Monthly Archives

August 2012

Samsara

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Samsara is a non-narrative film directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson; these two cinematographic geniuses also created the films Chronos (1985) and more recently Baraka (1992). Samsara in Sanskrit means cyclic existence; in the words of Ron the film “will delve deeper into my favorite theme: humanity’s relationship to the eternal.” Samara premiered at Toronto film festival in late 2011 and is scheduled for global release later this year (2012).

A whole 20 years have passed since Baraka was created and the duo team Ron and Mark still choose 70mm film using a Panavision system over the new school digital techniques. The images are then transferred to 4k digital projection format through a high res scanning process which retains most of the quality seen in 70mm film. They chose 70mm over digital film because they knew it would stand the test of time and not be too outdated by the end of the production process.

The big time difference between films is because of how long production took; over the course of the 3 films Fricke and Magidson had visited 58 countries. All three sister films don’t have actors or narratives in a traditional sense, instead use the earth and its people as the subject matter to capture visually breathtaking footage. The aim of the movies were to give the viewer a connection of what the world around them is really like, but more of an emotional connection opposed an intellectual experience “Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation.”

Samsara alone took the course of 5 years to be completed showcasing 100 locations in 25 different countries; China, Myanmar, India, Japan, Turkey, Ethiopia, France, United States, and Brazil being just a select few.

Looking at the trailers of Samsara I cannot help being blown away from the extraordinary levels of detail, clarity, and vibrance. Baraka being made 20 years ago shares this amazing quality to a degree, but you can definitely see an improvement in visuals in the upcoming film samsara. Personally cannot wait to experience Fricke and Magidson new installment.

Old Spice

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“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was one of the first videos featured in the old spice YouTube campaign and was very popular over the internet; the campaign was produced by Wieden and Kennedy. Old spice was originally founded in 1934 by William Lightfoot Schultz and started production in 1937. Sailing ships were used as the companies trade mark and was the original marketing aid.

It’s been quite a while since the company started production and many things have changed in the marketing world; the internet for instance.  The campaign starting in in mid-July 2010 starred Isaiah Mustafa who is a former NFL player. The campaign went viral through YouTube gathering 6.7 million views in the timeframe of 24 hours and nearly 24 million after 36 hours after release.

One year later (end of July 2011) Old spice launched a new campaign similar to the original; the difference was it was based heavily to the YouTube medium after the massive success of the first. Isaiah Mustafa starred in a series of advertisements in response to people’s questions and comments received via Twitter, Facebook and other social media. The Campaign lasted a couple months and Isaiah responded to around 186 questions in video form. The marketing was done extremely well in my opinion, using Isaiah’s chiseled body and refreshing sense of humour was an amazing choice.

Behind the scene of the video “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” looks like it’s all different footage and later composited into one clip; Incredibly it’s done all in one single shot.

They built half a boat on the coastline, the bathroom was a 3 wall subset built to fit on top of the boat and was later lifted via crane. The jumper was thrown onto Isaiah, and the shell was pulled off by a string. The diamonds and the Old spice rising from the hand was shot in a different set using a fake hand that pumped out diamonds, I assume they used green screen to later composite that hand into the final footage. This was only in fact the only computer generated aspect of the commercial. The next and final stage is Isaiah being on a horse, this was done by transporting him on a cart like mechanism onto a horse waiting for him on the beach.

Wieden and Kennedy did an incredible job to produce these ads, remarkably most that were created were all done in one single shot with limited CGI.

RUIN

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“RUIN” is an animated short film set in a post-apocalyptic world; “Ruin” being only a small aspect of a larger story in progress.  This film was written and directed by Wes Ball, and produced by a small animation studio called “Oddball Animation”.

Oddball Animation has an impressive body of work and in this case created quite an impressive animation; they managed to achieve a level of realism that many digital artists would envy. One aspect I found was incredibly done was the 3d camera work, very fast passed and amazing angles.

The sound design was also done well, added a lot to the overall atmosphere of “Ruin”. The ambient noise of cicadas and insects really helps to enhance the scene; the city feels hot and steamy perhaps hinting at the onset of global warming.

The surrounding environment is modeled and rendered incredibly. Ivy Generator was used to implement a procedural system so that the ivy would grow by itself throughout the scene. Ivy Generator is a small tool allowing virtual ivy to grow in a 3d environment (3ds max). The growth of foliage all over the scene helps set the scene and assists the viewer in piecing together what’s going on.

The main character was very realistic; the only downfall was the running cycle was a little unrealistic, unsure if a certain style was trying to be achieved. Moreover the motorcycle animation was done very well and helped sustain the realism.  The futuristic air craft was modeled decently and used interesting weaponry systems (very similar to kinetic energy satellite killer, which surprisingly actually exist).

