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general hit counter: July 2, 1999

The Amazing Flying Elvis
The Amazing Flying Elvis! Production Notes The Amazing Flying Elvis!

Woo-hee! What started out as 42-second joke clip turned into a 2½-minute music video. I had replaced the flag-waving pedestrian of Carmageddon with Bubba Elvis from Redneck Rampage Rides Again and had edited the script file for the race track so that EVERY pedestrian and (unintentionally) power-up was Bubba Elvis. I did this purely for testing.
After I drove across the football field and ran down the Bubba Elvis football teams, I watched the replay and saw how funny it looked with all those Elvi spinning through the air. That reminded me of the flying Elvi who jump from planes, and gave me the idea to make a short video of Amazing Flying Elvi at a football stadium who end up flying through the air because of a certain red race car that gets into the stadium.
To capture the action, I watched the replay again and advanced it one frame at a time, taking a screen capture each time. (I had to do it really slow, so that Win-d'ohs didn't make it crash AGAIN.) Once I had all the frames I needed, I renamed the screen captures and numbered them from 001 to 419 (which turned out to be a bigger pain in the butt than it should have been because some files got out of order).
I used the Personal AVI Editor to compile a test run of the movie then started working on the audio track. I was indexing sound effect cue points when I got the idea to make a flashy introduction for “The Amazing Flying Elvis.” I remembered the Stadium level from Duke Nukem 3D (Episode 3, Level 9) and thought I could use that for my scene and do my “filming” with the BUILD level editor. So I loaded the stadium into BUILD and tailored it to my needs. I slanted the stands (which, by the way, was the original pre-production design) and deleted all the guns & monsters. I kept the cheerleaders because I thought the action would make for a good effect. I used Carmagedit to export the crowd graphic from Carmageddon, then imported it into EDITART (with the assistance of ANIM2PCX.EXE as a compatibility converter). A shot from the BUILD level editor
After zooming around the map and finally deciding where I wanted the camera to go, I marked a path with numbered sprites and set them facing the elevator. (I used #562, the “invisible” sprite.) I originally had about 30 points, but that was too few frames (only 3 seconds worth!). So I doubled the number of points a couple of times and extended the path (from a 270 degree rotation around the elevator to 450 degrees) and ended up with 154 points.
The vertical drop at the very beginning ended up being 107 frames, taking a shot only every four clicks down, whereas my original run, taking a shot at EVERY click, was well over 400 frames, which played back way too slow when animated.
I was using my fubarred computer (thanks, Mi¢ro$oft and Iosmega!) so I had to constantly fight crashes and weird 10-second lockups.
Remembering to animate the sprites each frame was a problem, too. I usually forgot to animate the cheerleaders when they came back into view (which is why I opted NOT to include them in the shot when the camera stopped moving).
After a couple of days of frustration I finally had the 288 frames I needed. I was about to call the photo shoot done, but I got looking at the goal posts and decided that something should go through them and make the crowd cheer. (I was originally going to have the crowd cheer when Bubba Elvis first appeared on the elevator.) So I just had to raise the elevator above ground level like a springboard and have Elvis fly into the sky.
I used LView to animate the falling Elvis and add text. That brought me up to 345 frames.
Now I had my Flying Elvi with a cool introduction, but the music I wanted to use didn't quite fit anymore. I had planned on using the jukebox music from Redneck Rampage which was a simple rock tune, but it didn't quite fit the opening scene. So I searched through my Mojo Nixon CDs for a good redneck song. I thought about using “Elvis is Everywhere” but it didn't match the action of the movie either. Eventually I tried “Take me to your Leader” and it just seemed perfect! (And coincidentally, the lyrics and music cued up perfectly with some scenes.)
Up to this point, everything had been done in 320x200 resolution, which looked fine when you looked at the individual frames, but it looked really crappy in the compiled AVI, even with the lowest possible amount of compression (compiled with Cinepak). There wasn't much I could do for the Carmageddon scene because my computer isn't fast enough to run Carmageddon properly at a higher resolution, but Duke Nukem 3D plays well at hi-res. So I decided to re-shoot the opening scene at 640x480 resolution. (Which I've come to realize is higher than most movie files. Oh well.) I didn't feel like resetting BUILD's settings (I've always left it at 320x200 when editing because it's less crash-prone when you've got a few hundred effectors on-screen) so I used MAKEMAP, the Redneck version of BUILD which has a few different default settings, like 640x480 resolution.
After another day of frustration, I had the opening sequence in higher resolution. (MAKEMAP actually crashed only once on me!) I compiled a test AVI and watched it. I was about to start feeling pleased with my work when I realized that the Hollywood sign could be seen in duplicate in the background. I had forgotten that the sky was a series of graphics that BUILD automatically pieces together, and that MAKEMAP uses a different set of defined series, so the Hollywood sky didn't get put together with any building graphics--just a mountain with the Hollywood sign, in every direction you looked. So I set BUILD to 640x480 resolution and spent the next half day fixing my stupid mistake. I didn't feel like shooting the entire sequence again, complete with animated objects, so I deleted most of the sprites and “pinked” the stadium by setting all the surface textures to #562. I went through all the points and took screenshots, and then it wasn't too much trouble to select the non-pink parts of the new shots and paste them into the old shots, in effect replacing only the sky.
Now I was left with just the task of mixing the soundtrack. I was getting REALLY bored with matching sounds to frames and volume levels (for the Carmageddon scene), and it is such a pain in the butt to create the right engine noises for a car (volume and pitch). I also thought the scene was a little too dark. So I thought, “Screw the sound effects; it's a music video now,” and I re-shot the sequence. To make it less dark, I played a different level that used the same city scene but without the latenight environmental condition. I wanted to end the scene with the car driving out of sight like in the original sequence, but I accidentally ran over a few too many pedestrians on the way out which the action-tracking playback camera took special attention of. There was no good way to end the sequence but to let the vehicular battle play out to the end, but it actually turned out for some good musical action shots, like the pedestrian who “knows they're coming” and tries to run away. (Months later after completion of this video, I thought this sequence still needed something more, so I went back and added the Elvis pop-up at the end.)
The new scene was 510 frames.
(If you're wondering why the Carmageddon segment isn't bloody like it should be, it's because Budusky had my American Carmageddon CD when I wanted to reinstall the game, so I had to install the censored European Robot version I brought home from Germany that forces “boring mode.” (I was hoping it would be the Zombie version when I bought it.) I got around the robot peds by copying PEDESTRN.TXT over BORING.TXT. I didn't bother with fixing the jibs which is why you see nuts and bolts fly out of Bubba's body.)
As the movie was now, it ended with a car crash and Mojo saying, “Take it away boys!” It needed some boys to take it away, so I used the banjo playin' Coot and guitar playin' Billy Ray from Redneck Rampage Rides Again. It was a bit of a problem getting their graphics though, because Redneck Rampage RA's ART files went way above EDITART's limit of 6144 entries, and the entries I needed were 7030-7037. (Even the stupid EDITTSET.EXE that came with Redneck Rampage RA was limited to 6144.) Amazingly enough, I was able use VART.EXE (an ART tile viewer) in a DOS-box and take screen captures of the entries I needed.
To open the third sequence, I went back to BUILD. I thought about raising the Coot and Billy Ray on the elevator like I did Bubba Elvis, or having them waiting on the field as he rose up once again. But keeping in tradition with the flying feats of Elvis, I got a better idea and had Bubba drop in on a parachute.
I did the effect of the background fading in behind the boys so that I could have a close up of them without all that wasted space between them. I got “cut outs” of the boys by setting all the surfaces to #562 again, and also took an appropriate set of screen captures of the normal scene without the boys. I faded the boy-less frames by decreasing the brightness of the color palette by 42 per frame. Then I converted them to true-color and pasted in the boys.
I still wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to end it though. I thought about zooming out and exploding the blimp and having a bunch of spinning Elvi burst forth (like the power-ups that fly out when you destroy the Blimp in Duke Nukem 3D), but that would have been TOO MUCH TROUBLE to animate and coordinate. Something silly still had to happen though. And why not still explode the blimp? So I turned it into a nuke. I used LView to create rotated images of the blimp and imported the nuke blast from Shadow Warrior. To create the white blast I increased the brightness of the color palette by 16 per frame.
The third scene was 312 frames long.
The Personal AVI Editor does all right for fading in and out, but it doesn't crossfade between two images very well. So, to crossfade my ending credits, I used MorphStudio to generate 20-second AVIs.
Some people (like my sister) might be a bit confused about what the point of the music video is, so here's what it evolved into: The song “Take me to your Leader” is about space aliens landing and being taken to our leader, Otis Cambell (which you don't hear because I ended it just before the space aliens land). The point I decided to make is that Elvis is our leader. To emphasize this, I wanted to put Duke Nukem voice's saying “Hail to the King, Baby!” in somewhere, but I settled on simply popping up the text while Bubba Elvis spun his microphone. And remember: As the little red car strikes pedestrians, they fly through the air.
All-in-all, the uncompressed source files (for both resolutions combined) compromised about 800 MB!

