Ian F. Hunt

Cinematographer and Filmmaker

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Green Screen – A Midsummer Nights Dream

Green Screen set-up for A Midummer Nights Dream

Green Screen set-up for A Midummer Nights Dream

Camera Settings and Filming

Filming and assisting with a AUCB MA Students Theatre Project that combines live acting and interaction with projected images for a production of Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Nights Dream using VJ’ing software (Modul8).

I used my personal DSLR – Canon EOS 60D to film each of the actors in front of a typical Green Screen set-up. We used 5 light sources – 2 to illuminate the green screen background, 2 as fill lights either side of the actors and the keylight level with the camera and facing the actor.

Canon EOS 60D DSLR

Canon EOS 60D DSLR

The Camera was set to video in full HD, each movie clip was 1920 x 1080p and in the Quicktime .MOV format.

I used an external Rode directional microphone to record the actors voices, positioning

Close up of the Canon EOS 60D screen

Close up of the Canon EOS 60D screen

the microphone on the hot shoe of the camera and recording directly onto the video track through the connector on the side of the Camera, thus avoiding  synchronisation problems in post production. However although the microphone should have been directional it did appear to pick up sound from behind the camera, although this could be due entirely to the acoustics of the studio. In retrospect it would have been better to have located the microphone on a boom closer to the actor.

Post Production

Moving onto editing and using After effects I keyed out the green background and masked the sides and top of the footage leaving just the actor in shot, thus preparing the sequence for a new background. I did this for each of the movie clips a total of 30+ which included some clips which were borderline but worth doing just in case we needed extra footage, or for cutaways etc. (Never discard anything is my personal motto).

Canon EOS 60D used for HD Movie Clips
and Mobile Phone Sony Ericsson W995 for photographs

The rest of the team will now continue with post production using After Effects to produce a complete sequence of clips that will be imported into VJ’ing software ready to be used for the live performance. Meanwhile I went  onto helping with the theatre set-up and to test the installation on stage according to the MA Students staging and design.

Canon EOS 60D in silhouette

Canon EOS 60D in silhouette

Just for fun and to prove the Green Screen set-up had worked effectively I produced my own short video from two of the many movie clips to which I added a suitable background and some copyright free soundtrack and uploaded this to YouTube – see below. Of course this is out of context there is no magic carpet scene in Shakespeare’s Midsummers Nights Dream (maybe there should be?)

[youtube.com/watch?v=4daCfrvJeCY]

Part 2 of this project Ophelia

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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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Short Form Video – Student Filmmakers the Montage Edit Green Screen

Wednesday 16th March 2011

Tramps Best Day – 2nd Edit

Following Tuesdays filming of the Tramp character sitting on the bench dozing against a Blue Screen (instead of the usual green screen) thoughts turned to how we as a group of student filmmakers were going to edit the 5 minute film sequence down to a sequence just 2 minutes long.

I wondered if it could be possible to include the entire 5 minute sequence by using split screen and dividing the footage up. By giving each partition a different start time in this way we could include the green screen, that is the green screen footage as well as the all the live footage and keep the sequence to be just 2 minutes long but all of the scenes would be on screen.

The only way to test this would be to do an edit and see how it would look. The result is below and to be honest I do not think it works but let me know what you think.
[youtube.com/watch?v=bMv-FPqH2p8]

Tramps Best Day – Test Edit 2

Tramps best Day – 3rd edit

This is my latest edit of the Tramp footage this time I’ve set myself the target of a total duration of 2 minutes and the sequence must start with an image of the Bus Stop and must end with a close up of a bikes wheel and include the green screen footage even though we were to discard this in the final edit.

Due to the benefit of having already captured my footage and previous editing attempts it was relatively simple to identify what to include and exclude from the video. In the end I removed the Aviary scene and most of the footage showing the Tramps character pushing the bike from scene to scene. By doing this I had achieved an edit of 1 minute 50 seconds which meant I could go back and look at some of the clips and see if if by adding some footage back would improve the overall composition or assist in the narrative.

Although the final video fits the brief I have to conclude that I prefer the split screen or montage of the 2nd edit.
[youtube.com/watch?v=nj8RgBmlQHc]

Tramps Best Day – 2 minute edit

My suggestion for the final sequence.

I think it would improve the final result if we considered the following:-

  1. Drop the Green Screen sequence of the Tramp day dreaming on the bench – it just does not add anything to the video.
  2. Use the Montage/Split Screen design but with a couple of changes:-
  3. First change start the video with a full screen image of the Bus Stop and then scale this down and push it into the top left region of the screen.
  4. 2nd change End the video with a full screen image of the bikes wheel by scaling up the image from the bottom right region of the screen.
  5. So the top left image runs from the start for 2 minutes and say the bottom right starts 2 minutes from the end.
  6. The other 2 regions on the screen should start from a different scene.
  7. Overall the whole footage should be shown somewhere be it in region 1,2,3 or 4.
  8. Use the soundtrack from the Montage edit – it works really well.
[youtube.com/watch?v=h8USgQIDO0g]
4 Screen Montage with Bus Stop and Wheel ending added

What do I think? well it works but it needs some finishing touches for example the scaling of the Bus Stop opening needs to be speeded up. The actual screen divides are too regular and would be improved my making none of the videos the same size. The final sequence of the cycle wheel needs to be re-shot as a new sequence with the final image showing the wheel completely and directly facing the camera full framed.

Of course these are my thoughts and the final edit will come down to what the group decides and of course the director should have the final say. Although in the real world it’s usually the Producers decision usually after test screenings in front of an invited audience.

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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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Short Form Video – Green Screen, scale/perspective and locations

Saturday 26th February 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=iO2_NCajOe8]

Tramp Short Form Video

Scale and Perspective

Using the green screen video footage shot on Wednesday and additional video footage which I shot using my Canon EOS 60D DSLR. I began experimenting with positions, the scale and perspectives for the live footage and the video footage which would form part of the dream sequence.

Group discussions in conjunction with a meeting with Tony the idea was put forward to make the video image behind the live footage of the Tramp on the bench to be oversize, dominating the screen.

I thought it would be a good idea to see how this would look so I set up my camera at home and wearing the revised costume I acted through the drinking idea we’d had.

We’ve yet to decide on the final look of the dream footage whether it’s going to be in colour, black and white or other effects but for this test I just used ‘Threshold’ (Premiere Pro) to separate the live footage from the dream.

I’m quite pleased with the overall look of the footage but I am now thinking that it will be hard to show all the ideas that we have had for the dream sequence in just 2 minutes and I’m thinking we should just show one or two ideas and do these very well rather than do four or more but do them badly.

Also I think we should given the opportunity shoot more footage than is required say an additional 4 or more minutes so that we have enough for a short film of 6 minutes duration and cherry pick from this footage for the 2 minute version required for the overall project.

Storyboard

I storyboarded the short dream sequence but as you can see in the final edit, changes were made to the scale and position of the background images

Locations

A useful tool for rapidly identifying locations for filming is Google’s Street View. This allows you to view locations across the whole of the UK and indeed the World although as the name suggests only if there is a street and one which Google’s camera car has filmed.

I used it to view a number of locations in the Charminster area which will need to be followed up by an actual visit but they appear to be good possibilities for filming the Tramps dream sequence.

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