We built a spaceship in my basement, and we made it fly.
This post was written by Kyle Kelley.
Hey, my name is Kyle Kelley. I'm a filmmaker based out of Kansas City, Missouri. My team and I just finished making a new commercial titled “Epidemic Sound & Beyond.” We created this in collaboration with Epidemic Sound to help showcase the expansion of their ever-growing library with the release of over 90,000 premium sound effects that are ready to take your videos out of this world.
Check out the short below, then learn what went into making it.
I knew this shoot was going to be a lot of fun. I also knew there were going to be unforeseen obstacles, seeing as I have never built a spaceship before. So going about this was a fun challenge. Not only was I going to have to get blueprints made, but I was also going to have to find someone who could build it. Thankfully we found an awesome carpenter named Gary Mosby who was just as stoked about this project as we were.
We spent a few weeks at his shop designing the set and building the frame, dashboard, and installing the seat. Once that was done, we loaded it into a U-Haul and moved the set to my basement, where the team and I applied paint, fabric, drilled holes, added wiring, lights, switches, knobs, and all the finishing touches to the set.
I knew we were going to do a little VFX on the dash frames. So we painted them Rosco Chroma Key Paint. It's the best green screen paint for any film project. This would make it easier for the VFX artist to replace them in post.
The astronaut’s suit was also a lot of fun to create. We rented the helmet, but everything else we made from scratch. The bulk of the suit was made from Costco winter jackets that were cut and sewn together by our amazing seamstress Karen Elizabeth. We ordered the gloves off Amazon and wrapped the wrist in the same fabric from the jackets. The chest piece was a martial arts vest.
Once the spacesuit was assembled, I spray painted the outside white. To give it a worn look once it dried, I simply rubbed the jacket pieces together until I got the look I wanted.
We were a small crew of seven on production day, due to COVID restrictions and the small filming location. The crew was Kyle Kelley (director and producer), Alexandra Lambdin (producer and location sound), Lucas Falco Cohen (DP), Brittany Laney (AC), Blake Betts (PA), Vic Dominguez (gaffer), and Jackson Montemayor (BTS).
We filmed all the spaceship scenes in my basement. When designing the spaceship set, I knew we would need to build a frame on the outside of the set to help us on production day with warp speed. We needed to have the warp speed reflection on our astronaut's helmet in order to make it real. Using a green screen was out of the question, seeing as there was no room in the budget to replace and add the helmet shield and reflections in post.
We came up with a way to do this practically! So I did what any indie filmmaker would do. I took my 55” VIZIO TV off my living room wall and mounted it on the outside of the spaceship set. We connected an iPad to the TV and played the warp drive footage on it. This worked perfectly for our setup. I was able to get the reflections and the look I wanted.
Then after lunch, we had production move to our second location. For the second half of the shoot, we filmed in my aunt's living room in a quick two-hour scene. The entire shoot day was all done in about eight hours.
The camera and lenses were Alexa mini LF with vintage Nikon Ais Lenses.
The lights were ARRI SkyPanels, ARRI L7, and two Quasar Q5 lights.
The Q5 Q-Lion was the perfect flicker-free light to be incorporated into the design of our spaceship set to be used as a practical. Underneath the fabric, we mounted thin sheet metal so we could easily attach the lights using the built-in magnets. So when it came time to film we could easily move the lights to perfectly fill the frame.
For post, I loaded all the footage onto a drive and mailed it to our editor Nick Stout, who did a great job crafting this edit. An editor is so important to the success of any project. From start to finish Nick knocked this edit out of the park. His passion for storytelling and his experience as a filmmaker is what makes him a great editor. Once we were edit-locked, a copy was sent out for the post sound mix and a version out for color and VFX.
A clean grade will always add so much depth and style to every single shot. I absolutely love what Dmitri Zavyazkin did with the color and VFX on this project. He did a such beautiful grade on this project, really brought out all the details.
For the VFX, even though the screens are small, he did a ton of work to make sure these screens look real. He even added texture and scratches to give them that wear-and-tear look. He did a great job replacing the green screen and incorporating it into the scene without looking fake and taking you out of the moment.
Sound design can make or break your vision. If it's bad it could ruin your video, but if it's good it can take your project out of this world. Oliver Hughes did an incredible job bringing our project to life through sound design. Without his experience and knowledge of sound, this project would not be what it is. He shaped and mixed over 80 different layers of sound effects to create this adventurous world.
I could not be happier with the finished commercial. It was great seeing this all come together from the initial pitch to Epidemic Sound to the final delivery. The crew, post team and actors all brought their A-Game. They are what made this project possible. I could not have done this without them.