New York, New York!

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A big birthday necessitated a big trip to celebrate, so where better than the Big Apple!

It also gave me an ideal opportunity to test out my new travel Camera – the Fuji XT-30, plus 28mm prime.

NewYork_147

The heat in New York was pretty unbearable and these guys with the water for a dollar were everywhere – I did take a refillable bottle with me, but the shop/cafe owners were definitely not as keen to refill as we are in the UK.

The guy above didn’t even have the energy to shout out his ‘water for a dollar’, he had it on a repeat tape!

As we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, the  steel cables make dramatic lines against the road with the Manhattan skyline behind, so all I had to do was wait for an iconic yellow taxi to go by to make the perfect shot!

NewYork_037

Of course in my mind’s eye they would be the old style yellow taxis, like the ones in the movies, but the only way we saw one of those was on the back of a truck being towed somewhere, in my imagination it was going off to be on a film set!

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Another iconic American shot is to get one of the big yellow school buses, and again the Brooklyn Bridge provided me with a great one.

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As nighttime arrived, a glorious sunset and another yellow taxi got me the shot below, which I really like. I think it’s the street lights and central perspective point that just make it pleasing to the eye.

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And of course the ultimate destination of an evening – Time Square.

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They have even built a ramped viewing platform in Times Square just so that people can take a good photo!

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New York is an amazing city to visit, if you’re feeling brave you can do what we did for the last 3 days and get around on a bicycle, it was brilliant, we saw so much more and could still stand up at the end of the day!

I thoroughly tested out my little fuji and it took some fab photos, but there was one photo where I just couldn’t get far enough away to take the shot I really wanted, so tried on my phone, and got the image below of the flatiron building.

New York ( iPhone pics)

But you can’t deny how beautiful some of the street shots are that my new street camera took.

NewYork_134

 

Check them all out on my flickr album.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsmGssccx

enjoy!

 

TV Paint and After Effects

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Teaching TV Paint to the Students at NUA is quite a change from any of the Adobe products, it’s a bit of a lore unto itself. No keyboard shortcuts are the same – I tell a lie, ctrl z!

None of the students have com across this type of software before so it really makes sense to give them a very basic but practical introduction, that being said, I am not a natural 2D animator, my Graphic Design and Illustrator background means I usually like crisp lines, clean colours and none of this sketchy stuff, which is the way I actually draw!

Below video test was my first foray into TVP from simple footage that I shot in the garden and it just  turned out really well, really gorgeous movement.

I had also recently mocked up a lip sync/rotoscope sequence with a freelance client so had got the basics of using video in TV Paint (massive files!) down and I really love to push and expand software in different combinations.

just the lines

just the lines

colour blocking

colour blocking

Below final output video –

So, to really get my teeth into it I gave myself an extension project… let’s take the output from TVP and play with it in After Effects, and I had the perfect piece of footage to try it with and a brand new 16″ cintiq to test it out on.

The clip I wanted to use was an outtake from a music shoot, where we had attached a go-pro to the head of the guitar.

So I did the rough layer then a refined layer in TV Paint, which looked quite nice all by itself (see below)

linework

linework

Then I drew the strings in on a different layer, witnessing some amazing bending of the strings as I went through it!

These were the only layers I decided to draw in TVP as I wanted to take more time to play in After Effects.

In After Effects I wanted to see if I could get some interaction going between the TVP layers and filters/effects available in AE, I also scaled and repeated layers to add more visual cues from the music.

I really liked the way it ended up and using the larger cintiq was a joy!

 

Creative Media Skills- Prop making Course – part 2 – practicalities

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with Francesco Fabiani at Pinewood Studios – 08-04-2019

The first task was a combination of sculpting with Plastiline and making small batches of Biscuit
Foam to use as starting points for bulkier sculptures.

Further fine sculpting tips, including hair, scales and manipulating the medium with hot air guns
or hairdryers on high to either soften the material or to leave it with a shiny surface. Using a fine
pointed tool through 3 layers of plastic, makes a good base for skin and wrinkles, or a curved
ended tool for scales, the plastic softens the marks and smooths the edges of the indents.
Using monster Clay is easier than the Plastiline as you can microwave Monster Clay and it
becomes very pliable very easily, however once the main blocking out is done, keeping a piece in
one hand is usually enough to keep it mouldable.

