Hovering Lights

Shot-by-Shot Breakdowns.

April 25, 2015

Well, it’s my last break, between Terms 5 and 6, so it’s better to get things moving around here. I thought I would have plenty of time to keep posting useful information around here during the development of the reel and it turned out that I was… immeasurably wrong.

During Term 4 I kind of got one of the shots working, but the first three weeks of Term 5 were a real nightmare with the (I’m yet to discover a worst) feeling of not moving forward at all, in spite of working days in and out. Half the issues came from tracking, but I’ll get properly to it when writing about each specific shot. This post is just to introduce and name them all. Seven REAL VFX shots along with some small tweaks (or weird blends that I wouldn’t call VFX since we didn’t have classes to learn these) to shots that didn’t NEED them but benefited greatly from a couple nodes down the pipe.

I was thinking about saving the story and all, but that would stand in the way of the explanations, so be warned: spoilers ahead!

001_000 – Intro titles and timestamp. I don’t feel Nuke being very friendly for motion graphics work, so I just went back to After Effects, in which I have a good deal of experience to make these.

001_010 – Upshot of May talking about the TV while some light flickers on the wall and her face.

001_020 – Reverse shot, from her “point of view”. I had to replace the TV, remove the boom mic twice, replace the notebook screen and play a little with light colors and intensities. Also removed the TV and speakers brand and a small light on the speakers.

002_010 – May is working on her final assignment, I’m bothering her at the break of dawn. This one had a lot of cleanup because I reshot several times for the tacking never worked. Then the objects fly around and there’s some more cleanup for the metal objects on the table, camera projections for the smaller cans, texture painting, a little modeling, shading and lighting for the can close to the camera. I also replaced the Cheerios brand with Ceereals, so the school would advertise my reel.

003_010 – This was the first shot I worked on, and felt like the hardest one. Tracking was hard, and then there were the ships and foreground elements in front of them. Had to deal with 2D tracking, modeling and texturing, being smart about the render passes, some luma keying, integrating the ships, doing the “reveal from cloaking” effect, lens flares and volumetric light.

003_020 – My roto shot, I had May cut out of the plate in order to play better with the light behind her and added some dust/particle elements to the shot to make it more chaotic.

004_010 – Ruuuun! Lots of running, no VFX until the very last frames where I added some flickering to the lights down the ramp in order to hook up with the following shot. Roto and expressions did the trick.

004_020 – The fastest and heaviest VFX shot. All skills are shown here. The alien silhouette walks around and jumps onto a car. I think that reshooting this one about three times helped in figuring out what was going on. 3D track, set extension, RGB lighting, painting, animation, camera projections, roto, 2D track, expressions for the flickering, integrating the shadow, darkening the ramp, changing the color of the spec highlights on the car, this was fun.

004_030 – Small bits and pieces of running around the parking lot. I wanted to make it more hectic, but it’s so fast that I thought it wouldn’t make much of a visual difference besides adding a ton of work for shots that aren’t even 12 frames long.

005_010 – The outside of the garage is on a totally different place from the garage itself and there used to be a cut between these shots. I spent some time grabbing pieces from one and the other in order to achieve an almost seamless transition – a black line disappears mid process, but you have to know it happens in order to see it. Then there’s some more running and hiding. Ships in the sky mean 3D tracking, rendering and compositing passes, heat distortion, lens flares and so forth. Feels like a 3D version of the balcony shot, but much easier to make it work. Then I turn back to the garage and the alien is coming towards us.

005_020 – Another cut transition that was blended together combining pieces of two different shots. This one is still kind of a surprise thing because I haven’t put much thought into it yet. As soon as I have something working for May’s abduction, I’ll post it here. Meanwhile, we have all the other shots that we can talk about.

End Credits – will be analyzed with the opening titles and timestamps.

That’s it, shots have been introduced and will have their own posts.