Wednesday, November 30, 2011

920 pencils used to create stop-motion video

I found a stop-motion music video that I thought was very interesting. Jonathan Chong created this video an Australian group. He used 920 colored pencils and captured 5,125 frames of footage. Jonathan filmed this music video all by himself so he had to move every colored pencil and capture every single frame. Below you will see the actual video and a behind the scene video of how it was made.

Hudson - Against The Grain from Dropbear on Vimeo.

El Laberinto del Fauno

Talking about Guillermo del Toro in class today reminded me of one of my favorite films, El Laberinto del Fauno. If you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend it because visually, it is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. It also has a unique story that is propelled by the visual effects. The movie tells the story of a young girl who tries to escape Facist Spain through her imagination. She meets all sorts of different creatures and explores a fantasy world she has created. Guillermo del Toro is known for creating amazing worlds in his films that have a unique look.
He used the award-winning company CafeFX to help him create the world of El Laberinto del Fauno. CafeFX specializes in visual effects and has worked on many movies including Sin City, Alice in Wonderland, and 2012. El Laberinto del Fauno sticks out in my mind when I think of movies I have seen with great visual effects. I found an interesting article that talks about CafeFX involvement in the film. One thing that stuck out to me in the article is a quote from CafeFX Visual Effects Supervisor Everett Burrell about Guillermo del Toro's attitude towards the film. "When considering the fine line that production needed to take between realism, harsh imagery and child like fantasy, Burrell recounts that 'Guillermo always said this is a European film- we can do the whatever we want
, we ever have no MPAA, we don’t have to deal with that – so we just went for it. And he is a big horror fan and I have worked on every zombie movie you name it! Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead the remake…I have been through the horror gambit, he really respected that and I really respected that about him.'" It's interesting to think about censorship when it comes to visual effects but I will save that for another blog post.
The article also talks about one of the more graphic scenes of the movie and how it was created. The scene has a man tending to a large facial wound on his own face sewing it up. CafeFX added much of the wound later on in post-production. In my opinion it is very realistic and I'll admit, I had to turn away when watching it for the first time.

I also found a video that shows some of the visual effects in the film so you can get a better idea if you haven't seen it.

And here is a video that details the making fo the various creatures in the film.

Extreme Detail Used in Movies

So a few of my friends were sending around this article that just put out. It's called "7 Movies That Put Insane Work Into Details You Didn't Notice"and it shows some rather nice work.

The first one they list is a movie that we talked about in class and actually had a chance to view the process of the title sequence: Se7en. We got to see a little more than what Cracked talks about, but the article does talk about how the creators wrote the journal entries, found and attached pictures, and actually bound the pages together.

Continuing on, talks about a beautiful animation that I have never even heard of. The Thief and the Cobbler, which inspired Disney's Aladdin, was written and directed by Richard Williams. It was about 30 years into the making, but was never finished. Animation World Network Magazine even had an article on it in 1997 talking about the work and background of the story.

Now even if you don't read the article, you should definitely watch this animation because the detail is really quite amazing. continues on the examine Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Stanley Kubrick's Filmography, The Matrix, Ghostbusters, and finally Akira Kurosawa's Entire Filmography. 

The article is a bit short and not as detailed as I would like it to be, but it definitely opened up my eyes a bit more to the detail that goes into these movies. I've watched Ghostbusters since I was a kid and while I knew that the terms they were using were real, reading the article really emphasized how each director, writer, designer, creator, and producer should really look into even the simplest details in order to make a production that much better. When creating something, no matter what your job is, the project will always come out better with a little more research. Not only will it make it more realistic, but sometimes it will even inspire you to create something else. Detail may seem futile or unnecessary, even out of the budget, but creating something with such depth can really pay off in the reception of the final product.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Production Company Logos

I was trying to figure out how to animate my logo, and I found this compilation video here of all the big-name production companies and their animated logos. I think you'll recognize most of them. There are maybe two I didn't recognize, and one I only recognized because we watched it in animation (it's the dark one with the man and the bird, and it's paint-on-glass animation, which looks really awesome- at least, I think so).

It was funny to see that a lot of the logos start either having their logo come in from behind the camera, zooming out of a close-up of their logo, or flying through a scene to get to their logo. I think the most unique ones are the man-bird one (Scott Free, I think?), the fish mobile one, Pixar's, and the tiger one, just because they did something completely different. I'm sure there are other ones that also do something unique, those four are just the ones that stand out for me. I also noticed that many of them use 3D animation, even the older ones (like the very basic Disney one that kind of looks unfinished, it has so little detail).

I'm trying to find a video that shows the animated logos for smaller production companies, animation studios, or freelance designers/editors, since that's the kind of logo I'm trying to make. Haven't had much luck so far, but I'll post if I find something cool.
I stumbled on this short film called "what's in the box" made by Tim Smit, a dutch student who recorded all the footage himself and edited it in his bedroom. He used after Effects and 3DS MAX for the special effects and only spent 150 euros for the entire production.

LEGO Animations

The holidays got me to thinking about what my favorite toys were growing up, and LEGOs came to mind. Not surprisingly, I wasn't the only person on the Internet looking to see informationa bout LEGO animations and how some could be done.

I actually got redirected to a Video Copilot forum in which some people were discussing different ways in which you could animate LEGOs, and most people came to the conclusion that you could either do very limited animation work using something like After Effects, or just use stop motion to animate. I'll give examples of both that I found on the forum.

This first example is one in which a guy put together a pretty basic video using some LEGOs and a green sheet in which he keyed in random desert images and changed the position of the LEGOs to give the pretty basic illusion of movement.

The stop motion versions of LEGO use are obviously more tedious but much more rewarding. The best example I found was this music video by The White Stripes:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cyber Monday Deals

With all the hype over Black Friday and Cyber Monday I thought I would see if there were any software deals. There are!

Check these out on Facebook.

Here is another site for After Effects coupon codes.

Or CS4 if you're interested!

Disney Animations

So I was researching the techniques of the old Christmas animation classics like Rudolf the Red nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and the Year Without a Santa Claus when I discovered a behind-the-scenes look at Disney's old animated classics.

The video above starts around the 2:00 minute mark but what really impressed me is that it took the animators and designers 4 years to draw, animate, and paint the scenes for Beauty and the Beast. The artists put pictures up on the wall of lions, gorillas, buffalo, and bears in order to inspire different parts of the Beast's image. They then created 3-D clay models in order to truly visualize the Beast in every dimension before drawing him in the 2-D frames. In the next video Don Hahn, the Producer of Beauty and The Beast, goes into detail of the hand-drawn animation process.

In order to make the filming of the hand drawn frames more dimensional, Walt Disney's MultiPlane camera was often used for the classics. But if we think of all the work that went into animating and then filming these Disney movies, the idea of creating a new animation with the computer graphics and animation techniques available is astounding. I often complain about how long it takes for an animation to render or how quickly time seems to go by when animating. But when I take a step back and look at the process of creating my favorite Disney Animated Movie, I realize that I would have started the project my Freshman year in college only to finish it during graduation.

Disney's Beauty and the Beast may have been taken from a long line of French folktales, but the animation process and finished product are something that I can't help but admire.

Stop Motion Pumpkin Pie

I'm sure this Thanksgiving, many of us enjoyed a delicious homemade pumpkin pie-some of us may have even made one ourselves. However, I'm guessing none of us took the time to make our pumpkin pie in the form of a stop motion animation! Since I was feeling in the holiday spirit and have been having fun looking up interesting stop motion videos lately I thought I would try to find a stop motion that related to Thanksgiving.

UK photographer Rob Ambrose and Naomi Kershaw decided to show the entire process of making a pumpkin pie from whole pumpkin to fully eaten pie! As you can see in the vide posted below, this video is a simple idea but was quite well executed as a stop motion. (and very holiday appropriate!). This video clearly has a lot of effort put into it and probably took awhile to make. The shots where the alt shaker is in the air and the spoon is stirring seem like they were somewhat difficult to execute you think they used some sort of green screen hand or something similar to that? It seems as though they must have done something because things don't just stay in the air by themselves!

I am always amazed by stop motion animations. They must take so much patience and attention to detail-one slip of the hand could mess up an entire sequence! They also seem extremely time consuming especially the more complicated ones (like the jelly bean ex that I posted that took two years to complete!) I think it would be fun to try making my own stop motion animation sometime!

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

I recently came across this music video "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything' by Late Night Tales and I really like the unfolding effect that was used throughout the video. It is very simple, slow, and detailed and yet there is what seems like a complexity to it that makes it impossible to glance away.

The creator of the music video's visual effect is Ned Wenlock. He details how he came up with the idea for the music video in his blog. Ned discusses that the unfolding technique started with a layering technique he had previously used in one of his shorts called Bedbugs Odyssey (below) while casting lights on the layers to create shadows.
I think using the write-on effect for my project is time consuming, I can only imagine how long it took to create such an elaborate video!

An Animation Thanksgiving

I have found a new love for anything animated. One of my all-time favorite shows has always been Family Guy, but I have taken this love to movies now. I spend a considerable amount of time watching new shows and movies on my parents new TV. I was able to plug an HDMI cord right into their laptop and watch anything on Netflix in full HD. Before my friends got back into town I spent my first night home watching one of the best animated movies I've ever seen, Tangled.
After watching this movie, I was amazed that the transition from 2D animated classics, like Aladdin and the Lion King, to what is now 3D animation like Tangled. The colors and life-like motions within the world of this movie were very realistic. This is because the Director, Byron Howard, and Head of Story, Nathan Greno, wanted to take the classic Disney movie look and put an entirely new twist on it.

Art Director of the film, David Goetz, states that, “When you look at old [Disney] movies, you can see that they’re consistent about using these shapes to compose with. That gives the shows a visual continuity, a grace and flow. So, we tried to leverage off that.”

He is referring to what they took from the classic 2D animated Disney movies. They wanted to use the elegance of the classics and but the most realistic touch in the new 3D world. That involved making grass and wood look like real grass and wood. The main challenge was Rapunzel's hair. She uses her hair in this movie like a second pair of hands. This was a challenge for the producers to make the hair flow in a realistic way when she is whipping it all around fighting off enemies and transporting herself around her tower.

Overall I was blown away at the realism and work that was done for this movie. With the use of 40 different animators and even more in higher ranks than that. So far this is tied for my favorite animated movie with the new film Rio. I suggest to watch these back to back because the new advances in 3D animation and the use of CGI with literally blow your mind. My next animated movies to watch are Gnomeo and Juliet, Bolt, and Up.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Disney's A Christmas Carol

Over Thanksgiving break I watched the movie, Disney's A Christmas Carol, for the first time. I thought is was very interesting how they took real actors like Jim Carrey and turned him into animation. This process is called Motion Capture or MoCap. I wanted to learn more on how they made these actors look so animated but real at the same time. Plus Jim Carrey plays multiple characters and you can't even tell when you watch it. This is a very fascinating process. It must be challenging for the actors to act this way because MoCap has each actor wear multiple dots on their face to get the motion and you're not in the real setting. I posted a few videos below with a little inside scoop on how this movie was made.

I also read this article on the movie about the making of the animation and it had a video that went along with it. You can click on the link above to go to the page and watch the video.

Bicycle Zoetrope

I just saw this on The Daily What and it reminded me a lot of the Monty Python spinning thing (yep, that's the technical term for it) that they used for the Flying Circus opening. These guys did something similar with their bike wheels, and it turned out pretty cool.

Apparently they wanted to see if they could film animation in real-time. After watching the video, I'm kinda wondering what exactly they made the gears out of. They look like paper, but I feel like regular paper would just rip when attached to a bike wheel. I also wonder how they came up with the gear idea in the first place and knew that it would look like that when attached to a bike wheel. I mean, either way, it looks pretty awesome.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Game of Thrones Opening Title Sequence

So I know I'm behind the times and most people have already discovered the awesomeness which is HBO's series Game of Thrones, but I just started it tonight and it'd majorly epic. An aspect of this series that I really enjoy is the title sequence.

