Forest: Beta 6

Forest: Beta 6

Introducing beta 6 of Forest. This release should bring a much higher framerate in all browsers, and a number of small fixes.

Click Here to Play Forest

Architecture – A Quick Outline

I’ve tried to organize Forest into a series of big JavaScript Objects that group related activities, and Classes to cleanly manage everything I need more than one of. Please take a look at the game loop and WebWorker code if you’re interested in how any of it works. This project is released under an MIT License.

  • Control Objects
    • World: Manages weather, climate cycles & fps
    • Ground: Manages ground conditions, GridTiles, RenderGroups
    • Roamers: Everything that needs to be updated each frame, including the camera, the camera’s (invisible) target, lightning bolts, etc.
    • Mats: Materials and texture maps, including the ground’s dynamic texture
    • Sprites: Lifecycle and behavior management of trees, energy balls, etc.
    • PostProcessing: Manages GPU special effects for the scene, like bloom
    • Shaders: Overwrites some of Babylon.js‘s shaders with custom versions
    • Actors: Container for the Actor classes
  • Classes
    • GridTile: Manages one point on the map grid, and holds the Actors currently active on it
    • TileAlias: GridTiles in the first row and column use these to keep track of the geometry they must also update to smoothly wrap the map
    • RenderGroup: A block of GridTiles, which can be prioritized for drawing depending on the camera’s current position
    • Fire: An Actor which consumes other actors, then temporarily blackens the GridTile
    • Tree: A large, slow-growing Actor
    • FallenTree: An Actor which slowly loses mass, producing new soil
    • Grass: A small, fast-growing Actor, which greens the GridTile
    • DeadGrass: An Actor which slowly loses mass, producing new soil, while it browns the GridTile
    • ProtoRoamer: Class containing data fields and actions for things that roam around on the board
    • Camera: Subclass of ProtoRoamer, which moves the camera
    • Target: Subclass of ProtoRoamer, at which the camera is aimed
    • Energy: Subclass of ProtoRoamer, short-lived, produced where you click, which feeds energy to the Actors there
    • LightningBolt: Subclass of ProtoRoamer, very short-lived, obliterates all Actors on its GridTile and starts Fires on surrounding tiles


Better performance in all browsers. Beta 6 moves the process of updating water flow and ground conditions into a WebWorker, a second processor thread. Beta 5 was a major rewrite to accomodate this, moving most of the data of each GridTile object into a single, large Float32Array, and adding Getters/Setters to the GridTile class to make the array data behave like normal properties. Parts of the array can then be rapidly copied, to update the vertex data or to be sent to the worker thread, via the .subarray() function. Data returned from the worker thread can then be copied back into the main array via a .set() operation. Currently, any changes made to the board by Actors or Roamers during thread execution will be overwritten

Better performance in Firefox and Chrome. The GridTile prototype uses Getters/Setters to manipulate the data in the master Float32Array. This was originally done in Beta 5 to allow moving some updating to a WebWorker, but for whatever reason the major speedup of moving the data into the Float32Array alone ended up being worth the change. The index lookups in the Getters/Setters (e.g.[ground.indices.watertable+this.index]) bring virtually no overhead in Safari, but Chrome and Firefox struggled with them. Beta 6 caches the lookup indices in each object, which speeds up Firefox and Chrome considerably even absent the WebWorker thread.

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Forest: Beta 5

Screenshot from Safari 13.1 Mac

“Forest” is a peaceful, meditative god game. It is free, runs in any modern browser, and is played with one button (or finger). Each time the page is loaded, a forest with a random climate is created. You may interact, observe, or any combination of the two. There is no objective.

Click Here to Play Forest

The game is written in JavaScript, using WebGL via the Babylon.js framework. Beta 5 is a preview release for which I’m grateful for feedback– a major rewrite, much faster and more memory-efficient than previous betas, with most of the major systems in place for the game as I’d originally conceived it. If you’re interested, please take a look at the source code.

MIT License

Copyright (c) 2020 Matt Rasmussen

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.


