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Wes Plate Interview

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[Wes the cop]

The following interview has mostly been adapted from email correspondence held between myself and Phantasmagoria 2 editor Wes Plate from December 1996 to June 1997. In July 1997, Andy Bellatti asked Wes a few questions of his own.

Anthony: Please explain the significance and origin of the picture at the top of this page. It is clearly a Phantasmagoria 2 screenshot (from Bob's murder crime scene at the beginning of chapter two) but it looks better than anything seen in the game.

Wes: The reason it looks better than in the game is that this is a frame from a DUK movie before compression. Also, this picture is under half size - the original frame size was 720x486 pixels [which is the standard NTSC image resolution]. I have some of my favourite movies on CD (in a much higher quality than the DUK movies of course) for my own use in looking for work. The cop carrying the flashlight is me.

[Phantasmagoria 2 production crew]

Anthony: Where are you in the Phantasmagoria 2 production team's picture that may be seen on the wall of Curtis's apartment, in the game's manual, on page 5 of the strategy guide, and above?

Wes: I am on the far left, hands crossed in front.

[Sierra building]
Sierra's building - in top left corner behind photo location information

Anthony: Where was that photograph taken?

Wes: On the front steps of the Sierra building in Bellevue, Washington [state, USA]. If you check out this URL: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/regions/northwest/NWFLOW/camera/pictures/cctv905.jpg, you will see a live picture from a Washington State Department of Transportation camera located near that very same Sierra building. Sometimes, when the camera is pointed just the right way, you can actually see the building. Sierra shares the building with a real estate company and an insurance company. There may be other offices there as well, but I know of these only. The name of the complex Sierra is located in is the "Lincoln Executive Center".

Further information on Sierra's building

Anthony: What are your opinions of the first game in the Phantasmagoria series?

Wes: When I started on the Phantasmagoria 2 project in March 1996, I had never seen the first Phantasmagoria. When I tried it, it was actually the first cd-rom game I had ever played. I was severely disappointed. I still have very little good to say about the first game, and while there are certainly issues with Phantasmagoria 2, I think technologically and dramatically it blows Phantasmagoria 1 away.

Anthony: In the Phantasmagoria 2 [PH2] credits, you are listed as an AVID Editor. What exactly is AVID?

Wes: Avid is a company in Tewksbury, Massachusetts [in the USA] called Avid Technology. They are the industry leader in digital [computer/disk-based] non-linear video editing. You can visit their Web site at http://www.avid.com. Basically, I am just an editor, but I specialise in editing using this particular system.

PH2 was edited using Avid's [top-of-the-line] Media Composer 8000. The particular version we rented used Media Composer version 6.01 running on a Macintosh Quadra 950 with a Daystar PowerPC upgrade card. This version of the Media Composer uses the ABVB, the Avid Broadcast Video Board, which is a modified Targa2000. The video was digitised using AVR8s, a compression setting that captures one field per frame at a rate around 180 Kb per frame.

Anthony: What do you mean by the term "field"?

Wes: NTSC video is made up of 30 frames per second, but each frame is actually two fields, or half a frame. The first field (I believe) is the odd numbered horizontal scan lines, then the next field fills in with the even numbered scan lines (i.e: 1,3,5,7... 2,4,6,8...) - so there ends up being 60 fields per second. PAL/SECAM is comprised of 25 frames per second, 50 fields per second. This "interlacing" is necessary for television, but gets in the way of computer displays because computers display their screens progressively like: 1,2,3,4... As a result, we captured only the first field, and this removed any chance of problems that interlacing could have caused.

Anthony: Where were you based during your employment by Sierra?

Wes: I was inside Sierra's Bellevue headquarters, surrounded by programmers.

Anthony and Andy: How do you summarise your role in the Phantasmagoria 2 production process?

Wes: Shooting would commence on set or on location. I would then receive copies of the shoot tapes, and a book of "logs". These logs note everything shot, with notes for which take was the "keeper" - the one the Director deemed the best. I digitised the keeper shots into my computer system, then assembled these takes into a movie. Some were easy like Curtis walking from the Bedroom to the Living Room. Not much to do there, except that I decided which frame we started on and which frame we ended on. The goal was to keep those movies as short as possible. That was a disk space issue. I made all the movies this way. As I edited each movie, I received feedback from director Andy Hoyos. Andy sometimes had me change a sequence, but designer Lorelei Shannon was typically not involved with the editing process. When she did come by to see the video, she usually loved what she saw.

Beyond that, I also sent the finished video sequences in carefully documented batches to the Sound Designer [Randy Yount] so he could finish the audio. After he was finished with a sequence, he would return the finished audio to me, and I would edit it back into the video, and export the movie as a QuickTime movie. That movie was then sent to another computer where it was cropped to 320x168 at 15 frames per second. That computer then converted the movie to an AVI, then that AVI was compressed.

Anthony: How was the videotape shot for Phantasmagoria 2 converted to digital format?

Wes: All the scenes were shot on Digital Betacam, after which these "shoot master" tapes were "cloned", or digitally copied. I received these copies to work with, to protect the original master tapes. I would then view these tapes on a playback machine that was controlled by the Avid editing software. Logs were kept on the set of the takes that were considered "keepers", and I would find these takes on the tapes. After finding these takes, I