Clickformedia

Ian Hunt Digital Media Designer

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Work Placement – The Report and Website Design Project

Website Design

1.0 Introduction

Work Experience at LifeStyle Computers


The Agreement:

4 Workstation computer network

Fig.1. A 4 Workstation computer network

Following an in class meeting with Liam it was agreed that I would document my work experience while working at LifeStyle Computers for a 10-day period, commencing Monday 9th May to Friday 20thMay 2011.

LifeStyle Computers is a small company forming part of the TOGA Group Partnership, specialising in Computer Network Installations for the Business and Public Sectors. LSC is a preferred installer for 2 large national retailers of home technology.

Home Theatre Installation

Fig1.1 Home Theatre Installation

The type of work we do is varied and can be anything from a simple home PC or MAC installation up to and including a large computer network or Media installation. We do not do as many Home Media installations as we’d like to do, by this I mean Home Cinema systems incorporating a projector, large LCD screen and sound system all controlled by a central device a configurable control panel able to control a variety of devices including the Lighting, Audio, Video and sometimes a Media System PC.LSC has full Public Liability Insurance a Health & Safety Policy and is registered with the Data Protection Agency.


2.0 Organising and Planning the Working Week

I generally Log into my job listings account at the beginning of the week and see the available jobs for the week, which I can accept of reject as I choose, usually depending on the type of work, location and price. I also have to factor in our own work commitments and any long standing service arrangements we have.Typically I am only able to accept only one or two jobs a day from these job listings due to other commitments.This is an example list of the sort of jobs we can expect to receive at any one time. There is another list, which relates to the Audio Visual installations including Home Cinema set-ups and large screen TV installs.

Online weekly work order listings

Fig 2.0 Online weekly work order listings

In addition the company also receive new jobs orders by email on a daily basis. We can also choose to accept or decline these depending on workload. We also receive a number of calls each day from new and existing customers seeking a new PC or Laptop, support and/or upgrades that we manage to fit in around all the other work. We produce quotations for Small to Medium Network Installations on a regular basis. As you can imagine sometimes the workload can be overwhelming and therefore we pass work onto our business partners or engage contractors when required.

 


3.0 Typical working day

For example my typical working day would consist of two or more site visit’s usually to customers homes. When a customer buys a new computer from a major High Street retailer they will have also purchased installation and setup services, which we provide on behalf of the retailer. Todays first job was to setup an HP laptop, connect to the Internet and then transfer settings and data from the customers old PC using Microsoft’s Transfer Wizard.

Windows Transfer Wizard

Fig 3.0 Windows Transfer Wizard

In the afternoon I unpacked and setup an iMac, this was 1 of only 2 that I’d worked on this year. Macs are still not that common outside of the Media Industry. The customer was especially pleased when I also set up his email, backups and instructed him on how to use some of the pre-loaded MAC applications. (The customer completes a feedback form at the end of the visit)


4.0 Working on Accounts – The VAT Return

One of my regular back office jobs is to chase any outstanding invoices, complete the accounts and submit a VAT return to HMRC. I have designed a range of office processes and documentation, which makes this job relatively easy to do. One of these is my Quarterly VAT sheet which I use to record all my Outputs (that’s money coming in) and my Inputs (that’s my expenditure), which sounds the wrong way round but this ties in with HMRC’s VAT Return. The VAT sheet is automated, by this I mean as I manually enter the separate figures the totals and VAT amounts are automatically updated. This process continues until the last figures have been entered and then the totals in the 3 Boxes at the bottom of the sheet Output, Inputs and Payable can then be entered onto the HMRC VAT Return. Of course these days I now do this online.

Quarterly VAT calculator - Excel Workbook

Fig 4.0 Quarterly VAT calculator - Excel Workbook


5.0 Website Design

5.1 Design Choices

Website Design - WordPress Logo

Fig 5.0 Website Design - WordPress Logo

I decided that while I’m on a work placement with LifeStyle Computers that I would look at some long standing web projects and take the opportunity to research and prototype a new Website Design for the company. For me this new Website Design must make use of my new familiarity with WordPress, having used it over the last year to Blog and document my work during my first year at University. So it was an easy choice to look at using this platform for the basis for a new company Website Design.

