Animating the future…

Recently I’ve decided to broaden my horizons and utilize Adobe After Effects to enhance my film project on plastics in the ocean, and I must say, it’s like being a little kid all over!

First and foremost, After Effects (AE) is far more powerful than most average users will ever even begin to realize.  There are YouTube tutorials for doing just about anything, and most users will blindly just go thru those specific steps in order to get their desired result, not realizing what many of the settings can even do.  

I quickly realized though that most of those steps are essentially the basic building blocks of most motion graphics, and you need to think of them more like ingredients in a recipe.  Let’s use flour for an example, you can use it to give fried chicken a crispy battered coating, and you can use it to bake a moist and fluffy cake, it all depends on how its used, but in the end it’s exactly the same ingredient no matter what the final result is.

So in After Effects you have a timeline, and you have a ton of adjustable parameters, from the simple stuff such as opacity, position (x,y,z),  rotation and scale, to more complex parameters for 3D presentations such as orientation (x,y,z), adding trim paths, and even applying a variety of effects to each layer.  And you can adjust all of these parameters over time, for example, setting opacity to 0% at the start, and 100%  3 seconds in will give you a quick fade in of that layer.  Some of these parameters also include equations, for example in the rotation parameter, you can select how many rotations the object will do and the final angle it will end with.  Paths (and trim paths) are worthy of an entire other post, but I will say they are extremely useful in animating some movements, and revealing elements.  

In my current project, I am incorporating only some “flat” screen footage, being that the video is a 360° film, and I want the user to be immersed in the experience.  Working in this 360 degree realm has given me the opportunity to do 3D objects within that 360° sphere of view.  Essentially I can make things fly out of nowhere, hover in the sky around you, while leaving you with the ability to look around in every direction, and have everything I added not become distorted in the 360° realm.

An easy example to help you understand this is inserting a basic box.  If you just used your basic editor to overlay a box onto 360° footage, the box would appear to wrap around you when viewing in 360° mode, instead of appearing as a floating square box in front of you.  It takes some special software from Mettle called Skybox Suite in order to compensate for the 360° wrap.    This is where orientation parameters become critical as you can now place any composition, anywhere you want, angled however you want, within your 360 degree world.

I’m going to post some examples as I work thru some footage for my project, just to give you an idea of how much more you need to think outside the box, because you are literally outside of the box now.  So stay tuned!

360° is here to stay, and it’s just in its infancy.  

Living (and Editing) in a Virtual World…

You ever have one of those weeks where you felt like you made great strides learning something?  Like you have an absolute ton of “Ah-HAH!” moments in a week?  Well, that was this past week for me.  

See, I’ve been working hard and watching a lot of tutorials for editing motion graphics, and placing them in a 360° video.  Some of the software that I use for this is very complex, and if you don’t do something just right it doesn’t render correctly, or something isn’t quite right about how it renders.  I’m talking about using Skybox Extractor and Composer within Adobe After Effects, using AE for the motion graphics, and using the Skybox software to allow me to place my comps in a 360 world.

And I’ve often felt like I waste a lot of time watching tutorials that I somehow never end up using.  So I am going to try to make myself more accountable, and in order to do that, I want to produce a video per week.  Each week I will either produce a new video, or add on to the prior weeks video so that I may track progress and attempt to keep myself more on track.  The video produced for each week will have elements from any tutorial that I watched during the week, showcasing any new ideas or techniques that I learned.

Continuous Education

Depending on who you ask, there is a saying, and regardless of which way you look at it, it still says the same thing:

“Once you stop learning you start dying” – Albert Einstein

“The day we stop learning is the day we die.” – Michael Scott

“The day you stop learning is the day you stop living…” –  Tetsuyama-san

My mother always used to tell me this, and I swear to god that instilled in me a lifelong love of learning.  I can often be found looking something up on google to figure out how to take it apart or fix it, and often times I am glued to some kind of YouTube video tutorial on the latest piece of software I am using.

Well, lately I have decided to embark on a project in which the scope and scale of things seems almost impossible for one person to do.  But I am hell-bent and determined to do it!  The project of which I speak is a short film on plastics in the ocean, shot in full spherical video, with all sorts of information, graphics, photos, etc, all incorporated in my 3-D, 360° space.  

Ok, so you have all seen the credits at the end of a film, even an animated short.  And that credit roll usually includes a dozen or more people, many times there are many people just doing editing, color grading, compositing, etc.  Well, for some oddly insane reason I have decided to take this on completely myself, playing all the parts.  So I become not only the story-teller, but also the camera man, sound guy, graphic editor, researcher, video editor, content editor, motion graphics composer, renderer and even promoter!  

Add on to all those responsibilities the fact that I am determined to do this in spherical video so its more attractive to today’s youth, and with virtually no information on 360° film making save for a few motion graphics tutorials, I am forging new ground and constantly challenging myself and learning new things daily.

Lately I’ve been really experimenting with and learning a ton about using motion graphics in a 360° setting.  Recently, much of my editing has been done in Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro, as Adobe recently acquired Mettle who made the Skybox series of editing plugins for 360° video.  To say that I feel like I have gone backwards and feel like the days of old where it took forever to render just a straight cut, flat video in low res, would be an understatement.  My laptop is decent enough to do it, but some of these file sizes are gigantic!  Some renders can be hours long, only to find out I don’t like how it looks in the end, and I need to delete it, and re-position something.  

You’re always learning…  Today I concentrated on figuring out how to do photo and video pop-outs, and be able to place them in my 360 degree space.   Next thing will be animating them in my 360 space.    Little by little my project will come together.  One small bite at a time.. After all, there will be a few hundred pop-outs of various types (photo, video, stats, info), and I get to make each and every one of them!