Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Carysmatic- music video

I was using some of the facilities at uni for my 'Ah shoot' Project when I got talking to Matt about this music video that he has in the pipeline and I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn some skills from a professional and show that I have worked in a boutique VFX house. 

I began by editing some of the raw footage using Final Cut Pro which is a software I know very little about but it was not hard to pick up some basic hot keys and effects. We came up with different ideas on how to resolve problems in the video. One problem was that the poets movement was pretty wooden so we had to cut and edit the best of that together. 

The original tone for the video was going to be black, white with certain red objects in the scene because it links in with the fantasy of a girl so obsessed with her music, as if its her ex lover and she's going through all his stuff. I liked the idea but wanted to give it a bit of a Sepia tone. We discussed that the colour grading will be done in DaVinci Resolve because the AE version created thick red colour bands around lighting sources.

Another problem we had was driven through the first one. The storyline was not clear, which If I think back to when I learnt poetry in school, its supposed to be ambiguous. Matt had the to put text on the wall of the apartment to combine the lyrics with a visual. I took this as an opportunity to create an effect test by taking a scene from the video and finding out how difficult it would be to make text stick to the wall and make it seem as if it was meant to be there. I chose a particularly girly-curly font and scaled it up to make it seem as though it had been spray painted on the the wall in a similar fashion to how I have seen people graffiti their notebooks in school. I then overplayed a load of them on top of each other and using a camera tracker in AE I was able to pin it to a centre wall. There is a bit of a glitch where it moves slightly but the over all positioning works. I created a mask for the window and a mask for when Carys walks in front of the wall. I used a fractal noise to make it seem as though the text had rubbed off and smudged a bit. This gave us a go ahead for any text we want to  put on the wall.

This bit was for personal development. Making the window look as though there was a world outside it. I knew that Matt knew how to do this but I wanted to give it a go so I could take it to him and ask what I was doing wrong. You will notice below that there is a bit of a glitch where the green shows through the mask. I took this too him and he helped me correct it but I kept the original to remind me of how I can fix a similar problem in the future.

At BlueGFX I was able to talk to Niels Stevens, the Representative from Adobe, who asked me why I was not editing the music video on Premiere Pro. When I asked him what the advantage of that was he gave me a demo on how Premire Pro CS6 works seamlessly with After Effects CS6, so I can add effects to comps with out the need to render and export. The only problem with that is, I need a computer which can handle running both programmes simultaneously.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

WEWANA: PLAY Commercial

This was a company I met at the Launch Conference and they are a start-up company who have an app that they want to take to market. I thought it was a brilliant piece to get involved in. Brian and I went to one of thier gaming events and said that we would like to create an advert for them to push thier app because it would be an amazing way to get our work out there through them. We first created an asset video, with minimal animation, but getting the text right and the general lay out in place.

The feedback from the company was positive so I went ahead and got creative with the animation  using this  video for timing. They wanted the new video to be faster and clearer that the product was a phone app. I started working on it and got really involved in my advert so Brian made his own version. Below shows how I used multiple comps and nulls to create big animations with the power of parenting. Using previous experience  in info graphic commercials I was able to get a decent balance in speed and quality, whilst trying to clearly communicate the message the company wanted me to. The owner of the company took this advert to the I series Multi-play Insomnia gaming festival and showed it to the boss at Call of Duty: Black Ops.
There are a few changes that still need to be made but its something which lies partly in how the guys at WEWANA: PLAY advertised the product to me. These changes will be made in due course. Here is the advert shown to the public so far:

Ah' Shoot VFX Reel

This is my proposal for SS1. I created a script for a 3 minute comical video with a friend of mine, Chester Constable who is a script writer. The story in short is of an American agent and a British agent who have to capture one target. The story shows the different behaviours and actions between the two agents as they get themselves into situations which prevent them from their goal.
Here is the script:

Ah' Shoot
In the winter of 2012, The
President of the United States and
The Prime Minister of the UK
decided to settle a dispute
regarding who was better, MI5 or
the CIA.

A photo of a suited man holding a briefcase is shown. We
slowly zoom in on the target’s face.

It was decided that both countries
would hire their most impressive
agent to eliminate one target. The
first agent to take out the target
would prove that their country has
the better national security.