Fig 5.1 Lifestyle Computers current website screen shot

Fig 5.1 Lifestyle Computers current website screen shot

One off the great things about Website Design uasing WordPress is that it is easy to test your Website Design online by opening a free account and picking one of the 100s of Themes (Website Design’s) to help you get started. When it comes to Website Design I tend to want to get something up and running very quickly and then go back and re-design/modify the Website Design rather than start with a blank sheet and map out a Website Design from scratch. I know the latter choice should be the preferred way to Website Design but it’s not my way of doing things.

Fig 6.0 WordPress Dashboard - Screen shot

Fig 6.0 WordPress Dashboard - Screen shot

Over the year I’ve been looking at the range of Website Design’s, Blog/Theme designs and most fit into a basic structure of a choice of number of columns and sidebars, some themes include Footers and the option of modifying the header image. This means that I can basically choose a theme to start and modify this at any point in the future without dramatically changing the look of the Website Design, of course if you start with a Website Design that has sidebars and then switch to one without, this data will not be displayed so it’s probably better to work from the other way round, that is pick a basic theme one column and one sidebar. Then if you want to change designs later to say two columns and two sidebars no data will be lost.

5.2 Pages, Categories and Custom Menus

One of the things I’ve come to understand about Website Design and Blogs is that essentially all the posts are stored in one file/location in post date order so the most recent post is the one shown first. The way that a Blog displays posts other than date sequence is by the use of categories, by selecting these the posts set with this category are pulled from the Blogs database and displayed in category/posting date order.

Fig 7.0 WordPress Theme example version 1

Fig 7.0 WordPress Theme example version 1

WordPress Pages and there are two types can be set as Static Page or default dynamic. What this means if you set a Page to be static this Pages and it’s data are fixed which makes it ideal to become the Home page of a Blog site or for any Data that you always want to be displayed regardless of Post Date order.One of the great things about Blogs I’ve become aware of is Custom Menus, using this option it is possible to design a navigation menu using a mix of Pages and Categories so for example I could have a Menu that includes a static page for my Home Page and Categories as Menu options which would look like dedicated pages on the Menu bar. But Category Menu links would work differently from Page menu links because the data they hold will be dynamic. By this I mean the content would change depending on Blog postings using this category. For example say I had a Menu Heading using the category ‘New Products’ when a site visitor clicks on the Menu Heading ‘New Products’ all the Blogs with that category would appear on this Menu option latest displayed in date of posting order with the most recent shown first.

Fig 8.0 WordPress Theme example 2

Fig 8.0 WordPress Theme example 2

Now what’s even more exciting about Website Design using WordPress  is that the site owner can just Blog to their site in the normal way, but by setting the category they automatically tell the site under which Menu heading they want the content to be displayed. This effectively gives the writer an effective content management system without the writer of the Blog article having to understand anything about Website Design. Even better if they use a Blogging tool such as Microsoft’s Writer they can just add content to the Website Design as simply as they would say write a Word document.

Another great thing about Website Design this way is the ease of adding more Menu headings, just add a new category and include this in your custom menu and it’s done. You can even choose sub categories and parent these to the main categories giving you Menu sub-headings.

5.3 WordPress Theme Choices

I’ve tried some of the Website Design Themes freely available on WordPress rather than design one from scratch, which I plan to do when I have both the time and the tools to do so. But for now the off the shelf Website Design Themes will do while I concentrate on designing Menu options and deciding on what content I want to show. I’ve added some examples of some of the Website Design themes I have looked at, the most promising of which is the single column and two sidebar Website Design with the orange coloured header (see Fig 9.0).

Fig 9.0 WordPress Theme Example 3

Fig 9.0 WordPress Theme Example 3


6.0 Conclusion

I enjoy much of the hands on computer work, particularly systems building and network installations that I do. However there are some things that when running a business you have to do, for example accounts which I wish I could avoid doing. Working in computers is no longer so much of a challenge and this was one of my original reasons for going back into education, to pursue new challenges and to take my career in a new direction. I do enjoy dealing with the general public, in fact I’d say most of my time on site is generally spent interacting/instructing the customer rather than working with the technology. For example most of the customers I interact with are new and/or unsure about computers and need instruction on how to use applications, how to connect to the Internet and send and receive emails, the basics really.

