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The Clone Wars: Refocused - A complete series edit. [SEASON THREE COMPLETE!] — Page 29

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I am curious how the series opener will turn out, using the Microseries. I know I’ll introduce Asajj Ventress, as well as the previous failure Sidious alludes to in episode 1. I think it’ll really help situate the viewer after AOTC and segue nicely into the main series. Will it introduce Grievous? He’s referenced in the episode where Anakin is knighted, which will be a must-include. I suppose he could be merely mentioned without seeing his initial appearance in which he acts uncharacteristically badass. Perhaps he can be seen training with Dooku, idk.

Until now I thought the plan was to bookend the series with the latter part of the Microseries to lead directly into ROTS. But it seems maybe not, and I understand from what I hear that it does not jive well with how TCW ended up doing things. However, it already conflicted with (the book) Labyrinth of Evil, but a recent fan project from this forum tweaked that to fit in well. So the Microseries will serve as a stylized series prologue episode. I can dig it.

Well done. I will disengage self-destruct initiative.

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I’ll reply in full later, but a question for you Hal with your first time viewer hat on- do you feel like Malevolence should have come before Cloak? And do you feel like Malevolence makes Cloak unnecessary?

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Hmm, I honestly don’t see a great deal of connection between the two stories or any reason why one would necessarily need to be told before the other.

Well done. I will disengage self-destruct initiative.

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Despite Ahsoka’s major role in TCW, there’s not really many points in RotS where she would necessarily be mentioned naturally. Most of the film happens in a very short period of time and Ahsoka has already left the order for several months by the time the film happens and Obi-Wan and Anakin have probably got over the stage of talking about her all the time.
There’s really only two places I could think she’d fit in the film and the first was added in NFBisms’ New Canon Cut (the report on the Outer Rim Sieges) and the second when Padmé, and the Obi-Wan are trying to reason with Vader on Mustafar, mentioning a Jedi who left the Order and formed attachments and also managed to not kill a room full of children, would possibly have been a good move then.

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 (Edited)

Oh boy oh boy after working it over for a good while I think I’ve cracked the Domino Squad arc. I’m interested in your thoughts.

I considered splitting it into two parts but there’s no natural break other than after Clone Cadets, which leaves it paced weirdly. I also considered making Clone Cadets the cold open, but there’s too much volume that it didn’t feel right. So I was just looking over it looking for trims and assuming I’d release it almost in full, when I hit on what I think is the solution.

So to summarise the episodes right now on face value:

1. Clone Cadets
This episode’s storyline is that Domino Squad fail training, then come together, then succeed training. Importantly, note that that is a strong and straightforward three act journey in and of itself. Adversity is faced and overcome within the episode. Highlights are 99 and his relationship with Hevy. And the important bits of continuity beyond this arc are Echo and Fives.

But the issue I have with it is that the ‘coming together’ is quite clumsy. Ultimately Echo and Fives want to leave but are told not to by Shaak Ti, Cutup gets assaulted, and Hevy wants to leave but is told not to by 99 - and then they decide to stick together, and win because their differences make them creative thinkers? That really doesn’t feel like the victory is earned or that they’re suddenly more cohesive. And it certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve seen them earn Shaak Ti’s description of “possibly the finest clones I’ve ever seen”.

2. Rookies
This episode’s storyline is that Domino Squad are on the Rishi moon listening post, get overrun by commando droids, then when Rex and Cody are there to inspect it they end up all teaming up to take back the listening post in time to warn the Republic of an imminent assault on Kamino. It’s pretty good all round. There’s a couple of redundant scenes and it needs a bit of polish tightening but it’s a cool plot that’s mostly well done. At the end, Echo and Fives join the 501st.

The problem is that in this context it kind of undoes and is undone by Clone Cadets. The whole point of Clone Cadets was to see this team coming together, but here we see them immediately fall apart. Obviously, that happens in war and it’s a decent story. But it feels like the full 20 minutes of establishing them as a group wasn’t worth the investment. Also, if the team are the ‘best ever’, why are they now on a shitty listening post (even an important one)? Also, Clone Cadets has just given us a three act story about Domino Squad, but they remain our focus, and so it turns out that the surviving characters have a second second act although it’s basically them just continuing to be great and continuing to be rewarded for it. I think this makes the whole arc pace awkwardly.

3. ARC Troopers
This episode begins with the attack on Kamino led by Grievous and Ventress, and features Rex, Cody, Fives, Echo, Anakin, and Obi-Wan defending Kamino successfully. Highlights are 99 again, and Echo and Fives really helping out, and becoming ARC Troopers. It’s great end-to-end. I trimmed about three minutes but other than that it’s going to be mostly untouched as the finale to our arc.

