Archive | July 2015

Composing Double Switch

Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

As a freelance Director I’m never sure when work is coming. Thankfully a bunch of shifts came up this last week or so, which is great. But it means I’ve had to put the Double Switch project on the back burner.

However, as of last night the edit is complete. I now have the full EDL showing all the action at the same time and showing the storyline as it evolves. From this video I’ll be able to create a spreadsheet showing which clips run at which times, with timecode.

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I should point out that for the purpose of avoiding audio clash from actors in different rooms talking at the same time, there’s a bit of creative adjustment to the placement of a few of the video clips. I’m also not entirely sure if the running clips are definitive in their placement. As mentioned previously, some of the video filenames are ordered 1, 2, 3, 4, but the order in which they play in the game may be 3, 1, 2, 4. Perhaps there’s some randomisation in the game which mixes it up a little each time its played. There were occasions when a bad guy has just been trapped in one room, yet they suddenly appear at the same time in another room. Again, I’ve slid those videos further apart to make the gap between them viable time for the occurrences to have been realtime.

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It should be noted that the amount of clips playing at the same time substantially ramps up the closer you get to the end of the game. The chances of keeping your number of ‘captured versus escaped’ low at this point was rather hard! As was keeping up with the actual storyline.

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One thing I’d like to do is make it a better experience with headphones and therefore tweak the audio, so that cameras on the left are in the left ear, and similarly right ear for the right hand side cameras. This’ll take a bit more work.

Since my teeny MacBook Pro might take half a day to render out the video, I’m not going to start the render till I’m happy with the audio. So stand by your beds for the final video.

For now, here’s a peek at the overall edit timeline. It’s rather busy and complicated!

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Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

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Recreating Double Switch

Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

This entry is documenting my sudden re-addiction to the Digital Pictures game Double Switch, and an attempt to help port it to other platforms using only the data from my original Sega CD copy. NOTE: I’m in no way capable of coding anything myself!

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The easiest part of all this so far has been the video decoding. It’s time consuming, but easy enough. Since the converted AVI videos were created with out-of-sync audio, I went down the route of saving separate files. I’ve estimated that I’ve exported probably over 50’000 PNG frames which have then been re-sequenced and a separate WAV audio file applied before being re-saved with the same file name. This file still also includes the on-screen data as captured by the SCAT video software, so every newly created file is also being run though Handbrake video software to crop off the bottom and eliminate the unwanted data, and also shrinking down the video file from a 10mb AVI to 2mb MP4.

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Analysing the file names has led me to the following conclusions; ALEX, BAND, BAS, BRU, GRADS, LOB and STOR are obviously the individual rooms of Alex‘s room, the band room, the basement, Brutus‘s room, the Graduates room, the lobby and basement storage.

File containing EST are establishing scenes, showing a character in their room not doing anything other than distracting you, and taking you away from other rooms that require traps to be set.

EF files are Eddie giving you a “screw up again…” warning, or a Fail and game over.

HF are the Handyman giving a fail before game over.

Files starting with 1, 2 or 3 indicate the storyline as Chapter 1, Chapter 2 or Chapter 3 of the game.

Files containing a 1, 2 or 3 elsewhere denote the order of clips.

The letter “T” indicates a clip containing a Thug who can be trapped.

The letter “I” indicates an Intruder dressed in green who can be trapped.

Therefore for example, ALEXT3_SGA is a trap scene in Alex’s room with the third bad guy in a black suit.

Easy!

Four other clips are self explanatory; Digital Pictures Logo, Easter Egg, Game Over and End Credits.

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There’s a handful of things I’ve discovered along the way that I’ve had to keep an eye on. The Digital Pictures logo is 15fps, whereas everything else appears to be 12fps. This caught me out when I was trying to rebuild Image Sequences and the audio didn’t fit.

But more interesting, I noticed that any file on the Sega CD depicting the “ALEX” room is actually flopped in the game. What I mean by that is that it was shot on-set in-camera one way (and encoded and written to every disc that way), but when you actually play the game, every “ALEX” video clip is flipped the other way round. See the image below for perhaps a better representation of what I mean:

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On the left is the SCAT video decode. On the right is the in-game footage. Curious!