Francesco assessed everyone’s sculpture to see the best way of moulding in silicon ready for
casting the following day. I did a simple box mould, but we also had a 2-part mould and some
mother/jacket moulds.

All moulds were made with the same silicone and it went off in about 2 hours. It was vital to
mix parts A&B really well as some students ended up having to redo a mould because of an
unbalanced mix. It was also much easier to mix larger batches in larger bowls, but to start with we
were all making up smaller amounts with inconsistent results. TIP: pour the silicone from high up
so you have a thin stream of liquid going into your mould which will help with air bubbles.

The baseboard needs to be treated with some kind of release agent before starting the mould
making process, we used simple Vaseline brushed thinly on and it worked well.

Box-mould

The finished sculpt was placed on the baseboard and we used cardboard to build the walls, these
were hot glue-gunned to the baseboard around the sculpt to prevent any of the liquid silicone from
leaking out at the join.

Just ensure that the cardboard walls are an inch or so away from the edge of the mould, and try to
be efficient with the shape.

De-moulding was really awkward as the cardboard we used took up the silicone into the ribs
making it tough to get my mould out.

Being a block mould you cut into the back until the blade touches the model at a jagged stepped
pattern to give registration for the mould. The blade needs to be super sharp and slightly longer
than the normal scalpel blade.

The awkward shape of my sculpt made it very tricky to pull out of the silicone, part of the original
breaking off. I personally think it should have been a two part mould.

Two part mould

Lay your model on a bit of support of wet pottery type clay then build up to create a mid-intersecting layer of clay, as smooth as possible to start and then create your registration points,
channels, a pouring spout and vents if needed for tricky overhangs etc, so you can create your
first layer of silicone which will be poured on top of this clay base.

When the silicone is fully set, take off the cardboard wall and carefully flip the whole thing over,
exposing the pottery clay underneath, without moving the sculpt, remove the pottery clay and
clean up/wash the edges so both the sculpt and silicone are perfectly clean, remake and glue the
cardboard walls, grease the silicone with a little release agent (we used a brush and Vaseline)
over the silicone face. Fill any gaps around the edges and put in the other side of vents etc with
the pottery clay. Then you are ready to cast your second layer of silicone to complete the 2 part
mould.

The two part mould method looked very awkward, adding the soft clay took a long time for the first
pour ‘bed’ as every hole and edge needed to be sharp, clean and perfectly aligned in the middle
of the sculpt. Registration marks and channels needed to be smoothly added and of course took 4
times as long as the block method. (Clay, 1st pour, clean, 2nd pour)

The jacket mould method is quite messy, but is very economical with the expensive silicone. You
wait for the silicone to go slightly gloopy then add it over your sculpt until it’s covered. Then a
similarly gloopy layer of plaster is added over the top to add rigidity to the silicone mould.
None of the originals were removed from any of the moulds until all elements were set, (silicone
and plaster). With one of the jacket moulds, the plaster was added in two halves, so that the
mould and original could be easily removed. The first half was allowed to set, again with a jagged/
stepped edge to provide registration for the two parts, then a release agent (Vaseline) was liberally
applied and the second half was added.

Resin Casting

Once the originals were out, the first material we were offered to cast with was Resin. This was a
two part resin using equal amounts and for the smaller items, a straight all resin cast method was
used. For bulkier items, like mine, we coated the mould with a ‘slip’ skin of resin material, which
was tricky as the resin takes a short while to go off, and trying to get an even coat on such an
uneven surface was pretty tricky.

The resin is slightly exothermic in reaction, so aside from it hardening as it cooled you could tell
when it was ready, whether to add another resin layer -which I needed- or to be filled with the
(same) biscuit foam to make it light and strong. About a 20 minute wait to firmly set, but I only
needed to wait a few minutes to fill it with the biscuit foam.

On release my resin cast broke, again the shape was awkward, so in hindsight a block mould not
really ideal for the original sculpt.

The first cast in the white resin had lots of marks seemingly left over from the original sculpt which
left it looking unclean.

The next material offered for casting was Black Gun Foam, 3:1, A to B. This rose a small amount,
but was tricky to get a full slip cast as it goes off extremely quickly.

This was then filled with the soft foam 2:1, A to B. The soft foam was exceptionally squishy and
expanded really well, to fill the cavity within the gun foam slip cast, but it was added whilst still in
the mould.