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Forest Fire: A Game for Kids v2

Forest Fire is a simple Pandemic-like (or Pandemic-lite) game for 2-4 kids, age 5 and up. The players work together to put out the fires in a forest. Encourage them to talk over their moves, and strategize as a team.

Make a 6×6 grid. Number the rows and columns 1-6. These are the Forest Squares. Place a player piece for each kid around the outer edge of the grid, next to any square they choose.

Get 2 dice. These are the Fire Dice, which you will roll to add Fires (counters) to the board–one roll of the dice per player per round. Announce the rolls to the players as down then across (e.g. “1 down, 4 across.”) Have the players add a Fire counter to the square you call out. Squares can have more than one Fire counter at a time. Now explain that when there’s a non-burning (empty) square between a new Fire and an existing Fire, the Fire spreads to the square inbetween–horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. (This is like Go, only Fire can only “flip” a single empty square.) Roll once for each player, then begin.

If at the end of a round anyone is still on a square with a Fire, they’re out of the game. Disaster! If all forest squares are burning, it’s game over. When the kids put out all the Fires, they win!

Difficulty: A Firebreak is a clearing (natural or artificial) in the forest that fire can’t easily cross. With a second type of counter, you may at the beginning of the game roll to add Firebreaks to the board. Players can move onto Firebreak squares, but if a Fire is rolled on a Firebreak square, nothing happens. For an easier game, roll up to one Firebreak per player. Roll fewer or none for a challenge game. (Remember, the players still lose if every non-Firebreak square is ablaze at the same time!)

Introduce the types of player characters one game at a time:


Have the kids mime holding a firehose. Explain that a Hotshot Team is the firefighters on the ground with hoses and shovels who work to put out forest fires.  (This is where the term comes from!)

A Hotshot gets 2 moves per round. Each move can be either: 1) Putting out the Fires (removing all Fire counters) from their own or an adjacent square (N, S, E, W or diagonally), or 2) Moving 1 square N, S, E or W. Moving one square off the board, like at the beginning, is allowed.

To begin the game, explain that it takes time to get Hotshot Teams to a forest fire. Because of this, the fire has time to spread. Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board (one roll for each player x2) then have the players begin.

Smoke Jumpers

Have the kids mime holding onto the straps of a parachute. Explain that a Fire Jumper parachutes into the forest near a fire. Because of this, they can’t carry as much equipment, but once they hike out they can jump in again anywhere they’re needed.

A Smoke Jumper gets 2 moves per round. Similar to the Hotshot, each move can be either: 1) Putting out 1 fire (removing only 1 counter) from their own or an adjacent square (N, S, E, W or diagonally), or 2) Moving 1 square N, S, E or W. They also have a special ability: Upon moving off the board, they can “jump” to any square on the board. (Moving off the board and jumping count as a single action.)

Add 2 rounds’ worth of Fires to the board, then have the players begin.


Have the kids make an airplane with they hand (palm flat, index and ring finger together underneath the middle finger, pinky and thumb straight out to the sides). (If this is too hard, just pretend to be holding the flying yoke.) Explain that Pilots fly seaplanes which land on a body of water, fill a large tank, and then dump the water directly onto a fire.

Movement-wise, the pilot works a little differently. Every other turn, they must leave the board to refill their water tanks. Thus, every second turn, the players pick up their piece and hold it in their hand. The next turn, however, they can put out all the fire on any 3 squares in a row (N, S, E, W or diagonally).

Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board. When the kids begin, remind them that they must first leave the board to fill up–so there will actually be 3 rounds of Fires added before they can begin putting them out!

Mixed Game

Now we put the pieces together. Let the kids decide (and encourage them to discuss strategically) what each would like to be: a Hotshot, a Smoke Jumper, or a Pilot. Explain how fighting forest fires is a team effort, with people in different specialties doing different jobs. (Now we understand the pantomiming; it’s to keep everyone’s role straight!)

Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board, and have the kids begin!

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Builds For “The Leaves”

I love making stuff. The films I get involved with always seem to result in fun builds. It’s possible I’m getting my priorities backwards.

