Sunday, 10 March 2013

Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov

Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov (1899–1970) was a Soviet filmmaker and film theorist who taught at and helped establish the world's first film school, the Moscow Film School. For Kuleshov, the essence of the cinema was editing, the juxtaposition of one shot with another. To illustrate this principle, he created what has come to be known as the Kuleshov Experiment. In this now-famous editing exercise, shots of an actor were intercut with various meaningful images in order to show how editing changes viewers' interpretations of images.


In addition to his theoretical work, Kuleshov was an active director of feature-length films until 1943. Since 1943 Kuleshov was serving as the academic rector of Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography. Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mosjoukine was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl in a coffin, a woman on a divan). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mosjoukine's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was "looking at" the plate of soup, the girl in the coffin, or the woman on the divan, showing an expression of hunger, grief or desire, respectively. Actually the footage of Mosjoukine was the same shot repeated over and over again. Vsevolod Pudovkin (who later claimed to have been the co-creator of the experiment) described in 1929 how the audience "raved about the acting... the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and noted the lust with which he observed the woman. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same. Kuleshov used the experiment to indicate the usefulness and effectiveness of film editing. The implication is that viewers brought their own emotional reactions to this sequence of images, and then moreover attributed those reactions to the actor, investing his impassive face with their own feelings. Kuleshov believed this, along with montage, had to be the basis of cinema as an independent art form. The effect has also been studied by psychologists, and is well-known among modern filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock refers to the effect in his conversations with François Truffaut, using actor James Stewart as the example. 

 Hitchcock, in the famous "Definition of Happiness" interview, also explains in detail many types of editing. The final form, which he calls "pure editing", is explained visually using the Kuleshov effect. In the first version of the example, Hitchcock is squinting, and the audience sees footage of a woman with a baby. The screen then returns to Hitchcock's face, now smiling. In effect, he is a kind old man. In the second example, the woman and baby are replaced with a woman in a bikini, to which Hitchcock exclaims, "Now look, he has become the dirty old man." Kuleshov demonstrated the necessity of considering montage as the basic tool of cinema art. In Kuleshov's view, the cinema consists of fragments and the assembly of those fragments, the assembly of elements which in reality are distinct. It is therefore not the content of the images in a film which is important, but their combination. The raw materials of such an art work need not be original, but are pre-fabricated elements which can be disassembled and re-assembled by the artist into new juxtapositions. 

I found this effect repeated and developed further in ‘Forest Gump’.


Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry's vision and career began with his emphasis on emotion, according to Gondry himself much of his inspiration came from the film ‘Le voyage en ballon’. 

‘When I watch this movie, I dream I’m flying and then I do stories where people are flying. I think it’s directly influencing.’ He pioneered the "bullet time" technique later adapted in The Matrix.

How to create this effect in Maya and After Effects:

Gondry made his feature film debut in 2001 with Human Nature, garnering mixed reviews. His second film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was released in 2004 and received very favorable reviews, becoming one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Eternal Sunshine utilizes many of the image manipulation techniques that Gondry had experimented with in his music videos.


His following film, The Science of Sleep, hit theaters in September, 2006. This film stars Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, and marked a return to the fantastical, surreal techniques he employed in Eternal Sunshine. According to the Guinness World Records 2004, Michel Gondry's Levi's 501 Jeans "Drugstore" spot holds the record for "Most awards won by a TV commercial".

On January 3 2013, Gondry released his latest animated short Haircut Mouse on his official Vimeo channel.


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

4Seven Ident

One day when experimenting with After Effects I wondered to myself if I could create a paper rip effect completely digitally. Its one of those things that I have seen on TV but I can remember where. If I could, it would make a fantastic transaction for videos. I think it comes from those cheesy scene transactions that I saw on 'Kenan and Kel' when I was younger.

I thought the best way to make a reusable torn paper transition would be to make a matte that any layer can be track matted to another layer in After Effects. I began by ripping  up a dark page in a magazine and scanning the two half into Photoshop. I then used the magic wand and colour grading tools to separate the pictured part of the paper from its torn edge. I isolated the torn edge and made it a separate layer. Then I isolated the the two image pieces, making them a seperate layers, Top and Bottom. 

