The Game Just Changed

February 15th, 2009 | researchmaterial

Filmmaking team The Purchase Brothers "recently spent (five hundred US dollars) on an extremely worthwhile cause: Producing the first two episodes of a Half-Life 2-inspired miniseries, titled Escape from City 17."

Five hundred dollars.

If that turns out to be even close to true, then something big just shifted.


27 Responses to “The Game Just Changed”

  1. Doesn’t seem as startling when you realize they used all the visual and sound effects directly from the game (already produced)

  2. Still – good post. But I’m assuming that the cost doesn’t include paying anyone.

  3. Ian: still, 3D graphics are not that expensive anymore. If this was done within an order of magnitude of $500, it’s very impressive.

  4. This seems a true labor of love, that said, the $500 budget is possible if you already own the camera, lenses, microphones, editing software, 3d software, composting software and a truly monstrous computer.

    A SINGLE motion tracking or match-frame effect (necessary due to the hand-held camera work) can take over seven hours for the computer to analyze /render.

    So yes, whilst some of the CG effects have been taken from the game there looks like literally hundreds of hours have been spent integrating them with the footage.

    As someone who does this for a living, I am impressed.

  5. Ian: While most of the sound effects are taken from the game, and the design of the visual elements is already there, even on the highest settings the game graphics aren’t anything like what’s shown here. They’ve obviously got high-poly versions of the models in there, with high-res textures. Even if they had used the models from the game, that’s not “all the visual effects”.

  6. Considering the time people put into simply developing mods for games and receiving nothing more notoriety, it’s not horribly surprising to me these cats did this for $500. They probably used Garry’s Mod for the animation sequences. The Combine suits are REALLY good and probably the most costly thing in the whole production outside time spent on it.

    Overall I think it’s a beautiful thing not only for the limited monetary cost but also in its display of talent, passion and creativity with the tools afforded to us now.

  7. $500 for catering and transport according to the web site — everything else was done with favors. Not a sustainable way to produce professional level entertainment. Not a ‘shift’ at all.

  8. The shakey camera is not needed. A lot of images are taken from the game, however the equipment of the metrocops/resistance is awesome.

  9. Its still fairly startling. Not all the visuals are from ingame, theres a lot of montage and techniques in this that would once have cost way over the $500.00 individually, fuck, even the props would have done that. I think the point of note here, is the quality of it. I don’t see that this is that much less well done than a number of popular contemporary sci-fi series that are costing around $500k to produce an episode. Its rough around the edges, but it’s certainly nice to look at. If more things appear of this quality, from little indy producers, I think it can only add to our future. I’d very much like to know what Gabe Newell thought of this, It would be interesting to see what endorsement or punishment Valve would lean toward.

  10. nice compositing, but as mentioned allready you can´t do this without a lot of unpaid little helpers and free goodies like costumes and so on … a 3d artist costs around 500 euros a day at the company i work at… maybe we all start to work for free in the future and soon everyone is unemployed….hoooooray !!!!

  11. From what I heard they had full support from Valve in getting this out…and probably helped with the supply of props I suspect. Anyways interest in this is huge and has caused their website to crash…quite keen to see the rest of it. Enjoyed watching this more than I did playing episode 2 ;o)

  12. Very impressive!

    It’s important to note, though, that a copy of After Effects on its own will set you back a grand – and you need a reasonable PC to run it on. Blender will do 3D graphics for free, but again, you still need the computer and a compositing app like AE or Shake to match it in with the live-action. Other hidden costs include the rather large amount of time required to become proficient in these packages. Then you need people willing to give you their time, and you need to have plenty of toy guns (or real ones!) lying around, all that jazz. And, of course, you need a camera – and although digital technology has reduced the price of that to virtually nothing, there still isn’t a really decent $500 videocamera on the market.

    The problem is, people see these headlines – movie made for $500! – and think, oh, right, simple. And to a certain extent, they’re right. However, $500 movies that happen to take advantage of $10K+ of kit that’s spare, plus a lot of people’s free time, is no way to run a creative business. I was talking to a very nice movie sales agent the other day. He told me a tale of a man who made a great feature-length movie for something like $456. This man made a great virtue of it – until it came time to negotiate with distributors, who all offered him… $456 for it.