The creator behind this opening is Angus Wall of the company Elastic. Wall's other credits include the title sequences of Big Love and Rome, as well as editing in the Social Network. According to an interview in The Hollywood Reporter, Wall says that the show's creators wanted something that resembled the map at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings books. Wall goes on to say We wanted to do something different from the standard tropes for fantasy maps,""So we came up with the idea of a world inside a sphere."

The sphere idea was derived from a 1960s' sci-fy space station with terrain inside. However, it had to appear non-futuristic and reflective of the Middle Earth that is present in the book series the show is based on. According to Wall they referenced Leonardo da Vinci's machines and "wanted it to look like a real place photographed with a real camera."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spending Time With Sheep!

Since I’ve been home I have spent so much time with my Mom and her sheep…looking at the new baby lambs, putting up fence, getting new guard dogs, etc that I almost forgot to post on the blog this week! Thus, I figured it would be appropriate to find something sheep related to post.

As I was searching for sheep related animations, I stumbled upon a video series called "The Pen". "The Pen" consists of shot 1-3 minute videos of two claymation sheep discussing life and everyday activities. It sounds strange but some of them are quite funny, especially if you know a little about sheep. Also it turns out that they were made by Guy Capper and Jemaine Clement who are also known from the band and TV show "Flight of the Concords". After finding that out I understood why the sheep in the videos had New Zealand accents and a strange, dry sense of humor. If you are interested in this strange but funny web series about sheep I have posted one of the clips below.

Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios is a new easy way for amazon users to make and share their own movies and write scripts. This offers user the opportunity to win money, get noticed and get their movie made. Amazon Studios will give out a total of 2.7 million dollars in it's first year of monthly and annual contests for the best movies and scripts. In addition to cash prizes the work of the writers and filmmakers will be shared with a global community that can give valuable feedback through revisions and advice. The overall goal of this company is to work along with Hollywood to make the best projects into feature films.

The main reasons behind the creation of Amazon Studios are to give consumers the chance to give their feedback about film and script entries. This will give amazon studios employees the opportunity to figure out what is and is not working. Another reason for Amazon Studios is for people to evaluate test movies instead of simply written script. Amazon Studios will also be a place where users can experiment and collaborate.

So how exactly does a person start a project with Amazon Studios? In order to do this a person must first upload an original script or movie. This product must be completely new to Amazon Studios and free from any preexisting elements already on this website.

A main component of Amazon Studios is the test movie. A test movie is a typically inexpensive, full-length film that lets the viewer know the entire story of the script in an interesting way, has solid acting and sound but does not have to be perfect. The main goal of Amazon Studios is to discover test movies that have potential to be made into feature length films. This company believes that the script alone is not a true indication of a piece's potential success; it should also be accompanied by a test movie.

There is a full list of Resources and Faqs available on the Amazon Studio website.

Michael Lewis, Roy Price (Amazon Studios Chief), Alex Greenfield (Amazon Studios Winner) of Amazon Studios at Comic Con:

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

Transformers has always been one of my favorite series of movies, even when they were cartoons during my childhood. However the new movie trilogy has taken it above and beyond. The special effects were mind boggling and the effort put into this film was also just as shocking.

Industrial Light and Magic is the special effects company that created most of the effects for the movies and are known for their work in Iron Man 2, War of the Worlds, and Star Trek. If you visit their website you will understand what specific pieces they specialize in and how this company has made some of the best special effects in the industry lately.

The most amazing fact that I uncovered while researching was that ILM has a giant rendering farm for super complex effects like those in Transformers 3 and that is a great thing because without the ability to render large files, the amount of time it would take would be counterproductive. It was said that when the movie was in its final week of post-production that ILM completely shut down their rendering farm specifically to finish the film. Whats amazing is that this allowed for 200,000 hours of rending time which is equivalent to 23 days of render time in 24 hours.

I found myself continually in awe at the superb and intricate details and time that was spent to make every scene look extrememly realistic and making the robots look and move just like we would expect it to. The plot to the movie was terrible and the movie carried on for about 45 minutes longer than it needed to, but the special effects were so above and beyond that I was fine with it carrying on. All I could think was what was the next mind blowing stunts they were going to pull and create. A++++++ for ILM.

Peter Szewczyk - Dark Clouds

Peter Szewczyk, a man whose name I hope I never have to type out again, has done remarkable visual effects work for over 15 different titles, including but not limited to: Avatar, 2012, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, and Shrek 2. Clearly he is a very gifted visual effects artist in the movie business.

With quite the workload with movies the past few years, I was surprised to find out that Szewczyk had any time to work on anything else, but I did see that he posted on Vimeo a short film he did with visual effects entitled "Dark Clouds". It really is a remarkable piece, it's beautiful to look at and only about a minute and a half long. I will post the video below, but just in case it doesn't work, you can find the video here.

Dark Clouds | Short Film from Peter Szewczyk on Vimeo.

Physics Simulation

A physics engine is a computer software that provides a simulation of certain physical systems such as rigid body dynamics (including collision detection), soft body dynamics, and fluid dynamics.
This being said, each physics engine usually falls into one of two categories: real-time (uses simple calculations and decreased accuracy to compute in time for the game to respond at an appropriate rate for game play, usually used in video games and other forms of interactive computing)

and high-precision (calculate very precise physics used by scientists and computer animated movies, require more processing power).

There are limitations to a simulation involving physics. Physics engine realism is the precision of numbers representing the position of and forces acting upon objects. When precision is too low, rounding errors effect results and small fluctuations not modeled in the simulation can drastically change the predicted results, simulated objects can behave unexpectedly or arrive at the wrong location.

Done correctly however, the physics engine can yield amazing results. Below the creator applied the physics engine to the blender effect to cause the buildings to collapse.