On another note as part of my work experience fortnight I looked at re-designing the company website which I had originally designed many years ago to fit a particular need. The company Website Design works well as a localised site bringing in enquiries, particularly from local people seeking computer support and upgrades. It also catches the eye of local businesses looking for network installations services. But I’ve begun to realise that some of the traffic it receives is now not so relevant to our current business. For example we used to specialise in a particular brand of Media Center Computers, which we no longer supply or support but for which we still receive enquiries. I also wanted to re-design the site so that anyone in the company could update the content without having the need to understand web design or web applications hence the decision to base the new Website Design on WordPress.

To summarise the last two weeks, I think this has re-affirmed my desire for a new career path away from computer hardware. I have re-discovered my interest in Website Design by researching and working on the Website Design project and to this end have downloaded a number of Website Design tools and demos in order to research new Website Design techniques and methods. I’ve also purchased dynamic web space suitable for hosting the new WordPress based website.

I still enjoy the customer contact aspect of my job, in particular instructing/ educating the customer regarding the computers operation, which brings to mind something that I had already considered as a possible future career path i.e. something leading into IT Training or Education. To this end I will try and source some work experience in Training and/or Education at some point in the future and confirm if this is really something that I’d like to do.

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Work Placement – Website Design Project

Friday 13th May 2011 – updated Friday 10th June 2011

Final Design for LifeStyle Computers Website

LifeStyle Computers Website Design - Modified WordPress Theme

LifeStyle Computers Website Design - Modified WordPress Theme

Design Choices

I’ve decided that while I’m technically on a work placement with LifeStyle Computers that I would look at some long standing web projects and take the opportunity to research and prototype a new design for the company website. For me the key to this new design is my new familiarity with WordPress, having used it over the last year to Blog and document my work during my first year at University. So it was an easy choice to look at using this platform for the basis for a new company website.

One off the great things about WordPress is that it is easy to test your designs online by opening a free account and picking one of the 100s of Themes to help you get started. When it comes to design I tend to want to get something up and running very quickly and then go back and re-design/modify rather than start with a blank sheet and map out a design. I know the latter choice should be the preferred way to design but it’s not my way of doing things.

Over the year I’ve been looking at the range of Blog/Theme designs and most fit into a basic structure of a choice of number of columns and sidebars, some themes include Footers and the option of modifying the header image. This means that I can basically choose a theme to start and modify this at any point in the future without dramatically changing the look of the website, of course if you start with a design that has sidebars and then switch to one without, this data will not be displayed so it’s probably better to work from the other way round, that is pick a basic theme one column and one sidebar. Then if you want to change designs later to say two columns and two sidebars no data will be lost.

Pages, Categories and Custom Menus

One of the things I’ve come to understand about Blogs is that essentially all the posts are stored in one file/location in post date order so the most recent post is the one shown first. The way that a Blog displays posts other than date sequence is by the use of categories, by selecting these the posts set with this category are pulled from the Blogs database and displayed in category/posting date order.

Pages and there are two types can be set as Static Page or default dynamic. What this means if you set a Page to be static this Pages and it’s data are fixed which makes it ideal to become the Home page of a Blog site or for any Data that you always want to be displayed regardless of Post Date order.

One of the great things about Blogs I’ve become aware of is Custom Menus, using this option it is possible to design a navigation menu using a mix of Pages and Categories so for example I could have a Menu that includes a static page for my Home Page and Categories as Menu options which would look like dedicated pages on the Menu bar. But Category Menu links would work differently from Page menu links because the data they hold will be dynamic. By this I mean the content would change depending on Blog postings using this category. For example say I had a Menu Heading using the category ‘New Products’ when a site visitor clicks on the Menu Heading ‘New Products’ all the Blogs with that category would appear on this Menu option latest displayed in date of posting order with the most recent shown first.

Now what’s even more exciting about designing a website this way is that the site owner can just Blog to their site in the normal way, but by setting the category they automatically tell the site under which Menu heading they want the content to be displayed. This effectively gives the user an effective content management system without the user having to understand anything about website design. Even better if they use a Blogging tools such as Microsoft’s Writer they can just add content as simply as they would say write a Word document.

Another great thing about designing this way is the ease of adding more Menu headings, just add a new category and include this in your custom menu and it’s done. You can even choose sub categories and parent these to the main categories giving you Menu sub-headings.

Theme Choices

I’ve tried some of the Themes freely available on WordPress rather than design one from scratch, which I plan to do when I have both the time and the tools to do so. But for now the off the shelf Themes will do while I concentrate on designing Menu options and deciding on what content I want to show. I’ve added some examples of some of the themes I have looked at below, the most promising of which is the single column and two sidebar design with the orange coloured header.