27. July 2002 - Update
In the closing stadium scene, as the camera zooms away from Bubba and starts up the bleachers, the cheerleaders come into view, swinging their hair and shaking their pom-poms. In retrospect, I always thought it would have looked better if the cheerleaders had come into view just as they whipped their hair back. But I wasn't in the mood to refilm all that just for that detail...
After the blimp explodes, the action slows down while the flash fades away. That was because I used each of those frames twice. I was never pleased with that, so I finally changed it. I refilmed the sequence, beginning with when the cheerleaders reappear so that I could start their animations with the right frame of hair. I didn't animate anything except the cheerleaders, and once I got the camera to the top of the bleachers, I simply shot enough frames to fill out the time. Then I cut out and pasted the reanimated cheerleaders over the old images (which is why I didn't have to reanimated any of the other actors). The nuke blast now lasts 42 frames instead of about 30. Everything looks much better now.
Also, I had mistakenly credited Interplay for Redneck Rampage and Carmageddon, so I fixed that, too.

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Duke Nukem, Duke Nukem 3D, and Shadow Warrior ©1996-1998 3D Realms | Carmageddon and the Splat Pack ©1997SCi | Redneck Rampage and Redneck Rampage Rides Again ©Xatrix | This page ©2001-2002 Wally Waffles
Last Updated: 2002.11.22