Buckminster Fuller

R. Buckminster Fuller dabbled in philosophy, design, architecture, art, engineering, entrepreneurship, writing, mathematics, teaching and inventing.

As a designer who was motivated by the idea that the consumer should get "more for less," R. Buckminster Fuller worked on plans to modernize houses, boats, cars and geodesic designs. Although the exact plans different from item to item, Fuller designed each with the intent of being mass-produced utilizing the most simplistic and sustainable means available. This designer's main focus was in the fields of building and transportation. He became most prominent worldwide in the 1950's with the creation of his large-scale, multifunctional geodesic domes. However, it wasn't until after Fuller's death that the significance of his discoveries, proposals and inventions were recognized as proof that the world's resources are not endless and should be taken with cautious economy and thought.

Fuller was born in 1895 to a wealthy New England family. To their horror, Fuller failed to graduate from Harvard University. As a result, the soon-to-be designer entered the US Navy, a decision that would greatly affect his future life and work through expanding his scientific understanding. After leaving the navy in 1922 and gaining a new appreciation for discovery due to his sea travel, Fuller co-founded the Stockade Building Company which created lightweight building materials.

After the loss of his job in 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide. Instead of ending his life, Fuller made the decision to devote the remainder of his life to "an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity." In order to make this plan a reality this individual narrowed his focus to construction and made his first patent application for the 4D tower. This building was proposed as a lightweight, prefabricated, multi-story, apartment tower that could be brought anywhere by airship. After the delivery occurred the towers would be capable of generating their own light and heat with an independent sewage and waste disposal system. Fuller poured his entire being into making this idea a reality. His ideas were cohesive in that they suggested the most modern methods of transport.

In 1929 Fuller began his invention of the Dymaxion House. This shelter was displayed at the Marshall Field department store and was derived from lightweight steel, duraluminium and plastic which was suspended from a centralized mast from where the rooms were radiated in a hexagonal plane. This idea was conceived as a temporary, transportable space that could be rented, as opposed to a permanent, private residence.

In 1933 Fuller made a proposal for a three-wheeled Dymaxion Car which entailed rear steering and front-wheel drive powered by a Ford engine. The car's aerodynamic shape was closely connected to high-performance yachts. Unfortunately the first three prototypes were rammed and overturned killing a driver directly outside of the Chicago World's Fair. Regardless of this major setback, Fuller powered through and continued to work on his experiments and began to gain an international reputation for his work in lightweight and quickly constructed housing.

In 1940 Fuller was asked to create an emergency shelter for the British War relief Organization. In this effort, Fuller collaborated with the Butler Company of Kansas City, a company which manufactured grain silos of curved galvanized steel in order to build a self-supporting infrastructure in a circular shape to supply the best relationship between circumference and interior space. Although the British Government did not take advantage of this invention the US utilized these units as emergency accommodation for the air force during World War II. The war effort also prompted Fuller to create the Dymaxion World Map because he believed that the relations between the superpowers varied during war and thus there was a need to develop a global map so that the entire world could be viewed at one time.

Once the war ended Fuller returned to his passion of creating standardized, lightweight and affordable housing. This came in the form of the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, otherwise known as the Wichita House. This shelter was invented in collaboration with the Beech Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas. The original prototype featured a house for a full-size family and weighed four tons. Although the company received thousands of orders for this home design, Fuller wanted to wait to sell until he was fully content with his invention. Needless to say this upset many investors who in turn withdrew their support. Ultimately a Wichita man bought the prototype for the design and lived in the house with his six kids until his death.

Fuller's main focus was on geodesic domes which were designed to cover the maximum space possible without needing to use internal supports. The idea behind this creation was the bigger the dome was, the lighter and stronger it would become. By 1954 Fuller had created two domes at the Milan Triennale exhibition made from six pieces of corrugated cardboard. By 1957, Fuller had redefined the design so that a geodesic dome was assembled in twenty-two hours in Honolulu. Since this time, hundreds of thousands geodesic designs have been created worldwide, often in extreme conditions such as to house homeless families in Africa.

By the time of his death, the contributions of Buckminster Fuller included 25 US patents, 28 written books, traveling the world 57 times and the recipient of 47 doctrines and a 1969 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Motion Graphic Studios

I found a great website that shows demo reels from some of the top motion graphic studios. These videos are worth watching as they include what the studios believe are some of their best pieces of work. Many of the videos you can view right from the site others take you to the studios links. Some of the studios have internship possibilities in LA this Fall. From reading many of the descriptions it appears you would need quite the reel to obtain one of those positions.

Here is Umeric's Demo:

Umeric 'Until Now' 2010. from Umeric on Vimeo.

Hydraulx Visual Effects has an easily navigable site where you can see all the work they have been associated with. Here is a link to their feature demo reel it is 20 minutes long but includes cut ins showing some background information of how the effects where created or different versions before getting the final. Around 14 minutes in is the making of some of the battle scenes to 300.

After Effects Twitter

After Effects has a Twitter? YES!

I've noticed that they answer questions, redirect newcomers, and promote with the newest tutorials and videos to watch. @AdobeAE

Follow @CreativeCow too for the latest motion graphics tweets!

And there is also a @AfterEffectsHelp Twitter which is not associated with Adobe, but is still willing to help with any of your urgent questions!!/AdobeAE

The Hunger Games

Coming to theaters on March 23, 2012, The Hunger Games is one movie I'm sure will be chock full of wonderful effects. Based on the trilogy written by Suzanne Collins, this film will follow Jennifer Lawrence in her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl sent into an arena with 23 other children to fight to the death. However, there is much more to this story than gory battles scenes.

The Hunger Games is also a book about politics within the 12 districts of Panem (what used to be the United States). In this warped world, the children chosen to fight are dressed up and taken on tour as celebrities. With Lionsgate's $80 million budget, I'm hoping that the scenes featuring the contestants in their absurd costumes as well as the sets for the Capital (where the Panem officials live) are over the top.