On release I could see that the finer, or slimmer areas of my original sculpt just hadn’t been
reached by the gun foam, and this is due to the quality of the media, it’s thick, so getting into
underhangs, undercuts etc was exceptionally tricky in a block mould.

This made a very squishy head, but with a more resilient rubber skin, I think that the gun foam,
which also comes in white not just the black that we used, would be very useful to make a harder
element for a model, such as a vest or tie, or hat, or very useful for miniature elements for a set. It
also takes detail really well.

I then wanted to use the soft foam by itself to see what detail it would get and how it would work in
the silicone mould.

The soft foam has quite a bit of rise and again is very quick. Francesco advised not applying
pressure on top of the mould as it would ‘pop’ the structure of the rise, impeding it.

The resulting cast was exceptionally soft, but lost a lot of detail, the surface being very cell like and
having open foam texture, not how I expected it to be at all.

The soft foam would be useful to bulk out a characters form, but this could also be achieved by
wrapping, trimming and shaping upholstery foam, as we currently do.

Conclusion

Although I got to work with a wide variety of mediums and experience casting and moulding
firsthand, none of them are suitable for casting stop-motion models with armatures in from.

I sculpt, I mould, I cast!

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Creative Media Skills- Prop making Course – part 1 – experience with Francesco Fabiani at Pinewood Studios – 08-04-2019

Pinewood Studios Entrance

What an experience! I managed to get onto this great prop making course at Creative Media Skills in London, not expecting to turn up to Pinewood Studios!

Once in their comprehensive security it was cool to be able to wander around and see all of the building of sets and moving of large kit in the massive complex (but aside from the photo from outside, you are not allowed to take photos inside).

The course was geared towards learning about casting and sculpting for the animation course at work and the practicalities of the week are laid out in the next post – Creative Media Skills- Prop making Course – part 2 – practicalities

But this is my experience, looking more in depth at what I made and the experience and knowledge I gained.

First of all we were introduced to our tutor for the week, Francesco Fabiani,

Francesco is a professional prosthetics sculptor and has sculpted prosthetics for some of the worlds largest productions such as Star Wars, The Mummy and many other block busters whilst working at the legendary KM Effects 

Francesco Fabiani

Francesco showing us how to make the biscuit foam – this was the only time that this desk was this clean!

Our first task was to sketch out our idea for a prop, then we went round the room and Francesco tweaked our ideas to work within the course and the resources we had.

I wanted to make a prop head, which although wasn’t strictly a prop, he said I could try it as it would use a box mould, very common for prop making. A few weeks previously I had gone along to a sketching network evening and come up with a character and this is where I started from.

The first practical task was to make a base ‘armature’ to sculpt onto, so the model didn’t end up being solid sculpt, both costly and impractical.

Francesco favoured using Biscuit Foam, a 2 part foam, that we all mixed a batch of and then cut out our base shape.

Biscuit Foam after mixing – it nearly went over the top!

The carving did of course have the restrictions of the beaker shape, but it worked fine and by the end of the first day I was fairly happy with my little character.

I enjoyed this part almost as much as all the other stuff, just being given time to sit and concentrate and sculpt, with everyone else in the room doing something different, it was lovely.

If there was one thing that I wasn’t happy about it was the hair, it was too blocky and I was having trouble getting to grips with sculpting it better.

So the next day I was able to talk to Francesco and he helped me with some technique tips and brought over one of his models to demo how he did hair, so there was something to copy – his model was amazing of course…

Francesco Fabiani Sculpt

Francesco Fabiani Sculpture – using Monster Clay

so with his beautiful model in Front of me I tried to recreate the texture and movement of hair within my own model.

and it was a vast improvement, it looked much better and although it felt as though I hadn’t done much, I was really happy with how the hair now looked.

We then moved onto adding some texture with a variety of clever techniques, such as crinkling paper and essentially ‘rag-rolling’ the surface of the skin, or using a sculpting tool through layers of plastic to soften the edges and make more subtle marks. The Plastiline we were using to sculpt with could also be heated with a heat gun to smooth the surface.

So in the end we had all made our various starting models, from hearts, to carnival masks and pieces of fruit.

The next process was to make our mould. First we all had to make our individual moulds, mine was a box mould, so literally had to make and secure my head onto the wooden slat and form the box sides out of old cardboard which I then hotglue-gunned to the baseboard.

mixed up the two-part silicon rubber mix, poured it in – crossed our fingers that it didn’t seep out and then leave to ‘go-off’. (about 2 hours)

After a longer lunch we all went back to see what we’d got!

