Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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Post Production Techniques – The Phantom of the Opera

Phantom of the Opera


Sunday 1st May 2011

Final Film Title Video and Conclusion – Phantom of the Opera

I enjoyed making this Phantom of the Opera film titles project and it was hard to decide when to stop adding scenes to the final piece. I added 2 more scenes to the final title sequence and sped up the the other scenes to match the changes in tempo of the music track. For example as the music gets faster the camera movement rate increases and when there is a lull in the music near the mid point of the sequence the camera movement slows. A little change but it makes the 2 minute sequence appear to run faster than it actually does.

Many of us thought that a 2 minute title sequence is too long in these short attention span/impatient times but it’s actually quite short compared to some of the title sequences I’ve noticed in recent films. Although to be fair title sequences these days are usually overlaid over the opening scenes of a film with the titles continuing to appear several minutes into the start of a film.

Source Material – Phantom of the Opera

When I originally decided to work on Phantom of the Opera title sequence I always envisaged that it would be set in the late 1800’s in Paris. This caused me a problem that I had not considered before and that was the availability of suitable images, photographs of that period. I’d completely forgotten that this was at the birth of photography and film and so original photograph’s of locations and people of this period were not easy to come by. In fact for some images I used modern photographs and removed cars and road signs and then gave them an aged look using Photoshop.

The internet provided the majority of the images but for some I resorted to scanning in photographs from library books or captured images from old black and white films. (NB: I didn’t use any of these images in the end as I wasn’t sure about copyright).

Soundtrack – Phantom of the Opera

I got lucky with the sound track by finding exactly the right music track for Phantom of the Opera from one of the sound library disks, of course when I say lucky I actually reviewed 100’s of tracks until I found one that I really felt went well with the Phantom of the Opera theme of the film title and the timing of video sequence itself.

How was it done

I’ve covered this thoroughly elsewhere in the blog but essentially all the work was designed in the Adobe Creative Suite of applications, Photoshop for the imagery, After Effects for the scene design and motion graphics work and Premiere used to edit all the scenes together. This was my first real use of After Effects and in particular using Cameras and Lighting.

Real World

In the real world if I was doing something like this again I would of course engage models wearing costumes of the period and photograph them in positions and scenes to match the title sequence. The same for backgrounds I’d secure location shots or look at commissioning models to be built of the locations in miniature and scaling these up for the background images.

Using these methods I would have greater control over the final images rather than adjusting the title sequence to match the available images. I’d approach the soundtrack development in a similar fashion by commissioning a music track and engaging actors for the voiceovers in the sequence ie. Crowd sounds, laughing and conversations to match groups of people appearing in the titles.

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Post Production Techniques – Motion Graphics Scene Structure

Motion Graphics

Friday 15th April 2011

Motion Graphics – After Effects Scene Structure

Motion Graphics Scene Layout

Motion Graphics Scene Layout

I’ve mentioned earlier how originally I’d planned to design the entire Film Title sequence using Motion Graphics and within After Effects as a continuous camera movement through each of the separate scenes. I abandoned this approach because it made the process unnecessarily difficult with the settings in particular for the Z axis becoming impossibly large.

From the drawing above you can see the problems with the first scenes background set to 3000px and the second scene to 6000px. Inserted between would be the position for the characters I was to animate. I kept with this approach for three scenes before I decided it would be better to break down the scenes using the workspace and exporting each scene  as a movie clip into Premiere for final editing.

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Post Production Techniques – Motion Graphics – Phantom Film Titles

Motion Graphics


Thursday 14th April 2011 – updated 19/04/2011

How did I make it

Using the information I had gathered from experimentation and previous projects I split the runtime of the title sequence down into manageable clip lengths or scenes. This was my first use of cameras in After Effects and Motion Graphics and so I decided that at the point when the camera passes through the background image this would end the scene, so the time that the camera takes to run between the backgrounds dictated the scene length and vice-versa.

I decided that each scene would be of similar length but with room for adjustment to allow for the Text Titles to appear sequentially, roughly this worked out to be  between 8 to 12 seconds.

Storyboards & After Effects/Premiere Screen Shots

Motion Graphics using After Effects

This was my first project using After Effects in particular using cameras, lighting and 3D Layers.

