REMASTERING LAW OF THE NINJA PART 2- by William Joseph Hill

 

 

 

 

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!