It’s all in the eyes…the zombie eyes

Right well now that the film is finished I feel I can share some of the techniques we used in the VFX process.

There was a hell of a lot of VFX in this short which is why it took so much time to complete. Although I can’t say that any of the effects were of amazing quality I am still proud of how it all came together.

One of the more time consuming effects was the eye replacement for both Ludwik and Katie.  I did toy with the idea of using 3D eyeballs to create the whited out look but decided to try a much simpler approach which worked surprisingly well.

The technique was to use 2D imagery tracked onto their faces.

Here is a close up of one the  more complex eye replacements.


Now I’m going to try and keep the techniques to how to achieve this as simple as possible but if you want a more in depth tutorial video co-pilot have got a great tutorial here

The basic idea is you take photo reference of a whited out eye.  If you need to create one the best way to do this is take a few photos of your eye.  The idea is to get as much of the whites of your eyes as possible.  To do this take one photo looking as far left as you can. Then take another looking as far right as you can. You can also do looking up and down as well.  You then use an image editing package to cut out the areas of the eye that are white and combine them so that appears to be one white eye. Like this



The next bit you will have to do is to track your footage.  I’ve explained tracking in one of my earlier posts But to sum up tracking is a technique where by you tell the computer to track a point on the image.  Once the point or points have been tracked you can use this information on another piece of footage or image and it will mimic the movement from source.

When tracking you have to make sure you track an area near the eye but it’s likely that you won’t be able to track the eye itself as people either move their eyes or blink which will throw the track off. The brow or the nose is usually a good place to track or the cheeks if they’re not talking.

I would grab a still from the footage that I’m replacing and load it into photoshop. Then adding a new layer  I would place my white eyes over the originals and colour correct them to match the lighting as shown here



I would then overlay this comped still image over the matching frame in After Effects.  Using the masking tools I could cut out just the eyes.  If I was to then scrub through the timeline I’d get a problem of the eyes getting left behind, like the example below.


This is where the tracking information comes into use.  If you look at the image above you should also notice a red square by his nose.  This is called a Null in After Effects and I applied the tracking date I had acquired earlier to this.  This now means that the Null will follow his head movement exactly.  I then parented the still images of the eyes to this Null and Voila! He now has evil zombie eyes.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t just add the tracking data to the images of his eyes instead of the Null? Well I could of and it would of worked just as well. The reason I use a Null is that it gives me that extra flexibility should I need to move or rotate the eyes slightly on top of the tracked data. I sometimes find that the tracking data although good may just stray in one place or another. By having the Null contain all the Tracking data it means I can tweak the eyes without messing with that data.

Now the trick isn’t quite finished although for some of the longer shots this would be fine, for the close ups the eyes still looked too flat.  They lack all the moving reflections and specular you get off a real eye because after all we are just looking a flat image of the eye.

This was one of the reasons why I was thinking of going the 3D route. Using 3D eye replacement would mean I could get the computer to do all the clever stuff with the reflections, refractions, sub subsuface scattering. But I realised I really didn’t need it. If I just added some simple specular highlights it was enough to sell the illusion.

So all I did was to look at the original highlights in his eyes and add some simple colours that matched the shapes of those original highlights.



By then keying them to match the position and shape of the original highlights I could give the illusion that his eyes were moving. It even made them look wet and slightly translucent. It’s amazing how some simple highlights can make things look real.

I did this same technique for the shot where Katie looks across the hall to where Laura has just run.

One final technique I used to really sell the look was on the shadow that fall across his left eye.  The still image of his eye was colour corrected to match the original plate while that eye was in shadow. But the problem was that as he tilted his head up that eye then had light case upon it as you can see in the image below

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 23.43.18


So to create this same look over the fake white eye I simply added a negative mask that matched the movement and shape of this light shaft that would cut into the image of his eye to reveal a brighter version underneath.


Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 23.41.44


Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 23.41.49

So I hope this has been some help and if there’s anything else you’d like to know just drop me a mail or comment below.

Next time I’ll be looking at how I achieved some of the rabbit effects.

See ya soon!








Coming soon…honestly it really is.



Ok so this has been said a few times now and I’m sure most people are sick of hearing it. But honestly we really are nearly finished on The Great Spielron.  And if the Great in the title refers to the amount of time and energy this film is taking then it really is quite fitting.

