In Part 1, I
discussed the making of the original feature Law of the Ninja.
This post will describe the process of how the Special Edition
version came about.
Sometime in 2000, I had received an e-mail
out of the blue from composer Andrew Petterson. He had stumbled
upon a web page I built with photos from “Ninja”.
He told me that he had also moved to the L.A. area and was looking
to get back into the composing game. My then girlfriend Pamela
& I met him for lunch in Santa Monica. That meeting inspired
him to go back to his old soundtrack and re-do it.
He had lost the original tracks from 1987
so he basically had to recompose the music from memory. Because
we were now in the 21st Century, his updated computer equipment
and samplers allowed him to make vast improvements to the score.
A few years later, 2006 to be exact, I got another message from
Andrew saying that he remastered the score and used it on a demo
that got him a scholarship at UCLA to get his degree in film composing—a
long time dream for him. I was very happy for him, and glad that
he was able to profit off our collaboration. I listened to his
new score—it was amazing. It sounded more orchestral than
the original, and beautiful. It gave me an inspiration. Why not
dig up the original footage from the shoot and digitally re-master
the entire film to match what I originally wanted?
That holiday I went down to San Diego and
found the original VHS tapes we shot on. Since I had lots of experience
doing Pamela’s and my acting demo reels on the computer,
it was a simple solution of using my capture hardware to get the
footage on the hard drive. From there, I re-edited the entire
picture, adding some scenes that didn’t exist, as well as
using digital matte paintings to show establishing shots of the
Kobra Dai Dojo, Sensei Porter’s house, etc. Furthermore,
I was able to add digital spurts of blood from the fight scenes
and other VFX.
When I told Drew what I was doing, he volunteered
to remaster the ENTIRE soundtrack; basically re-scoring the film.
While he was working on this, I continued with Post Production
and sound design. Because the film was shot without any thought
to clean audio, I had to rebuild the sounds of Hawaii from scratch.
Birds, wind, the waves lapping on the distant shores of Ford Island—these
were all built from a sound library I began acquiring. I also
sampled the more familiar action sound effects as well. Using
the technique Ben Burtt used in Star Wars, I layered many of the
sound effects. For example, some of the kicking sound effects
have a bullwhip layered into it, which gives the foot a nice CRACK!
sound. Because computer editing software has multi-layered video
and audio tracks, you can better control each element. The result
is a much more professional looking film.
As I’ve mentioned in the director’s
commentary (on the DVD), it’s still kids fighting with broomstick
swords—it just looks 100% better. You’ll get a chance
to see what I’m talking about when it’s released for
download online later this summer. This is our first title for
Four Scorpio Productions, and we intend to use the revenue generated
to finance our next feature film, the martial arts comedy Cyber
Fighter. Stay tuned to Four Scorpio Productions and this blog
for more updates!