There are a slew of people listed on IMDB for use of special effects/visual effects which makes me think that a good portion of the budget was spent on visual effects (that plus the fact that there seem to be few well-known actors in the film, as the plot is centered around children). The title that appears at the end of the trailer, also raises my expectations for some really awesome visual effects incorporated in this movie.

A quote taken from a website reviewing the trailer reads:
"The visual style is amazing. We went from the gritty District 12 to the glossy and futuristic Capitol . Everything on offer was impressive, from the effortless special effects to the stylish and elaborate wardrobe." I know this is a movie I will be watching on March 23 to see all that they do with this futuristic world.


I was just searching various animation and production companies and came across one that really stuck out to me, Mikromedia. Mikromedia is a full service digital multimedia and video production company based in South Africa. They specialize in digital marketing at an affordable cost. Their website alone is amazing from an animation and design standpoint. Under the "Video Marketing" they outline all the different stuff they can do, including training videos, how to do videos, and something called a virtual anchor. Mikromedia uses a virtual anchor on their website and it is basically a person virtually guiding you through the website so it is easier to get the information you need. They based this idea on the statistic that today, 90% of online users would rather watch a video than read a lengthy document. They cater to this data by creating visual worlds to grab people's attention. Under the "Theatre" tab on the main page, they have laid out various examples of their work. The interesting thing is all of their information is displayed through video. I definitely recommend you explore this website because it is extremely unique. I've attached a video of theirs explaining motion tracking and its affordability but you should check out the rest of their stuff as well.

Bringing Animation to the News

Animation is everywhere, from movies, cartoons, television shows, music videos, etc., there is rarely anything you can't find animated. Today, even the news is becoming animated. Next Media is a Hong Kong based company, with gossip-like newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Recently, Next Media has gained a pretty strong following for its news cartoons. The cartoons are short animated segment, usually funny and a little racy, that provide visual narrative for major stories. And to them, nothing is more major than New York City news.

Next Media recently jumped head first into the New York City news circuit, opening Next Media Animation on West 46th street. Next Media Animation started Big Apple Daily, a New York news site that promises "a crisp new perspective to your local news" and "fast, accurate, and engaging animations.

Chris Vespoli and Alex Shih are the only two people at the Next Media Animation office. Every weekday Vespoli and Shih look through tabloids and news sites for the juiciest stories with no available video. Then, after the two confer with editors in Italy, they write a script and collect source material. Vespoli then records a narrative and sends it electronically to Taiwan where a three hour production process takes place, from storyboards to the final editing. The production is done in an assembly line style that creates model figures and real-looking backgrounds. Next media is confident that Big Apple Daily will "convince people that animation is a way to convey news".

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles Eames Jr. and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" Eames were American designers who majorly contributed to the field of modern architecture and furniture. This husband and wife duo also made great strides in the areas of industrial and graphic design, fine art and film.

At the age of 14 Charles Eames began to learn about engineering, drawing and architecture as he worked part-time at the Laclede Steel Company in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from high school, Eames focused on architectural studies at Washington University but was dismissed or dropped out shortly after. As a result, this up and coming designer opened his own architect practice with Charles Gray and Walter Pauley.

One of Eames most notable influences was Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. At the request of Saarinen's son Eero, Charles Eames moved to Michigan to continue on in his architectural studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. At Cranbrook, Eames taught and climbed up the ranks to become the head of the industrial design department.

Alongside Eero, Eames created furniture for New York's MOMA "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition. Over the course of this competition the duo displayed a new technique of wood moulding which had originally been introduced by Alvar Aalto. Eames would later continue to develop this technique and channel it into plywood products such as chair, in addition to splints and stretchers for the U.S. Navy in World War II.

Ray Eames was also an American Artist and designer, as well as a filmmaker who helped Charles to come up with numerous iconic designs of the 20th century. Unlike her husband, Ray got her start studying abstract painting with Hans Hofmann.

As designers, Charles and Ray led the way in creating innovative technologies such as fiberglass, plastic resin chairs and wire mesh chairs, as well as the dining chair metal plywood seat. The office of these influential designers continued on for over four decades in Venice, California and included other recognizable designers Harry Bertoia and Gregory Ain. In 1956 the couple narrowed their focus in creating The Lounge which was an iconic piece of furniture spanning from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Besides creating innovative designs, Charles and Ray Eames also made their mark in the film industry. One of Charles and Ray's most known films is an American documentary short film titled "Powers of Ten." This piece demonstrates the Universe in relative scale in factors of ten.

Monday, November 14, 2011

50 Excellent Adobe After Effects Tutorials

I was researching different tutorials to help me figure out what to add to my project for class. I really wasn't sure what I was looking for so I just Googled top after effects tutorials and I came across this website. Click Here.

I am posting some of my favorite effects and you can visit the tutorials on the website if you are interested in them.

Glass Orbs

Earth Zoom

Saul Bass/Amazon Studio

This is a compilation of Saul Bass' title work that was put out to celebrate a new book called Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design. The video is pretty cool, and it showed a lot of titles I didn't know he had made, such as the West Side Story, Spartacus and Ocean's 11 titles. It also helps you notice patterns in what he does, like the patterns with moving lines and close-ups of eyes. I'm hoping this video is in the right format, since it came from Vimeo.

The Saul Bass book was written by a design historian named Pat Kirkham, who apparently knew Saul Bass personally and collaborated with his family while writing the book.

Random link: this is the link to the Saul Bass book, but scroll down past it and look at "Special Offers." I've never heard of Amazon Studios before, but apparently they have scripts that they're inviting people to storyboard and make test movies of for periodic contests. Sounds interesting, so I thought I'd throw it out there.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Rotoscoping is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films. Originally, recorded live-action film images were projected onto a frosted glass panel and re-drawn by an animator. This projection equipment is called a rotoscope, although this device has been replaced by computers in recent years. In the visual effects industry, the term rotoscoping refers to the technique of manually creating a matte for an element on a live-action plate so it may be composited over another background. Some of the top rotoscoping software includes after effects and mocha.