Two photos are shown. One of a suited man shaking hands with
the queen. Another of a different suited man shaking hands
with Ronald McDonald.

A picture of the target is all that
either agent has to go on and
neither are aware that they are in
competition with the other.

Title screen - "Ah' Shoot"

An alarm clock goes off. The time reads 7:58 am. Camera pans
to British Agent lying in bed, staring at the clock. The
British agent turns the alarm off, brushes teeth, gets
dressed, checks his laptop, eats his breakfast, grabs keys
gets in his car and drives off.
(THIS is the series of quick cuts we discussed)

An alarm clock goes off. The time reads 10:00 am. The
American agent swipes it off the bedside table. He fixes
himself in the mirror, grabs an energy drink from the mini
fridge and leaves money on top of it. He then leaves the
room still trying to get his blazer on, exits the hotel and
goes round a corner.
He smashes a car window just as an old man is pressing the
button on his keys to unlock it, gets in and drives off.

The target can just about be seen through a window.
In the bushes outside the target’s house, the British agent
crouches, looking through binoculars.
A football suddenly hits the binoculars out of the agent’s
A young child’s voice off screen calls out: "it’s over
there!" The Agent looks out from the bush, shakes his head
and quickly scarpers.
While this is going on the target leaves his house.
Moments later, after everyone has left the scene, the
American agent pulls into the drive way, arms his gun and
breaks down the door. He walks down the hallway checking
each room. A clock chimes and the agent opens fire on it.

The target walks along the street with the British agent
The American agent pulls up on the other side of the street.
He gets out of his car with a briefcase and heads into a
large building.

The American enters a room and heads over to the window
where he has a good view of the target. He opens his
briefcase and pulls out a sniper rifle. He looks at it with
disappointment and puts it back in the case.
He runs back down to his car, gets another briefcase and
heads back up to the room. He opens this briefcase to this
time reveal a giant rocket launcher.
As he trys to aim the launcher out the window at the target
he sees that the target is going down a flight of stairs,
out of the agent’s range.

The target sits down on a bench at a platform.
The British agent appears and is about to take out his gun
when he is approached by a middle aged woman holding a
crossword book.
The British agent aids the woman with the crossword. As he
is doing this the train pulls up at the station.
The woman and the target get on the train and the British
agent waves bye to the woman. As the train pulls away the
British agent realises he has lost the target.
The American agent follows the train in his car. The British
Agent is trying to flag down a mini cab.

The American agent bursts through the office door and heads
for the elevator.
Once inside the elevator, the agent positions himself on the
ceiling ready for the target to enter the lift so the U.S
agent can drop down on him.
The target enters the office and presses for the elevator.
The British agent soon follows armed with a gun.
As the lift doors open, and the target steps in, the U.K
agent fires his gun.
The American Agent drops down on top of the target and takes
the U.K agent’s bullet. The lift doors close. The British
agent takes the stairs.
Now inside the lift with the wounded American agent who is
struggling to get up, the target realises he’s in danger.
The doors open and the target runs out of the lift.
The British agent appears at the top of the stairs and opens
fire on the target.
The target goes round a corner and comes to a dead end. He
turns and sees both the U.K and U.S agent pointing their
guns at him. The two agents look at each other and then turn
their attention back to the target.
A Ninja star suddenly flys in through the window and hits
the target square between the eyes. The target collapses to
the floor, dead. He’s fucking dead mate.
We pan out from the office to reveal:

A Chinese assassin, located about 5 miles from the office,
his hand positioned in a throwing motion. He makes a call.
It is China who has won this bet.


I wanted a chance to do the post production and VFX for the video, but for that I needed the piece to be filmed. This project was a bit ambitious but through my research I found this video by ILM and The Orphanage for Iron man:

Creating a VFX Reel seemed like the smarter option as it gave me a chance to work on the shots that I could use my skills in rather than worry about the whole story. Here is my final 3 Shots:

I'm very happy with the outcome of this project. I have learnt a lot from my research into Ironman, Star Wars, ILM and The Orphanage about how the VFX work with the story and help tell it. The effects do not help make the acting better, but the actors in my 3 shots worked really well so there was nothing to fix, just the pleasure to add the effects. The third shot in this sequence was the original test shot that I made for criticism from my piers. 