 

Inside the mould

The mould looked really good, the hair detail looked like it was there, but I had a slight problem with the complex overhang of the nose and lip, so the weakness in the biscuit foam base meant it broke, but at least the mould was good and I could rework the sculpt to keep.

So after making sure the mould was cleaned out of any bits of plastiline that got caught we could now cast in a variety of mediums. First was a hard white resin, which as it had a longer set time, I managed to get into all of the awkward areas, so got a successful cast with this, but it is a brittle material, with a white cream colour, which you could dye beforehand and some others used a metal powder dusted into their mould before pouring in the resin, to get a metal finish to their casts.

IMG_4505

It was also obvious that I hadn’t cleaned my mould as well as I thought so I did do another cleaner cast in the resin at the end of the course.IMG_4506

Then we tried Black-Gun Foam, a soft and squishy material which gave a good smooth surface, but it works so fast, that the few of us that tried had varying success, with the foam not always getting into every nook and cranny. The Black-Gun Foam was only used to make the skin, the inner cavity was then filled with medium soft foam.

I was very interested in using just the softer foams with regards to students at work using it for model/puppet making for animation, so that was the next thing I tried. Francesco warned me that it wouldn’t work well, but I wanted to do it, so I could see and have a model to show students what they would end up with if they did it.

The soft white foam was so squishy it would not be firm enough to use, it didn’t capture detail and the surface of the foam cast was also too porous to use by itself, so you would need to put a skin of some sorts over it, which really negates the point of casting it from a model and carving it out of block foam as we already do would be just as good.

One of the other students work: Mask made using metal powders, hard resin and finished with glass paints. This used the jacket mould method.

So by the end of the week we had made casts in several materials, learnt how to sculpt, make moulds and with the variety of models in the room I got wide ranging experience of what works and doesn’t really work and the problems presented with various methods, box, 2-part, jacket mould, etc.

My biggest tip? Make sure the two parts you are mixing are correct – I put Part A of one foam and Part B of another together and then lost 2 hours cleaning out the gloopy mess that I had put in my lovely mould! so Check, Measure and Check again before mixing!

Whilst waiting for casts etc to go-off I also carved a hand for fun!

It’s official, I went I mould, I casted!

Wish I could do one of these every year, would highly recommend the course content – although their admin was all over the place!

I also know that Francesco was a last minute replacement for their usual tutor, so the content was not the norm, in fact it sounded as though it was normally a little restricted as everyone usually makes the same thing… so for me this was a far more valuable experience!

The eMotimo ST4 & Dragonframe

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We recently updated Dragonframe at NUA to 4.1.2 and I hadn’t tested our eMotimo motion control rig since the update. I’m scheduled to do an introductory session to motion control and Advanced Camera techniques with the 3rd years next week, so thought it judicious to test it out before then.

It didn’t work…

I looked at the getting started pages https://support.emotimo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002887586-Getting-Started-with-DragonFrame-4-0-and-the-spectrum-ST4 which didn’t help.

I updated my eMotimo firmware to the recommended ST4_RC007_28

but on this instruction…

  1. Leaving the wireless remote off and using the 8Way switch, Go to Settings menu, ensure on page 2, Dragonframe is selected, then then right (pushing back on the 8Way Hat), two times until the following screen appears – this is live motor feedback and mode where Dragonframe positions and commands are processed.

I could not get to this screen, on page 2 I cannot go further into the menu.

on the bottom of the help page it even states that

Known Issues with our firmware or their software:

(5) Must be on feedback screen shown below to function correctly (Settings, right twice on joystick). If you aren’t on this screen, the integration will not work as designed.

ha…

I’m not going to go through how many times I tried to go right twice from the settings page, or from the 3 page, or the 4th page, all of them didn’t work.

So I tried to hook it up to Dragonframe, just in case it was a bug and it might still work…

but I only saw the Not Connected greyed out notification.

I tried connecting in different ways, plugged in first, plugged in after starting dragonframe, all of the different ways you can get hardware to see software.

3 days I tried different things…

Then I tried putting the USB into another port, and I got a pop-up saying it failed to install, looked at the device manager and saw this

an error on TTL232R-3V3, which was what it had popped up as I put the USB into a different port.

right click on it

Windows 10 can’t install it

aha… hope…

on the getting started page on eMotimo it states

 If your USB connector is black, please download and install VCP drivers for your OS.

