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Panic Attack!

By Shamus
on Saturday Dec 19, 2009
Filed under:


Via Rampant Coyote I find this gem, a 5 minute movie which is a spectacular display of special effects…

Link (YouTube)

…which was purportedly made for $500.

Of course, the $500 was just the equipment and software. I imagine that a lot more than $500 worth of labor went into it.

Still, these effects would have cost millions just a decade ago. These tools are getting very cheap, very fast. We are rapidly approaching the point where the only thing that separates the pros from the amateurs is skill and effort.

I’m very much looking forward to that.

Comments (56)

  1. Dr-Online says:

    Word on the street is also that the director behind it got a movie deal out of it. Something like $30 million.

  2. scragar says:

    I find the swings in the middle sort of broke the immersion, they were swinging much too far for any real explanation, are we honestly expected to believe they moved that much from the explosion? Or maybe the kids jumped off them at almost exactly the same time?

    I understand the goal of the effect, to portray an idea of everyone having fled, to instil the idea of a normal activity being interrupted and abandoned to flee in terror, but I just found it too be too fake, even though it was probably the simplest tricks they employed.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I noticed the swings, too.

    According to the Beeb (BBC), this got 1.5 million views in 4 days, and the maker got an offer for some Hollywood backing.

    The newsman should have realized what was going on when the missile port covers were opened on their arms. I recognized it immediately as “they are about to fire.”

    The weapons used by the mechs were all missiles–no energy weapons. It didn’t look like they had much room for reloads in their arms. 3, 4 vollies tops. Poor design unless they have replicators for reloading.

  4. John says:

    I saw this and thought ‘I saw this a while ago.’ Then went to nodwick.com where I saw it and he mentioned it today as well, linking to an article about what Johnathon just mentioned about the guy getting a Hollywood deal. Good for him, I can’t wait.


  5. chuko says:

    Me too. The more success in this world depends on skills and hard work rather than access, the better.

    Also, it’s a very very cool video.

  6. Nyaz says:

    Now where do I buy myself some skill and experience…

  7. […] Attack; repost By jx1992n Link to Shamus Young’s post about this amazing video, and special effects. Which are mind-blowing, […]

  8. Mephane says:

    The weapons used by the mechs were all missiles”“no energy weapons. It didn't look like they had much room for reloads in their arms. 3, 4 vollies tops. Poor design unless they have replicators for reloading.

    Of course they have. ;)

  9. Terrible says:

    Reminds me of Gantz.

  10. droid says:

    Uruguay should have helped fund X-Com, do they think they can get protection just because they are so close to Brazil?

    Of course at this point there is probably only the one base in Europe so it would have been a few hours before a response.

  11. TehShrike says:

    You know what was fantastic about it? The music. I don’t recognize it, but it was very effective at building through the whole clip.

  12. Nathan says:

    The music, or at least some of it, was ripped from the soundtrack to the zombie-flick 28 Days Later. Some of the better sci-fi horror music of the last couple of decades.

  13. SiliconScout says:


    I am thinking it’s not poor design (nor do they have replicators). Their mission was to make it to the center of the city and detonate themselves taking the city with them (presumably). They just need enough firepower to start the panic (which any earth security forces would have diffulty getting through to engage them) and take out any potential obstacles.

    I mean if I were designing something of the sort I wouldn’t invest any expensive or complicated parts to go into what is essentially a walking bomb. So missles make perfect sense in that regard. The fighters in the sky can provide close air support in the inlikely event that ground forces are actually delaying the walking giant robots.

    That comment asside, that was some pretty good work. Easily on par with Hollywood effects of 2-3 years ago at a very small fraction of the price. They man certainly has skill, it will be interesting to see what he can do with hollywood money behind him. Now that said, robots and fighters and exploding buildings are relatively easy to manage today. It’s characters with mouths, facial expressions, skin textures and clothing that gets tricky (and expensive) in a hurry as it is so time consuming to get it right and so much more obvious when you don’t.

  14. jokermatt999 says:

    The music is from the 28 Days Later soundtrack, by John Murphy. Specifically, it’s “In the House, In a Heartbeat”.

