Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #5

Had my pistol been at something other than low guard, I might have shot the poor animal. I came through the door in a crouch, looked right, and then turned left. I got an amazing view of horse nostrils, and nearly squealed.

Large animals aren’t normally found in bar kitchens, no matter how spacious… Then again, in the decline of civilization, some bets might be off.

“Uh, hello Mr. Horse?” I said, standing up slowly.

The tawny head turned, so he could give me a look. I looked back, and found myself impressed by his elegance—sturdy, but graceful. Somebody loved this horse, a whole lot.

He didn’t look impressed with me, but moved with the sort of speed only animals and zombies can muster. I found myself face to pink nose with the horse, looking up at the white line that flowed up his head and into his mane.

“Huff!”

The lovely animal backed off, and put his face back in the five-gallon stew pot full of water on the floor in front of his legs. I wiped horse wetness off my face with my shirt.

That’s how she got the drop on me: I wasn’t paying attention.

I felt the steel against my neck and forced myself to stay loose. You don’t survive any kind of fight by getting tense and locked up.

“Drop the gun and put your hands on top of your head. Now. Please.” She said, standing behind me.

I put the safety on, and squatted to put the weapon down. It was my only .45 and I didn’t want to damage it by accident. The blade never left the side of my neck. Either the blade was sword-length, or she squatted with me. I decided it was a long sword, because I didn’t hear fabric or feet move.

My hands clasped on the crown of my head, and I debated what I’d say in this situation. I couldn’t draw my katana without telegraphing the motion, and I could end up a Frank-kabob if she had any sort of skill.

“You’re Frank, right?” I heard her ask, relieving me of the obligation to speak first.

“Yes. We haven’t been properly introduced, or so it seems.” I tried to sound upbeat. “I would like to know where my landlords are, before we continue with the pleasantries.”

“Uncle Marvin and Aunt Shirley heard about a swap meet, and left about an hour ago to check it out.”

Uncle? Aunt? WTF?

“Okay. I appreciate that information. Would you take that sword away from my jugular, now that we’ve established that I’m me, and you’re their relative?”

“I don’t know, Frank. It looks pretty good where it is. I think it goes nicely with the hair.” I could hear a smirk in her voice, and it was very, very reminiscent of Shirley’s tone when she laid out the sarcasm.

“Shirley’s your Aunt?” I asked.

“Yes. Did she mention me to you?”

“No. They never said anything about their relatives. You sound like Shirley, so I took a guess.”

To my surprise, the blade came away from my skin. I wasn’t about to turn around or move my hands until invited to do so. She might be Shirley’s niece, but that didn’t guarantee sanity, civil behavior, or the potential for non-violent interactions.

“You can turn around now,” she said, “and put your hands down.”

Since I was invited, I turned around and dropped my hands to my sides. I took in the following data points: solid shoulders, brown hair, curly, brown eyes, smirk, sho karasu maru-style katana (that’s a rarity!), work shirt, and jeans. It didn’t look like she was going to kill me, so I relaxed a little more.

“My name is Tracy.” She said, extending her hand to me. “Nice to meet you.”

I shook her hand. Solid grip. Right on.

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How To Make Your Own Mad Scientists Lab – Part Two

In the prior post in this series, I covered how John and I worked with friends, spouses and significant others to create a Mad Scientist’s Lab in the basement of his house for our short film Blobageddon.  With the lab created, we needed to move on to what one does in Mad Scientist’s Lab – blowing up the world.  Here at For Zombies, we don’t think small.

We already had the instrument of destruction in the lab.  The “Big Red Button” with the ominous label “Start Antimatter Reaction”.  We worked our friend Bob into the scene because he has to die in our films, and at least this time we’d let him go out with a bang.

Following is the edited but unaltered sequence

Here’s how it came out following post-processing:

First off, note the use of sound effects.  We set everything up with a nice closeup of Bob’s gloved hands pressing the button and added a sound effect from Garage Band of a steel vault door closing.  Next we added klaxon sound effects that were also from Garage Band.

However, I know you’re really wondering  – “Where the heck did those red lights come from?” and “What’s with that static effect at the end?

The red lights and static effect were both digitally generated by Adobe After Effects.

To get the red lights, we took the base footage and added a Solid Red Layer over the top of it.

Adding A Layer

It’s all about the layers

Note the Column called “Mode”.  It’s set to a value of  “Overlay”.  This allows us to blend the top layer (red) with the bottom layer (the video we shot), preserving shadows and what not from the bottom layer.  Then by playing with the opacity of the Red layer, we can control how much red is actually seen.