I was quite pleased with the feedback. It showed me that it is the small details which can be easily over looked that really count when it comes to selling the shot. I used this advice to the influence the workflow for my next two shots by taking planned breaks and working on other projects so that I can come back and hopefully spot any errors I may did not spot previously. I then worked on the pistol Shot. 
Here is the VFX Breakdown for it:

In the original shot I had the actor Afi Walker, preform the shot a few times as I was looking for him to hit these marks one after the other; Lower mask >> Raise gun close to camera >> Shoot >> Slight jolt in arm.
I filmed in HD 1080 but brought the resolution down to HD 720 so I had more option to position the frame the way I wanted. I used the rule of thirds and kept the action point at the top left hand corner. I also tried to create a rough line of perspective from the eyes, across the barrel of the gun to the explosion point. This was a feature I picked up from studying a popular scene from Pulp Fiction:

Creating a believable gun is easier to elude. The gun held by Afi is a plastic toy gun which I spray painted silver, so I had to make it look real in post production. I began by adding an exit hole at the front of the gun which I created in Photoshop using pictures of guns as reference. I knew that the lighting reflecting into the barrel of the gun would be a key factor in selling its reality. Also I had to make sure that the PS image stuck to the end of the gun which I did by motion tracking the gun and then refining the positioning. When a gun fires, a reaction shot is the barrel of the gun pulling back. I thought a good way to create this would be using Maya to match the texture of the rest of the gun. This proved a bit difficult as texturing in Maya is not my strong suit. To fix this problem I decided instead to duplicate the layer and use it as a matte painting to create the illusion of the gun shifting back.

The bullet and cap are made in Maya. I tracked the front and back of the pistol in the frame using two nulls and a camera in After Effects which I then exported to Maya and made a CGI bullet which would travel through both. I slowed the footage down and went through it frame by frame in order to get the best alignment for the bullet to travel. I wouldn't consider myself a Maya modeller but I can make low poly models so I wanted more control of the bullet in AE. I exported a matte, diffuse pass, specular pass and a colour pass (with light). In the final shot the bullet is only seen for two frames but I felt that if I let that cloud my judgement on how well I should model it, that would lower the quality of my work. The bullet was rendered out separately to the cap so that I could place them where ever I wanted in the composite without effecting each other.

To finalise the shot I added some forced motion blur to the PS hole in the front of the barrel and the bullet and cap. I blurred the head and body of the actor, excluding the hand- this created a forced perspective. I added a smoke and muzzle effect  to create some realism in the shot. There is a slight camera shake as the bullet  passes past the camera, this shows how close the gun is the the camera. There is a slight flash  of brightness in the scene as the muzzle is present to blend it with the scene (showing that the light it creates actually hits something). Finally I tinted the screen blue, this was a personal decision because the original orangey colour made the shot look home made and I have seen this tint of blue in many spy and action films; Men in Black and Looper.
Here is a still of the final composite:

Creating a realistic CCTV camera footage may seem easy but its not. Again keeping in mind that the effects must help tell the story, I did my research on what CCTV footage looks like. I looked at a BBC documentary 'The Riots in their own words', which interview the rioters and police  who were present at the London riots. This documentary is now banned so I'm glad to have seen it when it was on iplayer.

One thing I noticed in a lot of the footage was white writing on black strips in the corners, indicating where the camera was located. I created this on my work with matching font and colour. the colour later changed to purple as I over exposed the red channel in the piece.
The split screen effect allowed me to move the viewers eye around the screen which almost makes them part of the shot, so they are looking for something to happen in one of the screens, similarly to the security guard in the final film. This shot is designed to be mapped to a monitor.

I found that a lot of footage was tinted  because of low quality cameras and i used this to my advantage by only blurring the red channel in the shot I managed to darken the outside scenes because I wanted the viewer to focus on the indoor shots. I used a mixture of still images and videos to create the cameras which switch from one to the other. Lowering the frame rate and adding a glitch when the main action is happening played into the quality of the camera and to the notion that the audience was spying on the action. When you peep on someone you never get the full picture, which is a plot device that mystery films play off.

Here is the before and after of this shot:

A link to the London riots documentary: