Monday, 3 September 2012

Monday Challenge

Just wanted to make a quick post. Happy to announce we've been selected in the past two Film Riot Monday Challenges. It's very exciting to see our work posted on such a great show with a huge following.

Here are the links to the episodes.

We're even the thumbnail for this one!

And the episode just released today.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Going MAD?

You know the feeling when you've got too many things on the go, it sometimes feels like nothing ever gets finished? Okay, it's actually just more of a really complicated project than anything. I've been filming for a work project that is almost entirely green screen and virtual sets. The story was written, storyboard drawn, and now a big chunk of the filming has been completed. The remainder of the filming will be more live action than green screen, but every frame will still be touched by the After Effects magic wand.

Speaking of After Effects. Video Copilot released their new plugin Element 3D! This is really going to change the playing field. From 3D textured text to animating reflecting logos, it is a pretty powerful tool. It isn't raytraced (which means it's not really reflecting things), but it still very convincing. What it is is very fast!

I saw a handful of people on YouTube animating objects and text and making some really great looking stuff, but I thought I'd go for something different. Since my green screen is all set up, I thought I'd take the opportunity to film a couple of shots. The flickering light on me is a halogen being bounced off of a wiggling car windshield reflector. The cave was a basic object modeled in Blender, and brought into Element 3D. I textured it and added the rock objects to the scene all in Element. The really cool thing is you can move around your lights along with the character. Once the cave was set up I duplicated multiple instances of Element to be layer in front of and behind my character. The music is from the "Horror Movie Music" collection from Neumann Films. They have some great stuff, and a bunch of free (even for commercial use) music as well! All you have to do is give Luke credit for the music. Check it out here.

Anyways, here is my Element 3D virtual set. Hope you like it!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Adobe CS6 3D Camera Tracker

It's always exciting when Adobe has a new release. I have to admit, this release has really added some great new features. I did predict one of the big ones though, the 3D Camera Tracker shipping with After Effects!

When they released CS5.5 they added the Warp Stabilizer. I have used it numerous times now, and it can really stabilize a shaky shot quite nicely. While watching a video about the Warp Stabilizer there was a clip showing all the tracking points applied to some footage to do the stabilizing... much like the track points in the new 3D Camera Tracker. It made me wonder when they would take the next step, and add motion tracking.

If you are unfamiliar with motion tracking, it's the process of figuring out what the camera did in a live shot. A camera is then created in a compositing program, or a 3D program, performing the same camera moves. This allows you to add objects that weren't originally there as if they were part of the scene.

This is one of my first tests with the 3D Camera Tracker. It's quite intuitive: you track the footage, then right click one of the points you want to track and apply a null, or solid etc.

For this shot I applied a Null object to the distant background and created a solid parented to that null. I masked out the section I wanted to remove and used it as an alpha matte to remove the background from the footage. So I didn't have a sharp unrealistic edge to the matte, I applied the Turbulent Displace plugin. This gave a grass-like pattern to the edge, blending it nicely with the added virtual set.

You may not realize this, but changing backgrounds in television and movies is done far more often than you know. A lot of scenes for The Avengers were not filmed in New York, so they added New York buildings and landmarks. Even shows that you wouldn't think have any effect shots can have many. 

I look forward to doing more with the Camera Tracker and all the other new features, plus the completely new products they've added, Speed Grade for example.

As for the 3D Camera Tracker, I hope to do some more experimenting, and perhaps even do a video tutorial on how I created the above video.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Retweeted by the Calgary Comic Expo

Today is the opening day for the 2012 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. We're all geared up for it. Some advice for anyone who hasn't attended before... wear good shoes, and bring a water bottle.

Good news on the Twitter front.  They retweeted our commercial! I'd like to give big thanks to the Calgary Comic Expo for sharing our video. Our views have been quite consistent since. We're not at Double Rainbow numbers by any means, but as long as some people are seeing it. 

If you're interested in following them, their Twitter handle is @Calgaryexpo

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

2012 Calgary Comic Expo

Really excited about the 2012 Calgary Comic Expo this year. So much so, we decided to create a fan-made commercial for it. I Tweeted it to them, but I still haven't heard anything back from them yet. We're just hoping they'll like it. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Really happy with the lighting on this one. We shot in the somewhat later part of the evening so the light through the windows wasn't overly bright and we could expose properly inside without overexposing the windows. My soft boxes are at about 5500K which is a daylight temperature. I set my white balance on my Canon 60D to about 8800K. It really gave a nice warm yellow tone.