    It is the entire reason I got that soundtrack, although the opening with Godspeed You! Black Emperor was also awesome.

  15. TSED says:

    I was impressed, but the choppiness of the robots bothered me.

    Mneh. That’s something you can look back on and be proud of, no matter what. Good on them for having a hobby.

  16. Lonestar says:

    What seperates the pros and amateurs is that the pros ask for millions of dollars and gets it.

  17. nerdpride says:


    Better than the Transformers movies.

  18. Josh says:

    $500.000 more like it.

  19. RustyBadger says:

    I heard it was $300. Maybe $500AUD? Anyhow and either way, an amazing product.

    And seriously, are we having a discussion about munition capacities of Giant Freaking Robots? LULZ.

  20. Galenloke says:

    It’s nice to know that people are so much more prepared for alien invasions and zombie apocalypses. As one person said, they could tell the robots were about to open fire. That’s a big step up from what we had maybe 20 years ago. If something is going to attack the Earth soon they’d better do it quick before the mass of gamers gains power in government. If world leaders were replaced by random people on this blog we’d never have to worry about being caught off-guard by this sort of thing. I’ll start the internet petition right away.

  21. Urggzob says:

    So Shamus found this excellent movie, made three minutes long on a shoestring budget and yet excelling both Transformers movies easily, and decided to share it with us.
    What reaction did it get?
    ‘Those swings ruined it for me. It felt too fake.’
    ‘The design of those rocket launchers is really inefficient.’
    ‘The robots are too choppy.’
    I mean seriously you guys it’s an indie giant robot film what more do you want.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The robots were a bit choppy,but other than that I like it a lot.Camera is great(a bit wavy and snowy for that “real footage” experience,but not to much to lose any of the experience),robots are nicely designed(except for a bit of choppiness in the walk),the action builds up quite nicely.Its an excellent piece of work,far better than many top budget movies these days.With proper equipment and some more experience,this guy can become one of the best film makers of all times.

  23. UtopiaV1 says:

    @nerdpride – totally agree with you. Hopefully now micheal bay will crawl into a hole and die.

    @Urggzob – i agree with you too, why are people picking apart the tiniest holes in this mini-film? These details are -not- important, what is important is that someone made something with looks extremely well made and A-grade standard with a fraction of the budget that hollywood uses for most of it’s mediocre films.

  24. Tesh says:

    Ah, for a meritocracy.

    What software and hardware were involved?

    I do have to laugh, though. We were explicitly told to avoid giant robots, spaceships and explosions when I was getting my degree in computer animation from BYU, precisely because they are relatively cheap and easy. Great human and soft surface construction and animation is far more impressive within the industry. That’s why we went for furry little creatures (fur is tough to get right) and crowd control (thousands of characters) when we made our class project, Lemmings.

    Pixar liked us anyway. Sam Raimi or Michael Bay have somewhat… different tastes.

  25. Sean Riley says:

    Good use of CGI. I particularly liked the way the robots’ footsteps left cracks and dust on the ground as they stepped about.

    He’s also got a decent director’s touch. I love some of the shots.

    That said, and even knowing this was closer to a tech-reel than a proper short film, I was bored witless by it. Even in short films, some sense of plot movement can be done, and this piece doesn’t do that. In a way, the idea of all this tech being available to everyone scares me. Will even indie film abandon the small scale in favor of Bruckheimer and Bay level explosions?

  26. BlackBloc says:

    Look at it this way: the second that indie studio can make stupid action flicks with nothing but explosions on a shoestring budget is the second that Hollywood figures ‘why pay hundreds of millions to do them?’ and start doing something else with that budget.

  27. ngthagg says:

    What blows me away about this movie isn’t anything about the movie, it’s that Hollywood movies still cost so much. Where does that money go?

  28. Tuck says:

    Reminds me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

    Not just the content, either: Sky Captain originally started as a short film made entirely by one guy. He then got the funding and support to make it into a feature film (and what a smashing film it is!).

  29. Ermel says:

    It didn't look like they had much room for reloads in their arms. 3, 4 vollies tops. Poor design unless they have replicators for reloading.

    No worse than a modern fighter plane, actually. “Eagle One: Fox Two!”

    Incidentally, that’s one of the bits in Independence Day that really bugged me: doesn’t the US Air Force, or whoever, have, y’know, bombers or such? Planes that you can load with tons and tons of stuff that goes boom, and drop it on top of an alien spaceship, just like you did decades ago with Berlin and Dresden?

    re Tuck: I second that about Sky Captain. Good to see something like that can happen in Hollywood. I adored the shots of the Zeppelin dock on top of the Empire State Building, even though it’s impossible with all the wind up there — it just feels right, and looks gorgeous.

  30. GTb says:

    Looks to me like “syfy” has some ‘splainin to do. Because I know they’re spending more than that on special effects, and it usually sucks.

  31. Daktylo says:

    Back in high school one of my buddies started to film movies (basically a bunch of us running around town spouting out nonsense dialogue interspersed with action sequences). Two types of filming we did was “Federal” (i.e., FBI, cops and robbers stuff) and “Sci” (i.e. Sci-fi). He kept doing it and got better and better. The only thing hindering our “Sci” films was the CGI special effects that back then were unimaginably expensive. Now with technology becoming more reasonably priced, I bet he could crank out films that would put most budgeted films to shame.

  32. Deguar says:

    No Shaky Cam?
    No Lens Flare?
    In Focus Shots?

    Sheesh what an amateur ;) will never make it in Hollywood.

    It looked to me as though the arms for the robots had space for at least one reload so that would be 16 per robot and the missiles looked similar to those on gunship style helicopters. At the end the robots make the fortress dome thing, so their job isn’t necessarily “destroy everything in site” more “make a hole, hunker down (presumably become command centre)”

    I suspect the swings were a homage to Terminator 2 and I can forgive them swinging too wildly even though since they are the infant swings with the bar across, it would be hard to exit them quickly because the maker actually had some physics in there. The robots left actual dents in the asphalt and heavy weight into water splashing.

    Oh yay…first ever comment after lurking for umm too many years

  33. Kazeite says:


    I actually found and watched this movie today on different site. Apparently, great minds find great films at the same time :D

    The only thing I don’t quite understand about this movie is this… “fortress dome” thingy those robots transformed into. I have nothing against “giant robots blow up, everyone dies” ending, but… what was it? It kinda seemed… abrupt.

    (and yeah, I heard 300$ as well)

  34. Daemian Lucifer says:


    “What blows me away about this movie isn't anything about the movie, it's that Hollywood movies still cost so much. Where does that money go?”


  35. Funny someone mentioned Raimi earlier, as I seem to recall that it is he that actually nailed the contract that this guy just signed for a 6 or 7 numbered figure, will be interesting to see what the result is. (any movie will not be based on this clip though)

    By the way, what we see in the clip is actually a very old but extreme military tactic. I also guess it was all droids.
    The mission is what the title is actually. To strike fear and panic, a show/example of force. I’m sure the demands of whatever overlord it is will follow shortly. It’s basically a terror tactic. Tear the city up, have the fear spread (news/media coverage) then boom, replace the city with a hole in the ground.

  36. Maldeus says:

    @19: Not only are the robots missile pods immediately obvious when they open, but their positioning tipped me off that they were weapons from the start, and the fighters were obviously fighters due to their design and their obvious alignment with obviously military robots. If gamer nerds had been in charge of that defense force, they never would’ve gotten close to the center of that city.

  37. Mistwraithe says:

    LOL at Galenloke (19).

    Cracked me up.

  38. Samopsa says:

    Pretty cool, but lacks a realistic feel.
    This movie, made with a similar budget by 2 guys, is way more awesome in my eyes:

  39. brenatevi says:

    Any problems with this movie could have been fixed with a good editor. People never realize how important the editorial process really is, because even the most talented director shoots a lot more footage than they really need, and then string it together to make the movie. Good editors = good movies.

  40. I’m a director & director of photography (DP)

    Crew costs money. Lots of money.

    Cast and directorial cost lots and lots and lots of money. A single star actor or director might earn more than an entire crew.

