1 Experimental Video A Week: Week 1

I just hope I don’t stop making a ton of videos. I have a couple in stock but let’s just say I’m going to do my best making videos once a week. It’s crazy. But I really want to push it to the limit. Some of these might be simple, some of these might be complicated than others… and that’s the joy of making something everyday.

Here’s a new one for this week!


Skybase – “Take That Thing Off My Couch” Music Video

Music video for myself: “Take That Thing Off My Couch” by me. Used After Effects and Premiere CS6, fractals were achieved using Artmatic 5.

And just on that… here are some screencaps from the animation.

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So it looks like Sensato Music Video Used My Work :D

I got a bit of a surprise today when Blackwatchstudio (over on Videohive.net) told me that something I made was somehow in a pretty popular music video. At some point some video editor / After Effects guy, whoever it may be bought my stuff and used it as background material in the video. While I had nothing to do with any of the editing I’m pretty happy / proud about it.

The elements that you need to look out for are…. these:

Which you can buy them here:



And here’s the video….

Keep in mind that the music video itself is not by me. I don’t know who. I’d just like to say whoever used my stuff… YOU’RE AWESOME. Say hi to me too.

In Depth: Atmosphere and Depth

What makes that image look good? Is it the background? The details? The characters? Sure, those do make an image look nice and pleasing to look at. And it does depend on what you’re dealing with as well. If you’re presenting a 3D model, you may have nice textures, interesting shapes, nice flow… whatever it may be the image looks good based on attributes. But let’s say you’re dealing characters in a scene. So what do you do? You try to fit that character within the scenery and you follow common attributes such as lighting, perspective, color… so on. But what really adds to everything is the atmosphere. It’s the extra touch that really really kicks that image from “boring” to “amazing.”

Now, when I say atmosphere, I don’t mean just things like fog, clouds, sky, or just stuff like that. Yes, they’re atmosphere but the atmosphere I’m talking about deals with creating and giving the scene weight, meaning, and spacial context. It’s “color grading” or “color correction” as some people call it, but there’s a bit more when adding atmosphere and I want to discuss that.

So this blog post isn’t really a tutorial, but it shows what I’ve been doing for my thesis film “The Door to Tomorrow.”

Let me give you an example of what “atmosphere” is about. First, here’s a frame from my up-coming film “The Door to Tomorrow.” I received a file from my animator, Robyn Stanford, who animated the characters you see here. The background is by me.

No filtering, just straight compositing

Now some people consider this done. Not in my world. Given the background, the characters here aren’t shaded properly which makes them just float right on top of the background. Ok, the easy way to fix this is to add some form of shading. Fortunately this task is slightly easier for me given that the characters are just flat, 2D shapes in 3D space. All I have to do is add a gradient. Of course, I can go very fancy, but time doesn’t permit me. Now if you have human characters or anything else, you’ll have to work on shadows and that’s a different story. For now, we’ll just keep it simple.

Some moody shading here

So now it’s somewhat obeying the mood of the shot. The light here passes from right to left so I gave the characters a simple gradient (ramp in After Effects.) Not too bad but it needs more. Let’s add some shadows.

Very simple shadows

Now the two characters are interacting with the background a bit more. The shadows here aren’t fancy shadows, and while I would appreciate a realistic shadow, I don’t have time for that. So I came up with a quick way to produce rough shadows. I first duplicated the character layer, then using “Colorama” filter (otherwise I could have used an inverted alpha channel) and turned everything black. I then offset the layer to the left just a tad bit and added directional blu which makes it look like it’s fading by the distance. Very simple but it works in this case.

Next, I created an adjustment layer with more gradients to add further sense of lighting. The overall image looks dimmer now, but we’ll get to fixing that later.

Mood, it's very important.

This part of the film isn’t the happiest moment. Apex (the blue square) tells his friend Arc (the green circle) that he is terminally ill, given that Arc attempts to provide him some comfort. Given the weight of the moment, I felt adding the gradient helps extenuate not only the lighting, but the mood of the shot.

Ok, let’s fix the ultra dimness. Some people would stop here saying it’s “good enough” but of course it’s not! It just looks dimmer and while it does feel appropriate, it doesn’t appeal. To fix that, I added a glow.


Glow really helps. I mean it. It kicks up highlights, blends background colors with foreground colors, and it really adds that “atmosphere” to the scene.

This scene was meant to also be during a sunny, warm evening. So to give it further feeling of time, we’ll do some color grading.

Yup. I'm done here.

Now, you have a sense of time for the shot. The super yellow highlight on the right hand side of Apex does bug me a little, but it’s not such a huge issue.

So we went from just flat… to moody. I generally apply several layers of filters to accomplish the look I want. Given the full scope of the film, it’s important to note the flow and continuity of color and style. This is where color charts and schemes become very very useful. Of course, if you’re doing this independently, you may have already picked up on the style you’re going for so maybe you don’t need schemes and color charts, but you should save presets of color grading chains to help yourself save some time.

I always see people who just apply curves to give the image more contrast (or less.) That’s a good start, and depending on what you’re thinking of you may not need more. But of course, it’s also a good thing to push further and punch the look and feel for the work you’re doing.