Old Book

Start with a real old book.
Raid Bart Howard Chandler Christy’s jaw-dropping “Lady of the Lake” illustrations for artwork. (You know him from his WWI propaganda posters.) Put together a pre-1960’s-looking dust jacket, pre-yellowed and sun faded.
Thin, distress and tear the edges. Rub salt on it to dull the finish. Just generally give it a hard, long life.
And… old book.

Board Game

Can’t imagine why no one snapped this sh*t up at Goodwill…
But it’s perfect, except for a few things.
Staples does color printing rather cheaply.
Measure once…
Cut twice. Spray adhesive is way too fun. (Not an endorsement of huffing.)
Every box of a certain age seems to get crushed. Wish I’d thought of a way to age the masking tape. (It tends to yellow, curl, turn brittle, and separate.)
Similar procedure for the board itself: Nonsense artwork, spray-adhesed to a couple pieces of chip board from good old Artist & Craftsman. (Say hi to Disme.)
Maybe not “hero” props, but good enough for 2K!

Rain & Sun Shirts

Can’t pay your actors? Create a thematic element/easter egg they can wear home. (Also, feed them well!)
Laura’s shirt was a new one for me: Permanent fabric paint. Other than that, just a standard sticky-back-plastic stencil. (Thanks again, Disme!)
Iron for permanence when dry.
Rob’s was a more standard sprayed bleach stencil shirt, although I’ve never tried to do lettering before.
Tape off the overspray areas, mist with bleach until light enough, let dry, rip everything off and stuff it in the dryer.
Nukulur poweird!
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A Netflix “Dark” Soundtrack for Purchase on iTunes

Here’s an (unofficial) soundtrack album for the 2017 Netflix series “Dark,” for iTunes downloading:

  1. “Industry” – Mire Kay [iTunes $1.29]
  2. “Anthricite Fields: IV. Flowers” – Julia Wolf, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Bang on a Can All-Stars & Julian Wachner [iTunes $0.99]
  3. “The Look of Love, Pt. 1” – ABC [iTunes $1.29]
  4. “Familiar” – Agnes Obel [iTunes $1.29]
  5. “Keep the Streets Empty For Me” – Fever Ray [iTunes $1.29]
  6. “Me and the Devil” – Soap&Skin [iTunes $1.29]
  7. “Enter One” – Sol Seppy [iTunes $0.99]
  8. “Es wird ja alles wieder gut” – Detlev Lais [iTunes $0.99]
  9. “When I Was Done Dying” – Dan Deacon [iTunes $1.29]
  10. “I Ran (So Far Away)” – A Flock of Seagulls [iTunes $1.29]
  11. “Wishing Well” – Stomper feat. Lucy Topps [iTunes $1.29]
  12. “Cow Song” – Merideth Monk & Collin Walcott [iTunes $1.29]
  13. “A Quiet Life” – Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld [iTunes $0.99]
  14. “Goodbye” – Apparat & Soap&Skin [iTunes $1.29]

The above is based substantially on Cinema Lumina’s streaming Apple Music playlist, with Marcin Tomaszewski’s Spotify playlist, and the sleuths on Tunefind.

Play time is a satisfying 1 hour 2 minutes, and the total cost a less-so $16.86. If you’d like to save a few bucks, I’d recommend omitting the just-barely-a-song “Cow Song,” the unintentionally creepy postwar German hit “Es wird ja alles wieder gut,” and ’80s crap “The Look of Love” and “I Ran.” (Nostalgia? I was there, Gandalf! In the 1980s. I was there when the strength of men failed…)