(The main trims I made are: We don’t need to see Obi-Wan fighting the droids underwater in an already action-heavy episode after he gives Anakin the plot relevant information. And we don’t need to see Obi-Wan fighting Grievous outside after he’s already beaten him inside, especially since Grievous sets up a kind of suprise attack that he then doesn’t utilise at all. And removing both of those scenes lets us get rid of the flying whale thing which just pulls me out of it a bit. I also cut Grievous and Ventress discussing that their master has ideas for the clone DNA, because denying it to the Republic is enough, and we don’t need to imply that Sidious is into cloning when Palpatine has full access to cloning tech.)

This episode is easy to trim into the immediate follow-up to Rookies.

So anyway,
I finally realised that this isn’t the story of Domino Squad. That’s not the heart, nor does it leave us with a good focus for the rest of the show. It’s the story of Echo and Fives joining the 501st.

And here’s the main solution to focus it, fix the early pacing issues, and fix the unsatisfying Clone Cadets/Rookies collision: Domino Squad fail their training, and the Rishi moon outpost is their punishment. (I know I have to sully the legacy of the popular Domino Squad to do this, but I think it leaves us with a far stronger story.)

Now, we get a proper three-act story. We establish in the crawl that the Republic is rushing new batches through the training as quickly as possible in order to field troops, but that some batches still don’t complete the training, and are given lesser jobs like maintenance or manning listening posts. We get the start of Clone Cadets, introducing Echo and Fives within Domino Squad but having them fail (probably using all of the mistakes from the first and second attempts, so they’re sloppy but it’s the ‘leaving a man behind’ that gives them the fail.) We see the emotional fallout of that and establish the relationship with 99 - only now, they’re failiures too, just like him, and he’s the only one who thinks all clones can be heroes. We don’t invest in Cutup, Droidbait, or Hevy.

Then we ‘two weeks later’-it straight into Rookies. Now, their boredom matches that this is punishment, and Echo longing to be on the front lines and Rex thinking the moon’s run sloppily will have more value later. That episode plays out, with the other clones dying off as Rex and Cody learn that these two ‘lesser clones’ are competent when the shit hits the fan. We end the episode with them leaving the moon with Rex and Cody but they don’t get to join the 501st yet - they’ve merely been rescued.

We wipe transition right into Kamino for the battle, where it plays out as before. (Echo and Fives have been given slightly nicer armour or taken the time to paint theirs up in thanks while on the flight over, we assume, if we notice.) But now, their plot parallels 99, as they’ve been discarded as failiures but when thrust into battle they stepped up and helped win the day. And finally, we close the episode on Rex and Cody naming them “ARC Troopers… in the 501st”. They’ve earned both rewards at the same time - but this time, they’ve been earned by these individuals overcoming multiple trials, rather than by Domino Squad deciding to become the best clone team ever overnight.

The biggest loss here is Hevy’s relationship with 99, as with no win there’s no medal to give to 99. Though we still maintain 99 and all of his main emotional beats. We establish that he believes in all clones, he wishes for his own chance, he finally gets his chance, and he dies a soldier.

One other thing I might play with to make this hit a bit better and to cement Fives and Echo as the focal characters is to have their desertion come BEFORE we see Domino Squad fail. So right at the start of the episode two (implicitly) perfectly fine clones are talked out of leaving a poorly performing squad, but then punished for that squad’s failings, eventually earning the recognition they deserve. This might work a bit better since devoid of the original episode’s context they’re complaining about a squad which is legitimately not that good. I’ll see how this works.

This episode then, of course, is no longer called ‘Domino Squad’. Instead, it is called ‘The 501st’ - the heart of the episode being Echo and Fives’ path to that prize, and ultimately the legion the audience will continue to follow throughout the wars. And at the end of the episode, we have our clear clone focus - the 501st, Rex, Fives, and Echo.

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 (Edited)

This is brilliant. I had been thinking about how you could possibly restructure these episodes, but as you laid the plots of each episode, I started seeing exactly how you were going to lay it out. It almost seems obvious once you explain it like that.

You’re right. It is weird for Shaak-Ti to describe them as some of the best clones she’s ever seen, but then they are on some boring outpost job. It makes a lot of sense for them to flunk their training, and then get sent to some backwater job, because that’s all they’re qualified for.

And like you said, the focus really should be more on Echo and Fives, as these are the characters we stick with up until basically the end of the series.

