… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1346: 11 Pre-Production Essentials

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Everything starts with a plan. Here’s how to start.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article first appeared in MotionArray.com. This is a summary.

Got a big shoot coming up? Not sure how to prepare? Don’t panic. Here’s the ultimate pre-production checklist at your service!

  • Familiarize Yourself with Your Set
  • Create an Equipment Checklist
  • Get Those Lines DOWN!
  • Brush Up on Those Filmmaking Hacks!
  • Create a Shooting Schedule
  • Account for Extra Time
  • Account for Flakers
  • Charge and Check EVERYTHING
  • Bring Extra Copies of the Script!
  • Make a Plan B
  • Let. Them. Eat.

Murphy’s Law loves the film industry. Name anything that could go wrong, and there’s a 75% chance it will go wrong. This article includes more details and links to decrease your stress and improve your productions.


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… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1345: Creating an Improv Web Series in 7 Days

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

They said it couldn’t be done in a week. We did it anyway. 

L to R: The creators and co-stars of The Basics: Chloe Troast, Jamie Linn Watson, Mahayla Laurence, Liz Demmon, and Rachel Horwitz

Topic $TipTopic

This article first appeared in NoFilmSchool.com. This is a summary.

This might come as a surprise, but we shot a six-episode improv comedy web series in seven days. We are Jamie Linn Watson, Rachel Horwitz, Mahayla Laurence, Chloe Troast, and Liz Demmon.

After we got in touch with fellow NYU comedians MC Plaschke and Ryan Beggs to direct and produce, Liz took on the role of executive producer. The five of us, with MC and Ryan’s guidance, each wrote an episode centering around our characters, co-wrote the finale, renamed it The Basics, and we were off!

After assembling our team, we put together a budget that would allow us to properly pay our crew, rent equipment, and keep everyone fed and hydrated. Our budget was $13,000, and we raised the entirety of it (in 2019) on Kickstarter.

“Stylistically, we wanted to get away from the idea that comedy has to be either ‘vertical Twitter comedy video’ or ‘Wes Anderson style overload.’ There is so much in between! We think there is a huge range of visual things you can do with comedy that are rarely explored. For The Basics, we relied a lot on improvised performance as well as improvised zooms/camera moves which made everything feel fresh and in-the-moment. The one danger of doing a series about improv is that on-camera improvisation… isn’t that funny. The magic is often lost when you don’t have the stakes of it being live. To get the feeling of spontaneity, much like you would at a live show, we used snap zooms and jump cuts, as well as slow-motion effects and music overlays over the actual improv. We wanted the goofy, improvised nature of the comedy to juxtapose with a very professional look in our cinematography. For these characters, improv is life and death, and we wanted the style to reflect that, pulling from comedic shows like Search Party and Glee.”

The article details how they put this series together in planning and production, and how they promoted it afterward.


… for Random Weirdness

Tip #1344: Which to Shoot – 4K or 1080p?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

4K may be “everywhere,” but, often, shooting 1080p makes more sense.

(Image courtesy of Pexels.com.)

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Charles Yeager, first appeared in PremiumBeat.com. This is a summary.

It is 2021, and nearly every new consumer and professional camera has the ability to film in 4K (even action cameras and phones!). So, this poses a question, “Should anybody be filming in 1080p anymore?” The short answer is—absolutely. But why? Let’s dive into the pros and cons for filming in 4K versus 1080p.

Pros for Filming in 4K

  • More Resolution, More Creativity
  • Color Grading and Keying
  • More Pixel Data
  • Online Compression Benefits

Pros for Filming in 1080p

  • Faster Editing
  • Less Storage Needed
  • Faster Video Uploads
  • Common Resolution
  • Faster Streaming
  • Perfect for Vlogs or Creators Starting Out
  • Focus More on Composition

Story Above Everything

Video resolution certainly matters when it comes to factors like editing speed or details visible in a scene. Ultimately, though, the most important thing is going to be the story you tell. You’ve probably heard this time and time again. However, the story really is all that matters for most casual viewers.

EXTRA CREDIT

This article includes more details, links and example videos.


… for Apple Motion

Tip #1343: Change Direction During Movement

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

A Motion path moves an object. Snap Alignment controls which way it faces.

