episode I finishes its online run (mid-December), Episode II will not begin immediately afterwords. For one, what’s the point of “to be continued” if it’s continued immediately? And for two, next month is going to be our big crunch-time for distributing and marketing the book, Night Zero Volume One, and we don’t want to rush production and potentially sacrifice quality of either the book or the online release of Episode II. Don’t worry, we’ll find fun and interesting updates to keep you entertained, and start the Episode II run as soon as we feel the time is right.

Anybody interested in a more visceral zombie-apocalypse experience, I encourage you to check out the upcoming video game “Left 4 Dead” (due out Nov 18). From the producers of Half-Life 2 and Counterstrike, the ultimate zombie survival game. I picked up the demo last night and it blew me away, in a ferociously terrifying and entertaining way. Check out the TV spot for a quick peek at the beauty, or the Opening Video for five satisfying minutes of apocalyptic action.

And now, the reason you’re really here. Photos!

Jon and Shannon, the happy scratchers.

Jon and Shannon, the happy scratchers.

The satellite dishes were not the most photogenic set pieces...

The satellite dishes were not the most photogenic set pieces...

Shannon and Tamara get into the scene, while Jon adjusts himself

Shannon and Tamara get into the scene, while Jon adjusts himself

Perks of the job.

Perks of the job.

Giving the cast the day's rundown

Giving the cast the day's rundown

Noah, aka Zombie Jesus, getting into makeup

Noah, aka Zombie Jesus, getting into makeup

Forest Gibson, skeptical photographer

Forest Gibson, skeptical photographer

Me prepping Noah for his big debut

Me prepping Noah for his big debut

Tamara and Katrina, waiting for a fight

Tamara and Katrina, waiting for a fight

For this shot, Tamara supported Katrina so she could be "falling" backwards after the hit.

For this shot, Tamara supported Katrina so she could be "falling" backwards after the hit.

We didn't add the gun in post, we removed my hands holding it.

We didn't add the gun in post, we removed my hands holding it.