Star Wars – Uncut

(Scene 432)

Personal ProjectsFebruary 14th, 2010

This past holiday season I finally made a childhood dream become a reality. I am in a Star Wars movie! Well it’s not a real Star Wars movie. Star Wars Uncut is possibly the ultimate fan film of all time. Hosted entirely on Vimeo (the other, less saturated, video-hosting website), Star Wars Uncut is the brain child of Casey Pugh. He sliced up Star Wars – A New Hope (Episode IV) into hundreds of 15 second clips and is letting anyone and everyone recreate each clip anyway they want. From Legos to live action, this is one film that truly has it all.

Having found out about this project a little late in the game, I quickly grabbed the first scene I could. Scene 432 is a very cool clip from one of my favorite scenes. What kid wouldn’t want to know what it feels like to swoop down into the trench of the Death Star and make an attack run on the evil empire? Well I still don’t know what that’s like, but I do know what it’s like to film a scene like that.

Here’s the finished product. Enjoy…

Viewed on Vimeo 3966 times!

The Making of Scene 432

After looking at several completed clips submitted from people of all ages and from all over the world, I thought I’d use 3D graphic software to shoot my scene. Unfortunately, being a busy graphic designer, the 30-day time frame I was given zipped by too fast and my 3D skills are still almost null. So I had to shoot as much of it as possible live.

The Trench

I spent a good portion of a Saturday morning/afternoon taking apart our living room and laying out a few hundred books and magazines. After about 3 or 4 hours of trying to get this done quickly, I spent just 10 minutes going back and forth through the “trench” with my Canon A570. I had attached the camera to a grabber with several rubber bands to act as a cheap boom. After successfully filming enough shots without banging into the books, I put the living room back together just in time for dinner.

screenshot of original scene from Star Warsour living room on a normal dayour living room after the 'library' trench assemblylooking down the 'library' trench
Click on the images to enlarge them.

This was my first time playing with video software. Adobe Premiere Elements was a great choice. It has all I need for such a small video project. Unfortunately my computer kept crashing. With a lot of work still to do, I begged for an extension and was generously granted an extra 10 days.

The lasers and Y-Wings were created in Adobe Flash and brought into Premiere Elements as separate video layers with the backgrounds removed (very easy to do in Premiere Elements).

The Cockpit

The cockpit set didn’t take as long to create as the trench, but it was pretty involved. It’s a cardboard box with a metal shirt hanger being used as a brace to help it keep its shape. The inside is lined with black trash bags and the glowing buttons are Christmas lights pushed through the cardboard and plastic. Luckily we had extra sets of lights since our tree was already up and decorated.

The lights were too bright when I did a camera test. To dim the lights, I used small bits of colored plastic from grocery store shopping bags. This made them look more like large illuminated buttons which was perfect. The whole thing is resting in the center of my L-shaped desk with my two computer monitors strategically placed behind the two large cockpit windows.

screenshot of original scene from Star Warsthe cardboard, Christmas lights and trash bag cockpitback side of the cockpit assembly
Click on the images to enlarge them.

The Cast

After considering several hundred possible hopefuls and conducting dozens of screen tests… actually I just used my cat and my wife.

The cat was NOT cooperative. After several failed attempts to get her to sit still, I was forced to hold her in place. I covered my hands with a red shirt and leaned my head out of the shot. This could be the end of her acting career.

My scene was the easiest. I just grabbed a food container cover (looks like a shower cap – I know), some 3D glasses and a bib and I was good to go. My wife was a little less excited to wear the outfit but I assured her that she would be less recognizable wearing it. She’s a trooper. I shot several alternate scenarios of her: changing the imaginary radio, answering her cellphone, etc. Not wanting to go over my 15 seconds I went with the shortest scenario of her sleeping.

Post Production

The audio was distorted in Audacity and all the clips and audio were put together in Premiere Elements. The final video was uploaded to my Vimeo account (required for participation) and several other participants have been kind of enough to vote for my clip. At the time of this writing, there is only one other contender for this scene.

Star Wars Uncut is almost complete. The final version will be assembled with the original soundtrack laid over it. It will be very cool, very different, and you may want to keep some Tylenol nearby.

If time permits I’d like to recreate one more scene. I’d like to take a stab at traditional animation. But for now I have to get back to my graphic design projects. Hope you enjoyed my first attempt at acting, directing, cinematography, editing, sound effects, special effects, and set design. May the force be with you.