    When you see things like this that “claim” to cost just $500 (or $300 depending on who you read) they are discounting all labor. If you paid everyone involved according to federal minimum wage laws the budgets would balloon.

    Of course these are not minimum wage jobs. Most of them are union crafts. The main point of most unions is to protect crews from being worked to death, which is the natural tendency of any producer. I’ve been on non-union shoots where the crew was asked to work 24 hour days several days in a row. (they ‘revolted’ and good for them.)

    Minimum crew for a 35mm camera (or a RED or the like) runs $2000 per day at union minimum wages. (That’s a DP/Operator and a first assistant) Then even for a very small film you need a sound recorder, and a couple of lighting people.

    I usually keep a camer crew of three, I’ll DP/Operate, then I have a 1st assistant (to pull focus- i.e. to keep the lens focused on the correct subject as the camera and subject move- something most autofocus systems are incapable of.) and a 2nd assistant. On paper the 2nd reloads the camera, helps the 1st move the camera and does the slate and camera logs. (In reality the 1st and 2nd split the work however suits them.)

    Then there is the director, the first assistant director- who is essential for a multiday shoot or really anything with a critical schedule. If there is a script (which neither of the films linked here have) a script supervisor a dialog coach. There is a 2nd Assistant director who handles background actors…. it goes on and on if you’ve ever watched the credits for a film you know what I mean.

    I assure you they aren’t hiring people “just because” all of them have jobs that are fairly essential.

    Also, remember the rates I quoted above are the union minimum wages. If you start hiring the best available crew you can spend a lot more.

    Of course its all small potatoes compared to the salaries of celebrity actors, directors and producers.

    Then there is the gear. The stuff you need to make an impressive picture on YouTube is far different than what you need to hold an audiences attention on a theater screen for 2 hours plus – or even to hold their attention on the LCD in your living room. Of course the most expensive camera gear is a tiny fraction of a big budget film. A RED camera with accessories and Cooke S5i or ARRI Master Prime lenses and a couple of zooms will run about a quarter million USD to purchase. It costs about $1500-2000 per day to rent such cameras, so they are usually rented.

    Lighting gear is expensive too. I won’t get into details there, but for a week long independent SF film I just shot we spent about $4500 on rented lighting gear. That’s about 14 lights, stands and a pile of grip gear. Included there is a dolly and track, plus delivery & pickup. That’s an incredibly small package. It wasn’t quite enough for my picture and it would be entirely, jokingly inadequate for a serious feature.

    Another project I recently shot, with an entirely volunteer crew, was budgeted near $30,000 for about 35 pages of shooting principally on a starship command center. That cost was entirely for rental of gear and warehouse space, and materials for set construction. We shot for about 6 days.

    Have a look at http://www.starshippolaris.com

    My rough guess at a crew&directorial cost, if we had paid the various union minimum wages, for the entire week would be about $60,000, cast would run another $30,000. The show is about half shot out, we have a green screen and two location shoots coming up.

    Movie making is Expen$ive

  41. Bryan says:

    Yeah, yeah, they got the water moving correctly in the shot near the middle of the video. But in the first shot — where the kid feels the ground shake and starts looking around — they didn’t: it was totally flat. Earthquakes (or at least, large ground vibrations) don’t leave large bodies of water flat. :-)

    Why yes, I am going to nitpick this. At least a bit. :-P

    Also, it appears the robots were smart, sort of — they sent a bit of redundancy into the city. At least one was destroyed (or if not destroyed, at least on fire and with parts falling off…), so if the other four were enough to hunker down and make a Really Big Bomb go off, that fifth one must have been unneeded. Huh.

    (Yes, yes, the plot made four sufficient, I know. :-) )

  42. Nick says:

    I can see them using Blender or some other OSS 3D package, but I’m not aware of any decent OSS video editing package and the commercial ones are all way more that $500, unless they used PP Elements. Hmmm, maybe I should go read the “how we did it” thread.

    Edit: It was only the live action shots that cost US$300, so does not include the cost of all the software, which was: “Premiere, After, Photoshop, 3dMax, Boujou, Glu3d and FumeFx” so it is at least another $5000 for software.

