Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Red’s Hydrogen One: new 3D-enabled smartphone

In their always subtle way, Red has stated that “the future of personal communication, information gathering, holographic multi-view, 2D, 3D, AR/VR/MR and image capture just changed forever” with the introduction of Hydrogen One, a pocket-sized, glasses-free “holographic media machine.”

Hydrogen One is a standalone, full-featured, unlocked multi-band smartphone, operating on Android OS, that promises “look around depth in the palm of your hand” without the need for separate glasses or headsets. The device features a 5.7-inch professional hydrogen holographic display that switches between traditional 2D content, holographic multi-view content, 3D content and interactive games, and it supports both landscape and portrait modes. Red has also embedded a proprietary H30 algorithm in the OS system that will convert stereo sound into multi-dimensional audio.

The Hydrogen system incorporates a high-speed data bus to enable a comprehensive and expandable modular component system, including future attachments for shooting high-quality motion, still and holographic images. It will also integrate into the professional Red camera program, working together with Scarlet, Epic and Weapon as a user interface and monitor.

Future-users are already talking about this “nifty smartphone with glasses-free 3D,” and one has gone so far as to describe the announcement as “the day 360-video became Betamax, and AR won the race.” Others are more tempered in their enthusiasm, viewing this as a really expensive smartphone with a holographic screen that may or might not kill 360 video. Time will tell.

Initially priced between $1,195 and $1,595, the Hydrogen One is targeted to ship in Q1 of 2018.

Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull’s ‘Origin Unknown’ starts 2nd unit photography

Director Hasraf “HaZ” Dulull, who has shared his expertise on the postPerspective site over the last two years, has started 2nd unit shooting on Origin Unknown, a sci-fi thriller based on a story by Dulull and written by Gary Hall. Dulull is a former VFX supervisor and artist who has worked on such tentpole films as Hell Boy and Dark Knight and who made a name for himself as a director with his award-winning short films, Project Kronos and Sync.

Origin Unknown is a sci-fi thriller set in the not-too-distant future of space exploration, where we follow a mission controller named Mack investigating a mysterious object that has appeared on Mars. As he gets close to unraveling the mystery, with the support of an artificial intelligence called RAINN, he soon realizes there is something much bigger at play.

“The writing process has been awesome,” explains Dulull. “Gary and I would chat every day, and by the time he had finished the script I had already mapped out how we were going to make this film.”

The second unit material is being shot with team at The Lens Foundry on the Sony F55 camera. First unit photography will be via the Arri Alexa.

“With my VFX supervisor background and having made several short films, the transition into directing has been an easy one,” says Dulull. “In fact, nothing has changed much, apart from the fact I am now responsible for everything in the film. Now my main job is to ensure I tell the best possible story and do the script justice. Being surrounded by hard working producers and an experienced team of talent just makes this process so enjoyable every day.”

The unique position of this production, says Dulull, “is we are doing most of the VFX first, while shooting the 2nd unit material.” Check out the proof of concept video here.

The film is being produced by Anis Shlewet and James Ryan of Parkgate Entertainment with Scott Glassgold and Raymond Brothers of IAM Entertainment executive producing, having worked on Dulull’s previous short projects, as well as the upcoming feature adaption of Dulull’s Project Kronos.

Dell 6.15

VFX bring wheatpaste poster to life in ‘Paper Heart’ music video

Each January, The Silver Sound Showdown music video festival and battle of the bands takes place at Brooklyn Bowl. It pairs the winning director and winning band together to make a music video with Silver Sound Studios in New York City. It was here that Paper Heart, the music video directed by Nick Snyder, produced by Silver Sound and featuring the band Blood and Glass, was born.

Paper Heart, is one of the most ambitious Showdown collaborations to date,” according to festival director and producer Cory Choy, features Blood and Glass lead singer Lisa Moore as a wheatpaste poster on walls across Brooklyn. It was shot on a Red Scarlet camera and features effects created in Adobe’s After Effects and Photoshop. It was edited on Adobe Premiere Pro.

Why the wheatpaste poster look? LA-based Snyder (@nickwsnyder) works in the arts district of downtown, where he sees inspiration in everything. He also liked the idea that the nature and lifespan of the wheatpaste poster seemed to play nicely into the “themes of isolation and fragility found in the song.”

Director Nick Snyder, right.

Director Nick Snyder, right, in front of monitor.

Snyder’s Showdown-winning video Lost Boy Found also combined the techniques of live performance, compositing and animation — silhouettes of actors were composited into a fantasy shadow puppet world — so this was a realm he was comfortable in.