Besides the (unavailable) score itself, there are some omissions. On the out-of-place counterpoint song front, I prefer the Flock of Seagulls song to “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” by Dead of Alive [iTunes $1.29] simply because it’s less annoying (and lacks even the freaky faux-sincerity of ABC). It also appears only briefly as music heard by characters, in continuity. Likewise “Irgendwie, Irgendwo, Irgendwann” by Nena [iTunes $1.29], old standby “Shout” by Tears for Fears [iTunes $1.29] and the two barely-heard generic metal tracks, “Rücklauf” by Marathonmann [iTunes $1.29] and “Pleasure to Kill” by Kreator [iTunes $1.29]. Roomful of Teeth’s odd experimental vocal track tends to fade into the general noise ambiance of the show’s sound mix, but the track is “Partita: III. Courante” [iTunes $0.99]. Likewise Ben Frost’s pleasant but forgettable “Snow” [iTunes $1.29]. Finally, there’s a Mimi Page track supposedly called “Nightfall,” but I haven’t been able to locate it.

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House of Time v03

The House of Time, a scale model of earth history, public beta v0.3 is now live. While it’s still pretty empty, this is the first release where I feel the important pieces are all in place (if only as stubs).

Dreadnaughtus schematic for modeling
(Be kind, I’m no Mark Witton!)

New This Release:

  • ADDED: Your Friend & Mine, DREADNAUGHTUS!
  • ADDED: Stars
  • ADDED: Pro/Arch Bridge
  • ADDED: All Remaining Location Plates
  • IMPROVED: Bloom & SSAO
  • IMPROVED: River
  • MOVED: Custom Shaders, Shared Materials & Client-side Textures (currently unused) into larger, cleaner scenicEffects Object

To Do:

  • ADD: Membership/Info Card
  • ADD: Titanosaur & Other Models
  • ADD: The Moon
  • IMPROVE: Stonier Beach
  • ADD: Stars
  • IMPROVE: Framerate-Independant Movement Speed
  • ADD: Lazy Shader Compiler
  • ADD: “Crawler” Mesh
  • ADD: Touch Controls
  • IMPROVE: Frame Rate
  • FIX: Ocean Vertex Displacement Not Following Waves
  • FIX: Ripples Only Visible When Looking East
  • IMPROVE: Safari Support
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House of Time 0.2 Updates

The House of Time, a scale model of earth history, is now in public beta v0.2.

New This Release:

  • IMPROVED: Terrain
  • ADDED: Proterozoic-Archean River
  • ADDED: Cambrian Trilobites
  • IMPROVED: Tree Ferns
  • ADDED: Hadean Fill Lighting
  • ADDED: Low-res Ionic Columns
  • IMPROVED: More Natural Colors Overall
  • FIXED: Better Distribution of Sprites
  • ADDED: Camera Follower Tag
  • IMPROVED: Better Terrain LOD
  • FIXED: Sprites Not Working Correctly
  • FIXED: Shadow Dupes
  • FIXED: Sun Angle, Sky Consistency & Sunset

To Do:

  • ADD: Membership/Info Card
  • ADD: Titanosaur & Other Models
  • ADD: The Moon
  • IMPROVE: Stonier Beach
  • ADD: Stars
  • IMPROVE: Framerate-Independant Movement Speed
  • ADD: Lazy Shader Compiler
  • ADD: “Crawler” Mesh
  • ADD: Touch Controls
  • IMPROVE: Frame Rate
  • FIX: Ocean Vertex Displacement Not Following Waves
  • FIX: Ripples Only Visible When Looking East
  • IMPROVE: Safari Support
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Closer to a HoT Beta

In a short while, the link to the venerable Bestiary of Geekdom up top will move to the sidebar, and be replaced with the House of Time.

This is a project I’ve been tapping away at for six months or so, on and off, and in an effort to play a little less of my usual gin rummy, I’m working toward soft-launching a public beta. It will be missing a lot of features and content, but should be a good start.

The 3d engine is built in Javascript on the Babylon.js WebGL framework. My goal is for it to run in all modern browsers–including mobile–with low-to-modest hardware requirements. There will be no loading screens, HUD or narration, no accounts or other tracking, no objectives or “gamification,” and certainly no ads. The House of Time will be free and available to all. If you’re old enough to remember the experience of Myst when it first came out, you’ll understand the quiet, contemplative, even lonely atmosphere I wish to create. Art as science as art. This is in furtherance of my personal philosophy that education should be free.

