The Apocalypse Theory DVD is now available!
It costs $13.99 (free domestic shipping) and comes with the following special features:
- 3 alternate/extended scenes
- 4 cast and crew commentaries
- Over an hour of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, chronicling production from the first to the last day
- Short film: Frank the Assassin
- Music video: The Specktators “Neon Lights”
- A Secret
Not to mention the greatest film ever, in glorious 16:9 widescreen and triumphant mono sound.
You can also rent the movie (streaming) or purchase an HD download.
Thank you so much for accompanying us on this adventure. You can help us conclude our quest by sharing the film with everyone else who’s cool enough to care.
How we made the DVD
Back in March, Cam and I were feeling quite pleased with ourselves. Assisted by the immeasurable talents of a volunteer cast and crew, we had shot, cut, cleaned up, and premiered Apocalypse Theory. All we had to do now was make a DVD. Throw some special features on there, make a neat little menu, maybe an Easter egg, and we’re good. No problem.
Alas, like every part of production, there was a bit more to this process than we expected, and we learned a lot along the way. Here’s a breakdown of how we did it. I’m hoping this can be useful for anybody else trying to make an ambitious DVD on a shoestring budget, so my apologies, it will get a bit technical, particularly in the “Hardware” and “Authoring” sections.
The first piece of the puzzle was our machine. Post-production took place on university equipment, which was quite nice, but you lose access to that kind of thing as you get older. We needed a new work station.
Cinematographer Maria Palmö and composer Matt Riggs, our veritable partners-in-cinema throughout this and other projects, found the solution: Hackintosh. It’s a faux-Apple computer that you build at home using third-party hardware from specific vendors (everything has to be compatible with Mac software). The result, which they named “The Animus” runs more or less like a Mac, but cost far less, giving us access to capabilities that would otherwise be outside our budget. There’s a little extra upkeep required, but it absolutely soars. Processes that used to take days are now ready within the hour. That’s important, given all the exporting and file conversion we’d have to do later.
The Animus has a hard drive for storage and a solid state drive for running applications, but most of our files were already stored on two 2-TB external hard drives from Buffalo. It’s faster to do things locally, when convenient, but the externals ran pretty smoothly with a firewire connection.
It’s important to note that any time you’re using external drives, you want to make sure they’re formatted correctly. My mistake here resulted in the inability to move anything onto the drive that was bigger than 10 GB, and we suspect it may have been responsible for some other issues we experienced. Naturally, we backed everything up in a couple places. You never know what can happen, and you definitely don’t want to lose any footage.
Cam made the special features. They’re really cool. I can’t say much about them, because we’re saving that information for Friday. Come back Friday.
Authoring is the process of creating the DVD. It involves menu design, and the conversion of video and audio files to compatible formats and sizes that will all fit on the disc. This takes powerful software, and we decided to go with a freeware application called DVDStyler by Alex Thüring. Like most free software, it has a few bugs, but it’s incredibly versatile. Alternate audio tracks, precise menu controls, video cropping and bordering, you name it. The result is a DVD that has everything we want on it, except for a nice video background with flickering flames that Maria prepared for the menu. Video backgrounds are technically a feature, but we couldn’t get it to work.
A more critical issue we faced was an inability to change our DVD from PAL (an encoding system used in Europe and many other parts of the world) to NTSC (the system used in North America and some of South America). The Mac version of DVDStyler has a lot of trouble with this, so we ended up doing the actual authoring and burning on an adjacent Windows machine.
Before the movie and special features were ready for DVDStyler, they needed to be exported and converted to MPEG-2 format. We used Final Cut Pro 7 and Compressor 4.0. I know those aren’t really compatible versions, but our project was made on FCP 7 and therefore couldn’t be upgraded to FCP X, and Apple doesn’t make Compressor 3.5 anymore. Such is software. Such is life.
At this point we were a few weeks away from our already once-delayed DVD release. The menu architecture was solid (thanks mostly to Cam’s design), and after another week of testing and debugging (big props to Matt for keeping things moving whenever we weren’t there, and for solving half of our technical issues), we had video and audio files that all played nice with each other and fit on the 8.5 GB we had to work with. Now it was time to make lots of them.
We had 8.5 GB to work with because we had decided to use dual-layer DVDs. It was the only way to fit a couple hours of special features on there without making the movie look like it was made for the NES. This limited our options in regard to duplication, since not all companies will do dual-layer DVDs. I ended up having to decide between A to Z Media and The Dupe Shop. Both had the options we wanted and the price was comparable, but The Dupe Shop offered a faster turnaround. This close to the wire, that was the deciding factor. They also gave us an education discount, which is nice. Our discs are in the shop as I write this, and should be coming back to us very soon. We’re pretty geeked to see them.
