… for Random Weirdness

Tip #478: Break Out of a Creative Rut

Creativity can’t be forced – but it can be encouraged.

Creativity is seeing the same things in a different way.

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This article, written by photographer Jamie Windsor, first appeared in PetaPlxel.com. This is a summary of what he wrote. (This link also includes an interesting 8-minute video discussing this problem.)

“I worked out that creative block happens for me when my conscious mind falls out of sync with my intuition. What I mean by this is that when I’m creating something, my intuition (or my subconscious mind) is coming up with ideas and my conscious mind is forming it into something coherent.

“But when I get into a creative rut, it’s like my subconscious mind’s engine has stalled and my conscious mind is left trying to run things. The problem with this is [that] my conscious mind can only see what it can immediately access and that can impact my creativity and my motivation.””

Here are five tips Jamie Windsor uses to restart his creative engine:

  1. Stop Trying
  2. Change Location
  3. See Other People
  4. Stop Worrying
  5. Give Up on Bad Ideas

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… for Apple Motion

Tip #496: A Very Cool Time-Warp Effect

From humble roots come eye-catching effects.

The Cellular generator with a Slit Scan effect applied.

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Here’s a very cool way to create a time-warp effect. I’ve never used this in real-life, but I teach it in all of my Motion classes, because it is fun to play with and teaches an important lesson. Here are the steps.

  • In Motion, add Generators > Cellular into a project.
  • Change the color gradient from black to white, to medium-dark blue to black.
  • Select Cellular in the Layers panel and apply Filters > Stylize > Slit Scan.
  • In Inspector > Properties, rotate the group so the blue flares radiate up-left.
  • In Inspector > Filters:
    • Change Center so the white line is in a lower corner
    • Change Speed to 15.
    • Change the Glow color to a radioactive green.

Then, change anything else you want.

The lesson this teaches is that we can take something very “blah” and make it eye-catching simply by using a few filters.


What what happens when you replace Slit Scan with Slit Tunnel.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #500: When is a Green-Screen Key Red?

The only requirement for a chroma-key is that the background color not be used in the foreground.

In this illustration, the color red is translucent, because we are using it as the key color.

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Green-screen is shorthand for a “chroma-key,” that is a key based upon a color. We remove a background by making all the pixels of a certain color transparent so we can put something else in its place. However, a “green-screen key” doesn’t, in fact, require anything green. It’s just that, when people are involved, we use green more than any other color. In the past, video used blue backgrounds, while film used green, simply due to how video and film responded to the two different colors.

Over time, we standardized on green because it is a color that is not in human skin tone and, while many of us like wearing varying shades of blue, green is much more rare in clothing.

NOTE: However, if you are creating a key to recreate a night scene, you are better off using a blue background, because moonlight is very blue and the edges of the key will fit in better with the night look.

What a chroma key does is look at the color of each pixel. If it finds one that matches the color you want to remove, it makes that pixel transparent. The key color could be green for people, red for lizards or blue for, say, an agricultural spot set in a cornfield.

There’s no magic that determines which color you use – any modern keyer can key on any color. Pick the one that works the best for your project. (Like the red backgrounds I saw used for “The Lizard King from Outer Space.” Very, very weird.)

… for Visual Effects

Tip #501: Lighting for Green-Screen

Light the background for evenness. Light the foreground for drama.

Here, Lisa is lit for drama, while the background is lit evenly.

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One of the challenges that new cinematographers face in lighting green-screen shots is that there is almost no correlation between the lighting of the background versus the foreground. In fact, they should be lit separately. Here’s why.

Lisa, in this screen shot, is an excellent example.

The background is a highly-saturated green because the key needs color, not just brightness, to work. As well, the background is very evenly lit and, if you looked at it on the Waveform Monitor, it would be right at 50% grayscale. (This is because 50% gray is the optimum value for maximizing color saturation.)

But, Lisa, herself, is very dark. This is because it is a very dramatic scene and it needs to be dark. It could, in fact, be a silhouette. There is NO correlation between how you light the foreground from the background.

One other important point to keep in mind: To minimize spill from the green background hitting the shoulders and hair of the foreground talent, try to keep talent ten feet or more in front of the green background. (In this screen shot, Lisa was 12 feet in front of the background.)

… for Visual Effects

Tip #502: The Challenges of Changing a Color

Gray-scale values provide texture.

Texture comes from gray-scale. We can change hue, but not brightness.

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This is Brittney. She’s one of the models from the now-defunct GlamourKey.com website. She’s wearing a deep blue shirt. Except, the script called for her to wear burgundy. Or maybe light pink, it was a toss-up…

The problem is that when we are changing the color of something in post, we can change it’s hue or saturation, but we can’t change it’s gray-scale. Why? Because variations in gray-scale provide objects their texture. If I replace both color and gray-scale her shirt, which has nice folds in the sleeves, suddenly become a block of solid, undistinguished color.

NOTE: To prove the point about texture, the background behind Brittney on the left has a single gray-scale value: 50%. The background behind her on the right, has gray-scale values that range from 0 to 100.

So, in Brittney’s case, I can replace dark blue with dark green, or dark red, but not light pink, because I can’t change the gray-scale values enough in her shirt to create light pink from burgundy.

… for Visual Effects

Tip #488: Tips to Improve Color Tints

Tinting looks better when you first convert a clip to black-and-white.

Left is a correctly tinted clip, middle is with the sepia filter alone, right is the original clip.

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All editing software has an effect that tints a clip, such as sepia. But, when you apply it, it looks awful. Why? Here’s what you need to know.

This screen shot illustrates the problem. The right side is the original image, the center has a sepia effect applied; which looks pretty awful.

The reason is that when you apply a tint filter, the software simply applies the color effect to the existing clip. If you have a highly saturated clip, such as these berries, the color in the clip overwhelms the tinting filter.

The solution is to first remove the saturation from a clip which converts it to black-and-white, then apply the tint filter. (The processing order of your effects is important here.)

Once the original color is removed, there’s nothing for the tint to fight against and the tinted clip looks the way you expect; which is what you see on the left side of this image.