I actually realised the other day that the film almost has as many effects shot in it as the orginal Jurassic park. Ok so they may not be on the same par but I still think that’s pretty impressive. Even if most of the effects are invisible ones, for example removing lights or modern day appliances that you didn’t find in the early 20th century.  Anyhow all the effects are finished. I keep spotting bits that need work but I think the film will never get released so I calling the VFX done.

Stuart and I are now just going through and finishing off Foley, SFX and Music. I really enjoy this part as it really helps bring the scenes to life and fit everything together. There were a number of scenes that I was really worried about but adding these Music and SFX has really lifted them. Don’t get me wrong it’s far from perfect but considering we wrote, shot and edited the film in 5 weeks I think it’s pretty impressive. What’s not impressive is the fact that it took me another 4 months to colour grade and add all the VFX, SFX and music.

So again really sorry for the massive delay. I’m not going to tie myself to a release date but what I can say is that it will DEFINITELY be in the next two weeks…maybe I should make that the next 22 days 🙂

I will also be doing LOADS of behind the scenes stuff on this.  All about how we did the VFX, SFX and the problems.

In till next time!

Black Magic URSA.


I’m not one to usually get excited about camera technology, well not since I realised that I was wasting so much of my time waiting from the perfect camera that I wasn’t actually going out an shooting. And you really can’t beat experience no matter how good the technology you’re using is.

But I have to say if I was going to get a new camera the new Black Magic URSA looks amazing. There’s a lot of nice camera out there these days but they all seem to something that lets them down. If the price is good it usually means they’re not full sensor or you have to spend another £5000 just to make the useable on a set.
If they have everything you need they’re also usually way out of my price range and most other Indie filmmakers.
Plus a lot of the time it just feels like the manufacture doesn’t really listen to the customer and is all about profit and not usability.

When the first Black Magic camera came out I thought it’s specs looked great and the price was amazing. But it had so many of the key functions that I need missing. For example ND filters, XLR’s even the body wasn’t very user friendly.

However with this new camera it really seems like they’ve listened to what people actually want and even going beyond that. And for £5000 I have to say it really does seem like a dream camera.

Having said all that I’ll go back to my original point. If you’re audience is moaning that your film isn’t in 4k or that the dynamic range in the shadows doesn’t look great than you have serious problems with your story. Plus 4K really isn’t needed at the moment unless you you’re going for a theatrical release, even then you don’t need it…look at the Blair Witch project or one of my favorites 28 days later. Neither of these shot on high res cameras.

In other news. I’m adding foley and and music to The Great Spielron at the moment. It’s nearly there and is actually coming together quite nicely. So I promise I will have it released soon 🙂

Pick up shots

22 days later is about shooting films quickly and no matter what the end result, releasing them.

So I really have no excuse for holding back The Great Spielron.  However there were a couple of shots that needed a large number of people filling a hall.  I managed to fake this in post for some of the shots where you see the audience from behind using just five people and duplicating them, see earlier posts on how this was done. Unfortunately this trick wouldn’t work from the front shots, unless the shot was meant to show  a Quadruplet convention.

Which is why I decided to hold the film back so we could find a date to shoot enough people together on a green screen set. This date is tomorrow. Once I have this footage I will finally be able to put the finishing touches to the film and get it out there.

I’d like to point out that it’s not just this that’s held back the film and also making more films.  At the moment I’m still  searching for work and so as much as I love doing 22days later I’ve had to prioritise getting money.  Also without money I can’t get the films done so it’s a catch 22 situation (what a great pun!) Each film cost roughly about £100.

I’ve also wanted to post up loads on the progress of the Great Spielron but it would contain too many spoilers so I’ve had to hold off. The good news is there’s lots to talk about once the film is released, which all going well will be in around 2 weeks.

Again sorry for the hold ups,  if someone is willing to pay me to do this that would be great 🙂




Even big budget movies seem amature without post production


I watched these B-roll clips of The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug and it struck me on how without sound, music and VFX it actually made it almost seem comical.

Seeing elves, orcs and wizards running around, trying to talk seriously without all the music and effects, really made me realise how much these other elements add to the overall film.

Now of course having made a couple of short films I’ve seen first hand how these elements can really take a scene that, when on set I was worried wouldn’t come across in the finished version as I’d imagined. Only to see it come alive in post and actually be better than I’d hoped.

