Advanced VFX, in class assignments 2 & 3

July 3, 2015 at 7:00 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , )

Next on the docket was to become familiar with more complex scene compositing and utilizing OpenEXR files. The cool thing about .exr files (among other things) is that they can be multilayered. So. You can have 1 file in with all of your render passes (beauty, reflection, refraction, lighting, ambient occlusion, alpha channel, specular highlights, etc.) and each can still be manipulated independently within Nuke. That is so freaking cool. ANYWAY. I had to composite the exr footage of this Robot:


…into a moving pan on this city scene:


And for extra giggles, why not add a crashed ship in the parking lot? So, I dropped a hole in the ground, added some rubble and fire, and comped a ship in. Then. I set it on fire. Asset reveal!

Since the shot of the city was actually moving, I had to use motion tracking and the 3D scene elements in NukeX. Cameras and cards and nodes! Oh My! I was pretty proud of this for 3ish hours of work.

The next assignment was pretty similar, but was about simulating a building fire. I’m not going to break it down, because I’m sure you get the idea, but I’ll post the final video. I was pretty happy with the central fire, but not so convinced with the smoke coming out of the right window. If I knew then what I know now, I would just have used particle effects in Maya to custom make all my smoke and fire, but we’ll save that for the next ADV VFX installment.


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Advanced VFX, in class assignment 1

July 1, 2015 at 2:08 pm (School) (, , , , , )

One of our first in-class assignments was to take a green-screened actor and remove his arm. The footage was delivered as a TIF sequence, so basically instead of a .mov file, we got a folder of each movie frame as individual images. Like so…

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 6.36.47 AM

This is actually pretty common and is easier for some programs to handle, especially the one we were using to composite: Nuke.

So here is the first frame up close:


As you can see, the floor was dirty and the green a little uneven. Several key nodes were used to knock out that green and masks, of course, to hide that equipment in the corner and disappear the arm. Now where to put our zombie?

I found this room that could pass as a storage-type space, but most importantly, it was very large and at a good perspective. And the lighting was pretty even so it wouldn’t fight with the zombie footage. Of course it’s awfully bright, but that is what post is for, amiright?Theatre-Empty-2

So I comped the zombie and the room together. Did some color grading to give the ambience more of a cold, sickly feel. Added some questionably placed blood splattering (hey this was all in class after all…). And BAM: zombie sequence.

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backlog of updates: advanced vfx

January 10, 2014 at 4:28 pm (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

There are a lot of little assignments for these VFX classes and most of them are in class exercises, which does not leave a lot of time for perfecting, but we do learn a lot. In any case, here are some highlights.

Week 1: sky replacement. We had to take a clip of people waking across the screen and replace the sky. I also stabilized the shot so there was no camera shake. This was using Nuke for all of the effects and compositing (make sure to watch these on 360p, the lower setting looks like total crap).

Original clip:

Sky Replacement:

Week 6: compositing and motion tracking. In Nuke, I tracked the motion from the clip and exported the data to Cinema 4D. In C4D, I matched a plane to the ground and put a sphere on it textured to roughly match the stone in the clip. I added lights to match the lighting in the clip. Then rendered passes so the C4D camera recorded the sphere to match the footage. Then put renders back into C4D and composite everything together. Whee!

Final Project: This is basically like the Week 6 assignment, but more complicated. I added transparency and reflections into the mix to make these floating alien water cubes fly in formation across the screen. I also darkened everything to make it more moody and creepy.


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Sanditon’s Friendly Ghost

August 11, 2013 at 6:16 am (Etc) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have really enjoyed Welcome to Sanditon. I don’t love it in the same way as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but Pride and Prejudice is my favorite novel of all time so that would be unreasonable to expect and it is unfair to compare them really. The Pemberley Digital team put together another talented cast and wrote a story that is fun and engaging. I couldn’t have asked for more. Not only did they give us another great show, but they facilitated a virtual space for interested fans to build a community and culture around it. Before the show officially launched, hundreds of RP accounts were created on twitter and tumblr. The town of Sanditon was suddenly populated with restaurants and their owners, doctors and nurses in hospitals, schools with students and teachers, clubs, tea shops and more fanciful residents like a tumbleweed, a deadly spider and a dragon. Using the story-telling platform Theatrics, they set up a place for the Sanditon residents to blog and vlog as part of the official beta test of the fictional Domino App.

There were several paranormal-based RP accounts, Haunted Sanditon and Sanditon Paranormal and an actual ghost, which made me think about how a ghost might participate in the Domino experience. The idea I settled on was that she couldn’t set up cameras or move laptops to record, but maybe she could use ghost energy and “possess” someone else’s recording with her own image. I got in touch with the local ghost and asked if she wanted to do any Domino vlogs and if she wanted help with vfx and sound design for them. She liked my ideas so I told her to shoot whatever she wanted in front of a solid color bedsheet, preferably blue or green. She did…

Sanditon’s own Clara Breton made a video in which she demonstrates creating her Trick or Treat ice cream. Since the town was in the midst a heated debate of Old Sanditon vs. New Sanditon, Scoops vs juice bar… this seemed like the perfect video for a ghost to hijack:

