View Full Version : KC Area - Creater of 405 the movie

11-03-2003, 08:41 AM
If any one is interested a meeting in KC area on Nov 20 will host the maker of the movie.

Bruce Branit and his company Strange Engine create amazing work. They mainly use Lightwave. Check out this stunning Aerosmith video they created. The video is diagonally split screen throughout, so you can see the original green screen as well as the composited final as it plays
Bruce will be our main presenter on Nov 20. He created the hilarious "405 The Movie" - probably the most downloaded short film on the internet! If you are one of the few who has not seen it yet, check out:
Bruce will talk about his experiences and techniques and take
questions from the audienceBruce is originally from Kansas and just moved back to the KC area
from Los Angeles. Bruce telecommutes or travels as needed to
coordinate business with the Strange Engine headquarters still in LA

11-03-2003, 11:17 AM
but I can't. I'm in Columbia, MO, but can't ask off time from work. Sorry. It's good to hear that there's other animators around Missoui because artistically speaking this state is Misery instead of Missouri. There's somewhat of an art culture in KC, and in St. Louis, but the rest of the state is fairly dead to art. Pretty sad that there are more galleries in one city one state over (Chicago) than there are in this entire state!

11-03-2003, 11:18 AM
What time of day, and what location?
I am interested.

11-03-2003, 12:08 PM
I had to copy this from my WebMail and it's a pain to get rid of all the contol characters.

The meetings usually last a couple of hours, at the Johnson County Library, right off the Shawnee Mission Parkway exit; on the left.

This isn't a specific LW group so I don't know how many LWaver go to these. The've had presentations on new versions of Maya and Softimage and a local TV guy talking about HDTV.

Interestingly the new Maya they showed talked about a new feature .. ' HDRi'. Hasn't LW had that since about 6.
Bruce will talk about his experiences and techniques and take
questions from the audience.
Bruce is originally from Kansas and just moved back to the KC area from Los Angeles. Bruce telecommutes or travels as needed to coordinate business with the Strange Engine headquarters still in LA
We also have a free copy of Inside Maya to give away, a $60 book donated to our group by New Riders.
Don't miss this event! As usual, it is at the Antioch Branch of the
Johnson County Library at 7pm. If parking at the library is bad,
don't forget that extra parking is available behind the Taco Bell
just west of the library.
See you there!

11-03-2003, 12:52 PM
Thanks, that 405 short film really impressed me of LW's capabilities, and was part of the reason I changed to LW.
Is any type of registration required, or do you just show up around 7PM?
Who is the sponsor of this meeting? I did not see it mentioned on the JoCo Library website calendar.
Thanks again.

11-03-2003, 02:24 PM
It's the monthly meeting of KCAGA (Kansas City Animators and Graphic Artists') group.

It's led by Jim Lammers at Trinity Animation

Here is the yahoo group where they post all the meetings

Nov. 20 meeting 7pm
Johnson County Library (just east of I-35 on Shawnee Mission Parkway)


11-05-2003, 01:35 PM
I didn't know that that group existed. I put in to join the list.

11-05-2003, 02:24 PM
Originally posted by meshmaster
I didn't know that that group existed. I put in to join the list.

It would seem you're not too far from KC area. Maybe You Could make it. I think it usually starts around 7. That doesn't mean they would actually start on time.

11-21-2003, 08:43 AM
Wow, Bruce Branit's presentation was great!
Thanks for letting us know about it, gjjackson.
The "Making of" 405 the Movie was interesting, but the bit he showed about making that Aerosmith music video was simply inspiring.
For those of you within driving distance of KC who didn't make it, you missed out on a great show.

11-21-2003, 12:41 PM
I wish I'd thought of having someone tape it. Pretty impressive, done on a Pentium 3 450, LW 6, Digital Fusion. It would fascinating how the empty freeway was constructed, using a digital camera and taking numerous pictures and masking them and using Photoshop to put it together.

11-21-2003, 01:27 PM
Here are some notes from his presentation. Please ignore grammar and spelling I did this quickly


Originally from the Kansas City area Bruce attended high school in the Shawnee Mission school district, and then went to KU. He got a job at Digital Muse (now closed) and worked on shows such as Star Trek Voyager and Deep Space 9.

A client asked if they could land a commercial jet on the freeway with their budget, and the answer was a resounding “No”. After thinking about it Bruce took his digital camera and put it out the sunroof in his car while on the way to work and got some surrounding images of a freeway. He did a test on Thursday to see what could be done, showed it to his friend and Jeremy Hunt. They threw some ideas around and came up with the concept of 405 the movie. Again this was on a Thursday. They shot just days later on Saturday and Sunday with no story boards, only a few pages of rough script. In 3 months the project was finished and on the net. Bruce lent some advice saying “Just start doing it.” You will never have it all ready.