But it’s nice to see that even the big budget movies have that same problem. Even with great actors they really do lack so much.

Of course music and VFX are a huge part of this but I think this really demonstrates how even the little foley sound effects that you wouldn’t normally think would make much of a difference really can help to tell the story.

For example at around 2:46 of this video one of the dwarfs shuts someone in what looks like a prison (I haven’t seen the movie yet). My first thought was, he hasn’t locked that the guy could just get out. But of course by simply adding a sound of a latch going in post the audience has a key story element that wasn’t ever told on set.

Or another example is the fight scenes. Ignoring the fact that a lot of the times they’re hitting each other with green batons. These scenes still appear and sound funny because there’s no sounds to back up the power of the weapons they’re meant to be using. Just adding metal clashing sounds and thuds would add so much more dramas to this piece.

The other great thing about watching these videos is it really goes to show how much has to be added in post in terms of VFX.

The Hobbit and LOTR were known for shooting a lot on real sets and trying to keep as much stuff in camera as possible. I really believe this is the best approach. One only has to watch things like The Phantom Menace to realise the difference in an actors performance.

But no matter how much is shot on set, there’s still so much to do in post. There’s the obvious stuff like adding vast vistas to the background. Or adding a dragon to the pile of gold. These all take a hell of a lot of work and a hell of a lot of very talented artists.
But these are actually just a small part of the visual effects. There’s so many bits that people don’t realise need to be added or replaced. So many things that are invisible in the final film (as they should be) but are a vital part of creating the illusion.
For example when Legolas is being pulled along by wires to make him look like he’s sliding. Some one has to paint those wires out.
Or the real swords reflecting the green screen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just ended up replacing those swords with CG versions.
Even removing an extra because the director felt that one was distracting from the main action. It’s these bits that make up 70% of the VFX.

Without these artists these films wouldn’t be half as grand as they are and it’s a real shame that so many great artists are out of work at the moment due to studios closing their doors through bankruptcy.

Till next time.

Final few shots

Just a quick update to let everyone know that I’m just in the process of finishing off the final few VFX shots for the film.  If you remember around a month ago I demonstrated how we filled a hall with just five people using green screen techniques.

Well I’ve got to do the same but with some front facing crowd. The problem with this is that you can’t get away with duplicating the same people a number of times because you can see their faces. So unless you want a crowd that is full of quadruplets you have to shoot more people.

So right now we’re working on setting up a date to shoot a few more audience shots.

This film really does seem to be going on FOREVER!!.

I was going to show you lots of juicy computer graphic techniques but the problem is is that they all involve spoilers.

So instead I’m going to show you a monster I’ve been working on in the style of the great Ray Harryhausen. It has nothing to do with the film but I guess it’s still film related and makes up for the lack of pictures in this post.  There will be a small man about to get stomped in the image, I just haven’t got around to making him yet.

Maybe I’ll do a tutorial on creating CG monsters, if anyone is interested?


Using colour and light to tell your stories.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 00.23.27


Ok that title may be a little misleading as it suggests that I may actually be able to teach you the best practices of colour and light.

So first off I want to say that I am in no way an expert on colour theory or a professional in colour grading and lighting.  So what I’m about to say is based simply on what I’m learning as I delve into the art of lighting and colour correction.

Colour theory is an art in itself.  Many books have been written on it and as with most things in life there are trends in what looks good and what doesn’t.

I’ve recently just finished a music video, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging these last few days and also STILL haven’t finished The Great Spieron. Don’t even mention episode 3!!

The great thing  about music videos is they allow you to experiment. I feel you get a lot more freedom to play with colours and try new things out. So seeing as the art of colour correction is pretty new to me I thought I’d try out some ideas I had.

So here are some tips on colour correction and a bit on lighting. Like I said these aren’t written by a pro they’re simply things I’ve either read up on or played about with.

Tip 1:   When shooting your footage always use a waveform monitor. If you haven’t got one of those then use Zebras. If you haven’t got one of those then just eyeball the bright areas of your footage and make sure they don’t look like they’re clipping. It’s so important to get your footage right from the off.  You want to get maximum dynamic range in your pictures so that you’ve got more information to play with later in post. If you don’t do this then it doesn’t matter how good your post production software is, it’s not going to be able to magically add back details that you never captured in the first place. It’s like building a house without laying down foundation.  It’s just going to fall down straight away…ok that was a bit of a crap analogy but you get my point.