    Now, if you could make a movie for $500 and get a thousand trufans to pay ten bucks for it, you might just possibly be on to something. But not much, if you want to recompense all the people who work so hard on a film for their time.

  13. $500, not counting:
    Your own time
    The cost of the crew/actors that shot it for you (if donated, quadruple the amount of your own time needed to clean everything up)
    The production equipment
    The lights/grip equip (even if you go the Home Depot route, it doesn’t look that nice and soft by itself)
    The post equipment and software
    The cost of producing the original game footage

    $500 would just about cover the cost of feeding the people involved for three days.

    I run into indie wankers who do math like this all the time.

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  15. If you can use in-game models (or hi-res versions that were later downscaled for games as I know happens sometimes) + the same textures + live footage + various effects to make it blend nicely together and make a short clip like that… who needs hollywood?

    Now, this probably isn’t a total revolution where everyone can make the matrix in their basement, but it could certainly lead to a wave of short tie-in movies made for the web/dvd, or even longer productions made without the involvement of movie studios. And once games switch from rendering to raytracing, it’ll be even easier.

  16. […] video game Half Life 2 was done for $500. If so, it is damn amazing. More info here. Found through Warren Ellis. Posted on Feb 15th, 2009 by […]

  17. […] credit to Bill Cunningham and Warren Ellis who I found this […]

  18. ” I don’t see that this is that much less well done than a number of popular contemporary sci-fi series that are costing around $500k to produce an episode.”

    Certainly you mean $500K every 15 minutes…there is no TV show around that is producing 44 minutes for $500K. Even the Stargate shows cost more than that…

  19. […] it no less than 3 times this week, here’s the Half-Life 2 fan movie that everyone’s talking about. It’s well done, but perhaps more importantly, it shows that good quality stuff can now be […]

  20. […] no plot to speak of and a bunch of FX work. But more than one blog has referred to it as a “game changer,” primarily because they only spent $500 on it. Thing is, to people in the fan film community […]

  21. Bloody. Brilliant. I don’t care if it’s 500 bucks or 1500 or even 5000, these guys are pushing low-budget home moviemaking into new regions. Incredibly talented. And passionate. So, where’s the industry professional offering them some training on good equipment and a job?

  22. Reminded me of a Ruby Wax quote about the US being the beauty show contestant- gorgeous until it opened it’s mouth.
    But seriously, brush up the lead performances and the bases are covered. Amazing.

  23. The $500 is nonsense of course. The real game-changer will be an online production that isn’t a fucking plotless FX reel using borrowed and stolen multimillion-dollar production elements.

    Like, um, Dr Horrible.

    Call me when a female audience gives a shit, that’s how you’ll know something has changed.

  24. As a fanfilm, this pretty much rocks, I can’t say I ever bothered with the Half-life 2 game. But for me, someone taking the time to make something like this is pretty good. It means there is an option to the “reality show” and ongoing days of our young and restless 90210 brothers and sisters on one tree hill in the city…

    Any option to the regular crap being produced for tv is welcome.

    Would you rather they spent their time creating a new reality show?

    No, this for what it is, is pretty damn good. And if they can do a few episodes on a tight budget, then yeah, any money they make can go back to actually paying for stuff to be done in future.

    Nice to see, I would happily watch more of it.

  25. This is awesome!
    Things are definitely changing rapidly and in favor of the “two friends working in the basement on something cool”
    Which is a great thing

    Thanks for posting this

    Klim

  26. Respectfully, while this is a great looking short flick, there’s a LOT of people making quality fan films–the Purchase Bros. are not operating in a vacuum. If you want to find out more about the world of fan films, you might want to check out my weekdaily fan film blog, fancinematoday.com or peruse my book about the history and future of fan films, Homemade Hollywood, which just came out in bookstores.

  27. Well, the reason they probably already have the cameras, lenses etc is because they direct commercials, specifically for coca-cola. Also, quoting from elsehere: “if it wasn’t videogame related no one would care either way because it’s clearly an amateurish attempt to reproduce the most conventional type of boring, mainstream cinema. What’s to celebrate?”