An example of rotoscoping everyone might recognize include the scenes from Forrest Gump. Rotoscoping was used to integrate Forrest into footage of famous events.

Here is a tutorial from the adobe website that utilizes after effects and photoshop together.

I also found tutorials from Creative Cow and

Greyscale Gorilla - Monster Bash

So far, I've spent all of the semester posting each week about as many After Effects videos and tutorials as I possibly could. This week, I've decided to broaden my horizons, and with the use of Greyscale Gorilla, I discovered some pretty cool animations that people created using the program Cinema 4D, instead.

From what I can tell, Greyscale Gorilla is essentially the Video Copilot of Cinema 4D, as they have quite a bit of information on the program, as well as contributions from readers, and for Halloween, they had a competition among their followers to create a five-second "Monster Bash" animation. Here is the winner:

For those interested, the runner ups can be found here.

Paper Cut-Out Animation

This weekend I was watching an episode of South Park (which I never actually watched until college and begrudgingly admit that I enjoy) and instantly knew that I wanted to blog about it. In A Very Crappy Christmas, Butters creates paper cut outs of Kyle, Stan, Cartman, and Kenny so the boys can create their own movie to spread the spirit of Christmas to all of South Park. While they're working on the animation, we see the boys looking for each specific shaped mouths ("E" mouth, "woo" mouth, etc;) for their cut out selves to sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." In 3 hours, the boys have made it to "We wish you a merry" which I thought was funny looking at how much time it usually takes to put into a project, considering all the pre production, production, and post.

Personally, I've never worked with paper cut-outs for a project, so I wanted to see what the process was really like. I found a tutorial on stop motion using paper cut-outs and wanted to share that with all of you.

The estimated time for this piece of animation is an hour and a half (including the time it takes to shoot your actor running in front of the green screen). To me, that didn't seem like much time for an effect I wouldn't have known how to begin without the tutorial.

The creators of South Park started the same way as their characters did. Creating a pilot (that was never aired), Matt Stone and Trey Parker spent about 70 days on the 22 minute episode. Today, the episodes are created utilizing computer technology such as Maya.

Snatch Opening Credits

It took me quite a long time to find the perfect opening sequence for this project. I finally found myself stuck on what I believe, next to Seven, my favorite opening title sequences. This was one that was good and very challenging to do only because I needed to do a bunch of tutorial watching to learn how to do all I needed to do.

First I had to learn some more things for Photoshop. This was very helpful to get to know the basics and even some more advanced things very easily. I also found a great website for tutorials that were great.

This should be fairly easy to remake and do because it is going to involved keyframing and some work with some 3D compositing for the objects that fly across screen.

One of the best characteristics of this sequence is the inclusion of jump cuts that progress each shot. It really fits the mood of the movie especially. The movie is multiply different peoples stories, that all come together at once at the end. This movie is very fast paced and all over the place so this opening sequence gets the audience in this mood for the rest of the movie. I will have to reshoot all the scenes of this, but the are all short and it will be easy, I found, to create the freeze frames because you can upload the freeze frames from final cut pro to photoshop. I also found a semi-helpful tutorial on how to do this exact effect. I can't wait to see my finishing product

Smoke and 3-D ball effects for opening project

I was searching around video copilot and looking for some good tutorials to let me perhaps “enhance” the visual aesthetics of my project. I first found this tutorial for smoke. I thought it would be relevant for class since we were discussing how we could make small amounts of smoke with the particles that we played around in class earlier. This tutorial though a little more complex shows in my opinion a more realistic way to show smoke. So I thought if anyone wanted to use this it would be very helpful.
I couldn’t find a way to get the embedded link for the video for some reason

Lastly when searching some more, I found this tutorial which I am debating using for my final scene of my project in which the name of the movie shows up. I really like the effect, but feel that it may be too “technical” or “ scientific” for my movie, so I thought I would also offer it to the class to use.

MTV Award Show Graphics

I have always been impressed with different award shows graphics and intro to each category. There is usually a theme to the show and all the graphics are related. This MTV Prologue is simple with the rising telephone poles but it adds a lot of life to the video.

"MTV has found a good thing, and they’re sticking to it. For the third year in a row, they’ve tapped LA-based Prologue to create the entire graphics package for their colossal Video Music Awards show.

Directed by Ilya Abulhanov, the condensed sans-serif type and annotated landscapes of the VMA 2009 package build upon the look Ilya established for the OFFF 2009 titles. In the VMA 2009 package, though, the landscape is alive, modifying itself in subtle but surreal ways.

Gigantic telescoping streetlights and strings of gondolas adorn the familiar skyline of New York City, creating a panoply of mechanical transformations that seem to be a literalization of Rem Koolhaus’ vision of a “delirious New York.” Ilya’s split-screen moments create dizzying multiplications of the city, piling density upon density." - Justin Cone

Flip Book Animation

I found this video of someone's final assignment for an art class. It is a great example of how you can create animation through flip books. This is also called stop motion animation. This flip book stretches across 2,100 pages and took the person about 3 weeks to make. This animation is called "A Brief History of Pretty Much Everything".

The Evolution of Visual Effects, Good and Bad

The lines get a little blurry when discussing what constitutes as a good visual effect in movies and what constitutes as a bad one. Often times, people dislike a particular movie and then have a bias towards most of the effects used in the film. Other times however, due to a limited budget or not enough time and/or resources, an effect truly comes out as terrible as people make it out to be and unfortunately the movie suffers because of it.

Some poor special effects as noted in the article 'Top 24 Worst Special Effects of All Time' include: the light speed effect in The Shape of Things to Come, the wolf-out effect in Van Helsing, when the shark breaks through the deck of the ship in Jaws, the hyena attack in Exorcist: The Beginning, the head split in Total Recall, and many more interesting, but unfortunately unbelievable (literally) effects.