Prototype Website Location

To see the progress of my website design so far click here

By

Work Placement – Accounts and VAT

Monday & Tuesday 9th/10th May 2011

The VAT Return

One of my jobs every 3 months is to chase any outstanding invoices, complete the accounts and submit a VAT return to HMRC.

I work as a self employed computer engineer and so I have designed a range of office processes and documentation which makes the back office functions relatively easier to do. One of these is my Quarterly VAT sheet which I use to record all my Outputs (that’s money coming in) and my Inputs (that’s my expenditure), which sounds the wrong way round but this ties in with HMRC’s VAT Return.

Each of my transactions are given a classification for example Income is classified as (1) and say Computer Supplies are classified as (7). This makes the organisation of invoices much easier, so for example I put all my computer purchases together in the (7) file. I use one of those concertina style folders that have 12 file pockets and I fill these up as I go along with all invoices that come in, ready for inclusion into the Quarterly VAT return. I also do this as my Accountant wants to be able to follow my expenditure over a 12 month period and they find this easier if I use a classification number so that they know how much I expend and on what.

One of the reasons for doing this is that some expenses are taxed differently from others, for example capital equipment cannot be claimed in their entirety in the first year they have to be depreciated over a period between 2 and 3 years much more if it’s a building etc.

Screenshot of Quarterly VAT Return sheet

Quarterley VAT calculator - Excel Workbook

Quarterly VAT calculator - Excel Workbook

 

My VAT sheet is automated using macros and various calculations, by this I mean as I manually enter the individual figures the totals and VAT totals are automatically updated. This process continues until the last figures have been entered and then the totals in the 3 Boxes at the bottom of the sheet Outputs, Inputs and Payable can then be entered onto the HMRC VAT Return.

One of the key cells on the VAT sheet is the value for VAT rate, I’ve actually named this as VAT and so all the calculations are based on this for example Cell X = Cell Y times VAT and of course these days I now enter all this information online.

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Work Placement – Planning the weekly appointments

Friday 6th May 2011

Usually on a Friday I log into my jobs account and see the available jobs for the following week, which I can accept of reject as I choose usually depending on the type of work, location and price. I also have to factor in our own work commitment’s and any long standing service arrangements we have.

Typically I am only able to accept one or two jobs a day due to University commitment’s, but over the summer months I’ll be able to take on more of these jobs.

This is an example list of the sort of jobs we can expect to receive at any one time. There is another list which relates to the Audio Visual installations including Home Cinema set-ups and large screen TV installs.

LifeStyle Computers - Online Work Orders and Weekly Job Listings

LifeStyle Computers - Online Work Orders and Weekly Job Listings

 

In addition to this job list we also receive emails on a daily basis for new jobs and proposed long term installations which come in as the week progresses. We can also choose to accept or decline these depending on workload.

On top of all this we also receive a number of calls each day from new customers seeking a new PC or Laptop, support and/or upgrades which we fit in around all the other work. We also have to produce quotations for Small to Medium Network Installations on a regular basis.

As you can imagine sometimes the workload can be overwhelming and therefore we have to pass work onto our business partners or engage contractors when required or indeed pass jobs by.

There are lots of negatives with being self-employed but one of the big positives in working for yourself is you get to choose which jobs to do or not. Of course this only applies once you have achieved the minimum income level for that week.

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Personal Planning Reflection and Development 1 – Digital Media Production AUCB

Digital Media Production


Friday 15th April 2011 – updated 19/04/2011

Personal Planning Reflection & Development 1 – Digital Media Production AUCB

Looking back at my first year of the FdA Digital Media Production course, my personal achievement’s and development gained over the 2010 to 2011 academic year for the module of Personal Planning Reflection and Development.

Fig 1.0 Personal Portrait - Ian Hunt

Fig 1.0 Personal Portrait - Ian Hunt

‘Principles of Computer Graphics – Digital Media Production’

Introduction to digital imaging – we looked at the work of other artists, both digital and non-digital, the methods for creating digital images and the theory behind them. The initial tutorials’ were a surprise, creating self-portraits from magazine and newspaper articles. My idea of a self-portrait was of a photograph of myself but interestingly my fellow students produced montages showing personal interests or images as representations of their selves. Personally I kept true to the idea of a photograph as a self-portrait but with a twist, adding video clips and added an artistic video representation of myself, something I may not have considered doing previously. My personal achievements included my first use of Adobe’s Premiere Pro and from a personal development perspective I started to think more about the artistic side of digital imaging rather than just the technology behind image design.