A curved path for an element (bottom) and the two behaviors that make it possible.

Topic $TipTopic

Normally, when you create a motion path, an object will follow that path. However, if you add a curve, sometimes you want the object to change its direction as it moves around the curve. This is similar to how a car points in a different direction as it goes around a curve. Here’s how.

  • Add the element to the Layers panel that you want to move.
  • Apply Behaviors > Basic Motion > Motion path.
  • Double-click in the middle of the red line and drag to create a curve.

NOTE: You can adjust the shape of the curve by dragging one of the white Bezier control points.

  • Select the element in the Layers panel and apply Behaviors > Basic Motion > Snap Alignment to Motion. (The default settings are fine.)

Now, as the element travels along the motion path, it will change direction as it travels around a curve.

Cool!


… for Apple Motion

Tip #1342: Two Channel Blur Tricks

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Channel blur allows blurring individual color channels.

Channel blur settings (top) and the results applied to a 3D bowl.

Topic $TipTopic

In Tip # 1341 we learned how to apply a texture to a 3D object. In this tip, I’ll show you an intriguing way make that texture more believable.

  • Follow the instructions in Tip #1341, then, remove (or uncheck) the Colorize filter applied to Antique.
  • With Antique still selected, apply Filters > Blur > Channel Blur.
  • Based on the settings in the screen shot, disable all colors except for Green, then boost the Blur amount to the end of the slider; 64 in this example.

What Channel Blur does is blur the red, green, or blue channels without blurring any others. The detail in most images is carried in the green channel. By blurring just the green, we get that lovely green “glaze” on the 3D bowl, without losing the highlights that give the bowl its shape.

EXTRA CREDIT

Channel blur is also a quick way to reduce the visibility of skin blemishes. While not as powerful as a dedicated plug-in, blurring the green channel will make faces glow and hide any skin problems.


… for Apple Motion

Tip #1341: Add Texture to a 3D Object

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Stencil Luma maps texture from one layer to a 3D object, while preserving its shape.

Properties settings (top), Layers panel and finished result.

Topic $TipTopic

Motion doesn’t support texture mapping on objects, BUT, there’s a clever work-around you can use for 3D objects that delivers a similar result.

For this example, I took a 3D object – the bowl – and applied a texture and color to it. Here’s how:

  • Add Library > 3D Objects > Bowl to the Viewer.
  • Add a texture from Library > Content > Particle Images > Antique.
  • Apply Filters > Color > Colorize to Antique and change the color mapped to white to a darker brick red.

NOTE: The middle of the screen shot shows how elements were stacked.

  • Select the bowl and apply Inspector > Properties > Blend mode > Stencil Luma.

NOTE: Stencil Alpha replaces the bowl with the background. Stencil Luma combines the shading of the bowl with the texture of the background, allowing the bowl to retain its shape while acquiring a new texture and color.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #1350: DaVinci Resolve Fusion

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Fusion: Free, node-based, professional-grade effects software.

A Fusion wireframe (top) and finished effect.

Topic $TipTopic

If you are want to extend your effects expertise beyond your NLE, an excellent place to start is Blackmagic Design’s Fusion.

Fusion is built into DaVinci Resolve and features a node-based workflow with hundreds of 2D and 3D tools. Fusion is ideal for everything from quick fixes such as retouching and repairing shots to creating true Hollywood caliber effects.

Fusion uses a flow chart called a node tree that visually maps out how effects are connected and work together. Nodes are like building blocks that represent effect tools, generators, transforms, masks and more. There are no confusing stacks of nested layers and hidden menus! You build effects by stringing nodes together one after the other.

You can also use Fusion to create 2D and 3D text, as well as add and track infographics.

Best of all, you can get started with Fusion for free.

Here’s the link to learn more.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #1348: Moviola Training on Visual Effects

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Moviola has video training on all aspects of filmmaking.

Screen grab from the Moviola training on green-screen keying.

