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Outside Aperture Answers Portal's Biggest Question

| 31 May 2011 07:40

Outside Aperture, a gorgeous new Portal fan film, gives viewers an amazing look at what happens to Chell after the game ends.

If you've played Portal and Portal 2, the games leave players with a lot more questions than answers about the world they're set in, particularly what happens to Chell, the series's protagonist (well, Portal 2 sort of answers that question, but only at the start of the game, the end is still pretty open). A new fan film, Outside Aperture provides one fan's version of what awaits Chell after she regains a life free from Aperture and GLadOS's sadistic testing. As you can see for yourself, the film is simply stunning.

I'd rather not talk about the film's plot, as it'd just spoil things for you. But I will say this: Outside Aperture captures the feel of the Portal games beautifully. There are some incredibly tense moments that happen to be balance the bits where the movie is also oddly funny and, in the end, a little heartwarming, too.

The film is an ambitious fan project that stars Nicole Leigh that was created by Eisen Feuer, an amateur filmmaker who lives in Arizona. Eisen took some time to answer a few questions about his that began quite a while back:

"Outside Aperture was originally pitched to me by Co-director Jesse Lopez, coming up on about three years ago," he explained. "I loved the idea, but had no idea what it would eventually entail.

"It was originally slated to be like any of the other Portal videos out there, with gimmicks being at the center of the action being that Portal physics are a fun thing to bring in to real life the same way that we're still happy to watch the 800th iteration of rotoscoped lightsaber fights. I originally started by buying a new camera and creating the Portal Gun, an endeavor that took so long, going to school full time, etc, that I have almost forgotten how I began making it."

The Portal Gun is certainly an impressive prop, and the entire thing is fully functional (including claw actuation, recoil and lights). What's even more impressive is what Eisen used to create it.

"I don't have access to plastic shaping and I have no (successful) experience with fiberglass, so Steel and Bondo it was," he said; all in all, the prop weighs 25 pounds. According to Eisen, the prop's construction was a part-time project that lasted from September 2008 until March 4, 2011.

For a movie that looks this professional, it had a surprisingly small crew. Only four people, including Eisen, were on the set the entire time. That said, "others came and went as we needed them, there was a lot to bring from the cars into the apartments."

Also impressive is the fact that the film was made for under $1,500. On top of that, the principal filming was accomplished in only two days. Visual (not Special) effects, the soundtrack, sound dubbing, and editing in turn, took up the lion's share of work. According to Eisen, "waiting for renders over and over again, as well as making small tweaks, dominated the next two months."

As for the feel of the film, Eisen gave that a lot of thought before he began filming:

"Rather than being centered around gimmicks, Outside Aperture became more story-centric, it began with a wrap-up of the events of Portal 1, and showing a little bit of the dark reality that Chell was in fact a prisoner forced into performing potentially deadly tasks, and probably didn't come out of that experience with sanity fully intact. The voice of GLaDOS summons a very real manic response in the beginning, even though it's a simple PSA for the Aperture campus recorded years ago before GLaDOS ever became self-aware."

For Eisen, making a movie based on Portal was a dream project:

"Portal was one of those games that stimulated every part of your brain," he said. "It was challenging and it was funny. 90 percent of games try too hard in either department and fail miserably. It wasn't epic, it was intimate.

"Outside Aperture kind of looks at the flipside, it shows the harsh reality that Chell faced. It probably didn't start with a craving for cake, but with the right amount of insanity it could have ended that way."

Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven't played Portal 2:

However, in spite movie's intimate mood, there was an epic moment that was originally planned. Eisen revealed that, "we originally had the idea of portalling the moon slated for Outside Aperture. When we saw that while playing Portal 2 we freaked.

"The scene was she is eating her cake outside under the moon and kind of shoots it out of a 'this will never happen' mood. In Portal, portals took time to travel, so we'd have a space shot with the beam traveling to the moon and eventually opening up a portal next to her, wind effects and all. The Gun would almost be lost to space: it would slide by and she'd have nabbed it to turn off the portals."

At the moment, Eisen has yet to announce another project. If Valve's smart, they'll consider bringing him onto their team. If Eisen could make so much with so little, imagine what he could do with Valve's resources.

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