Brothers (2009)

A pretty cliche story depicting the effects of war and how it affects the soldiers that returns to civilian life but unable to settle in completely without encountering some problems psychologically.

The actors, especially Sam by Tobey Maguire is portrayed well in his changes from a loving father and loyal marine to someone who is forced to kill his man and live his life carrying guilt.

Actors play a superb role in this film, or otherwise everything else is actually pretty flat and the music doesn’t really stand out too much too.

Pacing is alright but there’s perhaps just a little too few screentime of the part when Sam is being kidnapped to show his changes from a normal guy to a depraved one.

Overall, a pretty good film for 7.5/10.

Script to Film 13: Sound Foley

Today me and Mat booked the Foley Studio and started doing our own foleys for the film. There are a couple of sounds that are not clear in the original boom mic recording and so we decided to add them instead. Many of the sounds need to be improvised and we actually used some unusual combination of items such as plastic + wet paper for the rustling leaves sound. Thankfully, there is not much sound needed to be created as half of them have been downloaded by Mat and fits the scenes nicely. It’s quite fun making and thinking of weird combinations that actually produce the sound you want, guess with more experimentation, we could do more sounds within a shorter amount of time.

Then I helped Mat does the timing of the music and tension soundtrack to bring an abrupt and sudden ending before it flows to the credits. At the same time, some extra ambience are removed due to too much noise in the scene.

11210372_10205818963707674_634619153_n

Script to Film : Reflection

Looking back, it all started with just a simple idea that is needed to form a script. The time spent on brainstorming new developments, characters and endings are finally bearing fruits on the results. This is my first time doing this seriously and with my group-mates. It takes sometime to combine ideas from different people, and having to give opinions and receive feedbacks that may not be to your liking. I used to work mostly alone on some projects and this really trained me a lot in my communicating skills, which is really important in a group. Everyone has different temper and tolerances, but I was lucky my group is dependable and is willing to accept criticism and change something instead of stubbornly sticking through with original idea which they really liked.

This project allows me to experience a role I have never done before :Producer. It’s really quite a change from my usual role of storyboard or sound editor or film editor. The responsibility is pretty huge and seems like it requires me to be there for the whole production. There’s definitely more paperworks involved and needing to know all the details of the film, from script to actors to locations to budgets etc. It is only after I did some research that I realised a Producer acts like the Leader of the Team and is someone who involved himself into many aspects of the production. Thankfully, this role allows me to understand more about my teammates and I get to spend more time working with each of them. Being a Producer really floods me with lots of information and I have to relay to others of certain changes that are made but not announced by the Director.

Sometimes, I got to handle conflict among members too, which luckily had never been extreme or common. We get to discuss together most of the time. Each of us are quite enthusiastic at the roles we have chosen with most of us taking new roles we have never taken before. There are some aspects that I hope we could change like researching more about our time setting of 1950s beforehand to find out the limitations. We are unaware of such drastic changes from the wall socket to the clothing and thought that they are pretty easy to be replicated. We also have to deal with several drastic changes, from the time period, settings, characters and to removal of an actor. I believe that we have to be flexible and always try to find a way out, as changes are inevitable during production and we need to prepare a backup plan or sort.

For the post-production, we do not really have a firm plan for soundtrack and editing and is more like just tried to do with what we had. We depended too much on one person for location and actors which delayed us greatly as that person took too long to accomplish the tasks given to him. It is one major mistake we had made and this is a really great lesson to be learnt. We were really lucky that the production was still able to be completed in the last minute. Choosing team mates for the next project will become my number one priority. Some people have the skills but lack attendance, which is pretty much useless and really delayed the production a lot. I felt that we should allocate similar tasks to more people for a case of having back-ups plan in case the main one failed and not to be too dependent on just one person. Furthermore, sometimes the Director may make mistakes and I need to speak it out, no matter if it’s last minute changes or not, for the good of the production.

Script to Film 12: Helping with Sound

Today comes and helps with the sound editing and foley with the Sound Director. Apparently, there has been a problem with the editing due to lack of footages causing the lips to not sync with the recorded sounds. Sadly, as much as we tried, we could only try to add other foley or ambience effects to mask it and makes it less obvious. After that, I tried to experiment adding on a sad soundtrack during some dramatic moments and it actually worked quite well! The sound recording studio can only be used next week and it will be used for those sounds that could not be downloaded or used from stock recordings, I have listed down some sounds to make it easier for us to focus on. Meanwhile, it seems the Sound Director is doing well, having refined and downloaded essential ambience and stock recordings and has already done 60-70% of the editing. We still have one more week left before submission and I will try to assist as much as possible.

