Murphy’s (and Photoshop’s) Law…

Every problem has problems! How is it that loading 158 JPGs, totalling 136Mb, into layers of a Photoshop document adds up to a document 2.82 GB in size!?! My dear old laptop has been struggling all day long. Suffice to say, most of my day has been spent observing this colourful chap.

Like I said before, I’m editing this on a linear, shot-by-shot basis. So far I have managed to get up to the fifth shot in the sequence. It’s been a 16-hour day so far and so if Im to use that as a rough idea of how long it takes to do 5 shots, and there are over 80 to go, then I’m in trouble. It’s not as bad as it seems though. The more editing I do, the more settings I save and the more actions I create in Photoshop. I should become more efficient as I go along and hopefully I’ll get everything done in time.

The most time-consuming shots today were the ones containing the Life Support equipment. I was never happy with the look of it and I left it for post production to try and fix it up a bit. This mainly involved colour replacement/correction but also the piece holding the tubes was askew so I had to straighten that up.

Before editing..

.. after colour correction in Photoshop & Bridge Camera RAW

Colour replacing in Photoshop

This took quite some time for the close up shots but not nearly as long as the sequence shot from beside the bed. This is where the aforementioned 158 JPGs refused to act in a sane and logical manner and I had to open each file separately and paint each frame accordingly.

Before..

.. after

I’m quite pleased with the results though and hopefully I can maintain a continuity in the appearance of all the hospital sequences. So far I’m going by eye, but there is probably a more accurate way of doing this.

This is how the After Effects project looks so far. I will probably get all the footage in first then fine tune al the times according to the audio then I’ll apply the adjustment layers.

The story so far

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Supervisor Meeting 15/03/11 CANCELLED

It’s becoming a regular occurrence but I decided to cancel the supervisor meeting again this week. It is a shame because I always get my enthusiasm back when I discuss the project with Richard and leave with some great ideas. As classes weren’t on today I decided to hit the editing hard today and taking time off to go to the university would really break up the flow of work. I have been up since 6am and have been working non-stop ever since (even my meals were made for me by someone very kind!). It’s now nearly 10pm and I have mere seconds of footage to show for all that time..

..and we’re off!

Things were going well until I realised that not only do I have two weeks left to edit the animation, do the sounds for it, create and carry out a user evaluation etc, now I have to have design an A1 poster for the presentation of the final deliverable on the 30th. The workload is getting a bit ridiculous.

I decided to opt for a linear-based workflow based on the scenes in the animation. For example I am starting with the first shot which is a pan of the foot of the bed, and I am colour grading it in Bridge and as there are no more edits to make I then import it directly into the After Effects file. I will progress from scene to scene like this and make the necessary adjustments until all the files are loaded into the AE file. Then I will begin the animation.

I’ve decided to work with the JPGs that I shot alongside the RAW files. This is mainly because of the time constraints that I am under (2 weeks left!) and also I’m not sure my laptop is strong enough for that workload. The JPGs were shot in Large so they should be perfect for a 1080p resolution.

When exporting from Bridge CS5, I have set the options so that there is no compression occurring. Initially I had elected to constrain the exported images to 1080p but I have decided that I want the images to retain their maximum quality until the final stage when I export the animation from After Effects. When doing this in Bridge, I noticed a glitch with the export options whereby it would default the Image Quality to 8 out of a possible value of 12. This makes a huge difference in quality, especially at this stage of the process. After some searching online I found a quite straightforward solution which required me to edit the .XML data of the Edit Preset I had created. I manually entered the value of 12 and this has solved the problem.

Using XML values to change the Image Quality in Bridge CS5

Proof Of Concept -Importing stills into AE

Before I started the process of editing I needed to make sure that I could use After Effects to import the stills directly in. I found a really useful forum post which made sense of this process. For this test I decided to use what would be the opening shot of the animation. It’s a good example because the shot is comprised of 208 frames/pictures (the JPGs adding up to 155.5 Mb) which will be the average size of most takes. Following the advice I proceeded to do the following:

  • In AE, I went FILE > IMPORT > FILE. I selected the first .JPG of the sequence and made sure the ‘Import As: JPEG Sequence’ box was checked. This created an image sequence in the Project panel.