I’ve been designing a system that uses as little bandwidth as possible. Most interactive 3d is built around the expectations of PCs and consoles: That transfer is fast, storage is large, and the GPU is the bottleneck. Here that’s reversed. There will be zero texture maps. Shaders will supply most of the visual detail procedurally, generating it on the fly in your graphics card. SVGs will be rendered to bitmap in a hidden canvas element to supply more specific 2d imagery. Most of the shaders will rely on world space coordinates, so that two instanced models sitting side by side may look radically different. Instanced geometry will be used as much as possible. Complex extruded shapes will be generated in the browser from a path and cross-section. Chunks of geometry will load only when needed, and free their memory when no longer in use.

The overall scene (more than a mile long) is being built in Blender, as it plays well with Babylon.js and glTF export. Even with the UI improvements in the Bforartists fork, this has been a major pain point, and creation of complex 3d assets (dinos!) lags badly. (My preferred 3d package, Hash Animation:Master, has sadly become a paid zombie, with no meaningful updates this decade. The quest for a replacement continues…) I split the large scene into chunks manually and export them for browser loading with Babylon.js’s Blender export plugin. Tags in the names of models and lights are digested by the engine on load, to do things like assigning noise shaders, creating extruded shapes, or replacing a mesh with sprites.

This week, I’ve built a new stageManager object to move scenery on- and offstage and in and out of memory, as well as written a new pine foliage shader I’m reasonably happy with. Before going public, I still need to create and fix a few more things:


Membership/Info Card – Footstep sounds – Titanosaur – Low-res Ionic Pediment – Evergreens – Brick Walkways – Tree Ferns – Cambrian Marker – Beach – Stars


StageManagerNew evergreen shader – Sound manager


Crash on deleting assetContainerFalling sprites not finding ground – Sprite systems not reusing correctly – Too much fog at start – Left-hand side of gate not animating – Miocene grass too short – Cretaceous Hall light wonkiness – No Carboniferous shadows

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The House of Time: A Walkthrough

You visit a page and find a punched metal gate, with an arrowhead design on one half and an Apollo capsule on the other. It slides open. You realize this is a 3d scene, like a game, and you can move about with familiar keyboard, mouse and touch controls.

The fog rolls back to reveal a paved driveway leading to a museum-like facad ahead. The outlines of animals line the walk. Strange animals

You hear your footstep as you pass through the thin gate, stepping over a drain and past some grassy planters. You cross the turnaround circle and mount the steps.

Inside, sunlight streams through a modernist glass domed roof, falling on stone sculptures of dinosaurs. Titanosaur towers over you. Beneath your feet, a plexiglass floor shows creatures from the sea. On you pass into an older-looking part of the museum. More creatures: Allosourus, stegosaurs. Forward into a gothic section, with still more creatures: plainer somehow, more crocodile-like. You pass outside again through a charred portal, burned to its hinges.

Outside, sailback lizard sculptures bask in the sun of a palatial back veranda. You descend the steps into a stand of pines and ferns. The path continues. Lonely, rough-hewn sculptures in rusted metal mourn a world they once ruled. Soon there’s nothing but a thick carpet of trilobite fossils, crunching beneath your feet. A plain marker declares even their end.

There is nothing but the scrub, the path, the sun. Occasional stone columns pass to either side.

Half an eternity later, the sun begins to set. As you pass over a small rise, the moon disappears. Below is a rocky beach leading to an endless sea. You descend as the stars come out and stand at the dark surf, watching the stars above and below.

This is the House of Time, a scale model of Earth history. Each step you’ve taken represents a million years.

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I Asked Some Friends If They Wanted Their Own “Twilight Zone” Introductions

“Into every life a little rain must fall. For some this is a blessing, for some a curse, and for some it may be both in disguise. Meet Rama Rodriguez–account number 2425133, 4.2 stars, no accidents. A storm chaser in a late-model Honda Accord. But what is a surge when the surge never ends? For Mr. Rodriguez’s next pickup is flagged on an unmarked back road of an unnumbered census designation between Old Hither and Yon Terrace… in The Twilight Zone.”