The Production
After several months of prep, Snyder and the band made their way to New York City for the two-day shoot. The first day was dedicated to shooting plates. Locations around Brooklyn had been scouted by Silver Sound, Google street-viewed by Snyder prior to arrival and then scouted in person. So by the time production began, specific moments had been planned to take place in a handful of selected locations. The remaining moments were narrowed down to areas where the filmmakers anticipated chance discoveries. Snyder, DP J. Andrés Cardona and a skeleton crew set out onto the streets of New York to shoot with their Red Scarlet.

Going Green
The second day was shot at Parlay Studios in Jersey City and dedicated exclusively to greenscreen shots. During a brief break in between days, Snyder analyzed the plates. While he shot listed and storyboarded, he also left room for improvisation and collaboration.

greenscreen RED Scarlet

To aid lead singer Lisa Moore in her characterization, extra attention was given to wardrobe, makeup and props. “For example, it was decided beforehand that her prop cane would become a matchstick and that after using it, the matchstick would shrivel and blacken,” explains Snyder. “The art director constructed a practical burnt matchstick prop, but rather than swapping it out during Lisa’s performance, the prop was shot suspended in front of the greenscreen. Then, using an LED light on Lisa’s un-burnt cane, I tracked the movement of the matchstick in After Effects. I then replaced it with the burnt matchstick seen at the end of the video.”

The same technique was used for the origami birds that interact with Moore throughout the video. Practical birds were made, shot against the greenscreen and keyed out in post. The intention was that they could be keyframed in After Effects, but their natural movement would allow for a slightly more organic feel. It was a good time saver. “Green apple boxes, chroma key gloves and even crew members wrapped in green blankets were used to achieve the effect of tactile contact within the video,” explains Snyder. “The performance moments were shot from start to finish in various sizes, and shooting in 4K allowed for any Lisa/plate size relationship miscalculations,” explains Snyder.

The Post
The next step was assembly. This involved mapping Moore to the building surface plates. Premiere Pro was used to assemble performance shots in raw R3D and narrow down her best takes. For performance takes, a six-panel export was made to quickly compare her gestures from the narrowed down shots. From there, a preliminary pass was made on pairing Moore with the plates by adding the chroma key effect in Premiere. “This simplified version of After Effects Keylight allowed us to see what was working without having to check all the shots in the much more sluggish After Effects video playback,” says Snyder. “Additionally, once the assembled shots were ready for AE, the greenscreen clips with this chroma key effect would stay in the metadata of the shot.” Another time saver, he says, was that once the Moore/plate relationships were locked and a cut was close to locked, the compositing could begin.

bird person birds

To save space and make for faster save times, Snyder chose to create separate After Effects files for each shot. The first step was to finalize the look for “Wheatpaste Lisa.” After some trial and error, a look was established and a master file was created that could be imported into each After Effects file, but the process for creating the look wasn’t as easy as copying and pasting a LUT. In some cases, upwards of 20 pre-comps were used.

According to Snyder, the basic process went like this. “The greenscreen shot was keyed out using Keylight, adjusting for spill and greenscreen inconsistencies. Luckily, the DP did an excellent job at lighting Lisa, so this was a breeze. If there was an issue, a simple matte choker was used. Then, this was precomped and a minimal texture was brought in to dirty it up a bit. The overlay blending mode was often used as well as an image mask. It was precomped again; an off-white stroke was added using a layer style stroke. This effect was used to create the white-edge poster look. The stroke size and precomp level varied from shot to shot, depending on the size of shot Lisa was in and also the texture of the plate onto which she was to be composited. At this point the look started to emerge a bit, but a few steps remained in order to completely bring Wheatpaste Lisa to life.”

For Paper Heart, a combination of Adobe CC’s Glass and Texturize were used to give Moore a convincing paper texture as well as authentic surface imperfections, explains Snyder. Most often, two bump maps were used — one for generic surface texture and lighting and a second to pick up the surface of the wall behind her. For the second, a high contrast grayscale image was created in Photoshop to bring out the important parts. Using Dynamic Link, Snyder was able to paint over parts of the bump map that were less important, save and view the results in After Effects.

one two

Lastly, two layers needed to be created to mimic ink on paper and human error. This would also come into play later in the video as the iterations of Wheatpaste Lisa start to erode away. “For this effect, the comp had to be duplicated. Unfortunately, After Effects comp duplication only duplicates the top comp,” explains Snyder. “So in order to duplicate all of the nested comps, a purchased script called True Comp Duplicator had to be used. The newly duplicated comp was then brought into the original comp and placed below. Using the Fill effect, this comp was colored off-white. Then, to add the finishing touches, some final grungifying had to be done to the top layer. Using Photoshop, 5K resolution brush strokes and alpha channel grunge effects were created on multiple layers. Once imported into AE, these could be used in the top Lisa comp. Using the Silhouette Alpha blending mode, the grungy paintbrush strokes subtracted bits of Wheatpaste Lisa, creating imperfections and rough edges that exposed the off-white layer beneath it.

