Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh

Making of


Filming was done from February through September 1996. Lorelei Shannon opted to use real locations or sets, rather than blue screen filming for Puzzle of Flesh. The only location for which blue screen was used, is Dimension X and this was filmed after all other filming on location was completed. The last filming on location was the Dreaming Tree restaurant which was completed near the end of July. Although the game map represents the area of Bellevue, Washington, where Sierra Online had its headquarters, the actual film locations are all outside the area. They are as follows:

Game location Actual location
Mental hospital, outside the building: Pacific Medical Center on Beacon Hill in Seattle
Mental hospital, game intro: Madigan Army Hospital in Tacoma
Mental hospital, chapter 3 sequence: A set, built in Butler Video Studios in Bellevue
Wyntech, outside the building: ZymoGenetics, in Seattle, Washington, in the historic Steam Plant building on Lake Union
Wyntech, upper level A set, built in Butler Video Studios in Bellevue
Wyntech, computer room A set, built in Butler Video Studios in Bellevue
Wyntech, lower corridor Basement of Pacific Medical Center
Dr. Harburg's office A set, built in Butler Video Studios in Bellevue

All the scenes were shot on Digital Betacam.

Removed scenes


As the shooting was going on, the editor, Wes Plate, received copies of the tapes (the master tapes were kept aside for protection) and a book of "logs". These logs noted everything that was shot, along with notes for which take was the "keeper" - the one the director deemed the best. Wes digitized the keeper shots into his computer system. The video was digitized using AVR8s, a compression setting that captures one field per frame at a rate around 180 Kb per frame. NTSC video is made up of 30 frames per second, but each frame consists of two fields, of which only one was kept, removing potential problems with the interlacing.

Once digitized, he was able to access the video to make edit decisions and assemble these takes into a movie. He decided which frame to start and end on, with the goal to keep those movies as short as possible, due to disk space issues. He also cut the explicit scenes in various ways in order to release the game as different versions worldwide. The European release of the game for example does not have the complete sex scene with Jocilyn, the pierced hand and stapled mouth of Bob, and other explicit scenes. As Wes edited each movie, he received feedback from director Andy Hoyos, who sometimes had him change a sequence. Puzzle of Flesh was edited using Avid's Media Composer 8000 (which is why Wes is credited as "Avid editor") which at the time was a superior editing device, but was only available on the Apple Macintosh platform. The particular version they 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 Avid Broadcast Video Board (ABVB), which is a modified Targa2000.

Wes also used Adobe After Affects, another Mac-based program, which is professional motion graphics/post-production software. After Effects was used for effects such as Curtis' lightning eyes and to correct some glitches. For example, when Trevor showed his card key to Curtis (just before his death scene in chapter 5), he showed the blank flip-side of the card, so Wes placed an image on it, using After Effects. He also placed an image on Paul Warner's computer monitor as it was illogically switched off during the scenes where Curtis opens Warner's desk drawer.

Wes then sent the finished video sequences in documented batches to the sound designer at Clatter & Din Studios, Randy Yount, so he could finish the audio. After Randy was finished with a sequence, he then returned the finished audio to Wes, who edited it back into the video. Sometimes video sequences had to be changed a little to accommodate the needs of the sound effects designers (music scores were written and added after each movie was completed). Finally Wes exported the movie as a QuickTime movie at 720x486 at 30 frames per second.

Cropping and compression

The Quicktime movies by the editor were not yet the last step. These movies were sent to another computer where it was cropped to 320x168 at 15 frames per second and saved with no compression. Ken Smith compressed all the uncompressed cropped Quicktime movies. These were converted to AVI format (in order to put it under a Windows environment), and then Ken used Adobe Premiere 4.0 (digital non-linear video editing software) and the Duck TrueMotion (digital video) compressor to compress the movies under Windows. The duk files are the final videos which are on the game's CD-ROMs.

Programming - System development

On the level of programming, Phantasmagoria 2 was tough as Sierra's SCI engine was being rewritten from almost scratch by the system developers in Oakhurst while the programmers in Bellevue were programming the game. Every few weeks the programmers would get an update from the system developers which sometimes required changes in the coding. The reason why SCI was being rewritten was because it did not support the Duck movie player.

When playing Phantasmagoria 2 under Windows, the Duck movies feature 16-bit colors, even though SCI only supports 8-bit colors. What basically happens is that, during the interactive parts, SCI is running. This is why the interactive parts are in 8-bit color, both under DOS and Windows. However the moment the player activates a Duck movie scene, SCI gets essentially shut down and the Duck video player is placed on the game screen. The only action the player can do, is to click the mouse and skip the scene, reactivating the SCI engine. Sierra was considering rewriting SCI in order to support 16-bit colors, but it would have taken too long. Also, while it is possible to play Puzzle of Flesh under DOS, the Duck movies were not meant to play under 8-bit DOS. The programmers got around that by applying CLU files, or Color Look Up files. These are palette files for 8-bit playback. Each Duck file has an equally numbered CLU-file, converting the Duck movie to 8-bit colors.