3D Layers adds the extra dimension Z which creates depth to the scene, so as well as motion from left to right and up and down there’s also in and out, this was how I was going to make the title sequence. The camera would start at the zero point and then go into the scene towards the background layer which I set at 3000px or more depending on how many text titles I was going to insert into each scene or how many characters. The maximum setting I used was 8000px for one scene.

As well as using cameras I also moved characters by keying in positions animating them across and towards the camera. I did try using the Auto-Orientation settings in Layers to automatically orientate the moving characters to always face the camera as it passed them but this did not give the effect I was looking for. I like the way that when the camera passes the characters you can see that they are cut-outs only 2D.

I used the Orbital camera tool to control the cameras movement through the scene and to make sure that the camera entered and exited each scene in the right location I also keyed in movement into the background to line up doors and windows to align with the cameras position.

The opening sequence where the gate to the city raises turned out to be more involved than I first thought – I ended up making this from 3 layers, the 1st one being the actual doorway , the 2nd the gate and the 3rd the courtyard inside the gate.

In one scene I felt the need to use a Lighting effect so that the character enters the scene in silhouette and moves into the light which then follows the characters movements through the scene.

In the final scene the chandeliers Anchor point was moved to a position in the centre of the Opera House ceiling setting the point from which the chandelier pivots from side to side.

I added Brightness and Contrast adjustment so that I could individually adjust these setting for each element of the title. Again I was considering making them all appear the same as the background but later changed my mind, making the characters brighter or darker based on how they appeared on screen.

Finally I went back to the design and removed the sky I had originally designed using Fractal Noise/Clouds and replaced this with an image of a nights sky full of stars and another layer showing a full moon. I then added a rose effect to the Moon using Fractal Noise and a Tritone colour effect to make the Moon appear to be blood red with storms raging across it’s surface. I felt this effect would add to the narrative adding something menacing to the visuals.

Soundtrack

I tried several classical music tracks with the title sequence and most worked but no seemed particularly menacing which I felt was vital to the overall feel of the sequence. Fortunately one of the copyright free CDs from the library offered up an excellent ghostly soundtrack which suited the sequence ideally.

I was tempted to added maniacal laughter to the Phantom appearance on scene but I removed it as it added little to the sequence and in fact I felt ruined it.

Image Gallery

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Post Production Techniques – ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Horror Film Titles Research

Horror Film Titles


Tuesday 12th April 2011

Hammer Horror Titles

Who can forget those Horror Film Titles, the Blood Red titles on the old Hammer Horror films. There was no other choice than to do something similar with the titles to the ‘Phantom of the Opera’. I did not want them to be exactly the same but definitely red and in that stylised font that suggests dripping blood and instantly recognised as Horror Film Titles.

[youtube.com/watch?v=WBGrqNlEPWQ]
Hammer House of Horror

I found this clip of a trailer for Dracula – watch for the titles in the middle. I also thought that it might be a good idea to use an effect to simulate dripping blood and I found several After Effects examples of doing this in particular one using ‘Time Displacement’ where the titles could be made to seemingly drip downwards. I decided not to do this in the end as to be honest I felt it looked un-professional.

Scene backgrounds and characters – Horror Film Titles

The images for the scenes I used for my sequence came from a variety of sources both from the Internet and from photographs that I scanned into Photoshop for manipulation. Adding Filter Effects and removing backgrounds etc.

The Phantom of the Opera 1925 – Horror Film Titles

[youtube.com/watch?v=rAodg8t9IJg]

This is the original film that I based my film title sequence on. As I’ve mentioned previously I was not aware of this film I had thought the only video I’d find would be footage from the stage adaptions. As you can see the only effect in this film was the de-focused opening titles the rest are just static text overlays.

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Post Production techniques – The Taking of Pelham 123 Film Title Sequence

Post Production Techniques – Film Title Design


Tuesday 12th April 2011

[youtube.com/watch?v=phTRE1ayJxs]

Re-working the design – Post Production Techniques

This is the final version of this title sequence. In regard to my previous Blog entries I mentioned that having a meeting with Phil I would look at colour choices for my title sequence. I moved my design away form my original choice of primary colours and redesigned the sequence with a darker look using Tertiary colours ie in this case Yellow-Orange and Red-Orange in the main.