I definitely think restructuring it like this will not only make it a stronger story, but it also succeeds at what you want this Refocused series to be.

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Sounds pretty good to me, I feel like this approach enhances the good things in the episode and of course the arcs of the clones themselves. Their perceived failure at the beginning definitely would make their promotion to ARCs more earned.

Even if the cadets don’t triumph in their training, is the conversation between Hevy and 99 staying (or at least part of it)? I think that could work as if it were after Hevy and his squad are assigned to the outpost, with Hevy frustrated and considering deserting, but 99’s pep talk makes him reconsider and he faces the consequences. This would give more weight to Hevy’s sacrifice later in the story (laying his life for his brothers even during an assignment he hates), and is also the strongest 99 scene before we meet him again in the third act.

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Thanks for the sense check guys. As soon as I had the thought I stopped editing and came here to write it up to see what you guys think. I’m really glad I decided to work out the solution for this episode on the editing track, and that I decided to look at it back-to-front (to keep my eyes on the conclusion, to work out how to best get there), because one of the first things I did was merge the endings of Rookies and ARC Troopers, and that merge just naturally offered up the line “ARC Troopers… in the 501st”, which unlocked the rest.

Kalee, I’ll definitely be including as much of 99 (and his interactions with Hevy) as I can, so long as they don’t make the end of that first act feel drawn out. One principle I’ll always be editing to is maximising emotional value, and obviously 99 is great for that. You’ll also be pleased that you get a good Grievous fight but not the following moment where he loses a bit of menace. He now kicks Obi-Wan’s ass a bit, then Obi-Wan kicks his ass a bit and he realises it’s all going downhill so he pulls out - I’ve removed the scene where Obi-Wan chases him outside and he sneaks up behind him and then… announces his presence and doesn’t take advantage of the situation at all, allowing Obi-Wan to take up a far more advantageous position.

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I think that’s a good way of doing it. Considering how important Echo and Fives (the former especially) go on to be they do need to be the focus. It’s good that you’re keeping as much 99 as possible as he’s the clear inspiration for Clone Force 99 and Echo’s part in that.

One thing I find a bit weird (and this is with TCW in general not with these edits) is how ARC Troopers are classed as something to be promoted to, rather than a lighter version of the Clone Commandos. Fives does seem to have earnt some Special Forces bona fides by the Umbara arc but the pair of them in the Citadel arc and Jessie in the SoM arc are basically normal troopers with fancy armour.
The other thing is how much Cody defers to Rex despite out-ranking him. I know they were going for playing down Cody so audiences didn’t get to liking him, but it leaves Cody looking like another trooper in fancy armour.

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Yeah, ARC Trooper armour is almost a battlefield merit badge kind of thing. I believe it was a prototype for the Phase II armour, and during its early production run/testing they essentially just gave it out to clones who did well.

I don’t have a big problem with Cody deferring to Rex. Cody’s more of a manager where Rex is a team leader, so it’s natural for some delegation, including of tactical decisions. And they clearly have a close relationship so there’s a lot of implicit trust there.

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EddieDean said:
You’ll also be pleased that you get a good Grievous fight but not the following moment where he loses a bit of menace. He now kicks Obi-Wan’s ass a bit, then Obi-Wan kicks his ass a bit and he realises it’s all going downhill so he pulls out - I’ve removed the scene where Obi-Wan chases him outside and he sneaks up behind him and then… announces his presence and doesn’t take advantage of the situation at all, allowing Obi-Wan to take up a far more advantageous position.

I’m totally fine with it, the latter part of that battle didn’t amount to nothing in the end.

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@EddieDean The proposed restructure of the three Domino Squad episodes makes more sense than the plot of the actual episodes. I already liked these three episodes, so I’m definitely excited to see how it fits together. I already have good vibes for this upcoming episode!

I am no Jedi

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That’s really great, I’m glad nobody’s saying “you’re about to ruin something that I love”.

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 (Edited)

And in case anyone’s wondering, I’m aware that I’ve still got four episodes waiting on polish - once I have the music from McFibb and have finalised my concept art ideas I’ll go back and refine them all, then always release review versions to that standard.

Does anyone else have the mad skills (and willingness) to produce animated concept art like Chase Adams did? https://streamable.com/6awcej He’s going to produce some but I’d gladly share the load with anyone who’s up for it.

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Regarding to your structure for the domino arc, i’ve nothing to add. It sounds definitely great.

Concept Arts: i would try but i don’t have any graphics card right now and the market is…well i think some of you know what’s going on there.

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Excellent. Well, I’ve done most of the edit for that episode now, so it should be out sometime this weekend.

