What camera should I get

Ok this is going to be a short post, mainly because I just spent an hour writing one only to discover when I accidentally hit the backspace button that it’s been lost forever.

So I just want to mention a blog I saw the other day by a guy called Jackson speed…I have no idea if this is his real name but it sounds pretty cool either way.

He’s written a great blog about the camera he uses, which happens to be the same as mine.

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And the points he covers are exactly how I feel too.

Here is a link to his blog.

http://www.anycamerawilldo.com/best-camera-for-you/

Let me know what you think

In till next time,

Ouch…not really

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In this blog I thought I’d continue on some of the techniques used in visual effects.

A lot of effects in movies are actually 2d mapped onto environments or 2d images used to hide unwanted items.  They’re also used to replace things like posters and number plates.

In my last blog I talked about the effects of creating the rabbit, the rabbit was one of the 3D effects in the film.  There aren’t that many 3D effects used in The Great Spielron but I had to use 3D for one of the more gruesome scenes where some of our characters get a knife in their heads.

I’ll break down one of these shots,  it’s where Katie throws the knife and it hits Mike square in the forehead.

When deciding the best approach for an effect I think it’s always best to ask the question “can this be done on set with real practical effects?” If the answer is yes then I always think this is the best approach as it doesn’t matter how good the effect is in CG, it’s never as good as a real prop.

Obviously for this particular shot that required a knife to be thrown, the answer was most definitely “no” we can’t use a real knife…well not unless we didn’t need our actor anymore, but we did so we decided it was best not to really kill him.   So the choice was to do it in CG (computer graphics).

This actually posed a problem when filming, as I realised we couldn’t even use a proxy object when Katie goes to stab Kevin in the head as even something soft like a foam knife would still hurt if it hit you in the eye.  So I had get them to act and react with nothing at all. It also didn’t help that it was about 12:00am and so we had about 10 minutes to wrap up the whole end scene. Everything in that last part of the movie was finished in about 15 minutes.  We just went handheld and tried to get as much shots as we could. Anyway I’m digressing.

Now on a big budget film there would be time set aside for the VFX supervisor to take measurements and measure lighting info, using things like a big chrome ball and a big grey ball.  You sometimes see these on the making of movies.  Basically what these do is allow the VFX artist to work out where the light is coming from and how intense it is.  By taking photos at different exposures they can then put this information into the computer and the lighting they get is pretty accurate to what was on set.  It also allows them to have reflections that match too, so the whole CG elements fit to the environment.

We didn’t have time to do this, I brought the chrome ball but we were so rushed that it never got used, I had to rely on my eyes to try and get the knife to match the real footage as best as possible.

One issue with using 3D elements is you can’t use the more basic technique of using 2D trackers to match the 3D element.  If you don’t know about 2D tracking you can view one of my latest blogs about it here https://22dayslater.com/2014/05/19/its-all-in-the-eyes-the-zombie-eyes/

Actually that’s not completely true.  If the camera isn’t moving around the object too much then you’d get away with this, which is something we did for out low budget one day horror that you can see here   Because the real footage was being seen from a pretty flat on view I knew that I could use a 2D track to basically “tack” the 3D animation to a point on the screen.

But for the shot of Matt, his head moves quite a bit and we see it from quite a few angles, so I knew the knife would be seen from many different angles as well.

This is where a different technique has to be used which is 3D tracking.  Like 2D tracking it uses points on the screen to work out how things are moving. But unlike 2D trackers it triangulates  using special algorithms to work out things like the Z depth of where things are in the scene. Although a lot of 3D trackers have automated settings, these usually only work on simple scenes. If a scene has a lot going on, with a lot of camera movement, it’s sometimes necessary to give the tracker more information, for example the focal length of the camera.  Sometimes you’ll see on the making of movies little markers, especially on green screen sets. These markers are a good way of showing the computer points to lock onto.  3D tracking is a real art in itself and something that can take many attempts to get a good result.

To track Matt’s head, I imported a 3D mesh that was similar to his head and scaled it to fit the real footage. The 3D tracker could use this as a way of marking where it needed to be in the footage.  You can see this in the video below.  Excuse the “Demo mode” I only have a demo version of the capture software

Now that I had the information I could map the real footage onto the 3D mesh and add a 3D knife. Below is an image of the 3D knife un-textured.

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It was then simply a case of animating the knife going into the 3D head.  I added lights that looked about right to where they would of been in the real set and also added shaders to the knife so it looked like its real life counterpart. Shaders are a way of telling the computer what material an object is made of, basically how it will react with light. So in this case it was a stainless steel knife so needed to be very reflective.

The last thing I needed to do was to add a trickle of blood that ran down Matt’s forehead. To do this I used some of the fake blood we’d made up for the scenes with Katie and the hat.  In case you’re interested, making fake blood is very easy and involves Syrup, red food dyes and coffee.I might do a blog on that at some point.