But this was for Macs? I thought I’d have a bit more of a dig, and on the weird web page there are drivers for Windows 10, so after consulting with our tech team, we deemed it safe to try – the website looks well, odd

https://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm

Anyway, installed it, inserted the USB again and lo and behold, no errors in the device manager.

And after pressing on every single option of the 4 pages on the eMotimo, I found the holy grail page!

Find it using the 8 way hat button>Settings>Page 4/4> Telemetry 2>ta da!

Why eMotimo couldn’t just put this on their page along with drivers are needed for windows 10, I don’t know.

Now, I connected the i/o port to the USB – Don’t connect the i/o before the USB is happy in the PC and the page above is on the eMotimo.

Then open Dragonframe.

Select the correct port, I made sure I used a new port which was on COM 4

You will need to add connection using the eMotimo spectrum ST4, not just the eMotimo option.

and it worked almost immediately.

Wow, what a palaver.

eMotimo please update your help pages, and also replying to my problem on the help forum would have been nice…

I hope this helps someone else before they pull all of their hair out!

 

Character Animator

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I love checking out new software, so when the opportunity came up to be involved with some freelance animation involving lip-sync, I decided to check out the latest version of Character Animator, part of the Adobe Suite.

I knew that it automated some aspects of animation, and after a bit of investigation, discovered that it will directly try (I say try, as the lip-sync is a bit hit and miss, but it’s very easy to swap another mouth shape in to help get the right feel to the visual) and interpret a live feed from a web cam into your drawn character, which is amazing, and gives a lovely natural feel to movement, eye blinks and head tilts/turns etc.

Then I saw that Adobe Edex is running a Character Animator short course, so I signed up, to learn from the pros, and get an insight into proper workflow etc.

https://edex.adobe.com

So far I’m up to week 4 and it’s been really useful, especially to see how you add behaviours to folders or layers of items, which is not as straightforward as I initially thought.

Week 1 – template character

pagegrab_forums

Using a template character we just needed to get the face, eye and lip sync working – which is all built into some of the template puppets. I got Einstein from here –  http://headsofcurriculum.com/

but you can also download other puppets from okaysamurai and the adobe Character Animator page (pic above)

Week 2 – own character

We were given the Character ‘Chloe’ (below) in photoshop with the correct layer orders and tasked with changing it slightly to our character, and then because the puppet in photoshop is dynamically linked to the scene in Character Animator, as soon as you save in photoshop, it updates the scene in Character Animator, so you can record your new person and work with it straight away.

Chloe_start

Chloe

chloe_alien

My Alien

Week 3 – head turn

Chloe_turnGrowing our knowledge of behaviours/triggers week 3 adds a head turn task, you need to duplicate the Folder ‘Frontal’ in photoshop and make 4 extra folders with corresponding features inside to represent, left profile, left quarter, right profile, right quarter, altering the eyes and mouth, plus the head shape, as obviously you can’t see his ears when he’s looking to the right or left. (Although writing this I realise you can see an outline of the ear, it just doesn’t stick out – oops)

scalealien

I also decided to add a background and use a dragger to make him point at the planets for the short video piece that we need to submit each week. Adding the background is easy, just import the image you want to use and drag it onto the layer below your puppet.

Week 4 – with sequence trigger

Once you’ve got your head around the layer/folder structure and the naming conventions, Character Animator starts to make a bit more sense and in week 4 we need to add a small animation in a new folder in photoshop that will use the cycle layers behaviour. Newer versions of CA let you choose either top to bottom, or bottom to top as making new layers in Photoshop tends to stack them above, which is the wrong way round for the animation to work, but of course, using the dynamic link you can easily re-order those layers and then your scene gets updated.

I went totally freehand and drew directly in Photoshop a small spaceship moving across the sky, and even though it’s pretty low quality, works effectively. It ended up being 11 layers, and still looks really quick. I don’t know if there is a way of slowing it down slightly, or you could just duplicate the layers.

All in all I quite like Character Animator, but it’s a real pain having to set up all the layers, all the mouth movements, and any little thing you want the character to do. Rigging can go really wrong, heads come off, it all goes wobbly, but once you’ve done all of that prep, it makes it super easy to get your character talking for you. So it’s not a quick process, it doesn’t make it any speedier to make lip sync and that was what I was really testing it for.