I also re-worked some of the graphics particularly the Train at the beginning which I drew in Photoshop using basic shapes (removing the shadows form the original design at Jason’s suggestion).  I’ve added in the sequence of the man firing the gun and re-worked the text changing and adding animation to interact with the trains moving across the screen.

This was my first real project using After Effects and after a very steep learning curve I gradually got to grips with the basics and started to become more comfortable with using this application.

However I initially made the mistake of trying to do the whole sequence in After Effects until I realise it was best to break down the title sequence into manageable clips which I could then edit in Premiere Pro.

Before I could finalise my design I decided to think more about the backgrounds, it would have been easy to select a contrasting solid background colour possibly Black but I decide to look more into the Background effects within After Effects and came across a couple of choices which I liked particularly as they contrasted well with the moving text helping to make the text stand out from the background and be more readable. In the end I settled on using ‘Orb’ which I then modified by using the 4-Colour Gradient settings.

Soundtrack changes – Post Production Techniques

In my original design I looked at using some of my own GarageBand tracks but although these would work I decided that I wanted to look at alternatives. Following on from an Audio tutorial with Phil I came across a CD or copyright free music on which I found an excellent track that I immediately felt would work well with my title sequence. It sounded very similar to Pixars ‘Incredibles’ title music and this worked well with the movement on the screen and so I decided to adopt this rather than continue with the GarageBand track.

Final Edit and Upload to YouTube

In the past I’ve always used the QuickTime option when encoding movie clips for uploading to YouTube but I’ve since learnt that H.264 (MP4) is one of the preferred formats for uploading onto YouTube – it also has the benefit of creating a smaller file size without a immediately noticeable loss in quality. This combination means that uploading to YouTube is much quicker and video processing times are cut.

Another thing I have noticed is that motion graphic videos seem to run smoother if you avoid Progressive and pick Upper or Lower options when encoding your video.

The default AAC format for audio seems to work as well as any other option when choosing to encode audio with you video setting set to H.264.

Conclusions

I enjoyed making this Film Title sequence especially as it gave me the opportunity to really get to grips with After Effects. I’m happy with the final result in fact it exceeds my initial expectations of what I could produce which again I attribute to my increasing ability to be able to work with After Effects and Post Production Techniques.

My initial choices of colour at the beginning of the Project were too bright and conflicting and looking at these choices again I can see that the new colours work so much better with each other. In future projects I plan to do more research into colour choices, make use of Colour Wheels and the sites that I have come across suggesting colour palette’s primarily for web design but also of use in video and in this case title designs.

I also found that the FONT choice was very important to the look of the design and I took time to get this right even down to varying the height of individual characters to create a more randomised effect and in some cases to mould the characters around the images.

Finally and as I’ve mentioned in previous Blogs I’ve decided to continue with another film title design in the time remaining allocated to this module so that I can utilise many of the Tutorials we have had in After Effects since beginning this project, I am currently working on a film title sequence for ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ film released in 1925.

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Post Production Techniques – Film Title Design Part 1 Completed

Film Title Design


Wednesday 16th March 2011

Phantom of the Opera – Part 1 – Film Title Design

Referring to my previous blogs I was deciding whether to go ahead with the film title design for a additional Film Title Sequence. Influenced by the Moulin Rouge film title design I looked at attempting something along similar lines. I also remembered the Phantom of the Opera Theatre Productions had a similar theme and so I researched the YouTube for films with this title expecting to find either video of the theatre productions or the recent film by the same name, however instead I came across a 1925 film starring Lon Chaney.

I decided to use this 1925 film as the basis for a new title sequence using the techniques I’d acquired when making the Pelham 123 film titles and the titles I’ve previously identified as Paris Titles (See previous Blog entries)

[youtube.com/watch?v=n4HjjdCT7-M]
Phantom Film Titles Part 1 – Film Title Design

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – Part 1

After a meeting with Phil I agreed to look at alternative colour schemes for this Film Title sequence as my earlier versions used some very bright primary colours which were really too strong.

In the end I decided rather than use a static solid colour for the background I would use something more dynamic and at the same time I took the opportunity to go through the whole sequence changing colours making them darker and avoid primary colours but still staying true to the characterisations in the film etc.

I also changed the main Train sequence designing my own in Photoshop keeping the design as minimal as possible (Saul Bass style).