I shot various version of this fake blood pouring down a green screen as you can see below

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It was then a case of removing the green and cropping just one trickle of blood.  I used a 2D tracker so that it would stick to the movement of Matt. And as a final touch I used a tool in After Effects to bend it slightly so that it looked like it was following the contours of his face.

The last touch was to add a shadow to the area around the knife.

Here is a clip showing the different layers.

And here is the final result

The other knife shots were achieved in a similar way.  The only other thing worth mentioning is I added a slight blood burst when Kevin gets the knife yanked out of his head. This was a mixture of using stock footage and also a dust hit that I tinted red as I wanted to get that faint spray of blood you’d get if it was real.

So that’s that till next time.

 

Peter

 

 

 

 

 

Mutant rabbit

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I thought I’d show you an insight into the process of building one of the characters from the film, which in some ways is the star of the film, the mutant rabbit.

This post does contain small spoiler so if you haven’t seen the film yet then what are you waiting for? 🙂

You don’t actually get to see much of the rabbit in the film. There were two reason for this. One was simply following one of the golden rules of horror which is, never reveal the monster till the end. A classic example of this is Jaws, it’s more scary because you don’t see the monster till near the end.

And just like Jaws this rule was applied for another simple reason. The rabbit, as in the case with Spielbergs classic, looked like crap and so I had to to think of as many ways not to show it as possible or at least keep it in the dark.

To be fair the model wasn’t terrible although I didn’t have time to study any ref let alone the anatomy of the rabbit so I quickly sculpted a model using a piece of 3D software called Zbrush.

This wasn’t the main issue, the biggest problem was the rig for the rabbit was awful. A rig is the controls that allow you to move the model around, very much like a stringed puppet. I’m not very good at this process, especially when I’ve only got an evening to do it. So the model had a lot of issues when trying to animated in that some of the limbs didn’t move very well and would distort strangely. So I was very limited in what I could do with it. Which is one of the reasons why when you see the silhouetted version of the rabbit jumping out of Ludwik’s head it looks a little strange.

The only other animation you see of the rabbit is when it hops out from under the sofa. Which again I made sure was very subtle and hidden in shadow.

So because of this I thought it worth sharing this video of the rabbit in all it’s ugly glory. I hope you enjoy the time lapse videos. I think in total it took about 4 – 5 hours to create the model.

Let me know if you enjoy these sort of behind the scene vids and I’ll post more.

Till next time,

Peter

Black Magic URSA.

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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 🙂

Tips on recording dialogue

While we’re in-between films and I’m STILL!!! completing the VFX for The Great Spielron, I thought I’d take this opportunity to quickly give a couple of tips on recording audio.  Basically some bits I’ve learned while shooting the last two films.

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One thing that I’ve realised when recording in a large open area, like the hall we recorded in on the last film. Is that no matter how close you get to the talent you’re always going to get echo.  The problem you get is that the echo lasts quite a while after they’ve spoken and with overlapping dialogue this can become a problem .

So my tip here is to go through the script beforehand and note any areas that have overlap written into the script.  Then when shooting these particular parts make sure you do separate recordings of each character, getting each actor to speak their part with out the other interrupting. Then repeat for the other actor and overlap the two in post.

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My other tip is don’t be afraid to grab audio from another take and see if you can get it to match the visual.  It’s surprising what you can get away with.  Obviously if the dialogue you’re borrowing doesn’t have the right emphasis to what you’re trying to portray then you might have to re-record or make do with the original audio. But I’ve used this trick a number of times and have always been pleasantly surprised how much I can get away with.

Hope these help?

Till next time!

Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Can’t believe it’s nearly 2014, how fast does the years go?  What’s really scary is how each year seems to go faster and faster.

I hope hope you all have a great night whatever you have planned…or maybe you’ve already celebrated?  Either way I hope 2014 brings you all that you’ve wished for and much more.

We will be back again in the New Year and will of course be continuing 22 days later.

I’m still in the process of finishing the second episode at the moment.  I’ve just finished the edit and I’m now onto adding all the VFX which there are far more than I’d expected.  Because of this it’s still a few weeks off before the completed film is finished I’m afraid…not very 22 days later.

However we will be starting up episode 3 next week so keep your eyes peeled and start thinking of some cool ideas that we can use for the script.

Once again have a great one tonight, see you on the other side!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Hello everyone.

I hope you’re all set for the big day…or maybe you’re already celebrating?

I thought I’d do a quick blog update to say I’ve now finished the short animation I was working on,

The plan was to send it out as a video Christmas card but I started it too late and so it all got a bit rushed.

It’s a little bit flawed as I didn’t get time to animate all the shots I wanted.

I also really struggled to get music to match the scenes. One of the reasons why if you’re creating a film it’s really really a good idea to get a professional composer.

However I have to say that in looking for cinematic music I did find this amazing royalty free music site called http://www.a-scores.com.

I honestly can’t believe how good the standard of this music is, every track could easily of been taken straight out of a Blockbuster and for personal use they’re only charging $1 per song.

Anyway that’s enough of me chatting on. If you’d like to see the finished animation you can view it here.