Labor Day began as a concept by a friend at school. He had this neat idea of a parody sequel to Independence Day which involved a lonely janitor having to clean up the big mess at the end of the film.

After discussing it with him, and working on some changes, we decided it would be best to make it a parody trailer - make fun of the original Independence Day trailer; place the locations at CMU; and make the tag line: "Labor Day: The Day We Clean Up".

It seemed to make sense. I was taking a Video Production course in the Art Department at the time (Fall, 1996), and since we were dealing with non-linear editing, it seemed the perfect test-case had fallen into my lap. So wrote up a quick proposal, submitted it, got it approved, and began to storyboard the film.

Once the film was storyboarded, it was a simple matter to go out and film (on 8mm video) the footage I would need. Unfortunately, that was the easy part. I then digitized all the footage into my personal computer using my MiroVideo DC20 capture card. I then had the task of adding computer generated shadows, titles, spaceships, and (of course) an all-consuming wall of flame. In addition to that, I created at PAT Bus, a mule (the little red carts the groundskeepers ride in) and a satellite dish - as well as a few digital matte paintings.

When it was done, it accidentally (through an error of mine) was released onto the CMU network. It spread like wildfire, and soon I realized I had a bonafide hit on my hands. Which was unfortunate, because I didn't want anyone to see it until the Student Film Festival in April, 1997. So I decided (as a way to make the quicktime everyone had on campus obselete) to work on the film again over Winter Break and fix a few things I didn't like. I changed some of the music to more accurately mimic the original trailer, and I also fixed some visual effects.

This "new" version is the version I released to the public at the Student Film Festival, and I was pleased that the film was voted Most Popular Film of the Festival.

In December 1998, I finally got in touch with Dean Devlin, and he thoroughly enjoyed Labor Day. In a move which felt like deja vu, he informed me that he was going to "pass it around the office".


As part of my "Ultimate Student Film" project, I revisited Labor Day in July 1999. Utilizing the new techniques I had accumulated over the past 2.5 years since I created Labor Day, I think I could improve upon this film and create something that would allow me to show my skills in the process. Every visual effect was redone - from the shadows crossing the campus, the the final explosions of the ship crashing. But there are some shots which deserve a closer look.

The first of these shots is the Cathedral Explosion.

Raw Footage Original 1996 Version 1999 Special Edition
As you can see, the differences are clear. The older version had the entire building "shatter" into obvious particles and the flame looked rather tame. In this new version, not only does the flame look better, but the explosion breaks the building up into actual fragments - all appropriately animated. The addition of a camera shake adds some realism to the sequence as well.

Following that shot is the new Warner Hall Explosion.

Raw Footage Original 1996 Version 1999 Special Edition
The biggest problem in the original version of the film was that there was no easy way to put the trees in front of the explosion (as they would be in reality). This problem has been solved through the use of After Effects, and using 3D Studio Max's Camera Mapping and Tracking abilities, I was able to create a more accurate virtual camera so that the flame going over the building is much more realistic. Once again, the addition of a camera shake helps sell the shot.

After that is the most complex shot of the Special Edition - the University Center Explosion.

Raw Footage Original 1996 Version 1999 Special Edition
The same problem with the trees existed in this shot, so the same solution was implemented for the Special Edition. However, the fact that people were casually walking along the path as if nothing was happening has always been an issue for me. So I digitally removed them from the path, and using Poser 4, created 4 digital stunt doubles - who run like hell away from the oncoming inferno. Sadly one of them gets beaned by a car. The addition of digital tree limbs and a camera shake helps add to the realism of the shot.

The shot of Wean Hall, which was a simple background plate with some digital augmentation to appear damaged, required a totally new approach. I would camera-map that shot onto some real 3D geometry and create a new camera move as the satellite dish calibrates it's angle.

Raw Footage Original 1996 Version 1999 Special Edition
There was a new camera move in the first satellite shot, and in this second shot, we can see that the original 1996 version was rather static - merely a dish shooting a "laser" into the sky. Now there is a 3D camera move with a particle beam emitting from the dish, along with the inclusion of a lens flare.

So, the film has been remastered from 8mm Video to Digital Video (on miniDV tape), re-edited, re-rendered, re-composited, and re-compiled.