Finally I added an adjustment filter to bring the colours down another level whilst at the same time giving the whole sequence a continuous Brightness/Contrast level.

[youtube.com/watch?v=vgooP4Tk2iY]
The Taking of Pelham 123 – Part 1

I looked at the Film Posters designed by Saul Bass and some of his own Film Title sequences for inspiration for the design of the Pelham 123 titles.

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Post Production Techniques – Alternate Title Sequence using AE

Wednesday 2nd March 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=znDwBhaXnhw]

Paris Titles – experimenting with AE Cameras

Alternate Title Design

We recently had a tutorial with Jason looking at AE Cameras and Lighting and so I thought I would experiment with Cameras to see what I could do as an alternative title sequence.

Inspired by my previous use of using images taken from Google’s Street View and then adding effects to these captured images in Photoshop, I set about capturing new images from Paris Streets.

Once I had a collection of images I removed the backgrounds and used the Filter ‘Graphic Pen’ to give a sketch look to the images.

These images I saved as .PSD files which I then imported into After Effects. I decided on the sequence that the images were to appear and loaded them into the workspace in this order. I then made each Layer 3D and set the Z-axis for each so that there was a gap between each of them (Which I varied at a later stage).

I then created a New Camera and using a mixture of XYZ axis I moved the camera through the layers exposing each as the camera passed through into a new scene.

I added a few visual effects such as ‘Clouds’ and a copyright free music track to finish the short sequence off.

I’m very happy with the final result although I’d probably want to smooth out some of the camera movements, target the door openings better and remove some of the background that I missed earlier.

Updated and with Additional Characters

[youtube.com/watch?v=_7w_MwjB6F4]
Video with some characters added

I’ve spent some time cleaning up the images removing the backgrounds that I’d missed previously.

I’ve also added some characters to the scenes keying in some movements so that they move across in front of the camera as the camera moves into the next scene.

I set each character as a 3D Layer and positioned them using the Z-axis settings mid point between the background layers.

I also added an end title but this could be anything should I decide to extend the project for the full 2 minutes duration set in the brief.

I think this works really well and with the right images combined with a Film Title idea this would make an excellent alternative to what I have already designed.

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Post Production Techniques – Film Noir Soundtrack

Friday 18th February 2011

Soundtrack

[youtube.com/watch?v=FxYVrRmAHaE]
Film Noir soundtrack project

Today’s tutorial involved the use of copyright free music and matching sound to visuals to add emphasis.

I started by searching the internet for images based on Film Noir, I downloaded a selection of these and imported them into Premiere Pro for editing.

I listened and tried a number of different styles of music and came across one that fitted the fill Noir theme, a short 30 second track that I’d associate with 50’s crime films and dramas.

As this was a soundtrack influenced project I began by importing the music track first, I expanded the track so I cold see the waveform in this way it would be easier to match edit points to the changes in the music.

This was the next task importing and inserting the images into a video track, cutting and adjusting the length of the clips to match the soundtrack.

It’s not a perfect video sequence but it was a useful exercise to see how music can influence the mood of a video and also how matching an edit point to a music ‘s highpoint/change in sound/tempo emphasised the edit process and the pace of the video.

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Post Production Techniques – Soundtrack and Experimentation

Wednesday 16th February 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=1TSHXtJ4Jds]

Post Production Techniques – Final Titles Version

GarageBand

Up until now I’d been using the original soundtrack for the 1974 Film by David Shire, but for this project the requirement was to either create your own, obtain copyright free music or seek permission to use the music from the artist. As I mentioned in my previous Blog I decided early on to attempt to compose my own soundtrack using GarageBand. I started by familiarising myself with what Loops are included in the standard GarageBand installation and identified a number which I thought would work well and added them to my favourites. But there did not seem to be any good Horn loops and so I had to find these on the Internet. Fortunately I came across some good free loops which I downloaded and installed.

As to the soundtrack itself I already knew that I wanted a fairly contemporary sound for the period in which the film was set and so using the original soundtrack as a guide I started to compose. Sticking to the Films theme, Hijacking of a New York Transit Subway Train I wanted a sound like the sound of the train running on its tracks so a regular and rapid beat seemed essential. With the base sound track in place I then added the horns to tie in with changes on the screen titles. Then lastly I added sounds for the Police car siren, the sounds of the Gun being fired and the sound of the Taxi Cab pulling up to the curb.