At one point in the process we were considering CreateSpace, an attractive service that would print the discs to order and allow us to sell on Amazon. This would have allowed us to bypass the duplication process altogether. Unfortunately, they don’t support dual-layer. For a while, we weren’t sure how we were going to distribute. I was looking into Youpay and other very DIY solutions, and not looking forward to the hassle of setting up our own online store. Then I read a Hollywood Reporter article that mentioned Distrify.
Designed specifically for online film distribution, Distrify not only makes it easy for us to create a store, but it puts our store exactly where it needs to be: at the end of our trailer, inside the video player. Everywhere we embed the trailer will automatically become a point of sale. As soon as someone is done watching the trailer, they can stream-to-rent, buy a download, or order a DVD. Fans of the movie can profit by sharing it with their friends, via an affiliate fee. So if you embed our movie in your blog or even share it on Facebook, you will receive 10% of the revenue from all resulting sales. We hope people will take advantage of this.
As we were first setting off on this DVD creation quest, Cam and I lamented the idea that we would have to make the DVD and try to market it at the same time. Serendipitously, along came Dennis Corsi atop a gallant steed. Fans of the movie may remember Dennis as the actor who played Brian in the indie sensation Apocalypse Theory. He volunteered to manage our marketing campaign, and he has done a fantastic job so far. Not only has he run our social media over the past month (a very important job that I detest doing myself), but he recruited the phenomenally talented artist Jeff Nguyen to design our disc and cover art.
Pretty great, right?
So that’s mas o menos how it went down. Thanks for reading. I still have to finish setting up our Distrify store and we have a lot of Kickstarter orders to fulfill, so we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re close. Although I’ve loved working on Apocalypse Theory, I must admit it will be nice to bring this adventure to an end. New horizons await.
The place: Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Road, East Lansing, MI, 48823)
The date: Wednesday, April 18
The time: 7:30 PM
The cost: $5.00 per person (and this time, everyone is welcome!)
The event: the Apocalypse Theory World Premiere!
Apocalypse Theory will have its official World Premiere on Wednesday, April 18, 7:30 PM, at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center! You can buy tickets for $5 at apocalypsetheory.eventbrite.com to ensure a seat, or you can try your luck at the gate.
As before, our program will consist of our short film Frank the Assassin, followed by our main feature Apocalypse Theory, then a Q&A session with cast and crew. The movie’s on a proper DVD now, so if you liked it the first time at the Advanced Screening, you’ll love it with clearer sound and a larger, crisper image. If you didn’t see it the first time, you’ll also love it, probably.
Hope to see y’all there, and as always that you enjoy the show!
P.S. Some of y’all may have been expecting Apocalypse Theory to premiere at the Capital City Film Festival. The CCFF honored our work on Frank the Assassin last year, and awarded us a cash prize that helped fund Apocalypse Theory (which we’ll always be grateful for, as we acknowledge in the credits of our film). So it surprised us when the CCFF declined to screen the movie.
A representative of the festival contacted us, and essentially told us that he didn’t understand or care for the movie’s unconventionally-structured narrative. C’est la vie; we knew when we began writing the script that it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. He also told us that he didn’t believe students should make feature-length films, so perhaps this was never meant to be.
We remain undaunted; we’ve already heard the laughs and feedback of a couple hundred Spartans at our MSU Advanced Screening, and that’s all the support we need to stand by Apocalypse Theory as it is. We’ve met our audience and we’re eager to entertain them again on April 18th.
The MSU Advanced Screening was a success!
The MSU Advanced Screening of Apocalypse Theory has come and gone at last, and was as great a success as I could have ever hoped.
We spent just about all day—and, in Brandon’s case, the previous night (thanks, bro!)—preparing the show at Wells Hall. Turns out making a DVD is harder than making a movie, so we ended up playing it as an MOV file through a laptop. The film showed up in terrific quality on the big screen, but the sound was unfortunately muddied a bit. For that, I’d like to apologize to our sound team; the hard work y’all put in will come through better for future screenings.
Around 8:00, the crowds started to arrive. Nothing could have prepared me for the impressive number of moviegoers flooding in. I got so nervous waiting for showtime that I somehow lost my voice for the night, which I had to fight through when it came time for me and Brandon to introduce the screening.