Adding that extra touch of color is what makes the image or film powerful. We’re not just talking about “making stuff look good” we’re talking about telling the story through color, lighting, atmosphere… framing… everything.

And we’ve been done

So I thought I’d consolidate 2 posts into 1. I have more things to blog about later so I want to make this as a reflection.

First of all, matteland project, the project involving experiments into digitally painted / projection mapped environments for character animation.

Matteland project has been a big feature, even if I took the effort almost like my side-job (HAVOC was a bigger thing for me.) Either way the goal of Matteland was to bring a surreal 3D experience in 2D paintings, especially as an background for animated films. While the 3D part wasn’t THAT hard, what took longer was the 2D painting. This involved manipulating photographs using Photoshop to painting them in Studio Artist 4. It takes a bit long, since I did go about developing some techniques I never tried before, but ultimately it doesn’t look bad. Overall, I painted 5 backgrounds which 3 of them were used to create simple 3D meshes for projection purposes.

Of course, this project has 1 purpose. I’ve recently began planning my thesis project, where I do want some characters interacting in the environment. So that’s ultimately been tested out here.

Since this project began there has been several reactions one in particular was unexpected. John Dalton, the creator of Studio Artist 4 saw some potential in the senior thesis I’m headed to do. He ended up writing stuff about the whole thing. Take a look at the article here: Studio Artist News: Matteland and The Door to Tomorrow”. That’s pretty cool. I’ve been looking at Studio Artist since version 1.5 when it was first introduced to the Japanese Mac community via Macworld Japan (or something like that.) Either way, since then, I’ve always wanted the program personally. Either way, Studio Artist 4 has been the biggest part of the project and will continue to be one of the primary painting tools I’ll be using for my other projects. So stay tuned if you’re interested.

HAVOC part 1: Havoc part 1: What Your Dreams are Made of received much attention for being what it is. I’ve been wanting to do HAVOC for quite some time, and I’ve finally gotten my chance to do something about it.

HAVOC was too large though. It involved everything from recording voices (my voice), making sounds, timing things, animating, editing, making assets etc etc etc…. Being THAT huge, I think 10 weeks was simply not enough for the whole project. Somethings ended up sadly not done. I had to cheat a bit too, which isn’t always the best but it does give me a result.

Either way once I start blabing about Havoc, it never ends so here’s the final product.

So my overall on both projects. How about we’re done for now but not exactly a full stop. Of course! I’m still doing stuff to them! We’re moving on though, since if we just keep going on and on about the same thing, yea sure the thing gets better but I can’t work on my other things.

That’s it for now. The next project: The Door to Tomorrow. Keep your hopes up for that.

Production Pipeline: Getting Closer and Closer

In the last “Havoc post” I’ve shown you the assets of a particular scene in the film I promised that I would post how it would look. Well it took a while, but I did it and finished this scene off, now it just needs to be added into the film. I used Cinema4D for its super-easy-to-use clone tool and ultra fast render. Of course I can do this in Maya, I just didn’t for all sorts of reasons. Either way, The houses were modeled and UV mapped in Maya, painted using Photoshop and FilterForge. The fun stuff was in Cinema4D. By throwing the models into a Cloner Object, I can easily scatter the assets in various arrays and otherwise. I then applied a Mograph random which allows me to scatter the objects all over the place. I have control over the size and rotation as well giving me further randomness.

Rendering this is actually the cool part. Cinema 4D’s render engine is super robust. When I say robust, I really mean speed. I baked all the GI first per frame. This is mostly done automatically, though I enabled a couple settings to help the speed up the render. Further more, I optimized this render by baking some of the lights. It’s easy as Maya’s light baking, though at the same time there are several more interesting options that give Cinema4D’s light baking an further edge.

Either way here’s a sample of the render. You can click on it to see the large image.

The animation took around 3 hours to render, kinda long, but it’s with GI. I don’t think it’s not that bad. Anyway, I wonder if I should spoil the ending for this post as it is something I want to leave it quiet till the end of the animation. OR you can totally spoil it for your self by viewing it here:

The other thing I wanted to show was the compositions (layering) in After Effects. You can click on the image below to see the structure for yourself.

I also added a very quick and simple (and realistic) eye blinking within After Effects. It’s missing the eyelashes right now, and I have no idea when I can actually accomplish this within time. The hard part is the animation. We need to get that done first.

Havoc in Comps

That’s it for now. It’s almost there, it just needs to be done now.

Production Pipeline: HAVOC is finally a Film

I’m finally up and running with HAVOC! It’s week 5 and I feel a bit rushy but I have to get going with some of the defined parts of this film since I only have 3 or 4 weeks left!! For your entertainment, however, I thought I’d just put the full length audio online. I’m probably going to cut several parts, change some of the sound effects, and if you have any suggestions / critique, now is the time! Otherwise I have to set everything down and really get going with the animation / animatic and otherwise. So I basically have 3 or 4 weeks to finish this… huh… now this is going to get very tricky. I’m scheduling my much of my time on this project, but of course I have other things to attend to. Balance… balance… balance….

Where’s the video? The link’s below this sentence.


Also some screenshots.