“Say hello to Mr. Robert Patton, undertaking the most dangerous act that mankind has yet devised: stepping out of his front door. Because somewhere out in that angle of short memoried softwood and lost soccer balls lurks something not native to the crisscrossed streets of man’s housing-developed world. Something lean, and hungry. A creature wholly unknown to Mr. Patton’s cozy world, but attested to in numerous travelogues… from The Twilight Zone.”

“It’s a lonely vigil being the last knight and defender of the esoteric, even if only the corner-of-the-pub variety. Take a barstool next to your new old friend Matthew Blazek, topic expert. Tip one back and learn a thing or two, for it’s last call, and you may soon need both a stiff drink and a bit of advice–because this public house, along with you and its other occupants, are about to be transported to a time and a place that can’t be. A misremembering by the universe. An anachronism wrapped in a mystery, shunned to a quiet corner… of The Twilight Zone.”

“These two outlined, highlighted, tired eyes belong to Ms. Naomi Cabrera. Following the press of a button they’ve just slid off an instrument panel familiar to many of us: a brass oracle that’s long since taken the place of a man or woman in a hat, who once guided us up into the belly of a steel-boned, stone-clad, concrete beast. Did departed Romans pay their ferryman for his boat, or for safe escort? When the tower is alone, and angry, what revenge does it take on those tiny homunculi that circulate within? Naomi is about to learn, because she’s just pressed the wrong floor; a number between numbers, with a broken light; home to empty suites, the drone of air conditioners, and a small import/export concern with one other office… in The Twilight Zone.”

“Measure, tick the grease pencil and rack focus on one Eric Cheung. A man of his time, once conjured by two thin threads applied with a bit of spirit gum and a ‘comic’ accent. But the comedy masks, real and false, are not on the propman’s call list today. Our man’s sides specify a location well beyond the comfortable sets and Kino daylight; past the disused facades of once popular genres; past even the empty business offices of 90 year old hack writers and producers too cold to even meet with death in this town; through a parking lot, over an arroyo; somewhere in memory’s tall grass between the Ventura Freeway… and The Twilight Zone.”

“You’ve rolled past him on moving sidewalks at every wheel and spoke; half-watched as a dozen stewardesses poured him a thousand tiny drinks; maneuvered a bag between him and endless racks of tchotchkes that somehow serve only to make their emblazoned airport feel less like a definable location. Risk an extra minute in your boarding group, squint into the sunbeam, and you may just make out the tall form of Shlomo Harnas–citizen of the world, native to nowhere. Neither super spy nor wandering jew, just another mug trying to catch a codeshare to a little-trafficked field coded ‘H-O-M-E,’ with a connecting flight… through The Twilight Zone.”

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A Production Plan for “The Watchfire”

“The Watchfire” is a deep time science fiction screenplay that plays as symbolist fantasy/horror, in the mode of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth, or films like EvolutionInnocence, and Sauna. Two 10-year-old girls guard a flaming beacon alone on a hill by the sea. One day a third child appears.

Concept art on the blog here.

At barely six pages, “The Watchfire” can be filmed on a modest budget with a small crew. This is a breakdown of how.

Three young actors are needed. The two “sisters” (the Dawn Girl and the Dusk Girl, age 10-12) will need matching long blonde wigs, and simple handmade-looking dresses matching their hair. One will need to memorize two long-ish blocks of text–to be recited as stories, not performed as lines–the other only one recital. They should be rehearsed together in the weeks prior to filming, with a focus on being comfortable and engaged with one other. The third (the Golden Boy, 10-12) will need a simple handmade “castaway” outfit of canvas and rope. He should be rehearsed separately. The childrens’ parents/guardians will need to sign off on some violence in the film, though very little that’s apparent to the actors on set. I won’t pretend to be an expert on directing children, but per Lenore DeKoven it’s best if the children are minded on set by someone other than a parent; children tend to have trouble focusing with a parent present. (Think home vs. school.) Limitations on shooting hours will have to be researched and planned for.