Importing the image sequence

  • I right-clicked on this sequence and selected INTERPRET FOOTAGE> MAIN. Inside the Interpret Footage dialogue I changed the frame rate to 24 fps and pressed OK.

Setting frame rate of sequence

  • I then dragged the Image Sequence to the ‘Create a New Composition’ button at the bottom of the Project window. This created a new composition based on the sequence and opened it up in the timeline panel.

Converting sequence to composition

  • In the project window I selected the new composition and went to COMPOSITION > COMPOSITION SETTINGS. In the ‘Advanced’ tab I checked the box marked ‘Preserve frame rate when nested or in render queue’.

Preserving frame rate

  • I then made a new composition (COMPOSITION > NEW COMPOSITION) which would theoretically house all the different scenes’ compositions I would be creating. I set it to HDTV 1080 24 from the preset drop down menu and named it ‘Final’. As a test I set the duration to 10 seconds.

Creating a new parent composition

  • Then I dragged the sequence composition from the project window to the new composition. I pressed the ‘s’ key to bring up the scale parameter and scaled the image to fit.

Scaling the Image Sequence to fit new composition's dimensions

  • Then I selected COMPOSITION > ADD TO RENDER QUEUE to bring up the rendering options. I made sure the Render Settings was set to 24fps. In the Output Mode options I set the Format to Quicktime. In the Format Options I initially chose Animation, 100% Quality as my Video Codec. This produced a file that was 1.2 GB big and wouldn’t play smoothly. I can’t understand where all this extra information is coming from as the images were a combined 155.5 Mb. I then re-rendered, this time choosing the H.264 codec, 100% Quality. This gave me a .Mov file 48.9 Mb in size.

Render Settings

Output Module Settings - Animation Codec

Output Module Settings - H.264 Codec

Obviously there is a lot of compression going on here to strip over 100 Mb off the images. I’m not certain that this is the codec that I will be using but I’m almost certain that this is the route I will take when animating the image files.

Shooting Schedule #3

While I have not been too busy, digitally speaking, I have updated the shooting schedule which accurately reflects the timeline I kept throughout this phase of the project.

Shooting Batches

Schedule Overview

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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..

Before..

.. 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.

Budget #3

I’ve been putting this off for a while because I’m afraid of how much I’ve spent so far. In fairness though most of the stuff I’ll use outside of this project and most of the cash has been spent on the camera and hard drive. Since the last update, here’s the strangest shopping list you’re likely to read today:

  • 40w Soldering Iron Kit (eBay) £9.98
  • Train Track 00 Gauge (eBay) £2.98
  • Black food Colouring (Tesco) £0.52
  • Kyoto H-231 Vintage Headphones (eBay) £10.50
  • Three spoke 7″ x 1/4″ Tape Reels (eBay) £2.80
  • Mega Pad Coloured Drawing Paper (Lidl) £2
  • Pritt Stick (eBay) £1.50
  • Freezer Bags (Tesco) £2
  • Wooden skewers (Pound Stretcher) £0.60
  • Twine (Edinburgh Bargain Store) £2
  • 150w Halogen Floodlight (eBay) £6.66
  • 150w Halogen Floodlight (eBay) £5.65
  • 1980s International Stereo Cassette Player (eBay) £10
  • 12″ Stanley Tenon Saw (eBay) £4
  • Wire Stripper set (eBay) £2.98
  • 1/4″ Tripod screw(eBay) £2.88
  • 10 LR44 battery pack (eBay) £1.49
  • 1.5mm T&E Cable (eBay) £4.96
  • Screen Clean wipes (eBay) £2.59
  • Super Glue  (eBay) £1.95
  • 5mts Ripstop Nylon (eBay) £4.20
  • 50 assorted button cell batteries (eBay) £1.65
  • 5 A4 Acetate Sheets (eBay) £1.30
  • 2 Pillowcases (Poundstretcher)  £2.99
  • 4 corner braces (Morningside hardware store) £1.80
  • Printing – an educated guess (Uni) £4
  • 2TB Hard Drive (Dabs.com) £69.99
  • Hard Drive Case (StorageDepot.co.uk) £69.99
Total £233.96
Previous total  £311.86
New Total £545.82

Yikes.