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I’ve got Rookies and ARC Troopers cut how I want them now, and the transition is nice and smooth.

I’m struggling a bit with Clone Cadets.

One issue I’m having is that a lot of this episode’s set up is all about unity, which both isn’t paid off well in the original version of the episode, nor paid off well in the whole arc. So I’m trying to minimise the unity aspect.

But the main thing I’m working on is that I’m not sure at this stage whether more or less is best. Essentially the decision is whether to have one attempt or two before they fail and we cut across to Rookies.

If it’s two attempts, most of the drama fits in the middle. This would be about 10-15 minutes long, enough so that it’s more than a cold open, so I’d probably have to black out after Clone Cadets in order to get a ‘two weeks later’ card in. But I feel that this way we spend too much time on the setup.

If it’s one attempt, I basically splice the first half of the first training (where they’re introduced) with the second half of the second training (where they fail). Doing it this way, the drama has to wrap around it. Right now, I have it structured like this:

  1. Fives and Echo tell Shaak Ti that they’re thinking of leaving. I might drop this though, because firstly it’s not clear that it’s Echo, and secondly Shaak Ti bangs on about unity, which I cut down to a more ominous “you’re where you need to be”, but that doesn’t quite land with some of her other context either.
  2. Bric tells Domino Squad in the barracks that they suck. This is quite nice for context.
  3. Shaak Ti and Lama Su talk about being low on clone DNA, and I trimmed this down to imply that maybe Shaak Ti agrees that these clones may be ‘deficient’.
  4. First half of the first fight
  5. Second half of the second fight (it’s quite a clean transition) up till the fight stops
  6. Shaak Ti calls 99 to clean the arena
  7. The general guy tells off Domino Squad, and the green triangle alien tells them they’ve failed
  8. Hevy plans to desert, but is convinced not to by 99 (though again, kinda via ‘unity’ messaging)

I’m not quite satisfied yet. Frustratingly, I need to make as few cuts as possible, as there’s a lot of dialogue in the same channel as the music, so it’s harder to split/merge cleanly.

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Watched the first episode, and mostly dug it. I feels a bit like something’s missing from the Anakin/Ahsoka relationship but I’m not sure what. I echo others who’ve said Anakin goes from mad at her to reconciling pretty quick. If you fix the framerate issues and clean up some of the transitions I think it’ll be a pretty great way to introduce someone to the series. I’m going to keep going with the others.

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Merging the two training scenes could work as you say. You could move the talk with Shaak Ti to later. If you open with the scene where the cadets bicker, almost come to blows and then are scolded by the drill instructor, it gives enough context to know they just finished a simulation and performed badly. Then you could show a trimmed down version of Echo and Fives asking Shaak Ti for a transferral. I think it’s necessary to keep that conversation because it’s the first instance of Echo and Fives taking an initiative together.

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It is, except we have no way of knowing it’s Echo. I tried to pull “I’m Fives and this is Echo” from elsewhere but it didn’t have the right tone.

That said, I agree with all your points. This one’s just a tricky puzzle as there are a lot of variables. I essentially have to make each alternative possibility in full. I’ll get there though!

The other tricky bit is ending on a scene that’s punctual enough to fade to either the credits or a “two weeks later” card. As it stands, “That’s an automatic fail” isn’t a very strong moment. And 99 keeping Heavy in play is good, but almost a bit too sentimental for after a full fail. It’s probably still the right answer, though I’ll have to play with the music.

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Hevy: “Ahhh, f*#% you…”

99: smiles as music swells

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Update: Much happier with today’s work. I’m not sure yet how long the CC part will end up running, but this time I’m approaching it more from the angle of what’s possible rather than ideal-first. I’m also really pleased with some of the audio transitions - I feel like this episode has made me a better audio editor, so when I come to refine my first four episodes I’ll check their transitions all again.

My intention is, as quickly as possible, to release us a full ‘first season’ of six episodes, with complete polish in all aspects. Those six episodes will be both the first season and the mission statement of the show - by the time someone’s watched all six, they’ll have a full taste for The Clone Wars, and for The Clone Wars: Refocused. So they’ll know if they want to continue.

After doing those six, I’ll take a little break to enjoy some other hobby for a week or so, before getting back in the swing.

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Sounds good! I was thinking the same thing, as far as releasing it goes. Just release a whole season at once for the binge-watchers, and then give yourself a break for a little while.

Speaking of the Season 1 release, do you think the Tartakovsky Clone Wars prologue will be a later addition, or is that something you would also like to have for the Season 1 release?