By the way if you don’t know about dynamic range then have read about it here

You might be after a dark and moody shot and think that it’s best to just whack the aperture down so it looks right on the monitor.  If you do this and then realise it’s too dark in post, you can’t add detail back in. But if you capture all the detail, even if it doesn’t look right in the monitor, as in it’s too bright for the mood you want. You can then knock the levels down in post to get the look you want.

Tip 2:  Set you black and white points first of all in post.  To do this open a waveform monitor in your post production software and make sure that you’re still using the maximum range.  You want the brightest spots to hit the 1 mark on the waveform monitor and the darkest to hit zero.

Tip 3:  Create a colour board/mood board.  Think about your story and what you’re trying to tell. Is it a light hearted comedy or a dark thriller.  What do you want to say in each scene.  If you take any film  and snapshot each scene you’ll notice different colours that change throughout the duration of the whole film.  Take a look at Pixar’s UP.


Now if you haven’t seen Up then I’ll warn you now there’s a mini spoiler ahead.

Look at the area I’ve crudely highlighted in red.  This is the part where Carl’s wife dies.  If you look carefully you can see the first few slides are nice and colourful. There’s then an orange sun set  which is his last days with her. We associate orange with sunset and warmth so this is why they chose such a scene.  The following scenes are a lot greyer with hints of blue. We usually associate grey and blue with sad times or open spaces.    Here’s a another tip, if you want to make your room look bigger paint it blue.

So as you can see, a lot of time and thought has gone into this film before they even shot a single frame. All this to make sure the audience got the mood they were after just through the use of colour.

Now the above example was made before the film was created and ideally that’s what you want to do too. Not only will this help in Post production but also help with set design and the art department.  But there’s no reason why you can’t do one for post and grade your film to fit.

Here’s some screen shots from my music video.


The video is all about a guy suffering from insomnia.  Now I don’t suffer from this but I’m guessing it must be very frustrating and you probably constantly have things playing on your mind.   So in this shot although his eyes are closed I wanted the audience to feel a little uneasy.  It’s set at night so the most obvious thing to do would of been to tint a slight blueish tone.  But I wanted it to feel a little off, a bit like he must feel. So I added a slight green, something that threads its way through the whole song.  Green is always good to use to make people feel a little uneasy or sick.  Some great examples in films are Seven and the Matrix.


This is one of his dreams.  Most of his dream sequence I’ve given a more harsh look too but because this was meant to be a past relationship I wanted to give it a warm nostalgic look. It was already warmly lit simply because of the sunlight. So I just exaggerated this into the shadows and added a flare and slight bloom across her face. This makes her feel a little more distant as if she’s a memory. Of course this could just be my interpretation of what I think memories feel like. I guess it’s a psychological effect from seeing old photos that naturally had flares from the cheap lenses.


In this above shot I wanted him to feel isolated in a place he didn’t know.   We’d shot in some woodland which although isolated didn’t have the same feel, as say being isolated in a massive quarry.  So I wanted to just push it as far as I could,  I desaturated the woodland to give it a slightly unnatural feel  and over exposed the sky to make it more bleak.  By keeping him saturated it meant that he really stands out and shows more vulnerability.

To be honest I feel a little like those art critics that spout a lot of crap to try and justify why a white canvas with some splashed paint on it is a work of art.  But I do feel that if you have a purpose of some kind to what you’re trying to achieve then this will read with your audience even if it is in the subconscious.

This sort of leads me onto the next tip.

Tip 4: Don’t get too bogged down in the technical.  This is similar to people that get so wrapped up in what camera to use that they end up never making any films.  You can read so many books on this and then worry if you’re doing it right. Just DO IT. If it looks right and feels right then it’s right!!  It’s good to know the rules so you can break them but at the same time it’s good to just play with stuff, you’ll learn so much quicker. And then when you do read books from the masters you’ll have things to reference from. You’ll find yourself going “Oh yeah, that’s why that shot I did just didn’t work no matter what I tried” Things will sink in so much quicker then if you read the book from start to finish with no reference to what they’re talking about.