Interesting tidbit: By the time we got to filming the nosebleed scene, the sun had gone down... a lot, which is why we shifted angles to the over the shoulder. We needed to hide the window. 

Something really exciting to me is my order of Video Copilot's Action Essentials. It hasn't arrived yet, but you get a free downloadable starter pack. You see it in action at the 47 second mark. Okay, so it's not that epic, but that's the point. I have a lot of intimate evenings ahead when Action Essentials shows up.

Carol Patterson

A friend of mine named Carol Patterson is a fellow filmmaker. She has a really strong passion for documentaries and focuses on nature. While traveling the world, Carol always brings her camera, and she seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. 

Last Fall she signed up for an Adult Documentary Workshop at the Gulf Islands Film and Television School.

Below is her final project along with co-creator Tara Nichelle.

I'm really excited to announce her nomination for an award in cinematography for a short piece called
Nature Scapes.

It deals with how people are losing their connection with nature. How we spend so much time in front of the TV these days... or the computer... typing. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  

Please enjoy. For more of Carol's work, please click here.

Or visit her website:

Monday, 12 March 2012

TubeTape Commercial

I decided to enter a contest being held by TubeTape is a company that sells lights, green screens, effects bundles and a bunch of other video production equipment. You can see some of the equipment if you check my behind-the-scenes video posted here.

The contest is for creating a 15 second commercial for them. It was a challenge coming up with something that couldn't exceed 15 seconds that included a before and after concept of how their products help. Lighting is always crucial to setting a good scene, and a green screen can place you in a new world.

The following screenshots are a breakdown of some of the layers in the ship scene. I purchased the Thunderbike model from Daz3D. I did the 3D animation in Blender, attached some lights, and exported the camera and object data out to After Effects. While Blender was rendering, I went over to After Effects to set up my scene, ie background stars, parented lights to object data from Blender. 

Render from Blender with alpha channel

Background Star layer added

Fractal noise red smoke and blast ring added

Optical Flares added

For voice work, I want to give credit to Aaron, a friend from work. I asked him if he would record a couple of lines for me. The, "That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done!" is him. He gave me all sorts of takes with varying levels of intensity. I'm really happy with how it turned out. Thanks Aaron!

Also, my wife Elisa. She is the other radio voice. For version 2, I also had her do a narration with an English accent. I think it worked out very well and gave it a more commercial feel. Thanks wife!

In the end, I think having 3 voices (mine included) really adds production value. It really makes you feel like there are a lot more characters in the scene.

As for the contest, they'll announce the winner tomorrow. Wish me luck. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


This time 'round we decided to film the behind-the-scenes while we shot "How's Your Chicken". I wasn't quite sure what quality the behind-the-scenes should be, but found it quite handy just filming it with an iPhone. One interesting thing about doing this was it gave me a comparison (with lights setup) of the iPhone video vs the Canon 60D. The iPhone is amazing quality for something always in your pocket, but the control you have with a DSLR clearly shows an advantage. I also used the front camera which isn't as high quality as the back camera. I'll have to try that next time, to give it a more fair trial.

I wanted to keep the lighting as minimal as possible, just to demonstrate that you don't need a ton of gear. I was going for a dramatic look with heavy shadows. Potentially I could have bounced an additional light off the ceiling to add some ambient light.

Monday, 13 February 2012

How's Your Chicken?

New video up on YouTube. This one was a lot of fun. The shoot was less intensive than Zombie Bunnies, but again I really wanted to get a good look and feel so we took our time. Got the filming done in a few hours, and spent the next couple nights doing editing, visual FX and sound. Didn't record audio at all on this one, so we had to do dialog replacement. Luckily there were only two lines and an ehhhh!?

The effects were inspired by a great tutorial by Film Riot. I don't want to say too much more, since I don't want to give any spoilers. Hope you enjoy!

Note: No husbands were harmed in the making of this video.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Music For TELL

My music entries for TELL, a short film by Ryan Connolly.

Massage for Ryan... I mean... message ;)

Hi Ryan,
I'm not really sure what you're going for, but have a listen to the following. If you need any of them in high quality, please let me know.