Filming will take place over a weekend. As I’m currently based in Boston, coastal Maine will be the most accessible shooting location, although northern California (near my sister) or the Swedish coast (near Denmark) would also work. The requirement is a temperate wooded area where the hills meet the sea. Shooting in Maine would allow me to save on accommodations by using the visitors’ apartment at my mother’s house. (Two of the kids even get bunk beds!)

Three filming locations will be needed:

  1. The Beacon. An overgrown field bordered by trees.
  2. The Hillside. A wooded clearing overlooking the ocean.
  3. The Seashore. An uninhabited beach.

The Beacon

The primary shooting location will need to be built in situ beforehand. It consists of a central object (the beacon) resembling a dead tree turned to stone, with eternal flames playing across its branches. Beside it sit two small pools of indeterminate depth. A ring of stones surrounds the beacon. The surrounding tall grass is trampled into a crop circle about 40 feet in diameter, with a second ring of stones marking its outer boundary.

A property owner’s back field would be ideal. The house can be quite close by, as long as it’s out of the shot. (A friendly house is also helpful for costume changes, bathroom breaks, emergency battery charges, craft services, etc.) Sync sound would be needed on this set, so proximity to a busy road is a no-go.

The beacon itself will be only partially built, to a height about a foot taller than the actors. The upper branches and flames will be created digitally in post-production. Practical lights will be hung from booms atop the beacon, to be covered over with CGI. Although the sisters enter and exit the pools in story, this can be largely faked with staging and cutting. Mylar sheets under a few inches of water may work to simulate much deeper pools. (The bottoms are never seen.) Tutorials for creating a crop circle with planks and ropes are easy to find online.

For the effects work, a chrome ball must be filmed with bracketed exposures at each setup on the beacon set, to generate an Image Based Lighting model. Instances where the actors move in front of the CGI tree elements will have to be hand rotoscoped.

The Hillside

A couple of brief scenes take place just outside the beacon’s crop circle. They’ll almost certainly need to be filmed elsewhere. No build. Sync sound won’t be needed. The scenes can probably be shot guerilla style near a public lookout.

The effects work here is largely subtractive: Removing any trace of civilization from the background. Towns, ships, square fields, vapor trails, roads, etc. will need to be painted out in a tracked travel matte. Elements the actors pass in front of will have to be rotoscoped out.

The Seashore

A single, relatively brief scene. No build. No sync sound.

The trick here is that Maine’s inshore waters are littered with brightly-colored lobster buoys. The best option may be to film near high tide in a cove with extensive mudflats. (Traps are set below the intertidal zone; the farther out the low tide line, the smaller and more distant the buoys, making them easier to paint out.)

Pickup Shots

Establishing shots will present the same civilization problems. These will tend to be fairly static, and can be constructed as matte collages.

Post Production

Special effects will be done by me in Fusion, which was our primary tool on “The Garden, 1910.” Unless I can secure some kind of residency, they’re likely to take a couple months to complete on evenings and weekend.

In All…

The project can be accomplished in about 3-4 months, start to finish.

Required personnel:

  • Director (me)
  • Producer
  • DP
  • Dawn Girl actor
  • Dusk Girl actor
  • Golden Boy actor
  • At least one guardian/parent for the above
  • Hair/Makeup
  • Sound
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Fire Brothers

One of the germs of “The Watchfire” was a partial mishearing of Quicksilver Messenger Service’s 1971 song “Fire Brothers.” The mondegreen method seems about right, as no one can seem to agree on the exact lyrics to this song. Here’s my best attempt:

In the valley where the loons and lovers play
Lived two children who were born on Saturday
One was dark, one was fair
Fathered by the hawk, mothered by the mare

Stranger children you will never see;
Brothers of the forest and the sea
One was land, one was air
And they kept the fires burning there

In a golden vessel and silver vase
Kept them burning in that strange enchanted place
Kept them burning to the sky
For they knew someday the sun would die

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