‘Computer Graphics for Animation & Film – Digital Media Production’

Running in parallel with the personal portrait project we looked at producing 3D Graphics using the Autodesk Maya application for this unit. This was totally new to me, having had zero 3D design experience and therefore involved a steep learning curve in order to get a working knowledge of both the 3D Graphics design and the Maya application. I looked at a number of possible ideas for my 3D character before settling on one to develop further into my submission for the brief.

Fig 2.0 3D Animation - Sweetboy

Fig 2.0 3D Animation - Sweetboy

Maya proved to be a difficult application to work with, almost no aspect of the software was intuitive and each step in the process required referring to the help pages and viewing online tutorials in addition to the tutorials held in class. Even though I had at the end of the unit produced a final design, a 3D character that I could place on the screen and animate, I was left with the thought that 3D Graphics is not something that I would want to pursue as a career choice. Achievements, learning the basics of 3D Graphics design and animation using Maya and from a personal development viewpoint, probably not something I’d be interested in doing again.

‘Principles of Sound & Video Production – Digital Media Production’

This was our first team based project the brief was to produce a Viral Video. This was also an opportunity for me to realise an idea I’d had for a short film involving the filming of cyclists from the back of a moving car at night. This was a concept I’d had for a music video for some time. This was also our first introduction to the processes involved in making a short film, that is film production from initial concepts, the storyboarding, shot lists, permissions and risk assessments etc.

Being the first Team based project it was difficult to identify the individual skills of the members and where their personal interests lay, but these were soon resolved and the process of producing a Viral Video was soon underway.

Fig 3.0 Viral Video - Bournemouth Flag Chase

Fig 3.0 Viral Video - Bournemouth Flag Chase

I do not remember too many tutorials for this unit apart from an initial introduction to the cameras we would be using and there must have been another on the basic requirements, so I suspect we brought a lot of the knowledge we needed for this unit from previous experience. I know mine came from my previous year doing a similar project at College.

The pre-production processes took up most of the time for this unit with only an evening required to do the actual filming

The end product for this unit was I felt very successful but I also felt it could have been improved upon. For example filming at night we should have used additional lighting to compliment the lighting from street lamps the only lighting source available to us. The final film was effectively too dark and needed extensive work in post-production to produce an acceptable short film.

Fig 4.0 Short Form Video - Tramps Best Day

Fig 4.0 Short Form Video - Tramps Best Day

Achievements: – understanding the processes involved in video production. From a personal development viewpoint I certainly gained an appreciation of the difficulties involved in working in a team of individuals. I also learnt that if anyone on the team failed to complete an allotted task it created additional work for the other team members or in some cases could cause the project to delay or indeed fail. For future projects this would become a major consideration when deciding whom to include in a team. At the same time from this project I learnt something about my own personal skills and how I interact with a team and I will be seeking to address some of these issues in the future.

‘Short Form Video – Digital Media Production’

For this we looked at the professional approach to producing a short film. The idea development section of this unit caused the most anguish and indeed arguments, which I think was entirely due to no one individuals idea being chosen for the project. Instead we all as a team contributed ideas and script elements, which eventually formed the basis of our film. This was another team project, which included members from the previous viral video project and new members.

Our guest lecturer was very knowledgeable and I took every opportunity to take on board his thoughts and experiences gained whilst working in the film industry.

The production of our project had many similarities with the Viral Video project understandably and unfortunately had many of the same difficulties. For example team members failing to turn up or late, disputes, equipment failures and problems outside of our control. The good news is that the team pulled together and worked hard and so the project was completed successfully.

Fig 5.0 Post Production Techniques - The Taking of Pelham 123

Fig 5.0 Post Production Techniques - The Taking of Pelham 123

Achievements: – enhanced experience and skills as a film-maker and gained experience of being in front of the camera, something that I have done my best to avoid in previous film projects. From the personal development aspect I am much more familiar now with the pre-production process of film-making and post-production processes that is editing using Adobe Premier Pro CS5.

‘Post Production Techniques – Digital Media Production ’

This unit looked at the various techniques and tools used in post-production with the assignment set of producing a film title sequence.

