Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dragon Ball Z: James vs the Computer

What child product of the 90’s didn’t grow up watching Dragon Ball Z? such an incredibly cheesy show, but so good.

The inspiration from this video came while I was still in Australia. My old laptop (the first MacBook Pro with an Intel dual core processor) was at the end of its life. I spent a lot of time aggravated, trying to get it working. I wanted to just blow it up.

Given some time, this concept grew and it was that simple.

(warning… about to get really heavy with technical talk.)

I wanted Chris (the tall red head from the dollar trick) to begin learning how to run a camera. I gave very direct instructions and frequently had to show him how to use different functions. But overall, he did an awesome job.

I chose to go with a 2.35 aspect ratio (1920x817 pixels) for this video. Something I’ve not really done before. But it’s such a beautifully cinematic aspect ratio… I’m kind of in love with it. And you’ll probably be seeing it more and more as time goes on.

There are some issues with quality loss through the workflow. This is one of the heavier videos that I’ve done as far as the workflow and need for organization was concerned. And unfortunately the degradation of quality of the video that becomes fairly easy to see. Looking back I realized I need to start converting the h.264 codec to prores 4.2.2. to maintain quality. Lesson learned. :p

The visual effects, though time consuming, were all relatively easy. A lof of tutorials I used for the energy wave and Kamehameha (big energy ball) all recommended buying presets for after effects. I didn’t want to spend money, so I made all of the effects from scratch. They’re rough, and definitely could be improved upon. But they also turned out really well considering it was my first attempt. I’m always learning how to do it better. :) I might do a couple of tutorials to explain the specific tricks I used. Things like the lightning or sky replacement can be found on

Here's the original footage, straight out of the camera. in the picture below, you can see the energy wave (which is actually two separate waves), the lightning, the color correction and the more subtle sky replacement (which i did for every shot of sky throughout the video. you can also see the original framing of the shot in the 1.85 aspect ratio before i cropped it to the more cinematic 2.35. :)

I’ve said this a few times, but I really think it’s the sound effects that bring these videos together. And that comes from Tim Lundy. I think he makes nearly all the sfx from scratch now and they’re all pretty incredible (I’ve got a library of stuff he’s been working on that we haven’t found a use yet… including a future video where we wrote the script after he made the sfx…). And the sound effects in this video were especially good, when you realize that Tim is one of those weird kids that must have grown up in the boonies because he didn’t watch DBZ growing up.

It was fun to keep this video under wraps. We filmed it in February, and it went on the back burner while I worked on other stuff. I enjoyed releasing screen caps on the facebook page and getting people excited. Getting some buzz, and finally upon release, hearing people’s reactions match what I’d hoped they would be. “The explosion behind the house was priceless.” “I loved the woman slapping the man!” and we’ve also received our first dislike on a video. And gave it a 1.5 out of 7 stars (I think that’s the lowest score I’ve seen on anything with more than one vote. Haha).

This really did make me chuckle. It’s time to test the thickness of our skin. I know a lot of people might strongly dislike this video. But I’m ok with that. Let them voice their opinion. I had a lot of fun on this project. And at the end of the day, I do this for me. :)

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