Archive for the ‘ Interview ’ Category

Meeting With John Morrison #2

I met with John to discuss the next step of the project. I’m about to start post production and I was a little unsure of how to approach the mammoth task of editing and handling all the photos I’ve taken. I showed him the rough cut I made of the animation so far and explained briefly how I wanted to stylise the scenes.

John has recommended that I use Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw to do all my colour grading. As an example we imported one of the takes from the ‘alcoholic’ scene which contained 192 pictures. It’s not a take I’ll be using in the final animation but a good example nonetheless as it’s got some interesting characteristics about it. The Dragon Stop Motion folder contained both RAW and JPG files for each frame. In Bridge, these were filtered to just shot the JPGs. The first picture of the sequence was selected and opened in Camera RAW. I discovered how the various attributes can be altered, the sum of which can dramatically transform the picture. A quick example is below..


.. after



I’ve decided that there will be three different colour palettes used in the finished animation and they will directly relate to the three different moods/scenarios. Theres the hospital scenes for which I want a cold and unemotional (that’s not the right word) quality. The ‘happy’ flashbacks will be warm and saturated, with a real 90s feel to it, and the ‘Alcoholic’ scenes which will be quite dark and cold by contrast but still different to the hospital shots. At the moment I think these scenes will be tinted blue, orange and brown respectively.

We agreed that the images should retain their highest quality until the final rendering stage. This means that all editing and saving of the images before the After Effects stage should be saved in an uncompressed format. I’ll see what I can do in Bridge but I may need to jump over to Photoshop for some editing. I will figure out the most efficient way of working which will have the least amount of steps involved. At the moment it looks like I will edit what I need to in Photoshop, do all my colour grading in Bridge and import the images directly into After Effects. I’m not sure yet if I’ll work with the RAW files or the JPG and if AE can handle thousands of pictures. If it can’t then I’ll use Quicktime to export the sequences as movie files and that way then AE is just handling a bunch of video files rather than thousands of individual pictures.

I’ve decided also that I will work to a 1080p standard.

I’m feeling better educated about what I need to do now and I’m excited about this next stage of the process, opening the curtains and leaving behind the darkness! Tomorrow will be all about putting the room back to semi-normal, purely for making the long hours ahead comfortable. I’ll then figure out the workflow and make sure everything has been properly named, filed and backed up before I begin any editing.

Interview with Daragh Muldowney

Today I met with and discussed the outlines of my project with professional photographer Daragh Muldowney. Daragh was a big help in the beginning stages of the project and advised me on choosing my Digital SLR. Even after researching the photography element of the animation I’m still unsure about various aspects of it so it was good to talk to someone who could advise me on the different aspects of the shoot.

Until now I had been considering shooting using a quality setting of Medium or even Small. The reason for this was that they would give me pixel sizes of 3088 x 2056  and 2256 x 1504 respectively. Daragh suggested that I should shoot in RAW as to do otherwise is instantly limiting my options. RAW shoots at a pixel size of 4272×2848. The disadvantage to shooting in RAW is the jump in file size. Whereas a small JPG is 3.4 Mb and a Medium is 6.3 MB, a RAW file is 12Mb. The way I see it is that I was going to be buying an external SATA hard drive to store all my images on so if I get the right hard drive capacity I should be able to accommodate shooting in RAW. Daragh also told me about how it’s possible to set up batch processing in Photoshop using a function so it would be relatively easy to apply settings across a selection of RAW images and convert them to JPGs.

A quick bit of maths:

  • If I’m shooting at 12fps, then there will be 720 frames in a minute.
  • For 5 minutes of animation then I’m looking at 3,600 frames.
  • Each frame is 12Mb. That works out at 43,200 Mb, or 42.1875 GB.
  • If I’m shooting at 24fps that that doubles to 7,200 frames, 86,400 Mb or 84.375 GB.

That is not considering reshooting and shots from different angles. I’m thinking a Terabyte hard drive might be sufficient space to deal with this project.

I asked Daragh about lighting and explained that I may be using floods to light my set. He told me about using white sheets to bounce the light and also about diffusing the light. I learned that there is no set way to light a set and that it’s all about experimentation. We agreed that side lighting might work best for the set with some diffused light to make the shadows seem less harsh. The lighting will really be up to me and how I want to illuminate the objects. This will be helpful in setting the tone of the piece and will also be useful in setting atmosphere. We discovered that lighting the tape machine from within with a small LED looked really nice and that different coloured lighting inside the machine could be suggestive of the machine’s mood. This is something I will have to experiment with but could be a useful contribution towards the anthropomorphism of the object.

We talked about Lens Flare for a bit and ways of avoiding it. This is something which might not be apparent at the time but can ruin a shoot. It is important that I eliminate any possibility of flare as this could mean a complete reshoot of a scene, which in my case could be hundreds of photos. Lens Flare occurs when direct light hits the lens at an angle so the best way to avoid it is to shield the lens from the light. This can be accomplished by simply placing a piece of card in between the two. A lens hood may also be effective in doing this.

