Dan Hume's Blog


New Title Scene
May 11, 2012, 4:28 am
Filed under: After Effects, Extended Major Project, Video

After much criticism of my 3D composite of the title ‘iSolation’, I’ve changed the shot completely with a 2D version in a different scene. The only negative feedback I had after people had watch the documentary was 3D composite. Even after watching the whole piece, people were still irritated by this really short scene at the beginning. Tony Chance, who guided me through my development of this project, said that it looked out of place and unnecessary.

I initially chose to create a 3D title because I’d seen a really impressive tutorial (mentioned in a previous entry) that showed me how to composite 3D text into a live scene. What impressed me the most was the fact that you could light a 3D object using the pixel data from the shot you want to composite into. I was inclined to do this as I wanted to learn the basic principles of compositing 3D elements into video. It’s something I’ve been struggling to actually do for the last couple of years, but I think I’ve now managed to grasp the concept behind compositing really well. Despite all the efforts of this, the outcome didn’t work in the final piece.

However, I didn’t want to replace the 3D composited shot with something really basic, such as 2D text with a black background. I decided that it maybe better to composite a 2D version of the title into a slightly different scene that convey’s the idea of isolation a little bit better. I found a shot that I recorded at Maida Vale tube station when it was completely empty and I thought this would be a good little scene to have the title appear. I really wanted to make the text become an actual object within the scene to look as if it’s isolated itself.

This lead me to reflecting back to an initial tutorial I looked at, which was to composite some text into a still image. If you look at my header image at the top of the blog page, you’ll see I added some text into the scene of the image using a 2D text object. This was all created in After Effects using it’s 3D workflow.

Here is a video showing the new shot without the composite and then the shot with the 2D composited.

It was initially easy to set up the text into the scene. The first thing I did was created a new white solid and turned it into a 3D layer. Like in many 3D programs, you create a plane to allow you get the perspective right to align the object you want to fix into the scene.

I then turned the plane into a grid by going into the effects menu. This then gave me more flexibility to see how well the plane was positioned to the roughly the same angle as the ground in the shot. I also created a new camera, which I also used to help me make the 3D environment replicate the perspective of the actual scene. The camera is a way of controlling plane and anything else you add to the scene, without have to individually adjust the position of each inanimate object.

The next step was to create the 2d text, which was ‘isolation’. I then switched on the 3D for the text and then it moved position to the perspective of the virtual camera I’d just created. I then added a virtual spot light into the scene, which would be used to shine onto the 2D text to cast a shadow.

It was then a case of adjusting the text position to make it look like it was actually at the tube station when I shot this. I also positioned the light in place where there were actual lights; therefore replicating how a shadow would look if there was an object  or person standing there.

I had to motion track the footage so that I could fix the text into the scene. I was having trouble tracking After Effects as the footage was shaky so I turned to Mocha, which is a stand alone Planar Tracking and rotoscoping utility built into After Effects. I was able to track the entire surface of the platform on the station, as opposed to object points. I then exported the tracking data to after effects and applied it to a null object, which I then parented to the Pre-comp of all the attributes of the 2d text. Although it tracked well, I still didn’t like the shakiness of the footage, so I ended up stabilising the whole video to get a smoother playback. Notice in the video example at the top, the original footage is shaky and the final outcome is much more stable.

I do feel the outcome to this technique is more realistic looking compared to the 3D version. As I said before, I wanted to make the text truly represent the title isolation by placing in a remotely empty scene; therefore it looks isolated.



David Hockney Multiple Video Art
April 15, 2012, 1:07 am
Filed under: After Effects, Extended Major Project

It appears David Hockney has now worked with video to create life size scenes. Here is an interesting program which gives you an insight into his latest approach of using, what appear to be, DSLR cameras to film with.

I like the way his shots of the country merge together showing gradual change of seasons of the same location. It’s very subtle but incredibly enticing to watch.

I’ve already experimented in the Specialist Project with taking multiple shots to generate a scene that captures more than what you would be able to capture in a single frame. Here is an example I did, in which I took a series of portrait shots, each recorded at a length of 20 seconds, to create this panoramic shot of a busy high-street, near Oxford Circus. Each frame was shot in chronological order as I panned from one end of the street to the other.

