Arms Race: Escalation Press Release

Giant Robot Invades Norfolk Beach!


Arms Race Escalation – A series of short films by It’s a Trap!
Preview/Press Screening and Photo Opportunity
Saturday 10 November, 11.30am

Cinema City, Norwich

Following the success of their short film Arms Race, local film-makers It’s a Trap!   unveil their latest offering; a short, follow-up series Arms Race Escalation.

Their first film Arms Race, was made on a shoestring by a group of friends in their spare time – little did they realise how much its reputation would take off.

First the film was snapped up by the Adelaide Film Festival in Australia in March 2011, who showed it as part of their Steampunk Spectacular – if you are not familiar with steampunk, imagine sci-fi, Victorian-style.    In April 2011 it was showcased at the Sci-Fi London Film Festival followed by a screening at the Balticon Film Festival in Baltimore, USA. Then in April 2012, American cult band Abney Park  requested  the use of clips from the film in their latest Music Video – Steampunk Revolution.   The team have just received a further request to screen the film at Phoenix Comicon, Arizona, USA, in May next year.

Over  80,000 YouTube hits later, the team have got together again to do something altogether more ambitious. Continuing the theme of the first short they have put together a mini-series consisting of six, five-minute episodes which include a host of special effects, explosions and of course, giant robots!

Without any funding, every one of the 45 + people involved, generously gave their time and expertise for free with the meagre budget for necessary spending coming out of the director, Nigel Clegg’s own pocket.

Filming was a lot of fun, but a lot more hard work, with one weekend on a freezing cold beach, another spent building the rudiments of the cockpit of a zeppelin in the script-writer’s garage and another running around in the pouring rain in private woodland in North Norfolk. This has been followed by months of work, editing and creating special effects.

Now the team are looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labour, with the preview screening on 10 November followed by release on Youtube.

To see the trailer for Arms Race Escalation visit

To see the original Arms Race film visit

To see the Abney Park music video visit

Comments on Arms Race:

“One of the craziest shorts I’ve ever seen! Well done, that was really, really well shot and edited. Zulu meets Metropolis via Dad’s Army…or something. Anyhow, congratulations!”

“Brilliant…. very Terry Gilliam.”

“Finally! I’ve been waiting ages for this and I’ve got to say I’m not disappointed! This short film was amazing– I’ve never come across steam punk before but I think it’s a brilliant idea.”

“Bloomin mental! In a completely positive way. Well done guys!”

And my personal favourite:

“Skikkelig imponerende!”


Press/media enquiries:

For press tickets for the screening, or more information contact James Harvey on

For more information about It’s A Trap! visit their website

How to build a steampunk flamethrower

Here we continue our series of prop building guides, with a close-up look at the new flamethrower from Arms Race Escalation. A goal with the web series was to have a lot of production value up on screen in the form of props, as the hardware is so integral to the steampunk genre, so prop master and director Nigel Clegg used every trick in the book to design and build an enormous variety of weapons and costume pieces for a very low cost.

If you’ve missed any of our previous prop guides make sure you check out the YouTube playlist.

VFX: Constructing a muzzle flash

Post-production on Arms Race Escalation is now well underway with multiple strands going at once:

  1. Director Nigel Clegg is working on the first draft edits of the opening and closing episodes.
  2. Actor and stunt choreographer Christopher Puttock is editing the action-focused episodes 3 and 4.
  3. Artist Nigel Potter (who also cameoed in episode 2) is working on numerous matte paintings and vehicle concept drawings.
  4. 3D artist Mark Wickham is creating various CG zeppelins, landing craft and mechs.
  5. Simon Jones is beginning work on a couple of major cloning wide shots from episode 1, which are the only two shots we can confirm at this point will be included in the edit in some form.

I’m going to focus for a moment on that last piece of the puzzle, mainly because Simon happens to be me.

As part of the web series we need a lot of muzzle flashes and squibs. Technically they’re easy to achieve but you want to make sure they look right, as there’s nothing worse than a poorly composited or animated muzzle flash.

Why CG muzzle flashes?

Purists may wonder why we didn’t use ‘proper’ blank-firing weapons to create practical gunfire, especially given we had an entire weekend of pyro at the end of the shoot. There were several reasons for going the CG route:

  1. Happisburgh beach is a public area and we didn’t have the budget or clout to close it off, therefore we had to contend with passers-by and a ridiculous number of off-leash dogs. Not a safe environment to have any kind of firing weapon, even blank-firing movie guns.
  2. For similar reasons, we couldn’t have noisy explosions or gunfire as it would have disturbed the local residents.
  3. The scale of the opening beach sequences in episode 1 would have meant a ridiculous number of muzzle flashes. For consistency, it’s probably simpler to keep it all CG in this case.
  4. We had a very tight schedule and not having to concern ourselves with prepping practical weapons saved a huge amount of time, even if it adds time in post.

Creating a CG muzzle flash

As we’re using FXhome’s HitFilm for the vast majority of visual effects (other than Mark’s 3D modelling work), generating an infinite supply of muzzle flashes is a cinch using its 3D gunfire effect.

For some of the shots in episode 1 I decided to pre-bake a few muzzle flashes with attached smoke elements. This means that after the brief flash of gunfire, there’s a nice puff of smoke lingering in the air. Particularly for long distance shots this helps to sell the effect, which otherwise can be so fleeting that it is entirely missed – particularly during scenes set on a bright day. I also threw on a bit of zoom blur, which makes the whole thing look a bit more dynamic and binds the multiple layers together.

This is what it ends up looking like:

By swapping out different smoke stock, or even using procedural particle smoke, and by simply altering the random seed of the muzzle flash I have access to essentially limitless varieties of muzzle flashes, while retaining a common design focus. In other words, it can look like the gunfire is always coming from the same weapon model, without every muzzle flash looking identical.

This example is for some of the basic rifles. There’s lots more to be designed yet, including a tesla cannon which will be particularly fun.

More updates soon!

The Arms Race Escalation team

In this photo we have about two thirds of the Arms Race Escalation cast and crew. This photo was taken on the final day of shooting, so is missing a few crucial cast members, extras and crew that helped out on other days. Nevertheless it does serve to highlight that Arms Race is now much bigger than the core It’s A Trap crew and that we couldn’t possibly have made it without the cooperation and hard work of a large number of very talented individuals.

As we move into post-production over the next few weeks, we’re also going to be taking a look back at the shoot and highlighting the work of particular teams, from sound to pyro to make-up to the art department. We want to make sure that everybody’s hard work is shown off, not only as a way of thanking them but also to give an insight into what it takes to produce a low budget web series such as this, in case there’s anybody out there who is thinking of trying something similar.

Meanwhile, the edit continues in the hands of director Nigel Clegg and Simon Jones has begun compositing a few key shots from episode one…

Arms Race Escalation wraps principal photography

On Sunday we wrapped principal photography on Arms Race Escalation, marking the successful completion of our most ambitious shoot to date. The 9 days of filming couldn’t have gone better, mainly thanks to our amazing cast and crew who put in an immense amount of work in often challenging conditions.

Now we switch gears and enter the long phase of post-production, starting with drafting up the first edit. We’re aiming to have at least one update every week leading through to the November release, so make sure you bookmark this blog, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook if you want to be kept in the loop!