This is what the final looks like, you can not see the tear because it fits nicely under the Top (black) layer. this can later be luma invert matted to any layer in After Effects. The Bottom (white) layer must have the torn layer parented to it and can be luma matted to a copy of the same layer as the Top. Both couples must be pre-comped  and then the page turn effect can be added to the Top layer and animated to create the illusion that the paper is being ripped in half. If this is used as a transaction, the next piece of video can be layered under these two layers.

I decided to use this effect to create the 4Seven Ident and enter it into the competition. I thought it could be a nice quick animation which I could use to learn a new skill, and if it worked out well I could make into a little tutorial and give back a little something to the motion graphics community.

Here is an image which influenced me a bit. Its a very unusual effect which seems like it would be too difficult to achieve  physically but can be done very effectively using digital means. 
Watch the animation at: 

My Final:

I'm very happy with my final piece, It has been a nice little break from my other, longer project and I have learnt a new skill! I don't think I need to make any real improvements on it, but I have the effect in my catalogue to use when ever I need it.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Chime Animation

For the longest time I have wanted to do character animation in After Effects because I could not achieve the quality I wanted in Flash. I looked around the web for tips and tricks on how to do this and found a fantastic tutorial on building a puppet in Photoshop and rigging it in After Effects. Daniel Gies has made a brilliant tutorial which I followed to create my character. It incorporated a good mix of coding and creativity to control the character.

I knew this character was going to take a long time to rig and animate correctly so I had to create an animation around 1 character with limited movement, because he would not be able to turn past 90 degrees. I was confident that the character would influence the story.

I created a test character head using some of the skills I learnt in the tutorial and was amazed at how smooth the animation looked. This raised my confidence in creating a believable character to animate with.

Password: chime

I wanted to create a character who could act and hold a scene by himself , so the top two names that come to mind are Charlie Chaplin and Rowan Atkinson. I used to watch Mr Bean alot, as a child and still do. I also took influence from his style of acting, I saw a making of Mr Bean and saw just how much of the show is improve by Rowan. The show usually contains simple goals, which are reached in a way that is out of the box and comical. Alot of the background and props are also influenced by the show. The wallpaper is a typical example, the repeated pattern sets the 90s stage for the animation.

I wanted to style my characters clothes on a modern gentleman. I did not want the animation to look too aged. I feel the mix works well. I really like the bowler hat and umbrella/ walking stick.


I started drawing sketches of the character so I could visualize the image of the character in my head. I had to then upload the face on Photoshop and break the pieces of the face up into different layers. The hair was the hardest thing to break up because I wanted the hair clumps to look seamless in the final. I colour graded the layers in Photoshop before importing the into After Effects to move them around in 3D space.
Final Design Sketch.
I continued working on the contrast and colour of the hair and face when I was constructing the face on AE, This project has to have the most compositions I have ever used in a project and it required me to use almost all the AE tricks i know and learns some new ones. I have full control over the eyebrows, eyes and mouth sync.

Final Character Design.

Im quite happy with the final design, its meant to look like its made out of textured cardboard. The final image is surreal but It fits the scenery and therefore makes a convincing animation.

The backgrounds were made with a mix of textures and photographs I took. In the above image,  the rack with suits is a picture of my wardrobe  and the wooden paneling are textures arranged in 3D space to get the shadow correct in After Effects. The pictured taped to the door was composited in Photoshop by combining a character i drew and painted with a background of a landscape, marked into a textured photograph piece. 

To finalize the images I colour graded the comp and added lighting in the appropriate places with alpha mattes. Once all this was done, I was ready to animate the character. The story was simple, a mans race against time to get ready for the moment the clock chimes so he can see the woman he likes. I thought an appropriate deadline for this animation was the clock makers competition that was soon approaching. I have created the animation and entered it into the competition, but feed back from my group indicated that i needed to make a few changes, which I plan to have ready for my final show.

Here is the piece I entered into the competition:
Password: chime

Improvements to be made:
1.Variety of footstep sounds.
2. Some scenes drag, not enough happening.
3. Acting is not good enough.
4. Clock Sound building and animate second hand rather than minute hand.
5. Make clock 3D to emphasize second hand coming down.
6. Don't show credits until animation is finished.
7. Final tick on door opening.
8. Show that he gets close but never gets to kiss her.