“RUIN” showed astonishing detail in the graphics and is beautifully rendered. It is truly a technical accomplishment, respect to Oddball Animation studio. They seemed to be able to capture the audience so well, which is actually hard to accomplish (especially when your medium is 3d animation). Overall the Concepts, visuals and sound design were done so well and all worked together harmoniously. I would love to see this created into a full feature film, can’t wait to see what oddball studio create for the next installment.

RUIN from OddBall Animation on Vimeo.

BlackMagic Cinema Camera

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The Blackmagic cinema camera yet to be released has caused quite a stir in the world of digital film. Blackmagic as a company is known to focus on developing accessories and software for other camera systems, they decided with all their expertise in the field to give it a shot themselves. The company has told the media that the blackmagic cinema camera will be priced at around $3000, which is an amazing price for all the features the camera has to offer.  It seems it may be a big competitor just considering price alone, for instance the RED scarlet which was released quite recently is priced at just under $10,000.

The Blackmagic cinema camera features an amazingly massive 2.5k sensor, which is an amazing resolution for the price; although if you are eager to pay an extra $7000 you can get the scarlet with its 5k stills and 4k motion potential.

Another great feature that’s offered is 13 stops of dynamic range which is beyond anything currently available in the camera market at this price; “This preserves detail in both shadows and highlights, and even handles indoor shots while keeping the details of any images captured through windows”. It supports both CinemaDNG and RAW formats; storage is handled by a built in SSD drive, where you can insert 2.5” Solid state drives.

colour grade

Common DSLR                           ShotRAW Wide Dynamic Range           Final Color Graded Shot

The camera is able to use EF and ZE mount lenses which allows consumers to use their favourite canon and Zeiss lenses they have spent fortunes on.

In terms of its aesthetic the camera is encased in a machined aluminum chassis, which in my opinion looks ok, of course many don’t appreciate the design as blackmagic has gone with something a little eccentric. It also features a 5” touchscreen that displays settings such as shutter angle, ISO and battery percentage. The screen is similar to a smartphone, it allows the user to enter metadata for footage and direct playback from the SSD.

From amateur film makers to professional videographers the Blackmagic Cinema camera is a quality camera in terms of price VS quality. Although the battery life isn’t great, Blackmagic have created quite a fantastic product which will be released sometime next month.

7D 1000 fps

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“7d 1000 fps “a very straight forward title, is a video shot on a 7d and later converted to 1000 fps. Filmed and directed by a young upcoming videographer named Oton Bacar. The video is focused on a bmx rider doing tricks at a skate park; the difference with Oton’s rendition of a bmx trick montage is he has slowed down specific sequences to create a mesmerizing and visually pleasing video.

The canon 7D cannot shoot at 1000 frames per second natively, instead Oton has used aftereffects in conjunction with a plugin called “Twixtor” which has the ability to slow footage down. “Twixtor works by taking your footage generally your transcoded 50fps, or 60fps footage and “guesses/interpolates” your missing/in-between frames”.

Oton Shot in 720p at 60fps on his 7D; although its sounds easy just to use “twixtor” and slow footage down, it’s defiantly not as easy as Oton makes it seem as I’ve seen many attempt and fail. That’s why I think this piece is great, all shots are so nicely framed and the soundtrack fits perfectly. Incredibly He achieved this beautiful footage with only a stock lens (Canon EFS 18-135mm).

The next video called “Arty – Kurz und Schön” was produced for the Kurz und Schoen Festival Opener “The festival is an international competition for young creatives for commercial spots, motion design, short films and mobile miniatures”. It’s another example that utilizes slow-motion wonderfully. Unsure on the techniques used to achieve the slow-motion effect (perhaps filmed with a Phantom); although it’s clearly obvious other compositing techniques were used to get the thought-provoking movements and flight of the characters.

Overall slow-motion is something I am quite interested in, I have been experimenting with “twixtor” and it is defiantly not easy to get great results. Philip Bloom a professional videographer http://philipbloom.net/ has written some guidelines to achieve appropriate footage to later implement the “twixtor” plugin.

Shooting Workflow:

1. Shoot at a fast shutter: anything 1/2000 – 1/4000s. [so your lighting needs to be good]

2. Shoot against a plain/solid colored background – sky/wall etc etc.

3. Shoot at the highest point of action. The law of nature is that what must goes up, must come down. Its the movement at the top of an arc/trajectory that works best for Twixtor because that’s when things generally move the slowest, more frames of the relevant action for Twixtor to work with.

