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Looking at the big picture

By Adrian Winter

NAB is a great place to try something new, as it draws in vendors and experts from every aspect of production and post production. My approach in attending the conference this year has been take in a wide variety of sessions — extending beyond the standard VFX and animation techniques that speak to my own day-to-day experience — in order to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by other sides of this business: directors, DPs, editors, colorists and other key artists in the creative process.

This morning, I took in a session on budgeting video productions with Amy DeLouis (@brandbuzz). The talk revolved around recharacterizing the focus of a budget, viewing it not so much as a set of numbers and costs, but rather as an outline of a production’s priorities and goals. Doing so allows one to present a budget as an extension of the job’s concept, and not merely a bill for services rendered. The approach made a lot of sense, and though a lot of the budget examples presented leaned more towards the production/shoot side of things, there were a lot of good tips peppered throughout. My personal favorite was adding an extra day of editorial for every additional person on the client side that needs to sign off on the cut. As someone who has felt his animation and vfx schedule cut short more times than I can count due to an inability to get picture-lock, I admit this got a smile out of me.FullSizeRender

As an aside, this was the second session in as many days to make some very good insights about the editorial process as it pertains to production and scheduling. Normally, for the type of work the Nice Shoes does, we try to make sure that we have a VFX Supervisor, be it myself or someone else, on set to ensure that all the information we need is being gathered and that shots are being approached in the correct manner. However, in the lighting session I attended yesterday, Eduardo Angel placed an equal amount of emphasis on the editor’s presence on set, especially when there are a lot of different and complicated lighting setups. This way, the editor sees the footage as it is shot and can begin mentally framing the narrative over the course of the shoot. Additionally, the editor can point out extra things he or she may need in terms of continuity and coverage, and when the transcoded drives arrives in the editor’s bay, it is not the first, but rather the second time he or she will be seeing the footage. This allows the editor to dive right in to the cut, speeding up the editorial process and oftentimes reducing the amount of back and forth with the client. It’s not something I had thought much about before then, but will definitely keep in mind and suggest on future jobs.

In the afternoon, I dropped in on a video-centric Photoshop session held by Richard Harrington (@rheduser) called Advanced Photoshop for After Effects Gurus. Since much of the base code is shared across Adobe products, there is a great deal of cross-software interoperability possible between Photoshop and After Effects, and Harrington’s approach was to treat Photoshop as an extremely powerful third-party plugin. He led the session through a myriad of techniques ranging from creative uses of content-aware tools and correcting lens distortion, to using the blur gallery to create and export custom depth mattes and removing camera perspective to flatten out a scene, all on video tracks imported and then exported out of Photoshop. IMG_0763Harrington covered a great deal in a short amount of time, spending only a few minutes on each technique. As a result, the crowd was very engaged and everyone left inspired and with a few new tricks to put up their sleeves.

I finished out the day with a session on open- and closed-captioning workflows. This came out of a recent discussion I had with a coworker about long-form editorial workflows, and since up until now I have never had to work with closed-captioning files, my curiosity got the better of me when I saw this session on the schedule. I am POSITIVE I was the only commercial-side VFX artist in the entire room. I felt a bit like a fish out of water, but it was fascinating to hear a bit about the legislation behind what brought closed-captioning into existence (Section 508 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 if anyone is interested), and the workflow to properly set it up inside Premiere turned out to be surprisingly simple. It was an interesting glimpse into a side of the industry I normally never see.

All in all it was a very productive day. Tomorrow I take a break from the Post | Production World Sessions, as the NAB Show Floor will at last be open, and I’ll be joining the masses navigating the booths. I’ll be wearing comfortable shoes and attending a lot of demos, and reporting back what I see.

I’m looking forward to it.

Adrian Winter is the VFX supervisor at New York City-based Nice Shoes Creative Studio.

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