Topic $TipTopic

Moviola.com has a series of nine, free, online video courses on creating visual effects. Each lesson is deeply condensed to get you up to speed on the topic quickly. Subjects include:

  • Shooting Visual Effects
  • Node-based Compositing
  • Sky Replacement
  • Tracking
  • Rotoscoping
  • Adding CG Elements to a Scene
  • Green-screen Fundamentals
  • Keying Green-screen
  • 3D Fundamentals

Each video runs 15 – 30 minutes and features lots of examples.

Here’s the link.


… for Visual Effects

Tip #1347: The Miniature Models of Blade Runner

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Effects created from practical effects, miniatures, optical compositing and real 65mm film.

Fiber-optic strands are added to the Hades Landscape miniature. At left, Illyanna Lowry uses a caulking gun to secure the cables with silicon. Fellow artists Leslie Ekker, George Trimmer and Jon Roennau also work with the fiber optics.

Topic $TipTopic

This article, written by Ian Failes, first appeared in VFXVoice.com. This is a summary.

In 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner set a distinctive tone for the look and feel of many sci-fi future film noirs to come, taking advantage of stylized production design, art direction and visual effects work.

On the eve of the release of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 sequel, VFX Voice revisits the miniatures of the original film with chief model maker Mark Stetson, VES. He and a crew of distinguished artists helped to craft many of the film’s iconic settings and vehicles, including the opening Hades landscape,

Blade Runner begins with a slow push-in over a heavily industrialized section of Los Angeles. Many were surprised when it became apparent that the endless refinery imagery – known as the Hades landscape – was largely achieved with rows of acid-etched brass silhouette cut-outs in a forced perspective layout.

The ground plane structures were painted quite roughly to make the buildings look ‘aged and crappy’ – instant coffee was even used for that effect. Then, after making an evening flight into Los Angeles, Stetson was inspired to replicate in the Hades landscape the look of thousands of city lights.

A myriad of fiber optic strands – seven miles worth – was added underneath the tables holding the silhouettes and other model pieces. The lights included a mix of different bulbs, too, all filmed in different passes, as were the gas flares captured ‘in-model’ with specially placed projection screens and a synchronized 35mm film projector.

Equally iconic in Blade Runner lore are the flying police vehicles known as Spinners. In visual futurist Syd Mead’s design explora- tions for Blade Runner, he called the flying vehicles ‘aerodynes.’

The vehicles were particularly recognizable for their flaring and spinning police lights. In fact, the larger scale Spinner models were a significant feat of engineering. They were made to include room for cabling, stepper motors, lighting, and even nitrogen plumbing for exhaust.

“Late in the development of the models, Ridley asked for a rack of gumball-style police lights to be mounted on top of the car,” says Stetson. “Getting the lights to spin on the model required a new lighting rig that replaced the rear bodywork on the model and was shot on a repeat pass using motion control. We made little brass cans for each halogen light, with lensed snoots driven through speedo cables by a rack of stepper motors on the back of the car.

This article goes into a lot more detail with excellent production stills of models and sets in construction.


… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1337: What Does “Low Resolution Proxy” Mean?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

The small file size of proxy files is due to deeper compression and reduced frame size.

An example of four different proxy frame sizes: Full, 1/2, 1/4/ & 1/8.

Topic $TipTopic

We often talk about proxy files being “lower resolution.” But what does that actually mean?

Proxy files are designed to provide reasonable images for editing, while taking less space to store and fewer computing resources to display. This is accomplished using deeper compression settings, changing video codecs (for example, using H.264), and reducing image resolution.

NOTE: Audio is always stored at the highest quality, even in a proxy file.

For a long time, I would say the words “lower resolution,” but not understand what they meant. It wasn’t till I created a graphic for one of my webinars that I understood what was going on.

A “lower resolution” proxy file is a file created using a smaller frame size than the original image. For example, using a 1920 x 1080 pixel frame size for the source video:

  • 1/2 resolution = a frame size of 960 x 540 pixels
  • 1/4 resolution = a frame size of 480 x 270 pixels
  • 1/8 resolution = a frame size of 240 x 135 pixels

Obviously, the smaller the frame size, the smaller the proxy file, but the less image detail is displayed.

Most of the time, I use 1/2 frame size for my proxy files. However, if I’m doing multicam work, where the on-screen images are small to begin with, I’ll use 1/4 frame size. This allows me to play more cameras at the same time without dropping frames.