4. When you shoot really close/tight, slow the action down manually ie – move slower and fake slow motion [all the tight sequences in ‘Gravity’ was done this way and then slowed down a little more with the tools]. Its easier to get good results with Twixtor when the action is shot from a distance, because of the fact that the action will happen across more frames – ie – Imagine moving your arms up and down – a distance 50 centimeters right in front of the camera – the camera will only catch SOME of that action as your arms pass by the front of the lens, for maybe 1-3 frames. However if you move away from the camera and shoot say 10-15 meters away from the lens, you would catch the ENTIRE action across say 7-10 frames – giving Twixtor more information to work with

5. Shoot at 50 or 60fps. When you shoot high-speed you give Twixtor more info to work with – it is a shame that you have to forgo resolution

6. Shoot as much as you can – try to get the action from different angles – reshoot stuff if wasn’t working, or if your settings weren’t correct.

IS TROPICAL – THE GREEKS

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“Is Tropical’s The Greeks” is a music clip Directed by a French team named Megaforce and the animated by a small studio called Seven. Megaforce has an impressive body of work, they have worked with a range of artist from kid cudi, tame impala and two door cinema club.

“Is Tropical’s The Greeks” is essentially about a group of young boys playing pretend shooting games around the house using nerf guns, fake drugs and even pretend C4 (I wish nerf guns were invented when I was a kid).

The clip is basically a tribute to childhood pastime; Megaforce thought to take it to the next level and add cartoony animated explosives and blood to substitute for the child’s vivid imagination. Is Tropical said: “It isn’t a shocking rebuke to our drama queen, populist news culture either – just naive, blissful shoot-your-mate until he’s definitely dead war-games -the way you wish it still could be”.

The style of the animation I think had great influence by manga, composition wise the animation somehow blends with the scene quite effortlessly. Megaforce filmed this clip over a period of two days in the suburban streets of France.

I am unsure on the process of how “seven” created the animations. I have always enjoyed 2d animation and in many cases prefer it over 3d animation, the thought of how much work goes into drawing and redrawing frames is mind boggling.

It really is an eccentric concept, and the team accomplished a visually appealing composite which is aesthetically relevant to the band. Although the video is somewhat violent and may offend many it still resonates with an individual that has a sense of humour. I personally found it funny but can also understand how one could be offended by the extreme use of mindless animated violence towards children. With movies becoming increasingly violent we see kids trying to mimic their role models on the Hollywood front, Megaforce simply replaced their imagination with animation.

Overall this clip is fantastic and very original in terms of music video subject matter. I think Megaforce and Seven have done a great job of directing and animating.

IS TROPICAL – THE GREEKS

Two Worlds

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Spy films has yet again created a masterpiece, they were approached by Sony to recreate “Nuit Blanche” (which is linked in this post) under the name “Two Worlds” and directed by Arev Manoukian. The goal was to bring colour and stereo 3d to the commercial. Ultimately it is an advertisement for Sony’s amazing new television with their new stereoscopic technology.

The original was quite an amazing short film and one of my favourite. The 3d animation is very nicely rendered out and blends into the scene effortlessly. The cinematography is beautifully done and it portrays the romantic classical Hollywood era, the slow-motion technique helped portray the emotion and overall concept.

Although many prefer the original over the more recent “Two Worlds” it still creates fantastic atmosphere. Sony and Spy Films went for a slightly different approach in this rendition; Leonard Cohen helped out by narrating over the cinematics with a poem he had written, which gave it quite a poetic feel. I relatively enjoyed the narration approach, which helped give “Two Worlds” a little bit more individuality. It is set in modern day times opposed to the classical Hollywood era.

On the technical side of things, all the scenery was meticulously 3d modeled to create the most physically accurate world; the quality of the photorealism in the renders is amazing. The actors were not 3d models, instead they were filmed behind a green screen and later composited into the final render. They filmed at around 500-2500 frames per second to create help the slow motion effect flow. Spy films used almost half a million watts of power to light up many shots.

The only downside of the clip is that they attempted to one up on the original “Nuit Blanche”, which is a seeming difficult task. Many fans of the original feel slightly offended, the original “Nuit Blanche” has such a powerful personal connection with people. I prefer the first personally, but it’s great they got to re-explore this idea.

Overall I think Spy films reinvented “Nuit Blanche” quite well, obviously it will never surpass the original in many viewers opinion, but still created a great composite and told the story of love at first site brilliantly.

