Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"What About Life" Screen Shots

To follow up the epic prose of my last post, here are some stills from the music video. Please be aware that these are un-color corrected, un-post effected, un-anything. They are stills pulled from raw footage.
... in no particular.

"What About Life" Music Video

Editorial Production Focus

Several weeks ago, Blue in Black took over the swanky penthouse roof of a downtown Chicago apartment building. Several dozen crew including dancers, production assistants, extras, audio and visual personnel came together to shoot a music video for multi-talented artist and entertainer, Anthony Bryant.
About thirteen hours and several dozen gigabytes later the grueling shoot wrapped; the footage in the can (read: tiny SD cards and/or a hard drive). And then the hard work would begin.

In many ways, this is the hardest editing project we've ever undertaken. Certainly, the ratio of the length of footage shot vs finished length of the piece was very daunting. Most of the time, we had three cameras rolling simultaneously.
And the crux of the difficulty was, unlike a commercial or a film, the footage can be edited in an almost infinite number of ways. There is very little narrative skeleton or linear direction, like a script or storyboard. The advantage of this open style is the possibility of capturing wonderfully spontaneous moments or angles. But the amount of footage makes you want to run for the hills.

The purpose of this post is to record our workflow and editing process for handling a vast amount of footage. I knew that if I tried to edit in a linear fashion, I would be crushed. So each of these steps was taken with the mentality of "divide and conquer" and "survival of the fittest." I will explain presently.

The first step was to log the footage, which basically means watching it all, making notes on each shot, and trimming each shot of the unnecessary beginning or ending (heads or tails). I divided each according to which camera it was shot on. Then, inside each camera folder, I separated each setup/sequence and location. Divide and conquer.

Next, I created separate workspaces for each sequence, and synced up all the footage from each camera within each sequence. And then I learned something very useful. My editor has a very handy Multi-Camera editing feature. What it boils down to is, I can sync up my footage, then play all of it back simultaneously, seeing each camera's video track on a small preview screen-- essentially having several video monitors. By clicking on each monitor, I can easily cut between the shots I want. In this way I chose the best-looking angles for each sequence. Survival of the fittest.

It wasn't nearly as cut and dry as that, and as always there were unexpected roadblocks to go around, but I won't go into that here. Suffice it to say, I ended up cutting together a music video from each sequence, total: about 10 music videos. So I had a "What About Life" video for the party sequence, the mirror sequence, the Leroy (the silver man) sequence, etc.

Then came the painful part. One of the first things you learn when you edit is that you MUST learn to kill your babies. Shots that look great but get in the way or just don't flow must be cut, and the better the shot, the more it hurts. This is especially painful if you were on the set and helped shoot the thing yourself. You were there at the inception of the shot (at which point you might have thought, Wow, we just got a great angle), you gently transferred it to your hard drive from the overflowing SD card, you gave it a name and a label, and were glad when it survived the first round of revisions when so many of its siblings did not.

But now I had to start to fuse these sequences into one video, and inevitably there were casualties. Slowly, 10 sequences became 8 became 4 became 2, the weaker shots continually falling by the wayside or disappearing into the digital ether. Better and better shots had to be cut for the good of the whole.

At this point, I'm nearing that glowing landmark of editing: the rough cut. I'm not there yet, but already the chaos is starting to take form. I think every piece of art goes through this phase, the phase when a painting destined to be a masterpiece just looks like multicolored vomit, or a marble sculpture looks like a hard, jagged turd. It isn't pretty, but it's starting to look like something.

In short: Instead of a jumble of organic refuse, it now resembles a pair of deformed, mutated, conjoined twin monkeys that can still nonetheless walk about and perform the rudimentary functions necessary to classify them as alive. The rest of the process is just plastic surgery over and over, as much as is necessary to turn it into a healthy, beautiful monkey, or a sugar glider, or a Ferrari, or the Thinker.

Okay I'm done. I need sleep. Out.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poppin' Ad, Part 2

The character design for our popcorn project has reached its final phases. After nailing the look of the face, I worked with the client on the modeling of the petals, which included displacement mapping in Mudbox. The two final frames are from the final spot.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ostrich Run

Another quarter, another Prehistoric Times dinosaur drawing... I won't go into my purposes, suffice it to say I'm unpaid to do these drawings but I love dinosaur artwork so to do it and be printed in a magazine is compensation enough. My last completed work can be seen here:

This quarter, Pre-Times was looking for Struthiomimus artwork (if unfamiliar, see here). This is an athletic, ostrich-like dinosaur with many graceful curved lines: the S-neck, a stiff, balancing tail, strong running legs, arms curved back against its body like proto-wings to minimize wind resistance whilst running... So I wanted to try to stay away from my standard style of very detailed work to focus on those strong lines within a simple, iconic setting.

To that end, I was reminded of the ancient Chinese tapestries that featured birds in very Zen settings, mountain ranges and feats of nature that dwarfed human beings (who are usually sketched tiny, with just a few brush strokes, toiling away in an insignificant corner of the composition), the muted desaturated color palette, the long (instead of wide) composition, and especially the occasionally-thick ink lines. You can Google this type of artwork and you'll see what I mean.

Line work was done with an Ink brush in Corel Painter using an Intuos2 Wacom tablet, coloring was a mixture of Corel Painter's Colored Pencils, Crayons, and some custom Photoshop brushes. And some real watercolors were scanned in and applied for backdrops and textures, which would have been impossible in Painter because I'm too much of a n00b. Each piece was created individually; they were combined in Photoshop with final adjustments and aging and a very small, tiled canvas texture layered on top to tie them all together and give it all the old-school personality I love so much. Final Photoshop file weighed in at 1.7 GB and was 24 x 36 inches at 300 pixels per inch. Thanks for looking, and I heart comments!