Grave Encounters: Visiting the Tombs of the Living Dead

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Note: This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.


When we recently featured thirteen of the creepiest files on VideoHive, two of my favourites were by Eric Latek (PHANTAZMA), including one shot in the graveyard used in the horror movie Night of the Living Dead. Read on to learn of his experiences, and view exclusive behind the scenes photos.


Besides being used in the movies, is the graveyard famous for being haunted? Have you heard any stories?

I can’t say that there is really any scary stories in regards to the production of Grave Encounters. None that I experienced, that is.

I had been traveling across country on various film productions at the time. It had occurred to me that I was going to be filming close to Evan City, Pennsylvania. This was the location for George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead opening zombie scene.

From Night of the Living Dead
From Night of the Living Dead

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It was a scolding hot summer day in August, rather than a gray and gloomy night. My plan was to find the tombstones of the Living Dead film and grab a few shots for my own film geek-self. However, it turned into a half-day shoot, with the idea that I would somehow create some sort of experimental zombie piece that would be a throwback to the classics.


How did you get into the graveyard?

The graveyard is still accessible. Just go down a long dirt road that is tucked away, and the first thing you see is the small dilapidated chapel.

iPhone photos from cemetary
iPhone photos of cemetary




Did you have any spooky experiences while you were shooting there? What sort of atmosphere does the place have?

Unfortunately, I did not have any sort of experience in the graveyard. Cemeteries in general have a creepy feel. Oddly enough, I am not the type to really get spooked or scared about anything. Let’s just say it’s very tough to creep me out.

I have actually visited many historical cemeteries in New England and around the US, and I am either attracted to the atmosphere and textures a graveyard presents, or the incredible craftsmanship in the tombs themselves. Furthermore, the storyteller in me always looks at the names, birth and death, and truly wonder what the story of the deceased is.

From Grave Encounters
From Grave Encounters

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What gear and techniques did you use while shooting? In post-production?

For Grave Encounters, I shot with Red Epic and cinemascope lenses. Now, although I love my Red, I’m the first to tell anybody, the camera is just a head for the eye to see. For the look you get, it’s all about the glass.

I’m an extreme lover of the anamorphic look, and spent years acquiring various anamorphic lenses to add to my glass collection. Scopes create an abstract, dream-like image that today’s hyper-clean spherical lenses could never do. The scopes would help provide an old-school feel I was looking for.

That’s why, for the most part, if I can, I avoid today’s big-boy brand lenses at all cost. Although I own a ton of traditional spherical aspherical lenses, all of which are very fast, I don’t use them much these days. They have no character. Over-shallow DOF and fat bokehs don’t do it for me.


I used a Kessler Cineslider, and for the majority of shots, kept it to the ground so that the audience would always be at ground level. I knew I wanted to track the tombstones and give users the ability to add their own titles. So, I would actually film the back end of the tombs, instead of the front. This process would allow me a clean slate to track and design each tombstone in After Effects without having to go through removing any real engravings.

I must of taken about 125 different shots of various tombstones. In the end, the Grave Encounters bundle has 75 shots at 4K, which is not bad.

In post, I trimmed each shot in Premiere, and edited a rough layout of how I wanted the presentation to be. I sent the shots to After Effects, and re-rendered each shot from .R3D Red Raw files, to a light, user-friendly QuickTime, for the VideoHive bundle.

I tracked each shot using the After Effects CS6 Camera Tracking tool. Once the tracking data for the tombs was set, I created text to attach to the tombs. I used various methods to create different tomb title designs, which users could simply edit, and the engravings looked authentic.

I always enjoy experimenting and filming action or motion design mattes. So, with this bundle I shot various fire, smoke and ash mattes to be composited in with the event of a zombie busting loose. Even though I know I can easily do those type of effects in After Effects, it doesn’t beat the real thing.

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And, now for the zombie part. There are a variety of different zombies. It was a one-man show. And, it goes something like this:

  • some jack-ass with his green screen,
  • make-up, prosthetics, blood, masks…
  • camera set up on remote…
  • record, zombify it up, stop, run out, undress, clean-up, create new zombie, dress-up, run back in, hit record,
  • do it all over again.

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I could tell you how my wife came home at one point, walked in our studio, saw me filming myself as lucio fulci zombie, and stopped with her mouth gaped open. But that would be a lie.

Knowing very well the dork-bag she married, my wife just asked me how me, “How is it going?” and what time I wanted to have dinner, then proceeded back out the door as if every woman comes home to find their man creating zombie porn.


What other spooky items do you have?

Some may consider the Ultimate Grindhouse Volumes 1 and 2 spooky, but really, they are just dirty. Take that how you want.

Dark Matters would be my other creepy bundle. It was also shot with Red Epic and anamorphics. Each shot was tracked either 2D or 3D, and elements were composited with After Effects.

From Dark Matters
From Dark Matters

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Now, the building is owned by a buddy of mine, and is actually an old nineteenth century firehouse. So, I just asked for him to open up the building for me one day so I could film for a while.

The top floor open attic is the location where a father, in the late 1930s, apparently hung himself. Now, I actually shot in that open room where he was found dead. However, I did not use it in Dark Matters, rather, “Obscura”, which is Volume 2, a bundle I have not released yet, since I was working on VideoHive projects that were a 180 from the HauntedWorx series.

Nevertheless, each room in the building for Dark Matters was extremely eerie. Everything looked like it was about to collapse, and the floors most certainly sounded like they would.

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And yet, although nobody had lived in the building in ages, it felt sometimes like it was still lived it. Although I never saw any ghosts or spirits or… dark matter… for that matter, I really couldn’t wait to get out of there. Part of me was drooling over the natural extreme lighting that was falling before me, and the rotting textures I was craving for my concept, and the other part of me was out the door before I was even rolling. I wasn’t scared, I just did not want to be there for some reason.

  • zhenjueyimen

    wow How impressive interview! see you again my master!!

    • Eric Latek

      Thank you so much zhenjueyimen!

  • Merry Christmas

    Very nice Interview. Really amazing and inspirational

  • Ivan

    When can we expect to see more bundles? Specifically Obscura?

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  • Brian Mitchell

    Fantastic interview Eric! Can’t wait for your next template…BLACK was Phenomenal!