Here’s a shot of an unaltered frame:

Unaltered Lab

Ho hum – nothing to see here

And here’s the same frame with a red overlay set at 67% opacity.

Altered Frame

Maybe I shouldn’t have done that

In the real video, the red lights flash in and out from 50% to 100% opacity and back down every second.  We could have done this by manually animating the opacity over and over again, but that would be a pain in the ass, and tweaking it would suck.  Rather, as John and I are both software developers, we leveraged After Effects Expressions and came up with an algorithm to do this for us:

fr = Number(timeToFrames());

n = ( fr % 30);

if ( n > 15 )

{

n = 30 – ( n – 15 );

}

else

{

n = n + 15;

}

pct = n/30;

(pct * 100);

 

What this does is over the course of 30 frames, run the opacity of the red layer from 50% to 100% and back down.  The reason we used the number 30 is that the video is running at 30 frames-per-second.  Mix that with the klaxons and all of a sudden we have a lab going into “red alert”.  Pretty cool huh?

In the next article in this series, I’ll cover how we made the static effect at the end of clip.

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Chihuahuas – The Go-Anywhere Snack

We’re not speaking to the neighbors again.  On one severed hand it’s been quiet, but on the other it’s that spooky sort of quiet that usually means something nasty is about to jump out at you. Usually that something is me.  This time it will probably be the SPCA.

It’s about their dog. Or it was about their dog. Now it’s about our leftovers.

Let me explain something to some of you dog owners, and you all know who you are.  To you, he’s a cuddly little darling, your sweet little poopsie-kins. I know how you love his “personality” and how he’s always “talking.”  That’s your perspective, and while I may not agree, I will shamble for your right to be as deluded as you want to be.

But that right ends at your property line.  That “personality” you’re so proud of is aggressive and annoying.  When you hear your dog “talking,” everyone else hears out-of-control yapping.  And when my hungry brood sees a loose dog running toward them, barking its fool head off, they see a free lunch.

I truly do not understand why people let their little dogs run loose. They are not that damn cute to anyone but their owners.  They are, however, delicious, nutritious, and the perfect size for a hearty snack or a light lunch.  Just keep in mind, that when you’re fussing over your  “widdle poopsie-kins”, not everyone sees him the same way you do.

It’s no skin off my nose (not that I have much left) if you don’t keep your dog on a leash.  Really – I don’t mind if someone wants to feed my kids for free once in a while.  Just don’t go crying to the Humane Society if your darling chases the wrong kid and becomes doggie tartare.  If you want your overgrown rat to live a long and healthy life, fence his yappy ass in.

Your dog’s bark may be worse than his bite, but I can’t say the same for my kids.

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Long Haired Zombie-Killing Freak #4

The rain cleared all the blood off the roof, and some early-morning carnivore finished off the remaining brains. I was grateful to my multi-legged and winged neighbors for their speedy disposal service. More, since they didn’t try to munch on my tent while they scarfed up the cerebellum puree just a few feet from my domicile.

I pushed more of my body out into the world, like a homeless man born from a nylon vagina. Scratching my nuts, I took a look around. Yeah. No sign of the pre-slumber violence.

“Oh! You rickety son of a bitch!” I growled at my lumbar region. It was tight and protesting.

I flexed my knees, and threw a few kicks around at no target in particular. My lower back let go with a chorus of pops, and I sighed with relief. Those noises were followed by a singular snarl from my tummy. I’d had beer for dinner the night before, and it seemed more nutrient-dense consumables were required.

When you live with other people, in my case, a curmudgeonly older couple, you don’t just hop downstairs with your meat and two veg akimbo. Unfortunate, really, how our silly conventions survive things like zombie apocalypses (or is that apocalypsii?). Not that I’m advocating nudity in every situation, but pre-coffee dangling ought to be acceptable.

“Whatever.” I commented to the blackbirds and carnivorous squirrels, and snagged some clothes out of the tent.

Combat boots. I knew I’d end up doing some walking. My trusty ol’ katana, so I wouldn’t have to come back up here after breakfast—Taurus, 1911-style .45 pistol, and two extra clips for the same reason.

I’d do the Vodka and twig dental treatment after breakfast. No one, not even zombies, should have to encounter my morning breath. Although, if it were deadly all by itself, I’d be more than happy to breathe on my enemies instead of performing Battle Royale Zumba for them. Aerobic exercise with weapons sucks, even if it does leave you with a smashing physique.

