Wow! I know I know it’s been a long time!

Ok sorry for the massive lack of updates.  I’ve had month after month of crazy amounts of work and then just haven’t had the energy to sit down and write something interesting.

It doesn’t help that I couldn’t actually think of many interesting things to talk about seeing as we haven’t been able to make any films for a while.

I was thinking about maybe talking about animation techniques or VFX techniques but didn’t want to stray too much from the actual core part of making films.  If you feel this might be of some interest then I’m more than happy to oblige?

I have decided one thing over the last few months and that is to scrap the part of 22 days later where by we have to use a costume, phrase and prop from our viewers.  It’s not that I didn’t like some of the ideas that we pulled out the hat. After all without them we wouldn’t of had the insane films we’ve made so far.  But to be honest we just weren’t getting enough ideas coming in and at the moment I’ve got quite a few short films I’d really just like to make without random input.

Maybe one day I’ll add that part back in but for now I’m going with just making a film in 22 days. If I get an influx of complaints then I will consider bringing that part back.

Although it has been pretty much work, work; work these past few months – by the way I can’t believe it’s been over 2 months since my last post; we did manage to shoot a short film.

The idea was to enter a short horror in a competition called: Short Cuts to Hell.  Unfortunately we left it far to late – the night before, and so had to make up the story, film it and edit it in around eight hours.

It actually came out ok, the only problem was that one of the rules of the competition was that the film couldn’t be more than three minutes. Our film no matter how we tried to cut it came in at around four minutes.  So we decided to call it quits.

I have decided to that it would be a shame to just leave it and so over the next few weeks I’ll finish it off and see what we get.

Here is a still. It’s worth noting that because there was only two of us we didn’t bother with any lighting and just used what we had in the room…which is why it looks a little bland.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 23.37.28

In till next time – hopefully not two months.


Ouch…not really



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

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.


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


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.








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!

Need a crowd for your film but don’t have enough extras? Fake it!

Hello everyone.

I thought today I’d do a little tutorial on how to use VFX to add crowds or in this case audiences to your scenes.

For The Great Spielron we had certain shots whereby The Great Spielron is performing on stage.  Although a lot of the shots we kept tight to avoid having to show an audience. We did feel that for some shots, especially the establishing shot needed some sort of audience.

Now because of the nature of these shorts there is really no time to plan out shots beforehand. All I knew was that I was going to have to somehow make the hall we were using look full to the brim with an audience.

There are three ways I could think of off the top of my head that could achieve this.

The first was to get around 40 extras to fill the front rows of the hall.  This wasn’t going to be possible due to the fact we’d had three days to find all the actors and with such a short deadline there was no way we could get everyone together in time. Plus it’s set in the 1920’s so to find enough costumes would of been a nightmare.

Another option would be to use a computer generated crowd. There’s a few pieces of software that can do this very well but they cost a lot of money and also take some time to learn.  Plus you still have to animate your crowd and render them which also takes up valuable time.

So the third option and one that I was a little skeptical about was to shoot the few people we did have against green screen.

This was the option we went with.

So lets have a look at the original plate without any of the crowd.


And here is the finished shot


Now we only had about five people to act as crowd, this actually included our main actor as well, we just put some different clothes on him.  Because the atmosphere is so dim I knew we could get away with a lot.

I took a number of different shots, each time with two actors sitting next to each other like this.


We would get them to perform certain actions like laughing, clapping or talking to each other. Then we would get the next group to sit there.

We also shot some from the front as I knew I needed some close ups of the audience laughing or talking to each other.


I then took the different shots I had into a program called After Effects. This program allows me to take out the green background, very similar to rotoscoping which I talked about here

So once I’d cut them out they looked like this


It was then simply a case of shrinking them down and positioning them somewhere on the screen where it looked like they were sitting in front of the stage.


But as you can see they still look a little like cardboard cutouts.  So now I had to add some colour correction which involved darkening them down to fit more with their surroundings.


The next step was to add the other crowd members. In total I only had 5 people.  We were also very short on time as we were doing this on the last day and still had to shoot two scenes. All this in one evening!!!

So I quickly got them to swap about and change hats, things that would just break up the silhouettes bit.

Once I’d duplicated all of the characters I had something that looked a little like this. Although this is pre-colour treatment.


So the final element was to add it all together.  I also added some atmospheric effects like subtle smoke to blend the two elements together.


