… 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

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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.

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… 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.)

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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.

… 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.

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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 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.

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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.


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 #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.


… 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 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.

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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 Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Tip #1335: Add Ease In / Ease Out to Keyframes

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

To access Ease In/Out settings, control-click a keyframe and adjust the temporal options.

Control-click a keyframe to adjust timing and movement options.

Topic $TipTopic

Motion keyframes in Adobe Premiere Pro support changing the speed of movement as you approach or leave the keyframes. Here’s how.

Control-click a keyframe in the Effect Controls panel, then choose Temporal Interpolation.

  • Linear means all speeds are constant.
  • Bezier means that speeds can vary.
  • Ease In adjusts the animation speed coming into a keyframe, slowing it down on the approach. Selecting this option also selects Bezier in this same menu.
  • Ease Out adjust the animation speed leaving a keyframe, accelerating as it leaves the keyframe. Selecting this option also selects Bezier in this same menu.

To remove the Ease In / Out settings, simply re-select Linear from this menu.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1338: Adjust a Smart Conform

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Smart Conform is a good start. But you’ll need to use keyframes to make it perfect.

Video Inspector > Transform with keyframes applied to change position.

Topic $TipTopic

Smart Conform converts clips in one aspect ratio to fit inside a project using a different aspect ratio. It does this by analyzing the content of the media, then scaling and repositioning it to best fit in the new project.

To create a Smart Conform:

  • Create a new project with the aspect ratio you need.
  • Edit clips into the new project, as usual.

NOTE: Do not allow the project to change aspect ratio when you edit the first clip into it.

  • Finally select all the clips in the timeline and choose Modify > Smart Conform. In just a few seconds, FCP conforms all selected clips.

The good news is that Final Cut scales and repositions the clips quickly and, most of the time, does a pretty good job.

The bad news is that, unlike Premiere, Final Cut does not motion track the image, which means that as the subject moves over time, the framing may need tweaking.

However, you can quickly tweak your shot – even animate the tracking – by selecting each clip, then, in Video Inspector > Transform, add keyframes to reposition the video as needed to correct any positioning errors.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1340: Something Playful

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Luma keys use grayscale values to determine which pixels are transparent.

Tree image courtesy of Melissa Chang, Pexels.com

Topic $TipTopic

We are all familiar with chroma-key, removing the green and replacing the background. But, what if there’s no green? I was playing with a Luma key and rediscovered an old effect.

A chroma-key selects pixels based on their color value. A Luma key selects pixels based on their gray-scale value.

NOTE: In the old days, we used luma keys to superimpose white text on a black title card by shooting each card with a camera then using a luma key to combine the title with a background image.

Here, I have a silhouette of a tree against a white sky.

I stacked the tree above a gradient background and applied Effects > Keying > Luma key.

By default the Luma key removes black. Click Invert to get it to remove white.

NOTE: You can see the settings I used in the screen shot, along with the finished results.

Just because there’s no green in the shot, does not mean you can’t create interesting effects. Luma keys are very old, but still highly useful.


Experiment with different backgrounds. I only used a gradient because it was easy to illustrate this effect.

Also, unclick Invert and fill the black branches of the tree with a background.