Frank the Assassin set the stage wonderfully for the main feature. It feels like ages ago that we filmed it with a crew of four on a budget of whatever-we-had-on-us, but it held up well. A moment of lag near the start had me horrified that technical difficulties would derail us completely, but thankfully this was just a one-time thing.
Throughout the entire adventure of making Apocalypse Theory, there’s always been one key question lingering in my mind, even at my most confident times: would people actually like this movie, or did it only make sense to us? The continuous laughter and occasional gasps of the audience were my answer, and they were among the best sounds I’ve heard in my entire life. Sitting in that audience, I felt as though I was seeing it for the first time. When the crowd applauded at the end, I knew Brandon, myself, and the whole team had achieved what we’d set out to do. It was one of the happiest discoveries of my life thus far, and one that I’m still adjusting to.
Brandon, our cinematographer Maria Palmö, lead actors Zack Sztanyo and Alex Poling, and I stayed for a Q&A session after the screening. I was impressed by how many viewers stuck around. This was my first time playing a prominent role in a Q&A panel, and I had to struggle a bit due to my aforementioned voice loss, but I was still glad to help share our experiences with an audience of new Apocalypse Theory fans. Afterwards, I mingled and unwound with family, friends, cast and crew at a ballin’ after-party hosted by our neighbors at the Manor. All considered, it was basically a perfect evening.
I’d like to offer an immense thanks, both to everyone on the Apocalypse Theory team for their time and talent, and to everyone who supported us and came to see the film last night. If you weren’t able to make it out, fear not; there will be many more opportunities.
Which brings me to our as-of-now somewhat nebulous plans for the future. We will put out DVDs of Apocalypse Theory, but it’ll take some time to put together the special features to make them truly worthwhile (including just a crazy amount of outtakes). We’re also submitting the movie to several film festivals, including the Capital City Film Festival in April, where we hope to have our premiere. We’ll continue to post updates on Facebook and the official site as future screenings and the DVD release approach, so y’all can stay tuned to know just when and where to catch Apocalypse Theory for the first time or experience it all over again.
If you saw the movie and liked it, we’d love for you to Like our Facebook page. The visible show of support could help us down the line with other fundraising efforts, for Apocalypse Theory and for future projects.
Once again, thank you all so very, very much.
Apocalypse Theory is now a movie.
The mischief’s complete, the mission’s managed, the ship has flown and the bird has sailed: as of the last hazy area seated between morning and night with which we’ve become so well-acquainted throughout this crazy production, Apocalypse Theory is complete.
Late last night, we put in our latest DVD at Wells Hall and watched the whole thing on the same Big Screen where we’ll hold our upcoming screening, taking our final set of notes. We laughed about all the good times and at the jokes that we’ve seen so many times that they’ve circled all the way around to become hilarious again. Then we returned to the editing bay, implemented those notes all night long, and started exporting a complete college comedy.
Emotionally, I haven’t even begun to process this. I’ve been to so many castles over the last 3-ish years that I don’t know how to react upon finding the princess. Sure, there’s still much to be done in terms of DVD-making (hope y’all like outtakes! (just kidding, everyone likes outtakes)) and distribution, but the notion that I’m done working on Apocalypse Theory itself will probably take some time to start making sense. Maybe I’ll just go mad in 20 years and start inserting CGI characters into the background, but hopefully I can refrain. If not, y’all have my permission to physically restrain me.
I count myself among the most fortunate people in the world to have been able to work not only with my awesome brother Brandon, but also the most amazing team of cast and crew I could have sanely hoped for. The last three years, from conception to completion of Apocalypse Theory, have been the best of my life thus far, and fortune smiled broadly upon us the whole way through. Emotionally, I’ve seen the highest highs and the lowest lows on this incredible journey, and I think y’all are going to see that love show through in the finished film.
There are so many wonderful people to thank even beyond our team, but that’s what “special thanks” sections are for, and y’all can see ours at the screening!
So MSU students, faculty, special guests, and Apocalypse Theory team: come on down to Wells Hall at 8:30 PM on Friday, February 24th! Help us celebrate the end of an incredible journey with what I can now certainly say is one damn fine comedy. If you can’t make it, we’ll see you on the festival circuit down the line. Production may be ending, but the party’s just begun.
Apocalypse Theory is the story of two brothers who, in the two weeks before the End of the World, try to get the most out of their college lives despite an uncertain future and a mysterious apocalyptic conspiracy. Shot on location in East Lansing, home of the beautiful Michigan State University campus, and featuring a hilarious ensemble cast, Apocalypse Theory asks "What does Armageddon mean when you already live like there's no tomorrow?"
Buy the DVD December 21!