To conclude, as with all animation projects it will have it’s time and place and I’m enjoying the Adobe course, but it’s still a learning curve and has both pros and cons, but the natural movement of the talking is great, you can record each movement either separately or together and the triggers are really fun. I’ve even read that you can use it as an avatar for online meetings, now that’s cool!

Animation – green screen

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Working at NUA as the Animation and sound technician, this week’s process test was to go through greenscreen, from beginning to end.

Through this I would be able to test out the new dragonframe to see what features had been updated, and perhaps changed, to make sure that I am always up-to-date.

To also ensure that my green screen setup was as good as possible for an upcoming project with the first years, and then brush-up on using After Effects for the post production.

So I grabbed one of our walkcycle armatures, borrowed some doll’s clothes from my children and went into the depths on Animation Studio 1.

destinedforstardom

Destined for stardom!

The key points for green screen are to light the background and foreground almost separately, obviously in the reduced space of an animation studio this is a little more difficult as you can’t get a lot of space in between but, starting with the two basic lights, a flo-light (floodlight) and a kick light to pick out the model from the background, that’s a good place to start.

Green1

A flo-light (floodlight) at the top to try and light the background evenly, then two dedolights and a kick from the back to try and distinguish foreground from background

As you can see the result has harsh lights from the spot, which you need, but adding diffusion will soften the harsh shadows, because we want as little of those as possible.

diffuser

The fabulous dedolights let you easily attach some diffusion material (or gels) directly onto the barn doors with an easy to use tiny clamp

This lessened the shadows and gave me a result I was fairly happy with, although in an ideal world the Green screen would have maybe 2 flo-lights on, to be more even.

Greenwithdiffuse

Softer shadows with diffusion, but I did have to tun up the dedolight a little to compensate

Ready to film, I then turned to the new dragonframe, and to be honest there’s not a lot of difference from version 3, the interface is slightly smarter, but for the students, it will mean an easy transition to the latest version. Which was a must as we had new cameras waiting to be installed, but they would only work with DragonFrame 4. (Canon 1300D’s)

A short jerky walkcycle later – it’s been a while – and I had my character in the middle of the stage, ready to react with a blue polystyrene box that the students have been using, so that my armature (and the action) could stay in the middle.

Disaster fell at this point in the proceedings too…

thegreataccident

ouch!

His ankle joint broke, but as with all good English actors, we carried on!

The resulting video, is not my finest work, the clamp rig is really too big and heavy for this small armature character, there’s a terrible jerk where his ankle breaks , but the reaction works well, and I like the character that the little blue box has… In my head it’s a very lively puppy, that growled to stop my man in his tracks, then once beckoned turns into a slobbering excited mess when he gets a hug and a kiss…

It’s amazing what my imagination adds, now to see if I can add a little post-production magic to help anyone else see it too!

When using DragonFrame, you can either export video or stills, but you must remember to conform your take if you want to discard any re-shot frames, or deleted frames, as when you bring in an image sequence into AE, it can pick up those dud frames.

Also make sure your frame rate is correct, again if you lengthen or hold frames on the Xsheet, you will need to conform your take for those changes to take effect and your image sequence to reflect your timed animation from dragonframe.

Leaving the animation studio behind I headed up to the Media Lab to get started in After Effects.

Once you’ve set up a regular 1080p workspace and composition bringing in an image sequence is really simple, click on your first image and after effects will pick up all of the tiff’s in that folder, in sequence, and ‘pre-comp’ them together as a single piece of media, so for animation from dragonframe, that’s exactly what you want.

Then drag this tiff sequence down onto your pre-set composition timeline, and resize them to fit – this is why you should always setup the comp first, not just plonk your content onto the timeline as it will take it’s size from the media and who knows what size it might end up, which then leads to rendering/processing problems.

I like to use a garbage matte before applying the keylight effect, as it cuts down how much green the effect is trying to process, and with my small setup I knew the corners were going to need taking out. So, although it’s a laborious process I step through all of the frames, altering the mask slightly to allow for model movement. It is lovely when you don’t have to move it for a few frames!

Then I could move onto adding the keylight 1.2 effect… it does a fab job, and this is where you can really see any shortfall in your green screen technique – and there were some very particular areas in this test! The best tips I would give are clipping the black and white points (in the settings area of the effect) and using the alpha preview to see exactly what is black and white. I had a bit of spill both on the box and the white clothing which I couldn’t seem to sort out which left parts of my characters with slightly see-through areas, a bit more subtle tweaking of the advanced settings with the blacks and whites, got it beautifully crisp.

