One of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on at FXhome is the upcoming short film Extraction Protocol. It’s a sci-fi love letter to the cyberpunk genre and the Deus Ex: Human Revolution computer game and it’s going to be released next week.

It’s by far the biggest production I’ve directed and it’s been a thoroughly satisfying challenge from start to finish. It started in the autumn last year, when we brainstormed a few ideas for short films we could put together that would show off the new HitFilm software and appeal to our community. At the time I was hugely excited about the impending release of DE:HR (it turned out to be one of my games of the year, as I wrote about over on Potential Gamer recently) so I couldn’t resist using that as inspiration.

The entire short was shot in one day (except for one shot which I grabbed as a pick-up a couple of weeks ago) back in September. The shoot was just the right scale: professional and well crewed, but keeping the numbers to a minimum so that we could move fast.

Speed was the word, with over 40 shots to contend with, some of which were complex VFX and action shots with multiple elements and setups. The ‘story’ (it’s fairly bare bones!) was designed to only require 5 locations (plus 2 major greenscreen setups) but even that number was pushing it, requiring the cast and crew to move from one to the next quickly and set up in double-quick time.

Thankfully I had a superb team headed up by DP Ross Turner (who masquerades during daylight hours as an FXhome web dev) and FXhome newbie Tom McLoughlin (who certainly isn’t new to the video production business) who was my AD for the day and also produced the project.

Then Christmas happened, which at FXhome means you’re incredibly busy for several months. Post-production happened when there was time, but only began in earnest in mid-December. It’s been a lot of fun pushing the limits of my understanding of HitFilm, a product of which I’m still only scratching the surface despite being involved in its design.

The last element was the music, for which we have an original score composed by Michael Powell (no, not that one). It’s really quite marvellous and successfully evokes spy thrillers, Blade Runner, Batman Begins, Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex all in the space of 2 minutes. I don’t know if Michael deliberately touched on those reference points or whether it’s just thematic correlation, but I like it. It’s one of the few occasions I’ve had where the original score easily matches up to the temp music I’d been using, so I hope we get a chance to work with Michael again.

Extraction Protocol is a small thing, being only a couple of minutes long, but it’s had a lot of effort poured into it. I’m really pleased with it overall and hopefully The Internets will also take to it when it’s released next week on the HitFilm YouTube channel.

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Law · January 20, 2012 at 12:03 am

I assume you will be doing tutorials for all (or at least most) of the VFX you have in EP. I can’t wait to see it! This is one of my most anticipated movies of 2012 – Because it’s done with MY software! Is it, completely edited in HitFilm?

Simon Jones · January 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

Some of the editing was done in other software simply because the person performing the assembly cut was more familiar with it at the time (having only just joined FXhome).

However, every single visual effects shot, all compositing and the grade were done in HitFilm Ultimate. A couple of shots also made use of PFhoe to get a camera track, and Photoshop was used to generate a matte painting.

It’s certainly the biggest use of HitFilm we’ve embarked upon so far.

    Law · January 20, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Anxiously awaiting both movie and tutorials!
    Thanks

Michael Powell · January 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

Simon, your film evokes all of those themes; “Blade Runner, Batman Begins, Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex…” so the music just followed and flowed with ease once I had seen the cut. Was a pleasure to work on it too.
Looking forward to the next film.

Michael

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