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Transcript of VFX
Every artist and filmmaker wants to separate themselves from the next, thus stamping their own mark in their profession. Filmmakers like: George Lucas, Robert Rodriguez, Neil Blomkamp, Scott Snyder, JJ Abrams and James Cameron (including numerous small scale filmmakers) have used visual effects to produce unique distinctive films that capture the imagination of audiences across the world. With visual effects and creative pioneering uses of technology and filmmaking techniques, these individuals have become famous for their filmmaking styles; audiences can watch these films and instantly know who was behind them. The use of Digital Backlots (i.e. green/blue screen), creative use of lighting, colour correction and grading, camera framing, camera and footage capture, 3D, compositing techniques and many other techniques have and will been used by filmmakers to produce their own distinctive styles. The author experiments with the idea of a filmmaker producing distinct visual styles in corporation in a visual effects pipeline. The project will incorporate editing images and video, producing a distinct visual style in addition to a VFX pipeline. The birth of Visual Effects was in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It can be disputed that German Expressionist filmmakers are the forefathers of visual effects and producing wonderfully distinct films, however the argument that they, in fact were, is strong. After Germany’s isolation after World War One and a lack of foreign films coming into Germany due to a ban, filmmakers and audiences were willing to explore new and interesting techniques in filmmaking. The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (Weine, 1920) uses an effective combination of painted sets (matte painting) and rudimentary rotoscoping to produce a fantastical lurid visual style which evokes the feeling of insanity and unease. Hollywood was ecstatic to embrace German filmmakers such as Carl Laemmle and Karl Freund. Universal Studios and Carl Laemmle made a name for themselves for the silent film The Phantom of the Opera (Chaney, 1925). Freund, who was cinematographer for Dracula (1930), was the film that arguably set the filmmaking style and mood for Universal’s horror films of 1930’s cinema; films such as The Invisible Man (Whale, 1933), The Black Cat (Ulmer, 1934) and Son of Frankenstein (Lee, 1939) can be considered to have been influenced in their distinctive visual styles by earlier works such as Dracula. 1940 – 1950, a new wave of cinema and visual style arrived in the form of the ‘noire’ film. With roots in German Expressionist cinematography of the 20s and 30s, noire classics such as Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944) and The Big Combo (Lewis, 1955) were defined by their low key black and white visual styles which played heavily on portraying an oppressive tone. Nino Frank, a French critic writing for L’écran Français, coined the phrase ‘film noire’ to describe the latest trend of crime thrillers released in America which had transcended the original detective genre into its own genre of that of a ‘crime psychology drama’. Frank stated that "’dark’ films, these films noirs, no longer have anything in common with the ordinary run of detective movies...” (1946). At the time, these American crime dramas were revolutionary for its narrative and art direction which caused many critics to question which genre they belonged in. Their distinct styles forged a new genre. In more modern cinema, film noire has evolved thanks to numerous directors and artists. Blade Runner (Scott, 1982) captured the imagination of critics and audiences with its blend of techno futurism and classic noire tropes. Sin City (Rodriguez, 2005) adapted Millar’s graphic novel epic into a heavily stylized noire thriller that is unique to this date. In 2005, Rodriguez envisioned bringing Frank Miller’s 1991 neo noire graphic novel to life. At the time, the majority of motion picture was captured using film. Rodriguez was amongst the first films to be captured using digital cameras, along with Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (Conran, 2004) and Casshern (Kiriya, 2004). This gave directors more freedom to explore new possibilities and evolve the way films were shot. Digital Soundstages, known as Backlots, were built in warehouses for the capture of live action footage. The green screen would allow environments, props and characters to digitally introduced using computer graphics and art. Sin City is not just an adaption of the stylized graphic novel but, according to Rodriguez himself, a recreation; bringing the characters and narrative in the pages alive and into the real world. New technology, such as the introduction of digital film cameras and computer graphics would finally allow for filmmaker's visions to become reality “In a visual effects pipeline, the most important thing procedurally is the live-action footage. Each