Now to put a simple background in to see how it was all doing.

Et voila, it’s ok, it’s nice to see it in a situation away from green, or black, really good exercise to go  through before the next first years project, dragonframe 4 is still as easy to use and after effects has many different and powerful ways of keying.

To add to the ways stated above, you could also; clone stamp in AE to remove the pins, which I did do a bit, but it makes a crazy amount of layers; Add some 3D lighting to perk up the character; Colour correct the background and animation to make them feel more cohesive; Track eyes/features onto the characters in 3D space and use layers more cleverly to give a sense of perspective.

However what I wanted to do was give my little bluebox puppy a bit of life, but I didn’t want perfect, which would be my normal style, something in Illustrator with beautiful clarity of line, I was after a more Mr Messy feel and although I don’t use it a lot, I knew that TV Paint would get me a really nice organic free feel to it.

So I rendered a low res copy out of AE, and used this for a background layer in TV paint, then got my wacom tablet out and let my imagination go a little wild!

I can practically hear the excited slobbering doggy noises, so at some point, I will return to this project and add some sound…

tbc…

Hello Canon 5D Mark iv, bye bye Nikon!

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As part of my Eaton park project I want to also include video sections and time-lapse elements, to this end I need to record some video – well there’s a shock!

Up until now I have been really happy with my lovely Nikon D750 it is a wonderful full frame camera and has taken some beautiful photographs for me.

But, I found it lacking when I took some video, and having used the 5D series for work, and knowing peers who use it for film-making, it seemed like the obvious choice. So I took in all of my Nikon gear and traded up (@Wex).

I’ve only had the camera for two weeks, but it doesn’t disappoint in photography stakes and I have had some beautiful results on the video side.

I have read and read about the problems with the file sizes and no slower framerate at 4k, etc, etc, but for me, the way I work, the visual results are king, and the 4k quality is incredible. The extra reach from the crop has only benefitted me, but it’s a hell of crop so I can see why people are complaining.

Below are screengrabs so you can quickly see the visual differences when working on what I consider a ‘standard’ timeline in Premiere, 1920×1080, 25fps.

All I did was drop the different files onto the timeline, keeping the sequence settings.

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.54.28Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.54.37Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.54.59Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.55.08Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.55.20

You can see the incredible crop factor (1.74) working here

Screen Shot 2017-06-23 at 13.55.33

Here is the video, note that I left the focus on auto to see how quickly it can cope especially as the rose was moving in the wind, I also purposely moved in and out to push it a little further. When running the 100fps I needed to prompt it to focus, but that’s okay if you’re keeping an eye on it, or if you are manually focussing it. But, any change of focus was incredibly noisy, and on the video you can clearly hear the mechanics working. Again, another difference at 100fps is that no sound is recorded.

And of course it has all been output to a high quality mp4 to add to the mix.

Just lastly for me, the Canon is a little heavier, adjusting to the different buttons isn’t too big a deal and I am loving the 4K and have had no problems aside from file sizes being on the large  side for the 4k. Now I expected all sorts of issues after reading quite a few reviews, but haven’t come across any yet.

Also you might ask why drop 4k onto a HD timeline, or why bother filming in 4k if you’re only going to downsample it, these are just tests, I don’t even have a 4k TV to watch it on (I’m not even sure I know anyone who does), so am just playing with the format and testing everything until I get a happy workflow, and for some of the work I do it will give me extra visual creativity, plus it’s just beautiful!

 

The Bees Knees – and other photos

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I have used both Nikon and Canon in the past, my own cameras being Nikon, but work cameras tending to be Canon, and for me it’s a little bit like the MAC vs PC argument, where I choose the software over the operating system, ie, if it has Photoshop on I’m happy, but with Cameras I find it’s the glass that makes it.

BEES_01

Boats_Cromer04

BEES_06

All of the above are Nikon images and they are beautiful…

Below are just a couple from my incredibly newly upgraded to Canon… my question is this, would you know which was which if I didn’t tell you?

BeesKnees.jpg

EatonParkCan_08.jpg

Or maybe it’s the other way round…

Playful politics in Photoshop

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Couldn’t resist a quick play in photoshop as the image of Theresa May as the ultimate baddy!

TM_WWoE

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