“Finally, back in the master comp with the two Lisa layers, those were precomped once more. At this point, the look was more or less complete,” he continues. “But from shot to shot, additional work was sometimes required to successfully composite Lisa onto the plates.” Some additional tools used were Roughen Edges, another Matte Choker and occasionally another round of Silhouette Alpha grungy paintbrush strokes.

For lighting, Snyder used either the 4-Color Gradient or Gradient Ramp on an Adjustment Layer or on a Solid set to the Hard Light Blending Mode. Opacity was usually in the 10-20 percent range.

umbrella 5 flame

During the process, Snyder and Silver Sound discovered that Wheatpaste Lisa’s movement looked best at 12fps. “We wanted to underscore the fact that Wheatpaste Lisa was an actual wheatpaste entity existing in her own little universe, not just a video projection,” explains Silver Sound’s Choy. “So the choppier feel of 12fps was used to make Lisa’s motions a little less fluid, a little more animation-y and other worldly feeling.” For this effect, the Posterize Time effect was used.

Throughout the compositing process, Snyder created H.264 proxy files from the transcoded R3D footage. This was especially helpful with the origami birds. To save space, the birds were rendered out on their own at a much smaller file size and then re-imported.

The Death of Wheatpaste Lisa
Finally, Wheatpaste Lisa had to die. To achieve the effect of wheatpaste poster weathering, both layers of Wheatpaste Lisa had to erode. “Back inside the top layer — the double layer Lisa comp — individual brush strokes and grunge effects were animated with Silhouette Alpha as their blending mode,” describes Snyder. “Once the weathering looked satisfactory, these animated layers were copied, pasted into the bottom layer Lisa comp and adjusted in movement and timing. This allowed for the top layer to erode just before the bottom layer, pushing the compositing one step closer toward realism. Occasionally, one final matte choker and/or an animated mask was used on the final precomp to eliminate any stray particles or to insure that she dissolved away completely.

The crew

The crew.

Once complete, the shots were rendered at 4K ProRes 4444. The final shots were delivered to Silver Sound colorist Vlad Kucherov with Moore separated from the building surface plates. Using DaVinci Resolve, Kucherov worked with Snyder to achieve a satisfactory look that worked well for the video concept while also helping sell the compositing realism. Having the layers separated gave Silver Sound more control during this process by being able to adjust the levels independently. The goal was to find a look that played to the feel of the song, but also gave the video a confident personalized look of its own.

“In the end, Paper Heart is the result of careful planning, post experimentation, lots of hair pulling and creating a concept that exists within a strict set of limitations,” concludes Snyder.


Cool Stuff: Co-Pilot’s Andrew Kramer just might inspire you

While many Adobe After Effects users are eagerly awaiting the November release of Video CoPilot’s Element 3Dv2, creator Andrew Kramer gave a heartfelt keynote speech at last week’s Adobe After Effects World conference in Seattle.

Kramer talks about time management and real priorities, like family, the art of concise tutorials, life and video games. You will laugh, you will learn, you will relate… you will like him.

Check it out… you might just get inspired.

 

 


Filmmaker Lesley Chilcott curating PGA doc series

By Randi Altman

Los Angeles — Lesley Chilcott, known for her work on documentary films such as the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth as well as It Might Get Loud and Waiting for Superman, has been curating the most recent Producers Guild of America (PGA) series in LA, called The Doc Club. Continue reading


Student’s Perspective: Production assistant on a Weight Watchers shoot

By Emory Parker

In the film industry, first impressions are everything. So when an opportunity comes my way, I make an effort to show up early, be eager to learn, and be willing to offer my assistance before someone asks for it.

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Cool Stuff: Katabatic’s KataData data calculator app

By Randi Altman

New York — Post house Katabatic Digital (http://katabatic.tv) created KataData, an all-in-one storage and runtime calculator for the iPhone. Users enter the amount of footage they have and KataData will calculate the runtime or storage. They can add multiple calculations and add them together, all from within the app. They can also choose to calculate by specifying a camera, external recording device, or codec.

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Cool Tool: The AATranslator

We recently reached out to sound engineer/head of production Cory Choy, who helps run Silver Sound Studios (www.silversound.us) in NYC, and asked him about gear he uses as part of his day-to-day workflow. He was happy to share his experience with a lesser-known tool by an Australian-based company, called AATranslator.

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LeftChannel creates annual happy holidays video

Columbus, Ohio —  LeftChannel (http://leftchannel.com), a motion design/animation studio led by Creative Director Alberto Scirocco, has released its annual holiday video feature — it features “warm and fuzzy” 3D animation that has a classic holiday feel. The :36 piece stars a hat and scarf wearing Gryphon flying through a winter wonderland with a special tree ornament.

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