Shameless plug: If you check out the Zombie Bunnies fake trailer here, you'll notice I used your "Cut Your Friends In Half" technique for a scene. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Aharon Rabinowitz

Okay. Not trying to sound like a newbie here in regards to technology and social media, but Twitter gave me an opportunity tonight to do something I've always wanted to do. I got to thank Aharon Rabinowitz for his teaching and inspiration throughout the years.

If you don't know who Aharon is, he is a graphics artist whose teachings I've been following for the past 7-8 years.

He tweeted tonight asking if anyone could name a tv series that got better after moving to another network. I replied with "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and he replied back. That pretty much made my evening! I took the opportunity to reply again thanking him, letting him know that I now make a living using After Effects everyday. 

I've found my own way in my graphics work for some time now, but without even thinking about it I probably use a lot of methods Aharon has taught me as if they were my own.

His teaching method is usually not about making something flashy you put in your demo reel, but about techniques you could use every time you launched After Effects.

As a guitar player, I've had people ask me to how to play a song. They don't want to learn anything else, just a song. Aharon is about the "chords and theory" of motion graphics first, which I think is what makes him invaluable, especially for someone starting out. It's only when you have this foundation, you can tackle anything.

Thanks Aharon!

You can find Aharon at the following:

Executive Producer and co-writer on Plot Device

Thursday, 26 January 2012

First Time YouTube!

Well, I finally put my first video on YouTube. I put a lot of work into it. It's not perfect, but I'm guessing everyone says that about their own stuff. Besides, I think if anything was perfect, there would be no reason to go and try again and create new stuff.

This will hopefully be a good push to go out and do more.

In the upcoming post I'll go over some more of the scenes and the methods I used.

Check it out here:

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Candlelit Scene

The candlelit scene was the one that had me concerned about lighting and setup. I didn't want to shoot too dark (which introduces grain) but I also couldn't blast it with too much light, since I needed to crush the shadows in post.

The Camera:
I'm shooting with a Canon 60D with the cinestyle preset. This helps preserve the shadows and highlights, producing a flatter image. This way I have more control in post.

The setup was a 5500K fluorescent soft box pointing away from the actors (my wife and I) and into the corner of the room. It was enough to create an ambient fill throughout the room.

To add more candle light glow, I have a flashlight with a Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel pointed at the edge of our faces.

Behind and to the left was a distant 1000W tungsten with a few color temperature blue (CTB) gels. Since tungsten is much more yellow than the fluorescents it took a few gels to make it bluer. I wanted this to simulate the moonlight coming through the windows. I used barn doors to direct the light and try to prevent spill into the background. This is what is creating the highlight on the couch.

I believe my shutter speed was around 1/30th per second, which gave me an overall well lit scene. To get a sense of what the scene would look like when color corrected, I sped up my shutter speed until the scene was about as dark as I wanted it. I could see highlights on the face and nice dark shadows. Since this looked good, I put my shutter back to 1/30th.

For audio (which you can't hear in this clip) I only have one shotgun mic. Since I didn't have a boom operator, I set the mic on a mic stand pointed at whoever's side of the conversation we were filming.

Color correction for the most part was:
Curves - Applied strong S curve boosting highlights and crushing the shadows.
Hue/Saturation - Curve adds saturation which tends to redden skin tone, so I used hue/saturation to desaturate the red channel.
Vignette - Helps darken outer shadows and adds filmic look.

Check out the before and after color correction sample. (no sound)

What I would have done differently:
All in all I'm quite happy with the results. If I did anything differently, I would have used a piece of foam board to block some more of the tungsten light (with the blue gels) from hitting the background. I was able to darken it enough, but I wouldn't have had to crunch it as much, sacrificing my midtones a little.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Usually when I plan a film project, I try to set out to do at least one scene that I find a bit intimidating. Whether it's a camera move, special effect, or lighting. My goal is that when I've completed a number of these little projects, I've tackled all the things that once made me nervous about taking on a larger project. If anything, I won't feel the need to simplify any scenes based on fear of the unknown, since I've already tried it.

As I go, I figured I would share what techniques I used, what went well, and what I would have done different. Hell, I might even go back and do it again anyways.

Below are a couple of screen shots from a short fake trailer I'm working on. It's actually been completed, but I may go back and do some dialog replacement and tweak the audio before I post it.

In the next post I'll go over one of the scenes: the set up, lighting, color correction and anything else I can think of.

Sinister Establishing Shot

Candlelit scene

And of course... Monster Vision.