My approach is entirely different as I don’t have the luxury of having 9 DSLR cameras to film with and a team of people to help construct a rig and put it into action. It’s evident  that Hockey’s approach is more accurate and precise in order to get an immaculate result. With my filming style being secretive I won’t be able to achieve the same accurate result, which is actually a good thing as I’m creating something slightly different.

The overall results I’ve been getting are very reminiscent of Hockney’s early work where takes multiple images to create an entire scene, like in the image above. I like the way he positions each image in a more freestyle way instead of approaching it in a more precise and technical manner. If the overall result was 100% perfectly aligned, I don’t think there would been much point in going to the trouble of creating the image in the first place. It would just come across as another ordinary image that could have possibly been shot on a super wide angle lens. I think what I most like about this particular style is the strong definition of colour he generates by using slightly different exposures for each shot.

There are couple of shots where I accidentally moved the camera from side to side a bit too much when I was filming, which doesn’t look particularly great. Most of the shots were quite well and stable, considering it was all handheld. There needs to be quite a lot of concentration when doing this task. Although I won’t be able to achieve an exact 100% match with each alignment, I’m always determined to get it as close as possible.

Here are some screenshots of other videos I’ve made using this technique



3D Title
March 19, 2012, 2:38 pm
Filed under: 3D, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Extended Major Project

After trying out the tutorial by greyscale gorilla, which consisted of creating 3D text and compositing it into a short scene.

CINEMA 4D 

Following on from my test of creating the Vimeo logo in 3d then compositing it into a live scene, I really wanted to use this technique in the opening of my documentary. I chose a simple font so that it would be clear to read in 3D. Haraba is my chosen font for the title.

First off I went into Cinema 4D and created the basic outline of my text under the menu, Mograph and then selecting Mograph text. I was able to type what I wanted and select my font type all within Mograph text. The first two screenshots show how the text looked in the 3D environment of the C4D and a rendered view.

 

I then started adjusting the colour of the text, but since then, I’ve changed it to a creamy white colour instead. To make the text look a bit more dynamic I applied a bevel around the edge of the tex.

 

I was eager to stat preparing the text for compositing. The next step was for me to select my chosen clip. I opened up After Effects and created a new composition and dragged my chosen clip onto it. I then exported one frame from my clip as a PSD file. This would act as guideline for posting the text in the scene and also lighting the text.

I used the grid and created a 3D camera to help make sure my perspective was right for positioning the 3D object in the environment. This is quite a crucial process as it needs to be as perfect as possible for the object to look really believable with the scene. I wanted to position the text on the ground of the street, so I had to make sure it was firmly sitting onto of the grid for it to work.

 

Global illumination was the next step for preparing the 3d object for compositing. Global Illumination is a relatively new feature to cinema 4d in which you are now able to light a scene using the pixel data from a still frame image (All the light from an image is projected onto the 3D object).

I created a sky object and added the background image to sky object, which then maps the entire image around the 3D object. I went to select global illumination, and selected Sky Sampler. This then tells cinema 4d to take all the pixel data from the image and use it to light the object. This is not 100% perfect lighting, however for what I’m trying to create, it does the job well. Once that’s was done, I then had to hide the sky object, without turning it off. To do this I went to compositing tags and then deselected the scene by camera option, which then takes you back to the normal view.

 

Once I hit render again, it clearly started looking more like it was in the scene. However, it still looked a bit dark and not really reflecting the light in scene as good as it should be. To fix this, I went back to the global illumination settings and played around with the gamma and light intensity. I increased the gamma slightly to about 1.8 and the light intensity to about 160% to help brighten the object up to make it correspond well with the light in the scene.

The next thing I did was I added another render effect called Ambient Occlusion. This basically fills in all the missing details such as minor shadows on the actual 3D object. If you can compare both screenshots, you’ll see in the second rendered shot there are some darker areas around the letter ‘a’ for example. The letter ‘a’ has an arch over it so naturally that small area would be darker as the light is being slightly blocked from that surface. In real life where corners meet and when objects are close together, they cast shadows and thats what Ambient Occlusion is designed to achieve.