Most of the interior shots were done right on the freeway they would speed up or slow down until there was a clear spot and start shooting.

The old lady driving the car was Jeremy’s girlfriend’s great aunt. Who had never driven a car in her life, so any shot that has her driving was actually shot still in a driveway and composited to give the illusion of her being on the 405.

The software they used included:
Lightwave 6 for 3D
Digital Fusion for compositing
Adobe Premiere for editing with DPS Perception
Photoshop for bitmaps
Sound Forge for Audio and SFX

There were a total of 62 shots most of which had some CG, and many were entirely CG
Bruce’s main system was a P3 450mhz. He would work on shots in his free time (remember he was working full time during this 3 month project) and then render overnight and while at work. The video was shot on a mini-DV 1 chip Canon Optura camera. They chose the Opture because it was the only progressive scan camera they could get their hands on for the weekend, and they didn’t want to mess with de-interlacing footage that was intended for progressive display on the net.

Even though they shot on DV they brought it in analogue with the Perception board. Because neither had much experience with DV at the time.

All the models were created between the two of them, excluding the Jeep which they downloaded, but modified and re-worked enough to the point where it was practically all their work.

Everything was hand animated down to the wheels spinning on the road. They didn’t use expressions to tackle those tasks but rather took a brute force approach.

Jeremy modeled the DC-10 and later used the same model in the movie “Bounce”. The plane is fully articulated with working doors, landing gear, flaps. The one thing it doesn’t do that they would have wanted is to have flex in the wings.

In the shot where the plain fills the screen and flies by they were unsure if it would look empty without any people in the windows so they made funny faces and put their own heads looking out.

The Jeep was photo mapped from digital images they acquired. The police cars at the very end were very low poly (game res.) models with photo maps. And the old ladies car was also quickly modeled in low poly. Every wide shot of the car was entirely 3D.

The whole thing was ray-traced and they also used spherical maps for reflections where no reflecting objects were visible.

Just about every shot had compositing and the setup they used for many 3d shots included a ring that went around the 3d camera that was mapped with the LA horizon acquired from digital photos. Then one or two layers of closer buildings trees and homes. A foreground layer of silhouettes, power lines, trees and signs directly off the highway, and then the 3d elements which consisted of the road surface, the median walls, the vehicles and the plane.

One of the most frequently asked questions they got afterwards was “How did you clear the 405?” Producer Dean Dublin said he paid over one million dollars for a similar shot in Godzilla, and Bruce and Jeremy answered by saying they threw a dummy off an over pass to block traffic in a joking manor.

In reality they used matte paintings (actual edited digital photographs) where they removed the cars by taking multiple locked off shots and selecting where cars were visible and cutting them out, after 5 or 6 layers most all traces of cars were removed. With a little touch up they had the highway packed on one side and empty on the other. The matched perspective in Lightwave and drove the virtual Jeep on the empty side with a shadow catcher object to further sell the shot. Then they added camera movement with pan-and-scan techniques. This particular shot, the one from an overpass looking at the two directions of traffic, was the only actual footage that was on the 405, the rest was on the less busy freeway, the 101.

The Ground Control radar intro was all done with Photoshop images they created and the VO was just stuff they made up. They have received many emails from pilots saying that they did a great job getting the flaps correct and the technical issues with the airplane, but that the dialogue at the beginning would have been different.

They released the film online with a host that was giving them the space (9mb for a DIVX version) for free. They told the host, “We could have as much as a gigabyte in the first month are you sure you want to do this?” and he responded by laughing in a –yeah right- manor. They hit the gigabyte of transfer in the first week! The host ended up getting calls from his other accounts experiencing down time shortly thereafter.

The first day back at work after the release they spent almost the entire day answering emails about 405. They asked for the week off to respond, and it quickly turned into two, then three weeks and finally permanent.

i-film approached them to host the film with an exclusive contract, they renegotiated for a one month trial contract which turned out the be a great move on their part. After the first month i-film decided to pay them to continue offering the film on their site. It became the only video that i-film ever paid for to host.

They were also approached by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) one of the largest talent agencies in LA for representation. They were given the grand tour of Hollywood meeting everybody who was anybody. They then partnered and started Strange Engine FX. Bruce does most of the CG and his partner Jeremy takes care of most of the business and finances.

Bruce and his Fiancé didn’t want to stay in LA so they moved back to the KC area and now live in Overland Park.

Strange engine has worked on many high profile projects including projects for:
Discovery HD
Spiderman “Hero”
Aerosmith “Fly Away From Home” video
Limp Biscuit

They still find that 405 the movie serves as a great calling cards that many people recognize and associate with them even after their larger projects.


After a short question and answer time the meeting ended. Bruce sounded excited to be back in KC and hopeful to help develop a good 3d community in the area.