SO. I downloaded the Trick or Treat video and rendered it as a PNG sequence. Using a few different stills I painted out most of Clara for a background plate behind the ghost. I put the bg plate, ToT sequence and ghost footage into Nuke. I removed the blue screen from the ghost video, which had the added bonus of removing the black eyes. I toyed with masking them back in, but I really liked how it looked with eyes as holes. Next, I masked the original ToT video to get enough of the little spinning logo in the bottom corner without Clara’s hand moving behind it. I layered that over the bg still plate and added a little moving grain so if looked like the same footage as the original ToT video. There was a little color correcting, etc. Once I rendered those clips out, I dropped them into After Effects to create the visual distress of the cinematic ghostly possession. Finally, I used ProTools to do the sound design, the audio noise to match the visual as well deciding what the ghost voice would actually sound like. This is the first time I’ve really stepped out and done something not school-related, just playing around with various skills that I’ve been acquiring. All in all, it was really fun to do! So here’s the final vlog post:

The best part was that the Sanditon team over at Pemberley Digital really liked it! It created a mini-sensation on twitter when they actually incorporated it into the show (SQUEEE!!). I captured it on Storify. I love what this team is doing by creating these immersive, interactive shows. I got the opportunity, not to influence the direction of the story, but to leave my mark on the landscape of this fictional world; to watch characters and RP fans react to what we did. It was exciting!

I got to meet some of the PD team at LeakyCon 2013 in Portland, including Sanditon show runners Margaret Dunlap and Jay Bushman, and they were really nice and complimentary about it. Jay was so excited he gave me a hug! Actually, the whole Lizzie Bennet cast and crew were really lovely and I had such a wonderful time meeting other fans like me. Now that Sanditon has wrapped, I’m really going to miss these people. I have to comfort myself that Emma Approved is on the way and if I’ve learned one thing: Jane Austen and Pemberley Digital are an unstoppable combination.

These shows and the people connected to them have, in turn, left their mark on the landscape of my life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. ♥

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Last term, part 1

March 12, 2013 at 6:53 am (School) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Realized that I never posted anything from last term. LAME.

Nuke. There are always a crap-ton (technical term) of Nuke assignments in a VFX class, rather than a large/term-long project.

Blue screen removal: added noise (aka clouds for the cam to fall through… wheeee!), roto to correct the blue screen removal inadequacies around the legs and cord.

Source assets:


Final video:

Compositing: We got to learn about shuffling & compositing. Basically, you shuffle out different render passes of an image (specularity, shadows, lights, depth, highlights, ambient, etc – there can be a lot). With each shuffled, you can manipulate/adjust each thing independently of the others to maximize the final result.

Original image, pre-shuffle:


I added a glow to the lights, but a specific color glow to the robot wires, etc., and used masking to create the glow reflection in the floor; darkened the room and changed the backlighting. I added smoke, because reasons. Post-shuffle composite:


Fake 3D: Take a 2D image of a hallway and fake a 3D camera movement in it. BAM:

MOAR VFX! SO CHEEZY! Hey… lets play spot the fake thing… Ok, so here’s what I did. Took the original video and generated a 3D space using motion trackers to define a ground plane, etc. Once the 3D environment was established, I plonked a spherical primitive into the scene and found a relatively appropriate texture (Why, yes, that is a ridiculously large thermal detonator. Do you have detonator envy? YEAH, YOU DO!), added a shadow. It’s kinda lame, but it was fun in-class exercise and could totally be more awesome with more time to clean up the shadow and color correct… add some snazzy gun fire, etc.

This was our ridiculous final… some doofus decided that in order to make the kid freeze over the pool while the lady walks by, adjusting her suit, they should put a partial green screen behind her for no apparent reason. BTW, this was a real job brought to one of the Ai staff to fix. They wanted to make it cheap. That did not so much work out. FYI… It is MUCH harder and more expensive in human time and effort to remove green screen plus its reflection (aka spill) from people and puddles and metal than it is TO SIMPLY USE THE ROTO TOOL TO CREATE A FREEZE FRAME FOR PART OF YOUR VIDEO. Also… if you are going to use a green screen where the objective is to remove all the green and replace it with something else DON’T HAVE YOUR SUBJECT WEARING AND CARRYING GREEN BECAUSE THAT WILL ALSO BE FIXED ONLY WITH EXTREME TIME AND CARE.

Thus ends the lesson in common sense.

Original cannon ball with freeze frame already completed (water motion reinstated in final video):

Sample of original woman walking by:

Final composite. Painful, le sigh, but got rid of the green junk LIKE A BOSS:


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I’m in school again…

November 6, 2011 at 12:53 am (School) (, , , , , , )

AND I’M FREAKING HAPPY ABOUT IT!!! Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of the school activity. Don’t get me wrong, I like learning new things… I just don’t like being forced to learn crap I don’t care about. That’s what makes this so great. I’m getting a second undergrad: BFA in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics. I have all my gen eds out of the way courtesy of my first BA, so I get to focus on the stuff I actually want to learn about. WOOOOOT!

Here is my first big assignment as a VEMG major… I had to collect some still photos on google and create a fake motion picture using a program called Nuke. Parameters:  60 frames, so only a few seconds. Granted, I know there are things still to learn that would make this look even better, but for 5 weeks into school I think it ROCKS.

UPDATE: Because it is a FAQ… here are the pics I used to make this. (images temp offline… back up soon)

1st, the falling girl: created premlut/alpha channel for her to make the rest of the photo transparent, painted out wires, added motion, color effects, blur effects.

2nd, superman: created premlut/alpha channel for him to make the rest of the photo transparent, added motion, scaling & rotation, flipped image, blur effects.

3rd (x2), the office view: set as background;
brought in again as foreground & created premlut/alpha channel to keep the office interior in foreground and the rest of the photo (aka the windows) transparent – this was done in pieces so I could have different effects; for example, I set the window shade opacity down to about 85% so you can see her through it as she falls at about the same level as the background buildings; added a slight grain to the office interior; slight blur effect to keep focus out the window.

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