Tutorials covered the use of Adobe After Effects CS5, which would be the application of choice for this unit. In fact I used it extensively for the first time gaining experience that I had not previously had. Again requiring a steep learning curve, which required use of online tutorials and additional research on the Internet. Unlike Maya however the user interface was much more intuitive and had common features with other applications in the Adobe range and so skills learnt using one Adobe application are transferable to the others.

As this is a personal project that could be controlled and progressed at my own pace I found it easier to produce a title and in fact because of the increased skills gained working with After Effects I decided to work on another film title sequence so that I could practice using these new-found skills.

Soundtrack always a consideration when producing a video was included as a separate tutorial in order that we recognize its importance to a film sequence for example matching elements of the music to editing points in the video or changes in the action seen on screen.

Fig 6.0 Post Production techniques - The Phantom Of The Opera

Fig 6.0 Post Production techniques - The Phantom Of The Opera

Achievements, the design and the production of two film title sequences using different design techniques and a growing skill level with using After Effects and Premier Pro. Development included increased confidence in using the tools and technology used in the post-production process. Time management, using available time more efficiently and meeting personal and set deadlines.

Reflection

My first year at University has built upon the knowledge that I gained at college in the previous year. I was surprised by the relaxed format of the tutorials and the assignments. I fully expected a rigid form of instruction similar to my early experience in technical college years ago. I also expected more theoretical content to the course. But I am pleasantly surprised and feel the structure of this course is better suited to the practical aspects of media design and therefore more interesting to me personally. I enjoy going to University, which is reflected, in my levels of attendance. I enjoy the work being set (in the main) and work hard to produce the best media artefact I can, re-working designs again and again to produce a better design.

I sometimes feel that we could have more tutorials and not just in those directly related to the course units, for example I’d like to have some guidance on general photography and using a DSLR for video work, but I suspect this will be forthcoming in Year 2.

One small negative I always personally thought the overall class size is too large and the class could have been separated into two groups (as it was at College in 2009/2010) and this could also explain possibly why resources seem to be too stretched on many occasions. In addition sometimes the noise level in class effects my concentration and for this reason I think I do my best work at home and use my time in class to interact with classmates, swapping ideas, research etc.

My personal goals have changed yet again as I swing even further away from Web Design and towards Video production. I have still to decide on what I’d like to do following the completion of my Degree and considering a role in industry. My main thoughts at this time are to continue in education, funding permitting and look at studying for a Masters Degree. Alternatively I have discussed with good friends working in Education the possibility of Teaching as a career and this still remains an option.

Word Count = 1627 (Essay) 1709 (Blog Entry)

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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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HDR Video – Researching HDR

[youtube.com/watch?v=9EDrfNDGlko]

I also found a very useful article on Macworld which goes into how to create a Time lapse HDR Video using a DSLR and stills bracketing. Bracketing is when the camera takes a picture and then automatically takes another over and under exposed. Using software these images are combined into one giving a true HDR effect.

http://www.macworld.com/article/157197/2011/02/hdr.html

Ian’s website:

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Computer Graphics for Animation and Film – 3D Animation – Sweetboy Goes Swimming UPDATED!

This is the updated version of Sweetboy

3D Animation – idea development

I’ve been experimenting with 3D characters created in Maya and exported them using a green background (Which I set in the Cameras environment settings) and then adding this as a new layer into other live action videos. For example I added the Sweetboy 3D Character to a Sports Video and a Natural History Video just to see how it would look. Interestingly it looks exactly like the small characters you sometimes see at the bottom of your TV screen which broadcast companies sometimes use to highlight the next program or a program coming soon, anyway I digress. I did have an idea of filming a road near to a pedestrian

crossing and then using the Sweetboy character to actually appear to walk across a real road and seemingly to dodge cars and get squashed at the last moment by a cars wheel. Then run the animation again but this time with Sweetboy using the Pedestrian crossing to cross the road safely, which of course could be used to deliver a road safety message to children.

One of the characters I developed was of a Sun with a face (Saw this on a children program recently) and I thought it would be a useful experiment to see how a separate 3D character would work in the same scene and so I added this to the Sweetboy animation. This turned out to be a relatively simple if time consuming operation and leads me to think that other characters with their own individual characteristics  could also be added, for example some rabbits and frogs hopping around the bottom of the animation just to give a greater visual appeal.

 

 

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