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ORIGINAL

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

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Stuxnet

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Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus “An infographic dissecting the nature and ramifications of Stuxnet, the first weapon made entirely out of code. This was produced for Australian TV program HungryBeast on Australia’s ABC1”. Patrick Clair created the motion graphics behind this very intricate kinetic animation. Patrick from Sydney, Australia specializes in information design and visual storytelling. His videos focus on combining striking imagery with effortless viewer comprehension, he has worked on a variety of projects from TED talks to Ubisoft.

Stuxnet is a highly-sophisticated computer virus and that has an array of capabilities varying from controlling large scale industrial facilities like power plants, dams and waste processing systems.

Patrick took a whole month to create the 3 minutes of animated graphics. A lesson that I’ve learnt throughout my undergraduate studies and even through personal life is to have an appropriate goal in terms of time management and always leave time for error. As one gets more experience you start to get a better grip on how long a project will really take.

“Anatomy of a computer virus” was created using primarily after effects for most of the project. Maya was also used for occasional 3d model and animation such as the microscope. The animation was very complex yet at the same time very clear and used a similar aesthetic to “What Barry says” by the knife (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rlas5Wm0ZYM).

There was a lot going on within the background but the viewer was still able to focus on the intended subject matter. To say the least it was amazingly put together and flows so well.

It can be hard to just watch graphics flying at you for such a long period and still take in the information; I think Patrick and the team at HungryBeast did well in terms of keeping the audience interested and not constantly fatiguing.

Overall an amazing piece, Patrick has added an extra dimension to kinetic animation and told the story of stuxnet pleasantly.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man!

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“Oh, the places you’ll go at burning man” is an inspirational short Directed and edited by a small studio that goes by the name of Tedshots run by Teddy Saunders. “Based on Dr. Seuss’s final book before his death, this is a story about life’s ups and downs, told by the people of Burning Man 2011”.This short Won Best Short Film in the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Burning man is an annual event that lasts a full week, it is held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada located In the United States. The event coincides with Labor day in the States, around the end of August to the start of September.

The script belonged originally to Dr. Seuss, who was a children book author and wrote about life in a playful and lyrical way, this aided children to further understand the concept. “Oh, the Places you’ll Go” is a book about taking control of your own life when facing difficulties in life such as loneliness, fear and confusion and ultimately is about believing in yourself.

This film was shot using three Canon 7D’s on rotation throughout the day, because of the abundance of sand and dust in the Nevada desert. The audio was recorded with a Zoom H4N. The production took the Tedshots crew all seven days at Burning Man to shoot.

Although there isn’t amazing motion graphics or 3d compositing involved which is a rarity and never necessarily guarantees quality, Teddy took a more traditional approach and used great shots and editing to convey the story of Dr. Seuss’s “oh the places you’ll go”.

Teddy chose appropriate scenery to match up with the characters personalities; I also found he appropriately matched up the cast to the script quite well. The imagery was very clear and visually appealing; the location of the production also added quite a nice aesthetic, being a dessert many warm colours were present.

Overall this is one of my favourite short films. Teddy Saunders put quite a lot of thought in his short, resulting in an inspirational film which is visually pleasing and poetic.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go at Burning Man! from Teddy Saunders on Vimeo.

All.I.Can

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All. I. Can is a documentary all about skiing some of the steepest slopes in several of the most remote locations such as Morocco, Chile, Greenland and Alaska being just a few.

Sherpas cinema has done a brilliant job of editing and selecting their shots. They took 2 years to film and edit the totality of the film and used a variety of filming equipment, from the large resolution of the RED cam to the many frames per second Phantom HD Gold; and of course many others such as the GoPro helmet cams and  the canon 7D.

The lengthy filming period allowed Sherpas to create some jaw dropping time-lapse cinematography; the pulse and breath of the earth become more noticeable, seasons change in the blink of an eye, plants bloom and shrivel.

In addition we see clips on the other side of the spectrum shot in super slow motion 1000 frames per second, to give us an insight of the invisible world that’s occurs behind our human visual limitations, and the minute intricate movements that separate master skiers from novice.

I found the opening sequence to be one of the most amazing composites of time-lapse shots. Throughout the opening sequence Sherpas cinema present to viewer aspects of the world as it is today; from earth going through the seasons to industrial factories creating circuit boards. There is a slight environmental message present throughout the whole film, but lacks a clear message.

Being predominantly a skiing film showcasing the best talent in the world of snow sports, it still provoked deep thought. Coming to the end of the film we are left to ponder over a message “to do more instead of less” which can be taken in many ways but overall great advice.

Overall I think the amount of detail and thought went into the whole film is phenomenal.  I am not the biggest fan of skiing and snow sports and I still thoroughly enjoyed watching the entirety of the film from start to finish, which is a rarity. The trailers are great, but I highly recommend watching the whole documentary.