 

Now, I really want to have the text sitting on the ground surface of the street. The only thing missing is a shadow on the bottom of the text. Without this shadow, the object doesn’t really fit in the scene and it looks like it’s floating in mid-air.

 

As my footage was shot handheld, the title needed to be stabilised within the video to look effective. To do this I had to use After Effects as it has a built motion track feature which tracks each frame of the cameras movement. Cinema 4D doesn’t have this feature. I thought I would have been able to render out the 3D title with the shadow from the scene, but unfortunately this didn’t work out and I had to re-create it as best I could in After Effects.

AFTER EFFECTS 

I used after effects to track the movement of the clip so that the 3D text can become fixed into the scene. The first thing I did was adjust some of the lighting using the curves tool, as it wasn’t 100% perfect after exporting out of Cinema 4D. Once I was happy with how it looked in terms of being realistic in the scene, I was then ready to track the footage using track motion.

The track motion in After Effects is probably the most basic compared to other softwares out there, so it does require a few goes until you can get a stable track. For me it took about 4 goes because I needed to find suitable distinct objects within the shot to track.

Once the track was finished, I then parented it null object to the 3D text so it would now look like it’s been fixated into the shot. However, with the lack of a shadow, it still doesn’t look like it’s been composited properly. The way I approached this was to duplicate the 3D text.

  

Then I added a motion blur to the duplicated layer and changed the colour of it to black. It was then a case of squashing the blurred image and positioning right underneath the original 3D text layer.

  

It’s not as effective as creating a plane and using Ambient Occlusion in Cinema 4D, but it creates the same effect nonetheless. I made a quick video render to show the completed version all tracked and composited.



Intro Development
March 13, 2012, 6:48 pm
Filed under: After Effects, Extended Major Project

I’ve decided I’m going to make the shot of the pigeon shorter; therefore  I’ll be including static shots of London’s landscapes in the early hours of the morning. Shooting in the morning will allow me to capture London at it’s most solitude time. This was something I originally planned to do but I decided to try out something different to open up my documentary.

There will be some static scenery shots happening at the very beginning then it will cut to the shot of the lonely pigeon. I feel that there needs to be some sort of dialogue within that shot to help the audience understand what they’re seeing. Fortunately, the way I’ve composed the shot there’s a nice big space for me to include some text.

I’ve done a quick test, using the track motion feature in after effects to integrate the text into the shot.

I think this works really well to help make things clearer. It also adds a nice touch the shot as it looks like the pigeon is talking to the camera!

After the pigeon flies out of shot, there will be a cut to a static shot of an empty street or a tunnel with the word ‘isolation’. I’ve been majorly influenced by a tutorial, courtesy of greyscale gorilla, which shows you how to make a 3d composite using the iPhone to help light the scene accurately.

The fact that this tutorial consists of using the iPhone to make this work couldn’t make it more relevant to use for my project.

Here are a couple of examples of this technique being used. If you look closely at the reflections on the 3D text you can see the reflections of the environment that the photograph was taken in. It’s incredible that we can pull this kind of render off using images taken on a mobile phone. Really amazing stuff!

These images are a good example of what I want to achieve. I like the environments he’s used to composite the text into!

I’ve already included a time-lapse video in the draft intro, but I’m going to be adding more. As well as the contextual aspect, I feel it’s also important for me to show the versatility of the iPhone as a mobile device. I can pretty much achieve anything I want like you can on a normal camera.

London Time-lapse Using an iPhone 



3D compositing using global Illumination for Lighting
February 4, 2012, 11:48 pm
Filed under: 3D, After Effects, Cinema 4D, Extended Major Project

I’ve been thinking about adding some minor 3D elements to this project. This will be a big step up for me as I’ve not really exceeded in using 3D software… until now. So far I’ve been experimenting with Cinema 4D to create simple and effective looking 3D elements.

This is brief overview of how I used Cinema 4D and After Effects to composite a still 3D object into a video scene. I used a template from the Vimeo Press website where you can download a high resolution version of the logo. I used this template to extrude from in Cinema 4D; therefore avoiding one of my worst nightmares when using 3D software., which is modelling.