Some of the best special effects must also be noted, simply because the strides we have made in what can be achieved via visual effects is truly amazing. As noted in the article, 'Best Sci-Fi Effects of All Time', some notable effects are: the aliens in Men in Black, the 1954 original Godzilla, the bullet-time rig in The Matrix, the two faces of Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, the Dumbledore vs. Voldermort battle in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the upside down fight scene in Inception, all the destruction in Independence Day, the aging effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the character of Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, almost all of the visuals in Pan's Labyrinth, most of the CG effects in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the monster in Cloverfield, and many more.

Though many of these selections are from movies of the past ten years, not all of them are. Which means that visual effects evolve into the amazing creations we see in movies today without some equally amazing older effects of the past to fall back on. Below is a video documenting how effects have evolved and changed over the past 100 years:

Post-it Note Stop Motion

Ever since I found that Jelly bean stop motion video I've been searching around for other cool videos that incorporate unique objects into stop motion. I've watched a number of interesting videos but I wanted to find one that also had a "how it's made" video along with it because I like to get more insight into how it was done and see how difficult it would be if I were to try making a similar video.

The video I posted below is a stop motion that uses post-it notes! I liked this one in particular because it was made by a group of film students. A group of students from the Savannah College of Art and Design spent 3 months planning, 4 days shooting, and over 6000 post-its to make this project appropriately titled "Deadline"! Below the video is a short "making of" video that shows a little more about their process.

They must have had to buy so many post it notes for this project!...I'm sure they didn't want to even go near them after the project was finished! That video had a simple but creative concept and was well executed. Similarly to the jelly beans video they made a pre-animation of the entire post-it note segment and then projected it on the wall for easy post-it placement. Watching all of these stop motion videos makes me want to try to make my own!


I was watching the Science Channel and was lucky to catch an episode of How's It Made all about special effects. The show starts off by showing the complexity of miniatures. It is shocking how closely a drawing can be replicated into a model form by artists. This would definitely be a tedious profession but extremely rewarding. In the video they talk about larger scaled miniatures having the ability to be scanned into the computer to create a digital world. This is achieved by placing reflective dots on the miniature for reference points. After this is completed a device is used to laser scan the miniature.

The complexity of the lighting for the miniature set is unfathomable. Many tiny mirrors are used to achieve perfect lighting. The camera used in this miniature shoot is controlled remotely and is on a flexible robotic arm. A computer is used to track and record the camera's movements so shots can be easily replicated. The second half of the video provides information on how characters are now incorporated into the miniature set. Human motion capturing is demonstrated. It is an interesting set up with a person in the motion suit being digitally tracked and having those movements projected up behind as the animated character. I was surprised to see the amount of steps before animation can even begin to be produced. The movie is still in production that was featured in this episode. The animation studio that is developing this film can be found here. I look forward to seeing how the film looks after its completion. Watching this ten minute video will have you gain a larger appreciation for animated films.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Making of the True Blood Main Title Sequence

Although for our final projects we are working on remaking film opens, one of my favorite television openings is True Blood.

Even though the show True Blood is about the supernatural such as vampires and werewolves, the opening does not blatantly give away that this is the premise of the show. Instead producer Alan Ball helped to create an opening that is suggestive of the darkness that exists in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps.

On the website Art of the Title it is clear that Alan Ball's intent in this opening was to show what it is to be reborn. At the end of the opening there is a woman being baptized.

How this opening is created is further demonstrated in a video on vimeo which shows the original footage uncut which is used in the opening. The look of the footage is completely raw and shot using a bolex. Although the graphics are not completely manipulated using a software post-production, it is clear that these images were completely manipulated after they were shot.

This is the video from vimeo:

Smoke (Illuminating Particles)

After Wednesday's lesson in class on how to create smoke in After Effects with particles, I decided to research a little more and found a whole tutorial on Video Copilot that shows you how to create an entire smoke screen. It provides you with the project files and gives you a 20 minutes walk-through of how to create it.

The smoke he creates with particles looks really realistic, and can be used for anything that could involve steam, smoke, fog, or clouds. Considering at least one of these elements is in almost every scene I think it's a very useful tutorial, especially since the end product looks so good.

For my project in particular, I want steam to be moving when I show the streets of London. This tutorial is perfect for that and allows me to create the dirty image of industrial London. I don't know if anyone else is doing something similar for their project but I thought it looked really nice, so it's worth checking out.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Exploded Views

While computer animations and huge special effects are all amazing and spectacular, but I think the most impressive animations are the ones that are hand made, such as stop motion or different effects we've seen made like particles. While looking up different things about animation, I stumbled across a really neat video about an LED lights animation created by Jim Campbell. Jim Campbell came from a technical background in engineering and an artistic background in filmmaking. Jim's goal has been to move away from conventional computer screen modes of creating works to works with a more intuitive level of interaction.

The video I came across was sort of a behind the scenes of Campbell's piece called Exploded Views. Exploded Views is basically a bunch of LED light bulbs, and from certain angles it just looks like a 3D matrix of lights suspended from the ceiling. From the side, however, random blinking lights form animations of silhouetted dancers and crowds of people moving around. Earlier, Campbell had a similar display in Madison Square Park in New York City, and now he has brought Exploded Views to San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art. Exploded Views is made up of 2,880 LED lights that are individually controlled by custom electronics. I can only imagine how much time was spent on programming each of the lights. Below is the video about Exploded Views. Job

I just came across this tweet from one of my favorite writers at, in case anyone out there would be interested!