Script to Film 11 : Starting on creating Title in After Effect & Other Issues

Lots of the time were spent on other module due to it’s earlier submission date, but now that it’s over, I could finally concentrate to create a Title sequence of our film in After Effect. Originally, the title was supposed to be “Lily of the Valley” but we found that it would be too much of a hint to giveaway and have been brainstorming together on a new one. There are some that we thought of such as Poison, Forbidden etc but they are either too plain or still pose the same problem of giving too much hint. In the end, we settle for a word that is of Greek origin– Storge, which means “love, affection” and “especially of parents and children” but it also means to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant. This word encompasses  what we are showing in the film and thus is chosen as the final tile. I think that using a foreign word gives it a more unique feel and arouses people’s curiosity as to the meaning of the title itself. At the same time, it gives people a sense of mystery, not knowing what the film is about until they watch till the very end.

For the software, I use After Effect as I have practised using it and that it has lots of plug-ins available for making effects easier. Also, it is due to the huge amount of tutorials available online and which I can use the chance to test out my skills in creating such effect sequence. Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 19.28.45

For the fonts, I’m using a thicker font called ‘Impact’ as I need it to be thick enough for the masking of the background effect. The background is a video of a falling red rose petals, symbolising the falling apart of ‘love’ in the film and alluding to one of the scenes where the Father cuts away a rose flower before he is poisoned by his wife. The colour that I have chosen is dark red, signifying the deep love that they once had and the ending is the words distingerating into dust, further alluding to the crumbling of the family that will happen at the end, and also indirectly symbolising the death of the Father right when their ‘love’ falls apart. The sequence is planned to start fade in slowly and is given a few seconds for the reader to read the Title before it disappears into dust, making it a smooth and meaningful transition to the opening scenes.

It takes sometime for me to get used to do new stuff like adding Composition and combining them, but I guess its because of my lack of experience since I have mostly dabbled in simple effects. For the current title sequence, the effect that I want to achieve is a little bit trickier and requires more steps and plug-ins for it to be done nicely. It serves as a good exercise, though, for me to learn the shortcut or functions of some effects/plug-ins slowly. After Effect does make things easier compared to other special effect software. For example, the distingeration into dust effect involved a plug-in and a build-in effect that requires only two steps for them to be mixed and are easily manipulated with the available options.

Initially, we are supposed to do a reshoot of a few key scenes back in Dave’s house, but sadly, it was cancelled at the last minute as we did not get any reply back from one of team members who have direct contact with Dave. This incident caused us to have to made do with whatever footages we have and also made me believe even more that we could not depend on a single person or a single choice of location. Also, as a producer, I found that I did not do a great job in informing everyone and bringing everyone together, especially with the director doing his own works most of the time. For now, I will be working hand-in-hand with the Editor and Sound Editor to deliver a final good quality film

Interactive Media 13 : Preparation for Presentation

For tomorrow’s presentation, we have decided to create a short video to list out highlights of our game instead of playing it on the day itself to save the hassle of explaining too much with words. I record the screen of the game and edited it into several categories that is easily understood, such as usage of Morality Meter, Making choices and multiple endings etc. I will probably be explaining along the way to make each of them clearer. Sadly, time is really running out and I feel really frustrated that the video could not be polished further. Personally, I have a minimum standard that my work has to reach before I feel that it is suitable/sufficient for submitting, the same goes for the other parts like the ransom video and podcasts. The latter two are not bad but I feel that it could be improved much further and more professionally. It was just so unfortunate we do not have time on our side to create better ones. I will have to take note of this in the next production to ensure we can deliver a higher quality work.

Interactive Media 12 : Final build & Updated Script & Thought Process

Alexandra and I spent some hours re-editing the scripts and trying out best to keep the essential ones only. This helps to shorten the script but not by much, though the quality of the dialogues have been improved and is more natural now. They have been read through multiple times and grammar mistakes are almost eradicated from several play-testing.

Just in case, I have sent the final build to the previous play testers for one last beta test. As of version 3.5, most of the major errors have been fixed, with no problems occurring in both Windows, Mac and Android version. I will be exporting the final build one last time on Monday to ensure it is the Final Version to be submitted.

Thinking back for the past 2 weeks, I did not even believe that I would be able to create such story visual app by myself. Although we have planned for it to be watered down version, I could actually manage to complete the game without it being the main goal of this project. One of the things I felt was the right thing to do is changing from Flash to Renpy. Even though it’s using a completely different programming language that I have learned in Flash during Epicenter lessons, it was the right bet. I doubt I could even complete half the game if I continued in Flash. It’s a good thing I dared to ask the lecturers about using alternative software and it paid off well. Not only have I managed to learn a new software, but I am also becoming more accustomed to the new programming language.

