The Final Moments of Karl Brant, a new, sci-fi short film starring Paul Reubens, which premiered in San Diego at Comic Con, can now be viewed at Nerdist.com. Produced by the principals of visual effects company Level 256 VFX, the film takes place in the near future and depicts experimental technology which allows two detectives to bring a murder victim back to life in a digital state so he may be questioned about his final moments. The Final Moments of Karl Brant was written and directed by M.F. Wilson, who also was responsible for writing the cult graphic novel Fluorescent Black. The short film explores the concepts of technological singularity and trans-humanism, and is based on Wilson’s feature script for DigitalState, a sci-fi crime drama.
Reubens stars as Dr. Bennett Ferryman, a scientist who dabbles in digital immortality. “This is a different kind of serious role for Paul, who is an amazing actor and can play anything,” Wilson said. “To me, the defining quality of mad scientists like Dr. Frankenstein is the eccentricity that accompanies their genius. Paul exemplifies that completely.”
The film also stars Janina Gavankar (True Blood and The L Word) Fay Masterson (Eyes Wide Shut, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra) Jon Sklaroff (CSI, The Comeback) and Pete Chekvala (The Education of Arthur Banks).
Scott M. Davids, owner of Level 256 VFX, served as the film’s producer. Level 256 produced close to 50 VFX shots for the 16-minute piece, including matte paintings, futuristic interface designs and comps and miscellaneous split-screens and enhancements. Level 256 also developed a 3D holographic face, depicting the digital character of Karl Brant, which was created with custom software and a Microsoft XBOX Kinect camera.
“Our work on Karl Brant represents the first creation of original content for Level 256,” Davids said. “My background in editorial, combined with Seth’s expertise in postproduction, made it possible for our shop to move beyond serving just as a VFX provider. At the script level, the digital character of Karl Brant was cost prohibitive, so we had to get really creative. Once we developed a working live-action test integrated with our Kinect ‘hack,’ we knew the project was going to be possible.”
This technique was developed by Seth Kleinberg, head of production for Level 256 VFX, and Davids specifically for this short film. The Final Moments of Karl Brant is one of a few films to use a Kinect “hack” to create a 3D digital character for a narrative.
“Leveraging the power of open source applications like Processing, Python, and bash scripting, we were able to take the point cloud data from the Kinect, manipulate it, and get it into Nuke for integration with the live-action plates for texture re-projection,” Kleinberg explained. “The process evolved and grew over time, and when we finally saw the fruits of our labor on the screen, we were excited to see Karl Brant fully realized, taking on an expressive life of his own.”