It’s surprising what you can get away with when using this technique. It’s used a lot in films to fill the background with people.  Even in the latest blockbusters like Star Trek Into The Darkness and the latest Avenger film.

It gets slightly more complicated if it’s a moving shot but if the crowd are far enough away you can get away with shooting the crowd using a static camera and overlay them onto the moving camera. For example an army running in the distance over hills. If you have excess to motion control cameras then you can replicate the camera movement exactly but that’s out of reach for most of us.

So next time you need a few extras give this technique a go.

Till next time!


Behind the scenes of Episode 2 part 3

So here we are in the final part of this making of blog.

I finished off in the last blog by showing how we tracked an image to fit with the moving image below it.

So here is the problem we’re going to occur if we were to just stick to the exact same procedure as before.

See pic below (Ignore the coloured squares, they’re basically just visual guides for the tracking)


But this looks fine right?? Yep it’s not bad…apart from the small pipe I forgot at the bottom.  But it does the job pretty well.

Except when the boy gets to the point where he crossed the bits I’ve hidden.


Ah Crap!! Actually this would work quite well if it was a scene from Harry Potter, he’s even got the right costume…but unfortunately it’s not!

So what can we do?

Well this is where a technique called Rotoscoping comes in. What’s Rotoscoping? Photoshop would be a good example here but I know not everyone uses paint programs so instead I’ll use this example.

Remember having a scrap book, before the internet days…maybe you still do?  You’d find a photo you loved or maybe a picture from a magazine.  You get a pair of scissors  and cut around the photo and place in in your book.

It’s the exact same thing with rotoscoping except you have to do it to a moving image. And the problem with moving images is they have at least 24 frames per second, if you’re lucky and working in film.  But they could have 25 or even 30,  actually now days they could even have 48 if you’re Peter Jackson.

Anyhow I digress.  So now not only do have to cut out your one picture of the boy, you have to cut out 24, for every second he’s on screen. Or more precisely for every second that he passes over the area that you want him to pass over. In this case I think it was about 1 second so lets call it 24.

The good news is that you can get the computer to help you here and use the same tracking techniques we used before to allow you get your rough cutting to follow where he’s going.  But you still need to go in and refine as key elements change.

For example in the image below notice how  his cloak changes from one frame to the next.


The red lines around the boy are the tools that are used to cut out the areas I want.  This can look different in various packages.  This package is called Mocha Pro

Once I’d cut out the boy I could then put him on top of the wall.  I think the best way to imagine what’s going on is to think of panes of glass.  The very bottom image is your painting, you can’t change this as the paints set and you don’t want to ruin it. But you can make copies of it or even parts. Just like we’re doing here.

For each part you can place it on a pain of glass that sits above the original painting. So in our example we copied a bit of the wall which now sits on top.  The pain of glass would be the same size as the painting but because it’s see through we can only see the solid part we added, in this case the wall.  So to have the boy pass over the top of this wall we need to add a new pane of glass on top of the last pane. And this pane has the cut out boy on it.

So now we have this


Hurray….oh hang on, it still looks weird?

This is the extra problem we have with this particular scene.  It’s his shadow which is also now going behind the wall.  Now if I’d been very organized I may have though ahead and shot this so that no shadow went across areas that had things that needed to be removed. But I wasn’t

So now we have to do the same thing all over again for the shadow. Luckily this isn’t real time so we can skip ahead and show you one I prepared earlier.


Now we’re almost done.  There was another issue here that I won’t go into  too much. So I’d removed all the unwanted items from the wall. But remember this was a static image that I tracked to follow the original background.  The problem with the shadow was that it crossed a lot of these items. So even when I cut the shadow out into its own layer (pain of glass) it still had within it, some of those offending items.

Sorry these examples aren’t great but if you look at the images below you can see how the shadow has the pipe still running through the middle of it.

The first image is just the shadow cut out on it’s own layer (pain of glass) so you can see where the borders of the cutout are.

The second image, is the cutout overlaid onto the background.



So to solve this I use the trusty stamp tool. Remember the tool I mentioned in the first part, where by you can copy bits of an image and paint them over another area.  It’s not the tidiest way of doing things, you sometimes get flickers where the images don’t quite blend so well. On a static photo this isn’t so bad but because you’re seeing lots of frames very quickly this can sometimes be jarring.  But because this was in the shadow I managed to get away with it…I hope?


