Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Music Videos & Product Promos

I mentioned having had two interesting projects of late & thought I'd share a few details:

The first was a rush-job for a music video featuring a new song from the band Default called "Little Too Late," which was directed by Ryan Little. This involved taking 70 different shots of the band performing on a green-screen set and replacing the background with an imaginary cityscape. The initial step involved removing the green-screen from each shot while making sure the edges around the band members remained nice and clean. This was tough to do in some instances: occasionally one of the guys was standing quite close to the camera and nicely in focus, while another would be directly behind the first, yet much further away... and as a result, very much out of focus. (A very artsy-type of look, but a brutal, headache-inducing choice for the FX compositor to deal with, especially with a compressed timeline of only four days!!!)

The new background was a static image (called a digital matte painting) that needed to move around with the camera just like the rest of the image, in order to look as though it had all been shot at the same time. To do this, the original scene needed to be "tracked," a tedious process I won't bother to detail here, but through the use of a motion-tracking program (in this case, a wonderful software package called Mocha), I wound up with camera movement information that I could then apply to the background. That would get me about 85 -90% of the way, and then I would need to analyze and hand-tweak any movements that didn't match-up quite right. If all of this sounds labor intensive and detail-oriented, it really was... but the results were very cool!

The next project was a promotional video for ScatterTunes (you can view the final promo here). This involved creating a number of motion-graphic sequences to give the logo and individual features of this interactive media program a stylish, glossy look and feel. Although there was an enormous amount of work involved, this project was great fun creatively, and allowed me to try out several new techniques in simulating a 3D look using only 2D assets (as in this shot of three different MP3 players).

Each player is made from a high-resolution photo, and then made to look as if it has dimension within the virtual set. (I even added glossy screen reflections that move as the camera pans around the grouping.) I edited this piece and added additional sound FX as well, and am thrilled with how the final promo turned out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Halloween '09!!!

We grew our own pumpkins this year, of both the orange and white varieties. As I was looking over my chosen gourd, the pale hue gave me the idea to cook-up a quick batch of home-made playdough (as mentioned previously on this blog) and sculpt my Jack-O-Lantern this year instead of carving it! (Even the teeth and gums are made of the same stuff.) A quick wash of highly diluted water colors, and a finishing spritz of spray-on cooking oil (for that ultra-slimy look), and my evil goblin/pumpkin was complete!

This gravestone was made a few years ago as a family project, with each of my kids making their own out of styrofoam insulation and using a paper stenciling technique I came up with. You tack down a large sheet of cheap roll paper with spray adhesive onto the styrofoam sheet (already cut into the basic shape of your stone). Then you draw out your design, and carefully cut along the lines with an X-acto knife. Remove the 'negative' space, or the areas around your main design elements (like the skull and lettering in my example) ... basically, anything you want to carve 'in' to the stone's surface. Once that's done, lightly spray a solvent-based chemical (like paint remover) over those uncovered areas and watch the evil concoction eat-away at the foam (like Alien blood)! I spray it on a little at a time to get the right depth -- too much looks wrong, and you can't reverse the process. Then you strip-off the remainder of the paper stencil, and paint the thing, spattering the base color (usually gray) with lighter and darker tones to give the whole thing a speckled, ancient stone feel. It's pretty easy & a lot of fun!

Besides these gruesome delights, I've been busy working on some cool new projects, including fx work on a music video and some very elaborate motion graphics for a large-scale promo video. More later!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

She's Back ...

"She's Back" by David Laub © 2007-2009

Is that cool or what? The only thing more cool to me right now besides the fact that this wonderful image was created by my good friend, the artist David Laub, is that it also won the Silver Award in the "Unpublished" category of the Spectrum 16 Awards! Dave's work has always inspired me -- he is truly one of the most gifted artists I have had the pleasure of working with.

"King Slug" by David Laub © 1988-1993

This is an original that Dave gave me back in the early 90's that I've always really responded to -- it has such a haunting menace about it. I was writing a script at the time and this particular image really helped me define the aesthetic of my villain. (I'm sure Dave won't be too wild about me showing such an early piece in public, but hey! I'm the owner ... I can do what I want, right?)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

6 Years of Dreaming ...

Well, it's finally here -- Coraline the movie!!! It was six years ago this April when I first discovered this fantastic novel by Neil Gaiman. Although I had heard of him long ago (via my good friend & artist, Dave Laub), this was the first of his novels that I had read. It remains one of my favorites (if not the favorite) of his works, and spoke to me fiercely ... so much so that I raced to my computer the day after I finished Coraline, burning with the need to somehow, someway acquire the rights to make a film of this story that had grabbed a hold of my imagination and wouldn't let go ... only to be crushed mere seconds into my search by the fact that the rights had been gobbled-up before the book had even been printed!!! That the director would be Henry Selick, the wonderfully visionary director behind The Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach was somewhat consoling, but my "loss" remained a brutal blow.

We took our entire family to see it (all 8 of us!!!), and I was swept away by Henry's wonderful interpretation! I was worried that it might not retain the flat-out scares and terror of the book, but the sense of peril and maleficence was quite tangible -- my little 4-year old didn't enjoy the "Other Mother's" rampage so much. (I kind-of liked that it scared him a little ... I'm not sure what that says about my parental sensibilities ...)

So make sure you go and see it (especially in a 3D-equipped theater if at all possible) ... highly recommended!!!

I also wanted to mention that Mr. Gaiman just won the prestigious Newberry Medal for his latest novel, The Graveyard Book. It is yet another astoundingly entertaining read, but for maximum enjoyment, I recommend listening to him read it himself. (I mean, who could possibly do it any better?) Congratulations, Neil!!!