Making of "War Of The Worlds Goliath"

Making of "War Of The Worlds Goliath"

Walking into Basecamp Films, the place is definitely not what we expected, in a good way. We find that the dedicated standards based Digital Colour Grading and Mastering facility in Ampang comes furnished with their very own in-house 3D Digital Cinema for 2D and 3D standards compliant colour grading and mastering, which is just another factor that puts the Malaysian film "War Of The Worlds Goliath" on a whole other level than previously seen local films. Toby, one of the leads on the project, tells us that the cinema is equipped with a 3D Stereo 2K Christie projector, Dolby DCP Server and Dolby Sound processors.

The aim of Basecamp Films is to provide South East Asian filmmakers with a facility and expertise to rely on to ensure their film is finished to worldwide cinema standards of quality. They also have a THX certification pending confirmation for their 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound capabilities.

Basecamp Films pride themselves on maintaining absolute colour precision throughout their facility using THX Cinespace and Lightspace software. But their biggest project to date, and the one that our visit was organized in conjunction with, is "War Of The Worlds Goliath". The facility is responsible for the 3D stereo conversion of the animated science-fiction feature film, as it was originally made as a 2D animated film. However, it goes without saying that the work of their 3D Stereoscopic compositing team turned out to be a success, as "War Of The Worlds Goliath" walked away with the "Best 3D Animated Feature Film" award at this year's Los Angeles 3D Film Festival, beating hits like Dreamworks' "Madagascar 3" and "ParaNorman".

Except that the people of Basecamp Films are still not satisfied. We see that they are still putting on last minute touch-ups to the animation, as our tour guide Jinx rightly puts it, there is always room for improvement and we want to get everything right as this is the one the local fans have been waiting for since its success overseas. Adam, one of the leads on the project, tries to explain the technical jargon of the post-production process, especially the 3D stereo conversion, but most of it goes over our heads. The only matter that we understood is that converting hand-drawn animation to 3D is not easy feat, as there are expansive locales and facial expressions to be animated, all the while taking into account spatial issues.

We are directed next, to Tripod/Imaginex Studios. Owned by Tripod Group, its founders and executive management are Leon Tan, Mike Bloemendal and Joe Pearson. Their company started off with the animation production arm Tripod Entertainment Sdn. Bhd., and then expanded to include audio production facility Imaginex Studios Sdn. Bhd. Based in Kuala Lumpur, all audio work was handled by Imaginex Studios, who organised Malaysia's first animation cast combining Malaysian and US actors, directed by Gavin Yap.

We stepped in to a space decorated with various props and trinkets, such as a foosball table, a record player, drums, wind flutes, and sketches of their previous projects. Leon Tan, upon whose back this 3D animated film rested on, comes to greet us, and we find ourselves in his office filled with merchandise from almost every TV show and film such as the light saber from "Star Wars", the neuralyzer.

"I only play a minor role in the production of "War Of The Worlds Goliath". Most of the work is done by people like Joe Pearson, Mike Bloemendal, Gavin Yap and Adam," explains Leon humbly.

Leon loves recounting how he and Joe Pearson decided to work together on "War Of The Worlds Goliath". They met at the Tokyo International Film Forum in October of 2006, where Joe had been invited to present an audio/video pitch of a Heavy Metal Video project, "Lost Angeles". The two of them were the only passengers on the very last day of the Conference and on the very last shuttle bus, where they then struck up a conversation. Joe eventually brought up the idea of making a science fiction animated film that they would want to see in cinemas as movie fans, and "War Of The Worlds Goliath" was born.

Loosely based on author H. G. Wells' "The War Of The Worlds" (1898), "War Of The Worlds Goliath" tells the story of an alternate world where Martians invaded Earth. After the invaders have died from microbial infections to which they had no immunity, since "there are no bacteria in Mars," citizens of Earth began to recover and prosper. However, at the eve of World War I, the Martians stage a second attack to complete what they had begun, and it is up to the young multinational crew of the Earth battle Tripod "Goliath" to stop the Martian's advance and humanity's annihilation.

It should also be noted that "War Of The Worlds Goliath" first started out as a film that was made for DVD, but seeing as the DVD market is slowly dwindling, Joe and Leon decided to reproduce the science-fiction film in stereoscopic 3D for cinemas.

"I have to say, it was an indescribable moment seeing "Goliath" for the first time on a 40-foot screen in a darkened cinema hall, in gorgeous 5.1 surround audio, and in stereoscopic 3D. It was a work-in-progress, sure, and it was just 60 seconds long... but it was magical," revealed Joe in his production blog. Consequently, we left the studio feeling a whole lot more optimistic about the film.

The trip around the studios, has reached a culmination. Studio Climb in Petaling Jaya also turns out to be the most interesting place yet, as their many artworks adorned the walls. Spencer Ooi, one of the leaders of the Malaysian design team at the studios, is in and without further ado, he proceeds to tell us how all pre-production designs including vehicles, props and environmental designs, key colours, and all 3D CG vehicle models for "War Of The Worlds Goliath" came to be.

"Before we can design the characters, we have to read the script which they sent to us earlier thoroughly first," begins Spencer. "This is so that we can estimate the number of characters, objects, buildings and backgrounds that we have to draw. We also have to understand the characters and story properly so that we can draw in their traits, like maybe wild hair for a hot-tempered guy, where the tanks open, where coal is shoved in, and so on."

He went on, "But they are all rough drafts before they are approved. After we are given the greenlight, then we start to draw out the designs properly."

After the designs are done, they are sent over to their Korean studio, Sun Min Image Pictures to be animated, as they felt that Koreans would best understand the rules and regulations of animation. After all, their talents are internationally recognized, right up top with Japan.

Before we leave, we ask Spencer to draw something for us. He acquiesces. Under the stares of some six people, Spencer sketches furiously on a piece of paper, and soon we see it take shape into a pilot and a plane. When he is finished, he signs on the paper with a simple dedication to us. "The fastest I can draw is 3 minutes," says Spencer with pride, but it is not something that is without truth.

On 15 November 2012, "War Of The Worlds Goliath" will be released in cinemas in Malaysia. After all this, there is but one thought hovering around the edges of every ounce of effort underpinning Joe's film. Will it be able to make box office in Malaysia? Will Malaysians welcome the homecoming of the international hit?