Waking Sleeping Beauty

I saw a trailer for a documentary called Waking Sleeping Beauty that centers on the history of Disney animation. The trailer shows how Disney animators went through a rough time but decided to make a comeback which resulted in some of Disney's greatest hits. The movie features well-known animators such as Walt Disney, John Lasseter, Tim Burton, and Jeffery Katzenberg. The website for the film has a lot of great archival photos and videos. It also has detailed biographies about some of the key animators from Disney's golden era.
I have been trying to see the movie for a while now but it hasn't had a wide release. It looks like an interesting insight into animation and the business behind it so if you get a chance to check it out, I definitely recommend you do!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Doctor Who

As I'm sure everyone knows, I'm a terribly big fan of Doctor Who. In our classes we've been talking a lot about opening sequences to TV Shows and movies. Doctor Who is a show that has been around since the 1960's, which is extremely impressive. This also means that it has a ton of different opening sequence, new ones for the new seasons and new ones for the new Doctors. This video below shows each and every opening sequence from 1963-2011

I find it fascinating how, over the years, Doctor Who has maintained a level of consistency in the opening titles. The same type of music is always present. The same setting of it being "in space" and sometimes going through a time vortex, and showing the Doctor's face on screen. So not only do you see the different title sequences, but you also see all of the different actors who had the amazing opportunity to play the Doctor. The show itself stopped around the 1980s and then they release one movie and when the show came back in 2005, the opening title still had that classic Doctor Who feel too it.

Stranger than Fiction Opening

Watching the movie titles in class today for some reason made me think of the opening to Stranger than Fiction, the Will Ferrell movie where he realizes that he's the character in a story and that there's a writer out there who is writing his life. The opening has some pretty cool motion graphics in it that start the movie off nicely.

The graphics remind me of a Video Copilot tutorial that explains how you can do something similar to the virtual computer display Tony Stark sees in his Iron Man helmet. The tutorial shows how you can make several windows and displays made of light that follow your head's movement in the video, and the numbers and calculations around Will Ferrell in this opening are very similar to that. I'm sure you could make something similar using both this opening and the Video Copilot tutorial as resources/references.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox

Usually I'm not one for animated movies, but one of my all time favorites is Fantastic Mr. Fox. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a class stop-animation film based on Roald Dahl children's novel. Andy Gent was the films chief animator who worked alongside 140 other crew members. The crew worked all day everyday for a year, paying attention to every single little detail. It took seven months alone to make the first model of the fox, and then 535 more puppets with outfits to go along had to be made as well.

Although it is not a new technique, stop animation has an incredibly unique visual quality to it that makes film makers want to go back to it time and time again. Movement is built up through accretion, frame by frame, so the creation of just one shot can take days. Below is a short behind the scenes video of the making of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

T-Shirt War Stop Motion

I have always loved this stop motion video. It is fun, creative, and definitely entertaining. I have always wanted to create my own stop motion, but have never had an idea worth pursuing. I also found a behind the scenes of T-Shirt wars, it does not explain too much about the actual editing but the director did mention how they used what is known as an "onion peel" effect to help the actors create the movement to be as realistic as possible. The onion peel was used in a laptop facing the actors to show them the previous frame, but have their new frame in a transparent layer on top of the previous frame. Very cool!

Children's Animation?

I found this video online that have some pretty cool cartoon-ish animations. The movie features some young French boys and an elaborate Nerf gun battle, complete with smoke and blood. According to one website, the kids made the video themselves (which would be completely amazing). However, that is not evident from the youtube page. Regardless of who is responsible for the graphics, I enjoyed the style of the graphics and would love to be able to incorporate something like that into my demo reel. I'm not sure if it's because it reminds me of movies from my childhood like Bedknobs and Broomsticks which incorporates humans and animation, but it's a style I find myself drawn to, and would like to see more videos using this style.

HBO's take on WWII

In 2001, Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg teamed up to created the 11 part mini series Band of Brothers on HBO. Hanks was the main producer, but was grateful to have Spielberg on board because his film Saving Private Ryan was made about a similar time period. After viewing the first 4 episodes, I can definitely see some similarities in the two works.

One effect that is especially effective in both is the camera wiggle that is applied to virtually every shot inside of the battle scenes. I have just finished the second disc of the collection and one specific scene especially sticks out for comparison. In the third episode there is a battle of Carentan. This was very similar to a town invasion scene in Saving Private Ryan. In this scene, Easy Company is working together with other battalions to attack the town of Carentan. This is due to the retreat of German forces to this town because of the American attack the day before. In this scene there are massive explosions, lots of gunfire, and many deaths. This is one of the most realistic battle scenes I have seen in a while. Maybe its because it was on Blu-Ray which, for everyone reading this, is an absolute must to get the 100% full effect of the series.

After reading about specific special effects they used, I found that most of the battle scenes where truly realistic and most of the actors actually did their own stunts. Most of the soldiers were rigged with vest that made tiny reactions to look like bullets hitting them. The stunt coordinators had to use manual triggers because the amount of gun shots in the scenes were too much.

See if you guys can pick out the shots that look to be modified in post production or with the use of some green screen. I definitely believe their are a bunch. All in all the amount that goes into a production like this is really unbelievable and both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers seem to give an accurate representation of what these wars and battles were like.

Great Special Effects Video

I remembered watching a pretty interesting show when I was out in LA with the Ithaca program. The school organized a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood. I found the full show on YouTube. The show uses audience members to demonstrate special effects. Some elements are very simplistic but I believe it is pretty effective way to teach people tricks used in cinema that may have no prior knowledge of the production of films. It is definitely a little corny but was a fun show to see live. There was an intern that was also part of the show that appeared to be having a blast, so If someone could land that internship out in LA I'm sure it would be a fun experience.

I Am Legend's Urban Jungle

The final result is what you see in "I Am Legend," a virus hits in 2009, affecting everyone but Will Smith's character. By 2012, New York City is filled with monsters at night and empty during the day. Because people have not inhabited NYC for 3 years, the city is left desolate with crumbling buildings, cracked roads, and an overgrowth in plant life.

To create the look of the depopulated Manhattan proved to be difficult and expensive, taking $40 million of the film's $150 million budget. A visual-effects team had to digitally remove each sign of life from shots, erasing people and darkening windows. Here’s how they constructed the opening scene, in which Smith hunts a deer in Times Square:

Photo 1: photo lasers mapped real buildings to within an inch, creating gray structures. 
Photo 2: the crew took thousands of digital photos, using them to add detail, while animators put in 3-D objects.
Photo 3: The final result.
Photo 4: As for the TKTS booth in the last photo, a hybrid of set design and CGI, it was based on plans for the unfinished renovation.