Short Film: What's in the Box?, a futuristic tribute to Half-Life (probably)

There has been some speculation that this nine-minute video, "What's in the Box?", is some sort of teaser for Half-Life. And that makes a lot of sense: the character audio track is "missing"; it's all shot from a first-person perspective; it's set in an empty European city; the sky is yawning open to puke down fireballs over a giant tower. Oh—and it uses Half-Life sound effects. But it's all far too similar for me to think it's actually something sanctioned by Valve, especially when one of the things that makes the Half-Life series feel like it does is Valve's commitment to making the game experience itself tell the story, not cut scenes or accompanying films. I'd go along with "Half-Life tribute film"—and it's a very good one, at that.
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29 Responses to Short Film: What's in the Box?, a futuristic tribute to Half-Life (probably)

  1. Anonymous says:

    whats weird is on the Babel Website it says it stopped supporting its website after the August 6th incident. August 6th is my birthday… huh myabe i helped these people in some way.

  2. Anonymous says:

    the interesting thing that no one seems to have pointed out is about a minute before the end of the video, one of the announcements is “1 minute to singularity”
    For me, the first thing I think of when I hear singularity is a black hole. throw in the huge black explosion at the tower at the end of the video, and it seems like the LHC really did cause the end of earth.

  3. Anonymous says:

    No one seems to have mentioned the Babel Research site ( that the video feed comes from. Then there’s also the fact that the Babel Research site has a ‘Hanso Foundation’ logo at the bottom of all pages. Seems odd.

  4. theawesomerobot says:

    lol BSOD

    Yeah, I agree – if this is student work it took massive coordination to pull off, which is usually a limitation of student work – I mean, empty streets and an abandoned transit bus? I’d say this is viral.

  5. muteboy says:

    ARG for release of a solar cellphone charger?

  6. Anonymous says:

    this guy is a physics major.On the image of the box with all the math wonder what equation this is.Anyone have a really smart friend

  7. JC says:

    how many times does it say “SAMSUNG”? Thats probably a hint to who sponsored this

  8. Anonymous says:

    The guy is dutch and he did it with 150 euros and a pizza.

  9. Crevan says:

    As post #25 states, the MP3 you download from the website is someone talking backwards, I reversed it and it says “Found, Project Attainable Has Failed” I’m having problems finding any other sound files though, just that one.

    And does anyone else find it odd that there are Black Mesa and Aperture Science logos at the bottom of that webpage? hmmmmm~

  10. shMerker says:

    I couldn’t help thinking this must’ve been advertising for a cell phone service provider, since all of the brands and models used are identified. Pretty cool though any way you slice it.

  11. morehumanthanhuman says:

    Muteboy, I hope so, anything above 87% conversion efficiency might means they have GODLIKE solar cells. I don’t think that we are anywhere near such solar cells, it’s probably part of the story…

  12. Anonymous says:

    The maker of this video was interviewd on dutch tv this evening. He is a scientist by proffesion and this was just a hobby project out of control. the total budget for the short film was 150euro.

    He has been called by mayor movie studios from LA ( including 21st century fox and such ). we are going to hear more from him i think.

    I mean if you can do this with 150euro imagine what he could do with a multi million dollar budget.

  13. morehumanthanhuman says:

    Hmmm… look at 1:22 at the ticker tape, “largest single collapse since Black Mesa.” There’s no doubt this has to do with Half-Life.

  14. Munken says:

    Saw this on Rock Paper Shotgun and the consensus seemed to be that it was most likely a showreel for a computer graphics student (hence the small bugs, use of Lost music and ‘character audiotrack missing’)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Also on the Babel Research website, in the bottom left corner of each page discussing their developments, an icon of a black cat with a red collar will flash for a split-second, and then disappear, and then repeated again about 15 seconds later. If you click on each one of these on each page right as the icon flashes, it opens up a downloader for an mp3 file, with a total of 3 different ones (one for each page). Listening to the mp3s reveals a man’s voice played backwards. That’s all I have so far, trying to play them in reverse to get their message revealed.

    Also, there seems to be some sort of login text field at the top right of the site, but I have no idea what sort of login information is needed to access further.

  16. xzzy says:

    Makes you wonder how much information overload we’d get if someone actually designed a brain interface that painted textual descriptions in front of your eyes, describing everything you looked at.

    Really, if you’re scrambling around for a phone that has batteries, how useful is the brand name gonna be?

  17. mhains says:

    What’s in the box?

    Is it a rump roast?

  18. arkizzle says:


    FYI, the pic is , not .jpg

  19. etmthree says:

    If that’s a student demo reel, I’ll hire him/her and all his/her friends tomorrow morning at double entry-level rates.

    The custom props alone would run $20K+ if you count the labor involved in fabricating them. The scale of the shoot (a frickin’ public transit bus!) and the need for total control of large exterior locations makes run’n’gun guerilla techniques unlikely.

    I estimate the postproduction graphics as at least 500 person-hours of experienced-professional-level 3D and desktop 2D work. Most top-level students I’ve interviewed or hired would need 2-4 times as as long to get the same results.

    “Viral” for sure. Also can’t help but notice that I’ve seen links to this all over, from several different online communities…

  20. barneys says:

    a dutch city no less (there is an Albert Heijn at 5:43)

  21. Anonymous says:

    1) Regarding the rather in your face phone HUD thing. Is it usual for multiple brands of mobile manufacturers to advertise in the same exact space? And if you look carefully you’ll notice when he picks up the charged phone the model number is “model”. Which is presumably a bug in the video ;)

    2) There is some sort of ARG/puzzle thing surrounding the video. Clues on the website lead to this image (which has the text ATTAINABLENESS hidden in very light grey down the bottom) but no one seems to have found anything more than that.

  22. cha0tic says:

    What No crowbar?

  23. bshort says:

    The audio of the soldiers is lifted exactly from Half Life 2.

  24. Anonymous says:

    The little grey letters at the bottom say “what’s in the box” How about an Orange Box

  25. Anonymous says:

    I found this while going through the pages source code.

    It’s text meant only to be found if you look at the source.

    Anyone have any information where people are working on figuring this thing out?

  26. Anonymous says:

    According to a forum thread on this very topic at unFiction, the “multiple brands” thing is in regards to a Netherlands law that requires at least three different brands of a featured item to be displayed in order for it not to be considered an advertisement.

  27. He Flips says:

    I like the brief bsod

  28. Anonymous says:

    Apparently the Netherlands has a law that says if you show an identifiable product in a movie, you have to show 2 other competitors otherwise its advertising. Or I might be full of it.

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