Tip 5. Now after saying that here’s a little rule…well guide.  The colour wheel is really useful.


If there’s one word to remember in all forms of art it’s CONTRAST.  Seriously if you want you images/music/animation/stories to stand out, you need CONTRAST.  You need things to conflict, If you don’t have CONTRAST you have something that more than likely is flat and BORING.

Hey check out the above paragraph.  Looks a little more interesting the the usual ones, you know why? Because it’s got contrast! Capital wording peppered between non capped.

It’s the same with colour.  Ever wondered why sometimes turning an average  colour photo into black and white suddenly makes it look better.  Guess what, it’s because of the CONTRAST!!! You’re removing any confusing colour and saying to the viewer, just look at the simple blacks and whites.  Suddenly the viewer can focus on certain parts because they’ve got nice contrast.

So back to the colour wheel.  On a colour wheel you have your primary and secondary colours. But here’s the important bit.  The colours that sit opposite each other are complimentary colours.  This means that they make each other stand out.

I decided to try this out on a shot in the music video.

Here is the ungraded shot


It’s not bad but it’s also a bit grey and boring.  The idea was she was almost an angelic figure, this really wasn’t getting that across.

Here’s the graded version


That’s better…well I think so.  Now why does she stand out so much more. Well for starters, I increased the exposure on her to give her a slight glow. But what really separates her from the water is the colour difference.  Now the water is a lovely blue colour and what colour is she? Well skin colour of course but what colour is that close too?  Roughly yellow red and pink. If we look back at the colour wheel, what do we find?  Well I’ll be damned look at that, the reds, oranges and yellows are opposite the blues. COMPLIMENTARY COLOURS which is basically contrast for colour.

Tip 6:  Now this one is more to do with lighting but I thought I’d put it in here as it’s still part of the whole cycle of getting images that stand out.

Place your lights so they make things looks interesting.  It’s very easy to start getting too technical and thinking “well I can’t put a light there because that just wouldn’t happen in real life”  This is sometimes worth following, especially if it’s a gritty drama but even then I’d argue that cinematic story driven lighting is more important then what’s technically correct.

Here is an example from the music video .


Technically this makes no sense what so ever. I placed a light at the bottom of the stairs pointing up to cast those lovely bannister shadows.  In real life the moon would of had to of been coming through his floor. Now unless he lived in a tree house in a very tall tree this just wouldn’t happen.  But who cares? It looks cool… well I think so. And no one has questioned the lights placement so far.

Once you start doing things like this you start seeing it in professional film productions all the time.

So I guess to sum up that tip, just make it look cool!

Tip 7:  Ok this is another lighting tip but I’m going to add it as I’ve realised this over the past few months and it could save people a lot of time and even money.

You don’t need to have super expensive lights for every shot. I’d go as far to say that you don’t need them at all for close up shots.  Big expensive lights are great when you need to light a large room  or some where outside. I can honestly that some of the best shots I’ve captured have been through using a torch.

Take this example below.


This shot was achieved with one simple torch.   The room was completely dark apart from that one light source. We placed it on a shelf behind his right should to get the rim light off his cheek. He’s looking in a mirror and so the light bounced back to reveal his face, also acting as a key.  It captured everything we needed.  I also had a similar experience when shooting the Lollipop lady Killer. There’s a shot where the killer is getting ready.  I needed to capture the look of a TV set flickering in his eyes. I used a torch and just moved it about a bit.

So again don’t get wrapped up in big expensive things, be inventive, you’re be surprised at what you can achieve.

And that’s all for now.  Now like I said at the beginning, I’m no expert but I hope some of these tips have been of some use.  Let me know in the comment box and if you have anything to add I’d love to hear from you.

In till next time, keep shooting!


Crazy busy

Hi everyone,


So I wanted to give an update as everything has been a bit quite on the blog front. 

Also our third 22 days later film should have been finished today but it isn’t! 

The reason for this is that I’ve been working hard on contract work and for the last week we’ve had to put it on the back burner. I apologies for not keeping you all in the loop on this. 

I’ve been having real problems trying to find enough funds to keep afloat at the moment so this had to take priority. Hopefully I’ll be back on track soon. 

In other news I’m still working on the effects for The Great Spielron but it’s been really hard to find the time so only been able to complete one shot a night.

I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s finished!

Till next time.