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Thomson, Tim - Effects Wizard PDF Print E-mail
Written by By Kevin Lindenmuth   
May 04, 2004 at 02:00 AM
Tim Thomson, director of the cult hit feature NO RESISTANCE (1994), is one of a dozen independent filmmakers who have collaborated on THE ALIEN AGENDA series, three feature length movies telling the tale of Earth\'s invasion by two very different types of aliens and how humanity is caught in the middle. Other contributors include Mark Polonia (FEEDERS), Ron Ford (ALIEN FORCE), Tim Ritter (SCREAMING FOR SANITY), Mick Mccleery, and Gabe Campisi.
Q: How did you become involved with the ALIEN AGENDA series?
THOMSON: Kevin Lindenmuth (Producer) and I learned of each other\'s work primarily through \'zines and the like: he had just finished ADDICTED TO MURDER and I as out there trying to get NO RESISTANCE seen. We swapped tapes and began a correspondence. What impressed me initially about Lindenmuth was not only was he out there having some measure of success with a couple of good-looking features, but he was actively involved in gathering together a sort of independent video community -- a real tight-knit group of filmmakers from all over the country. This would be the community that would give rise to THE ALIEN AGENDA project and its cooperative efforts, but at the time, it was mainly evidenced in a book Lindenmuth was putting together about the various experiences of all these kinds of videomakers in creating independent works. Kevin asked me to participate, which was great. Later, Kevin helped \"Film-like\" a project for me, in barter or exchange for which I agreed to provide some digital graphic effects work I had created for my NO RESISTANCE project.. and in the couple of years since then I had put together a lot more tools and experience, so I felt like I could take a pretty good stab at the project. It was all in the spirit of this independent community: mutual collaboration and help with each other\'s work. It turned out I was able to provide some pretty decent stuff for the first installment, and had a blast doing it. So when the second ALIEN AGENDA called for more and more elaborate digital effects I jumped at the chance to create them.
Q: You provided both films\' digital effects, particularly an impressive opening sequence--can you elaborate on some of them?
THOMSON: All the effects that were created for THE ALIEN AGENDA features are great examples of how personal computing has put really powerful graphics and animation tools in the hands of independent artists, and really opened up the field of high-end filmmaking to guys \"on the street\". You still need to be a good, creative artist to use them right -- but they are really available to almost everyone. For both tapes I created the opening title sequence, which represents a sort of astronomical fly-through: stars whizzing past, comets, strange planets, cosmic gases, moons and suns.. eventually we reach our solar system, past recognizable neighboring planets, and finally descend into the atmosphere of Earth itself. Sort of a mysterious star journey, this three-minute sequence was created by modifying astronomical photos from off the World Wide Web and applying them to virtual spheres. Another aspect of the digital post process involved taking footage Kevin had specifically shot and modifying it digitally... such as my personal favorite effect, the \"Robotvision\' POV shots.. and also a brief \"morph-like\" shot. Then for the second feature I was charged with taking this to the next step: creating even more elaborate sequences, like more substantiated morphs and video POV shots, and a slight modification of the open sequence. I also created a futuristic electronic map scene, a hallucination-like \"thought-picture\" shot, and some really climactic set pieces, such as the explosion of an alien bomb, and the destruction of the Earth and its reduction to a smoldering radioactive asteroid. It\'s pretty big and involved stuff--very creative, very fun. Another favorite effect that seemed the simplest but was actually one of the most difficult to pull off, was the simulation of a \"meltdown chamber\". I took a shot of a blast furnace that Lindenmuth provided, and not only created a set of steel doors that open to reveal the chamber, but also simulated a heat shimmer that swims in the air of the chamber itself. Technically, the digitization and reconfiguring of the video was achieved on an ImMix VideoCube digital non-linear editing system, and the graphics and animation and video manipulation were created on a Macintosh PowerPC system using Specular Infini-D, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe After Effects with MetaTools Final Effects Plug-Ins software.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
THOMSON: Currently, Lunatic Fringe Productions is involved with a number of disparate projects. Two of our biggest objectives is to get off the ground our plans for both a film sequel to NO RESISTANCE and also a TV series based on that story. Those are pretty exciting ideas, but are going to take quite a bit of time to realize as they are large, involved projects. In the meantime we\'ve got a number of short film and video projects to occupy ourselves.. .our l6mm short DWELLING has just been cast and will go into production in January, and we may create an entire segment for a future ALIEN AGENDA tape. I had never considered \"special effects\" to be a focus of my work, in and of itself. I am primarily a struggling independent producer/director in my own right. But my involvement with ALIEN AGENDA has been very informative and enjoyable, and I have begun to wonder if there isn\'t a place for an \"effects house\" to service the low-budget independent video world. It\'s only been a few months since the first ALIEN AGENDA work was completed and I have already provided an effect for another feature, Ron Ford\'s ALIEN FORCE, now being completed in L.A. And I am talking to a few others about new upcoming video projects. This may indeed be the start of something!

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