Dressed? Yar! Got coffee? Nar! Got food? Nar!

Coffee. Food. Without them I’d start pillaging at random. I went downstairs with a will, and swung into the bar like a great ape, or Daniel Craig in his first outing as “James Bond”.

“Shirley! Marvin! What’s for breakfast? Please, tell me we have coffee today!” I looked around, wondering why no one replied. “There are small children starving in Reston! A donation of coffee would do wonders for their morale!”

I found it worrisome they didn’t respond with some kind of biting sarcasm, grumble, or any noise made by a hold north of their necks. For a moment, I really regretted the katana in my belt. They’re phenomenal cutting tools if you have room to move around, but not so efficient in close quarters. I really should have brought a tomahawk, instead.

All things being equal, the Taurus 1911 pistol on my hip would do fine, provided I didn’t let an attacker get closer than five feet away. The mess might be less than I’d get with the blade, but not by much.

Cleave the head from a body, and all the blood tries to leave at once, even if it is as gelatinous as zombie blood. Blow a hole through a zombie’s head, and you’ve got a decent window of opportunity to keep the mess to a minimum… aside from the spray of blood and brains that gets on everything, even goes around corners… just drag the newly-ventilated body outside.

Why me? The moment I thought about blood outside, on the sidewalk, the B-52’s song “Love Shack” started playing in my head, but with very different lyrics.

“Blood on the sidewaaaalk; Blood on the front poooorch; The Death Shack is a little old place where we can re-kill you…” Yep. As usual, my filk failed. I would never be a poet or a songwriter. My talents were more practical than artistic.

I had to get myself back on track.

Attention Deficit Disorder can be a complete bitch. Then again, it might have been the lack of coffee. I was missing two important people, and it didn’t leave me feeling fresh and secure. Time to get cracking!

“Marvin!” I yelled out. Better to let whomever/whatever know I’m coming.

I removed the pistol from the holster and chambered a round. The kitchen door was closest, and I decided it was as good a place to start looking as any. I didn’t see anything unusual through the window, but that doesn’t mean shit. You can hide a platoon in a kitchen and never see them through the window.

I’ll admit I would have been less surprised by the platoon than I was by the horse.

(Hey, read what came after the prequel! Follow me on twitter @crawford4033.)

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How To Make Your Own Mad Scientist’s Lab – Part One

The ending scenes in our short film Blobageddon were supposed to take place inside an antimatter storage facility.  Or at least that’s how it was speced out on the paper napkin on which we wrote the outline for the film.  Given that we didn’t have access to a real antimatter  storage facility, we were going to need to come up with one.  Since we were going for cheese factor here, a mad scientist’s lab seemed like it would fit the bill.

Conveniently, John’s basement had a nice counter we figured we could dress up and make look lab-like.  He also had a number of beakers and test tubes and sundry items from Halloween parties, my wife Susan made us a “Big Red Button” and our friend Bob just happened to have an oscilloscope lying around.  Everyone should have a friend with an oscilloscope.

First, we setup the oscilloscope and attached a hidden microphone to it so we could have some fun with zombie groans later in the scene.

Mad Scientist's Lab Oscilloscope

Don’t leave home without your oscilloscope

Next, we filled the glassware with colored liquids and John’s girlfriend Marianne created an important-looking flowchart.

Mad Scientist's Lab Glassware

Go ahead – drink something – I dare you

Finally, we duct-taped the button to the wall.

The Big Red Button

You know you want to push it

We were now loaded for bear.

After numerous attempts to get the pan right (steadicam, panning the camera on a tripod and mounting the camera on a dolly), we finally settled on a shot done by mounting the camera on a dolly, rolling the dolly on the ground and then zooming into a close-up of the button.

While the pan and zoom look good, the shot itself is too slow and has annoying sounds of the dolly on the rolling on the ground.  Plus, let’s be real, it just isn’t all that interesting.

However, we have home computers.  We can do anything.  First, to speed up the pan, we separated the clip into two segments, the pan and the zoom and then sped the pan up by 20%.  Next we silenced the audio track from the clip, added a bubbling sound effect from Garage Band, and tacked on some music from a horror theme that Shmoolie wrote for us.

I think you’ll agree that the second clip is much more interesting than the first.  The music and bubbles create an atmosphere that make the sequence both silly and slightly creepy at the same time.

In the next part, I’ll cover how we simulated an anti-matter reaction replete with klaxons, flashing red lights and a simulated explosion.

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