    @AlexanderIbrahim, thanks for the insight into film making, I always find this stuff interesting.

  43. Thirith says:

    Those who make points along the lines of “It’s a small indie movie, it’s pretty damn good, and you nitpick about the swings?”: I’ve always thought that as long as criticism is constructive, it’s one of the highest forms of respect you can pay any artist or craftsman. There’s something patronising about saying, “It’s just amateurs doing this, so criticism is misplaced.” That sort of thing strikes me as a somewhat nicer version of patting someone on the head and going “Good job, lad!”

    If you take someone’s work seriously, you express what you like as much as what you don’t like, as this will help them hone their talent.

  44. Gavin says:

    Another point to pick on: why are the alien robots so humanoid?

  45. BCR says:

    Go to youtube, follow the more info links… You find:

    “It took U$s300 to shoot the live action, and then maybe a year to complete the 90 vfx shots (during very interrupted periods…)

    I used Premiere, After, Photoshop, 3dMax, Boujou, Glu3d and FumeFx.

    The modeling, mapping and rigging of the Robots, fighters and planes was made by Mauro Rondan. (mauro@aparato.tv)

    So. How much does that software add up to? Plus the hardware to run it on? Even without wages for the hours of labour… it’s not cheap.

    So – with professional software and a lot of spare time, you too can produce a few minutes of something that isn’t utterly appalling. I bet everyone who spent time and money creating Avatar is just quaking in their boots at this industry toppling achievement…

  46. Danimal says:

    “We are rapidly approaching the point where the only thing that separates the pros from the amateurs is skill and effort.”

    Alas, I’m much better at buying hardware and software than I am at skill or talent.

  47. […] the post on Panic Attack!, filmmaker Alexander Ibrahim posted a rather educational comment on just how much it costs to put something on film. I’m reprinting the entire comment, […]

  48. Azzy says:

    Am I the only one that sees a reference to the famous Steps of Odessa scene from Battleship Potemkin at 2:10? I may be seeing to much into it since it has become a trope/cliché in action movies lately, but I like to see this as a wink to Eisenstein.

  49. scragar says:

    @Urggzob (21):

    “OMG, that is so awesome anything slightly less than awesome stands out from it like a piggy bank in Fort Knox, sure a piggy bank itself is nice, but you’re comparing it to gold.”

    I raised the issue of the swings breaking immersion because other than that there was nothing I could say other than “W0W”, except maybe “That’s so cool”, neither of which are exactly the most comment worthy statements.

  50. Gndwyn says:

    I want to see the part of the film where the rest of the world is watching this on the news and going, “WTF? Montevideo? Aliens arrive and they land in Montevideo?”

    Of course then comes the, “Submit now or what happened in this randomly chosen city will happen everywhere” message.

  51. rjp says:

    Azzy@50, no, not just you, I thought “Potemkin!” when I saw that too.

  52. Sure, it looks nice. And that’s about it.

  53. Helena says:

    i get Panic Attacks when i am in a huge crowd of people or in front of lots of strangers. it is difficult to control panic attacks and i would usually have a shortness of breath when it happens.

  54. Dreadjaws says:

    I live in Uruguay, the country this short was made. For a while, inmediately after it was released, the theaters started showing the video before the trailers of EVERY SINGLE MOVIE. And when I say for a while, I mean for like two months or so.

    I grew tired of the damn thing almost inmediately. But I still think it’s a nice job. I wouldn’t have the patience to do something like that, so I don’t fell like critizicing the short itself. What I criticize is the overexposure it was subjected to.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Panic Attack; repost « Xian: on Saturday Dec 19, 2009 at 10:13 am

    […] Attack; repost By jx1992n Link to Shamus Young’s post about this amazing video, and special effects. Which are mind-blowing, […]

  2. By Twenty Sided » Blog Archive » Let’s Make a Movie! on Monday Dec 21, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    […] the post on Panic Attack!, filmmaker Alexander Ibrahim posted a rather educational comment on just how much it costs to put something on film. I’m reprinting the entire comment, […]

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