It’s only the “ALEX” room that is affected. I imagine this to be something unforeseen during the shoot but when they came to the game edit, it made sense to flip the image around and make it look like the doors and windows were on the left side of the room and therefore logically it makes sense for the layout of The Edward Arms to have a room on one side, mirrored by a different room on the other. If you look closely enough you may very well spot Corey Haim holding items in his right hand in one room, but holds them in his left hand in Alex’s room. The suited bad guys have their handkerchiefs in their right breast pocket in the Alex room, but their proper  left breast pocket everywhere else. Alex’s room number is 321, as seen on the door in only THREE clips. It’s flipped in the game, but due to the degradation of the video clip you’d unlikely notice anyway.

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FUN FACT: A similar “flopping” technique was done by James Cameron in the movie Terminator 2, when the canal truck chasing John Connor crashes through the bridge wall and plummets into the canal below. Actor Robert patrick wore a reversed police uniform and sat at a mock driving rig in the passenger seat, with the real driver hidden behind black tarp in the drivers seat. When the image was flipped it looked like Patrick was driving! Eddie Furlong also wore a reversed Public Enemy t-shirt so they could flip the image in the edit and have everything look correct.

I’ve written more about Terminator 2 in this blog post: Trailer Forensics: Terminator 2.

James Cameron took this a step further when filming Titanic by building one entire side of the ship, however every piece of text was written backwards and they flopped it in the edit. I even own a reversed prop piece; Jacks 3rd Class Boarding Passes as won in the card game! But I digress…

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Another puzzle was discovered when I was putting the video clips in order to play them all  at the same time like a real CCTV system (see video at the end of the blog). Not all of the clips go in sequence. For example, Thug files numbered 1-4 followed by intruders numbered 1-4 in Alex’s room (ALEXT1, ALEXT2, ALEXT3, ALEXT4, ALEXI1, ALEXI2, ALEXI3, ALEXI4). Going through the file names whilst watching back a recorded version of the whole gameplay showed that the file names mostly appeared to be going in sequence. But there are a couple that don’t go in that order. Occasionally it’s 2, 4, 3 1. This is because there is a degree of randomisation in the game. Each time you play it bad guys appear in the same rooms at roughly the same time. but the clips that are played are random.

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So I exported every single frame and every audio clip, and recompiled every clip to make a much more manageable MP4 version. I’ll keep the first batch edits with the original encoded data on, as I suspect in the future this data will correlate to the timeline in some way and will help in reconstructing the game. Another thing of note here is that not all the clips have a corresponding timecode on the data, so it’s not always going to be dead accurate on which clip goes where.

I’m certainly no games coder. I’m a Studio Director! So in the spirit of my line of work, here’s a sneak peek of what I envisage the final conversion could look like.

My idea would be fairly simple in principle; all the cameras play out in the sequence they normally would in real time, and by clicking on a CCTV screen at the right time you flag for the trap to be triggered. If you trigger the trap, the video plays up till the diversion point whereby the ‘trap’ version plays. If you don’t click the camera, the video clip continues to play out the non-trap sequence. Too many non-trap sequences and you fail. Likewise, perhaps a double-click on a camera showing the Code Numbers to allow Eddie to escape the basement indicates you’ve registered the number and therefore don’t fail either…

Who knows. At this stage, everything is speculation. I’m just editing a fancy video!

Now obviously in the game there are 7 areas, and I’ve only included 6 screens. Due to the fact Eddie is stuck in the basement for the majority of it and we don’t really see him, I’ve made the bottom-left screen both the basement and the storage area. So far I haven’t come across two clips that should play at the same time.

I’ve also scoured YouTube for “longplay” clips showing people playing the entire game in one sitting, so I can figure out which video clips are playing at which time. For the purpose of sound (which I didn’t really play with in the above video, but obviously needs work) it may be likely that some of the clips will move backwards or forwards along the timeline so as not to have spoken words clash on different cameras. Some sound may be dipped so it’s still audible, but it not being required for the purpose of the storyline.

For now, I’m marching on ahead with converting the videos. And when I get time I’ll put together a sequence spreadsheet with all the clips in the correct order and the aforementioned divergent points.