Google Maps

I was a bit worried that the scene showing the police car was a little bare and thought it could be improved if I added buildings as a background in which the police car could speed across in front of.  My initial idea was to search for a static image on the internet but to keep the design original I decided instead to use Google Maps Street view and take a snapshot of an actual New York street. The idea to use Google Maps came out of a group discussion during The Short Form Film tutorial. This turned out to be not as easy as I’d thought because in many cases where I looked, the streets were clogged with traffic and pedestrians or the camera perspective was too close to the buildings. I managed to find three in the end which could be suitable and loaded these into Photoshop where I re-worked them and added the stamp filter as the final touch.

After Effects and Premiere Pro CS5

I imported the images in as compositions into AE and tried them as backgrounds for the polices car sequence, finding one that I was happy with I then exported this clip to Premiere and replace the original sequence with the new one.

I then added the new soundtrack and sound effects and exported the final composition as a QuickTime movie and uploaded it to YouTube.

Conclusions/Ideas

  1. It’s hard to know when to stop – it’s very tempting to keep on adding to the titles which would add little to the final video sequence.
  2. Composing a soundtrack is not easy – especially if you are not a musician but GarageBand makes the job easier.
  3. What I have designed is effectively Motion Graphics – an animation
  4. I’m going to look at my Bullitt title sequence and see what adding text adds to the design and also this gives me the opportunity to work with some more of the effects available in After Effects.
  5. I’ve decided this is not going to be the final video as there is plenty of time to experiment and research ideas and so watch this space for the latest updates.

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Post Production techniques – After Effects and Premiere Pro CS5

Monday 14th February 2011

Title Development using After Effects

I’ve completed the planning and visualisation for my Film titles – that is the re-working of the Film ‘The Taking of Pelham One Two Three’

I began by creating all the text for the titles in After Effects in the same order as they appeared in the original film, but actually the order and style/font does not matter at this stage as I will be changing the order and style/font as I insert them into the sequence.

Similarly with all my images created in Photoshop I imported these into After Effects ready to be included in the sequence.

I quickly discovered how confusing the After Effects interface is with so many images and text clips in the project group at the same time. I then decided to break the project up into 2 sequences to make it more manageable.

I also discovered that using After Effects to try and produce a long sequence was also almost unmanageable and so I decided to break each action up into a video clip of between 3 and 5 seconds duration using the workspace guides. As each clip was completed I exported this as a QuickTime Movie clip to be imported into Premiere Pro for editing into the final video sequence later in the process.

 

 

Once I had organised the development of my titles in short 5 second clips I quickly realise I could re use some of the images by dragging them onto the workspace this really speeded up the process. The same with Text design once I had worked out the style I was after it became easy to repeat the design.

I did try experimenting with several effects during the project but overuse of effects made the overall sequences seem over complicated and to be honest ended up detracting rather than enhancing the final titles.

As the film was all about the hijacking of a train I tried to associate the titles as much as possible to this and so I used Text that appears to flip ‘decode’ in sequence which I think looks like the rotating boards in stations and airport terminals as they rotate to show trains, platforms, arrival and departure times. I also  slid text in from the right and the left from off screen just like trains passing each other on the tracks.

I added a couple of images in reference to the hijackers shooting their guns and the speeding police cars and the final sequences ends with a Yellow taxi pulling up at the station, which ties in with the opening of the film with Martin Balsam exiting a cab at the stations entrance.

Up to now I’ve been using the original soundtrack as a guide but I hope to be able to produce my own soundtrack using GarageBand eventually as soon as I really get to grips with this application which I’ve only touched on a couple of time in the recent past.

I’m not quite 100 percent happy with the final video sequence and with plenty of time to work further on it (other assignment’s permitting) I hope to address these and get closer to that ever elusive 100 percent.

Conclusions/Notes

  1. Preparation was key with all the elements in place including a storyboard design moved rapidly on
  2. Working with After Effects which until recently was something I had had little experience of has proved to me just how versatile this application is and I’m looking forward to enhancing my knowledge of this.
  3. Sometimes less is more, keeping it simple seems to have produced a better final sequence than just throwing the complete effects options at the project.
  4. The soundtrack is starting to look like being the hardest part of the project.
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