Also, I get to experience the process of game making( or sort-of) with a group. Instead of just one person doing everything, we actually split the works equally. I did the character designs and programming while the scripts, social media advertisements and story is created by others and sometimes together as a team. The game will never be completed if one of us never did their part but alas, I am really grateful that I have a wonderful team. Each of us did the roles well and offered to help one another out, making the project fun and proceed smoother till completion.

Interactive Media 10: Tutorial Feedbacks & Beta Testing

Today is the last tutorial feedback and luckily I have managed to compile everything and the beta works smoothly enough. A day before, I send the prototype to my groupmates and some of my friends to get some feedbacks from them. With the help of many people helping to test the software, I manage to list and found out some coding errors or grammar mistakes along the way. This is one of the reasons I place importance on mass beta-testing, it really enables me to find out most problems within short period of time without having to play through the games so many times. I am grateful to all those who’s willing to take out some time to try my game and will probably credit them in the game itself as a token of appreciation.

The tutorial’s feeback is mostly positive, with the lecturers praising good use of images and sound and even simple effects like screen shaking due to ‘being punched’ etc. They like the character designs and backgrounds, and the music is said to be suitable and fit comfortably with the dark fairytale setting.  Use of well timed and appropriate sound effect is given recognition in most part too. Overall, they like the game very much and are suprised we have a fully working almost-completed prototype to show them a week before submission.

However, some criticism are given which I think it’s not really good suggestion, though some of them are valid and appropriate criticisms. Firstly, they want the text to be automatic and not to click to continue. However, taking account that modern games nowadays employ click-to-contiunue approach, this is actually one of the best method for this platform. By employing clicking method, the player can choose to go through the story at a faster rate or can just take their time playing at a slower rate. Sometimes player just wants to rush through the story to get to a certain point and clicking it helps them, rather than to force them rewatching the same dialogues at the same normal speed, which to them might seem painfully slow. Furthermore, as this app is playable on phone, clicking becomes the de facto method to play this game. Many games have become more fast-paced to accomodate modern gamers, which is used to doing things fast and have shorter attention span..  Thus employing automatic text will actually cause them to lose interest in the game itself.

There are several good suggestions though, one being the dialogues are pretty long winded. I agree to this partly as I have to rush the coding and did not place first priority on the dialogues. Some of them can be shortened or even deleted altogether for a more fast pace gameplay. For this issue, Alexandra will be helping me to check and edit the dialogues to ensure it is shorter and only necessary dialogues are retained.

Another issue is that they want the choices to appear much faster. This can probably be solved by shortening the dialogues but I am aware that this is almost unncessary. The main point of a visual story is the background story and dialogues between characters. Sometimes, adding an unncessary choices right at the beginning can pose problems for the script and the programmer. Alas, we are not creating a full game, which leaves us with so little time to explain the story to the player before they are allowed to make a choice that will affect the course of the game.

One last issue is the suggestion to continue showing the MagicBeans and Morality number meter till the end of the game. I understand that players may want to see how much they have earn or the number of morality at the end to keep score. However, due to this software being a prototype and much watered down version from the intended full game, the importance of magicBeans and morality will only last till the part when Gretel saves Hansel, at which point the game is almost over and those two numbers become unncessary. There’s no valid reason to let them be shown to the players when the game is ending. We don’t normally see money counter or life points during the game ending cutscenes for the reason that they are simply not needed anymore.

Later on, Lydia will be editing her video to reflect the changes from 1000 beans to 100 beans, which is the number of beans needed to rescue Hansel in the game. Petra will also be creating an official poster and logo for the Menu Screen of Sweet Hostage. If I have the time, I may try to animate the Menu Screen to make it more appealing and arouses interest for new players to try.

Interactive Media 11 : Porting to iOS

I was using Lydia’s iPhone 5 for the porting of the game to iOS this morning and realised that it posed to be a big problem. Unlike Android, which is based on open software, the iOS is a close software, and a strict one at that. While I have an easy time porting to Android at the click of a button, porting to iOS actually requires me to be a developer, which I might have to pay for. Thus, porting to iOS proved non-feasible. But thankfully I am able to port to Mac, Windows and Android with not much problem and everything almost error-free.

I have edited some of the Hansel Avatars to form the ghostly version of Hansel that will only appear if the player decided to abandon Hansel. It’s edited in Photoshop and applied the ‘Invert’ filter, it makes everything convenient while conserving the several facial expression of the originals. Time is not really on my side and I couldn’t afford to draw a completely original ones. If only I had the time, I would probably draw a bloodier version/tortured Hansel.

HanselShockedNegative HanselSmileNegative