The reason I’ve chosen to use Cinema 4D is because I feel it’s more logical and more broken down compared to Maya. I would say Maya is the top software to use for 3D visual effects, but the results you can produce in Cinema 4D is almost as good, if not better than Maya. It’s also quite an innovative piece of software to, which enables users to composite 3D elements more effectively with it’s Global Illumination feature. This attribute is designed to light scenes in a more realistically by using pixel data for an still image. This data is then projected on to the 3D object/character.

Before I imported the logo into C4D, I needed to convert it to an Illustrator 8 file, which made it compatible for C4D to read and saves the logo as a vector file.

Cinema 4D

I  used C4D as my primary software to create a 3D version of the Vimeo logo.

After Effects

AE was used primarily to really integrate the 3D logo even more into the scene to make it more realistic. I tracked and colour corrected the whole scene to fully combine both different types of media into one video.

Finished Version

As you can the final result is a composited 3D word. This is what I’d like to do, but with the words relating to sustainability that I talked about in my previous post. I feel with this input of information into the video, it should help give the viewer a clearer understanding of what they’re watching.



Twixtor Pro Test
November 2, 2011, 5:34 am
Filed under: After Effects, Specialist Project, Video

Well, I’ve spent a few hours trying to work out how to use Twixtor Pro to a good standard. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not always going to be perfect because it’s a piece software trying replicate something that can only be done using highly sophisticated hardware, such as a Red Camera in this case.

A lot of the example I found online had video footage that was shot at 60fps, which gives them a better advantage over someone who has shot footage at 30fps (iPhone 4/4S shoots video at 30fps).

I’ve been thinking about syncing the visuals of my documentary to the rhythm of the Moby track I’m going to be using. I like the conventional styled music videos that experiment with different speeds of the visuals.

I’m not sure if it’s very clear in the video, but it starts off at 30fps then about 15 seconds later it slows down by half the amount of the original speed. Twixtor definitely gives a much smoother slow motion effect as opposed to Premiere Pro’s speed/duration effect, which is very basic. I had a lot of issues with there being signs of warping around moving subjects in the shot. It’s been quite a challenge getting the settings balanced out to reduce the warping, but at the same time maintaining a smooth playback.



Modul8 Visual Development
January 7, 2011, 11:47 pm
Filed under: After Effects, Modul8, Performance Video

After showing Phil my initial video test, he felt the idea I was trying to portray didn’t reflect from the visuals I had used. I could see where he was coming from because the video didn’t really give any connotations about time passing by, which is what I’m exploring in this video.

I’ve now added different visuals that will hopefully give the audience a sense of what the piece about. The image of Canary Wharf  is still going to be included in this, as the main focal point of the visuals, but I’ve enhanced the image with a time-lapse video of clouds sailing through the sky. To do this I used After Effects.

I decided to mask out the sky background of the image to help boost the appearance of backdrop visuals. This was also so I could be in control of that particular area of the image, where I want to embed the time-lapse into.

I imported the video into After Effects and then dragged into composition, on top of the image layer.

Then next thing was to use the Luma Matte effect, which embeds the video into the image like in the screenshot below.

Video Preview

I have got another backdrop for the canary wharf scene. It’s a time-lapse video, which I found in my files, of the clocks by canary wharf… ironically. The whole pice is about time passing and this video fits the description perfectly. Now I wanted to make this backdrop blend well without it spilling too much into city landscape image. I thought if I used the masked layer I used to cut out the city image with in After Effects, it should prevent any of the backdrop video showing through the city image.

I dragged the video into the top half of the composition and since it was a mask, the bottom half where the city image hides the rest of the video showing through.

I like to make the edges smooth when blending two bits of video together, so I used the feather tool to make the edges denser. This made a small proportion of the video spill over into the city image area, but it should work well nonetheless.

Video Preview

I rendered a short clip in After Effects with both layers combined to see what the outcome would look like. I’m pretty happy with how it looks, but it may turn out slightly different in Modul8… but hopefully it will look better!




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