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Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

Deconstructing Double Switch

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

Very much in the spirit of Dave Voyles blog Deconstructing Night Trap, I’ve started a similar project for Double Switch. The trials and tribulations of such an endeavour are documented here.

Please note, at this stage I’m merely decoding video clips, and personally have no coding skill whatsoever. I’m certainly no Dave Voyles!

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Sega games were my childhood. The Sega CD was my teens. I can’t tell you how many hours I must have spent playing the game Night Trap. Not only playing it but writing down the times, documenting the storyline and creating sequences for the perfect run. I was eleven years old. Without connecting too many dots, it’s easy to see why I ended up working in TV as a Director. I even work on the reality show Big Brother UK, watching 46 cameras and following the action. The image below shows a one room covered by every angle, and that’s not including the camera crews behind the 60+ two-way mirrors…

Big Brother Reality Gallery Screens

Night Trap, Sewer Shark, Double Switch and Ground Zero Texas were all I ever played. Non stop. Day after day. 23 years later that Night Trap guitar rift still gives me goose bumps. And the scene is still interested in those games. Earlier this year an almost unknown Kickstarter project started, and sadly failed by reaching only 12% of their financial goal. The original team behind Night Trap were looking for funds to port all the original 35mm footage to file and re-release the game in “HD”; Night Trap ReVamped.

I, and many others, got to the project too late. And it feels like those involved took it as a kick in the teeth, despite the love still going for such a thing to happen.

(I should mention at this stage that I collect movie props and production paperwork. I managed to get my hands on an original Digital Pictures baseball cap. And knowing that a copy of the production script and behind the scenes stills for Night Trap existed as a Kickstarter Tier absolutely breaks my heart! They exist, and I can’t get them!!)

I began to dig deeper about the potential re-release and joined the Night Trap Facebook page. This community is very much still alive and kicking, and recently a post appeared to show how Night Trap could potentially be ported and played via a website. And this got me onto the path of Deconstructing Double Switch. IMG_0028 The first thing to be done was get all the footage that’s currently available in the best resolution possible. The game was released on Sega CD, Saturn, PC and allegedly Mac (though I can’t seem to find any evidence of this!). The best footage at this stage should be the Saturn version, 15fps v the Sega CDs 12fps, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to access the Saturn video files. Long story short, the only way I can think to get this footage would be to emulate the Saturn and play through the game. The downside to this is that any overlays to the game would be visible, and it wouldn’t be a true copy of the digital files, nor would it be complete clips beginning to end of shot. I’d also need to play the game dozens of times to capture every clip. I’m not going ahead with screen capturing at this stage, but it may happen in the future if necessary.

However, there is a tool which can read Sega CD “.SGA” files and convert them from disc to AVI movies. Annoyingly the Saturn discs contain a similar file structure with .SGA files, but sadly the SCAT tool doesn’t read them. This could be something to do with the increased frame rate, palette or resolution. I’m yet to find an answer.

An issue with using SCAT for the Sega CD files is that the video is ultra poor quality, coming in at a resolution approximately 192 x 138 with a colour palette of only 64. This isn’t the problem of the tool itself, merely the mangled and destroyed footage created by Sega in order for the hardware of the Sega CD to decode (some of the details of which I’ve written about in this blog post: “Project NEMO and the Demise of FMV games“). The other stumbling block I’ve come across is that the SCAT tool saves the AVI files with debug info on the video.

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The debug info isn’t too much of a problem as this can be cropped off during any future conversion from AVI to MP4. But then the audio seems to slip too. I think this may be to do with frame rates? And there currently isn’t a way to adjust the AVI frame rate when the file is saved via SCAT. The only other way, which is massively inconvenient, is to export every frame separately as a PNG Image Sequence, save the WAV separately, and then re-combine the sequence at 12fps in Quicktime 7.

This is hugely time consuming and not as straight forward as I had hoped. The folder structure for the 155 video clips and all the PNG files required is mind boggling to say the least. But at present, this is what is required. Till someone comes up with a better batch-convert answer…

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Updated:

23rd July 2015 18:00 100% video files converted- 155/155 files

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games