Daragh showed me this importance of using the histogram on both the camera’s display and within Photoshop. The histogram in Photoshop is more accurate and shows more range but the camera’s one is a good reference all the same. Using this, I can easily check for overexposed areas within the picture as the blown out areas show up as large spikes in the histogram and they also flash within the actual picture captured. When setting up my shots I will have to spend some time checking that the scene is properly lit and that all reflective surfaces aren’t overexposed.

This then led to a discussion about HDR (High Dynamic Range) editing. This is when images of different exposures are taken of the same subject and then combined in Photoshop. It’s a useful technique when trying to accommodate for extreme contrasts of light in a shot. We did a test of this by taking three photos of the room we were in. There was a bright light on in the foreground and the background was much duller. With the camera on a tripod and in the exact same position a picture was taken at the correct exposure followed by photos one stop underexposed and one stop over exposed respectively. In Photoshop Daragh layered the pictures on top of each other and then used a layer mask and the brush tool (with reduced opacity) to blend the desirable elements of each photo together.

Finally we discussed the lenses I would use with my Canon 450D. Daragh suggested that the 18-55mm kit lens that came with the camera wasn’t the best lens for the job and that I should try and borrow a better quality lens. I told him I may have access to a Canon 50mm fixed focal length lens and he said this would dramatically improve the quality of the shoot. He also suggested a macro lens might be nice for the extreme close up shots of the tape machine.

I also made a note to look into calibrating my MacBook Pro monitor as this will affect the overall look of the animation. It’s something I never considered before but understand the importance it has in how my work is viewed on other screens.

Meeting With John Morrison #1

I met with John Morrison yesterday to chat about the photography element of my project. I am a pretty bad note taker so I recorded out conversation with my trusty Zoom H2. So trusty in fact, that it stopped recording after 50 minutes. Though it’s more down to the fact that the SD card was full. Plus the meeting was pretty much over by then anyway.

John started by showing me some amazing footage shot on a Canon 7D and then slowed down in After Effects using a neat little plug-in called Twixtor. Essentially what it does is takes the 60fps footage and intelligently speeds up or slows down the rate of the image sequences. The results are impressive and this may be useful down the line. We also looked at the making of an advertising campaign for the Canon Pixma brand. It features small droplets of paint being vibrated by sound to stunning displays of colour and movement. We were hoping the making of would show the lighting set-up which might be pertinent to my project but unfortunately they didn’t. The actual title of the campaign is ‘Bringing Colour To Life’ which is quite similar to mine and may be a good reference when discussing anthropomorphising inanimate objects.

I had my camera and lenses with me and showed them to John along with some photos I had taken of the tape machine. He explained that the 18-55mm kit lens would be better suited than the Tamron 55-200mm as that’s more suited to long-range shooting. I wondered if macro might be the way to go but he said it really depends on the shots and that as the subject was relatively large then it might not be necessary.

We then discussed Depth Of Field. John said that the uni has a wide angle lens I could borrow if I wanted to experiment with different DOF. The difference would be greatly different in terms of f-number and this lens would be capable of f2.8. We looked at some slides which visually explained aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and the relationship between them and how they affect depth of field. The following are a few of those slides…

I explained that I was looking into the possibility of trying to construct a cheap method of tracking the DSLR for shots that involve the camera moving. I have been looking into using model railway tracks as an alternative to specialised camera dollies. John said that the university has ordered a glide track but that it’s more for cinematography rather than stills but that it could be useful to try and get a hold of to test it out.

John then gave me a crash course in the manual settings of my Canon 450D. This will be the only way to shoot my stop motion film as I can have full control over the settings which in turn will lend to a consistency in my shots. He showed me how to set the white balance on the camera, something I had not considered. Also I learned that the camera has a nice feature called Focus Assist which lets you know when and where you are in focus when you are not in auto-focus mode.

We talked about the lighting and I now know that the more light that’s being pumped out the lower the ISO will need to be and also the larger the light source, or the further away it is, the more diffused it looks. John suggested that I could put a sheet above the set and shine the light through it, or bouncing the light off the white walls would produce a diffused effect.

Finally we looked at Adobe Bridge. I was oblivious to the capabilities of this program and now realise the potential it may have for my post production. As a test, we loaded in the sequence of images I shot for the Tape Spin Proof Of Concept. They were in JPEG format but there is still access to Camera RAW. John dramatically altered the picture in the first frame as an example, giving it a more antique feel. It actually really suited the picture and has given me an idea about maybe making the the film older to match the age of the subject. Those settings were then applied across the entire selection to affect the other shots in the sequence. It’s this batch processing and quick manipulation feature that could make Bridge a powerful and time-saving program later on.

I left the meeting feeling much more confident about using my DSLR. Consistency will be the key and now I know what areas I need to look at. I got some great advice about hard drives as well. A project like this will require a serious around of storage space and I have been looking at some cheap options online. In the back of my head I know it’s foolish to trust a cheapo hard drive with my honours project, and John confirmed this. One option I will now be considering will be making use of the SATA port on my MacBook Pro and investing in a sturdy, and more reliable option.

Also I think I should produce some control tests to show the effects of aspects like depth of field, white balance, daylight vs. artificial light, etc.