There were some other technical difficulties with this regarding trying to match the lighting of the static images to the moving ones but I won’t bore you anymore.

The final touches were to add some colour correction and Vignetting.

Vignetting in case you’re wondering it the darkening around the edges of a picture, like you see a lot in old photography.  It’s actually a flaw usually from the lens but because it frames the image so well (and hides rushed VFX) it’s used a lot.


Well I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into some of the techniques of the VFX world and I hope it wasn’t too boring or confusing.  If so just send me a message or comment below.

Till next time!

Behind the scenes of Episode 2 part 2

Carrying on from yesterdays post.

So the problem we now have is that the part that we’ve painted over only fits on one frame.  Once you move to another frame it gets left behind.

This is where a technique comes in called tracking. Here’s an image of what tracking in a software package called After Effects looks like. In each of the squares are smaller squares. Within these squares are points.  Basically what you have to do is find a part of the image that has good contrast to it’s surrounding. So for example a hook on a white door would be a good item to track.  You then place these tracking boxes over the high contrast item or spot. The boxes around the inner point tell the software how far to look for the particular contrasty object as it moves in each frame.

tracking points

tracking points

In the example above I’ve added four tracking points. Each of these points knows where the other tracking points are in relation to itself. This means that After effects can work out not only where about an object is in 2D space but can also tell if it’s coming closer or further away and at what angle, although this shouldn’t be confused with 3D trackers, see below.

There are many types of tracking software. Some track in 2D space, like the above example.  These can use a pixel to track or some packages use whole planes to track, so for example the side of a car or some furniture.

Others can track in 3D space. This means they use special algorithms that solve where the camera would of been in space. This allows us to create a virtual camera that mimics exactly what the real camera would have done on set, which then gives us the ability to add 3D objects to our scene, for example a giant robot or dinosaur.

However for this task we’re dealing with 2D objects (things with no depth or no perceived depth) so we don’t need to use a 3D tracker.

By feeding the tracking information we have to the part of the image we painted over the top we can have it move exactly the same way as the background footage as seen below.


Also note the slight join where I’ve placed the red arrow.  This is because although the tracking was good the perspective had changed slightly and so the original image that I’d used in the wider part of the shot now didn’t quite match despite being scaled and rotated correctly according to the track points.

This is where I should of used tracking that takes perspective into account.  However I decided that it was so subtle that hopefully no one would notice…apart from people that have read this.

The next issue was to deal with the electrical plug sockets and various other modern looking items on the left hand wall.

Although the core techniques for this were pretty much the same, it did introduce a whole other collection of problems.  One of which is the fact that the boy runs across where we need to paint out our objects.  We also have a rather annoying problem that his shadow also passes this area.

So tomorrow I’ll complete this mini making of  with techniques I had to employ to solve this.

See you then.

Behind the scenes of Episode 2

Ok so I filmed a whole Vblog on this and while putting it together,  it suddenly occurred to me how boring it was.  So I’ve decided instead to do keep it as simple as possible and just cover the key points of what I was trying to talk about.

So in this blog I’m going to explain how I completed a shot where  a number of background items needed to be removed.

I’m also going to break it into parts to make it more digestible.

It’s worth pointing out that this particular shot is meant to be set in the 1920’s and so things like the fire exit sign and the various light switches pipes and electric cable to the left would have to be removed. Here is the shot before hand.


Looking at this shot I need to decide how to tackle the tasks at hand.  Now there a number of different tasks here, each one requiring a slightly different approach.

I’ve decided to go for the easiest task first, which is removing the fire exit sign above the door.

The wall behind the fire exit sign is a nice plain purple colour which makes my job a lot easier. The quickest way is to use what’s called the stamp tool in Photoshop.

In case you don’t know what the stamp tool is, it’s a tool that you get in most paint packages that allows you to clone one area of the picture and stamp it or brush it over another area.  Great for making things like duplicate eyes on a face, or more subtle things like covering up a blemish on the skin of a model, or in my case hiding items on a wall.

TA DAH!  That was easy


Great, lets see what it looks like in the moving picture.


Crap! Ok we need to do something extra to make this work. 

Find out in part 2 coming to a blog near you…actually just this one, TOMORROW!

Oh and also get your ideas in for episode 3. We need a Prop,Costume and Phrase please!




Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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!