shot starts with the live action framing and movement, and the pipeline is built on the necessity of conforming the visual effects to this source live-action footage. With this definition it becomes more about how the film was actually made, rather than what the intention was. If the starting point for all shots was the live-action footage, it is primarily a live-action project even if the results are highly stylized such as Sin City (2005) or 300 (2006)”. (Jeffrey A. Okun, 2010, p. 739). This is true of Sin City. Okun’s statement is further supported by examining both Sin City as both live action motion picture and graphic novel and comparing the two. To achieve the look and style of the graphic novel, the filmmaker would first have to capture his subject using the newly devised digital camera in a green screen environment. This live footage would then be digitally edited to produce its vividly stark visual style. By examining the final results, it is clear that the motion picture is startling close to its source, in terms of style and mood. By using the source material as the script of sorts, it made recreating it for live action simpler (Frank Miller was credited as Sin City’s screenwriter). However, the process of producing a film in the distinct style of Sin City would have been too demanding without today’s filmmaking technology and director’s artistic vision. By concentrating on capturing the live action footage first and then concentrating on the visual style, Rodriguez and his team were able to achieve their goals in recreating Sin City in a live action film. The author investigated producing distinct visual styles in a visual effects pipeline. Carrying out multiple tests in different visual effects programmes, the author discovered some revealing information. Here are the author’s results: Factors to consider arose during the author’s investigation. Lighting for live action video capture has to be considered before filming a subject. Lighting is an important factor to consider during filming as creative use of lighting could be used to achieve a distinct visual style. For example, lighting one side of a subject with a bright light could produce a strong contrast on one side of the subject. The use of colour could be used to produce a strong visual style. Colour can be considered highly important to a filmmaker in producing his or her visual style as it can drastically alter a scene’s mood and even the narrative. With effective use of the tools available in Nuke and Adobe software, colour can be drastically or subtley altered to achieve the desired look. The author’s attempts into colour were overall successful in achieving the desired results; the image with the buildings, for example, conveys a dark sinister tone due to the cold colour added in post. A surprising factor came to light during the author’s investigation. Correct use of camera and camera settings are an often overlooked factor in filmmaking and sometimes met with scepticism (in the case of Robert Rodriguez Vs. the traditional filmmaking community). The author noticed that the equipment he was using (a Fujifilm s2960) to record live action video produced a high amount of unwanted artefacts, noise and a low picture quality. Although the correct use of lighting and framing was used, the footage did not produce the desired effect when trying to produce a distinct visual style. Ultimately, creating a distinct visual style depends on the creativity and technical skill of the filmmaker, in addition to what his/her eventual goal is. Without knowledge in a visual effects pipeline, the filmmaker would most likely create something which a dozen other filmmakers had done previously which isn’t that exciting to audiences.
Experience in Visual Effects programmes, such as Nuke or Adobe software (Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere) is also an important factor to consider. Knowing your way around a programmes tools and layout, plus prior knowledge to what you want the final result to be can be highly benificial. For example, changing a video's colour using colour grading sliders will alter it's mood. Another point is 'why'. Why produce a stunningly eye-catching piece for no apparent reason other than because it looks awesome? The distinct visual style has to bring something more to the film. In the cases of the noire films of the 50s and modern films like Sin City and Fubar Redux (Dulull, 2012) – with its creative uses of animation, rotoscoping and 2.5D effects to create a film about politics and war (with cats and dogs) – their distinct visual styles enhance the narrative and tone, plus boosting the filmmaker’s status. A study of Distinct Visual Styles. Original video sourced through Creative Commons. Original video sourced through Creative Commons. Original video sourced through Creative Commons. Original video sourced through Creative Commons. Originally shot on Green Screen with Fujifilm S2960 at 720p. But first, we will look at the history of distinct visual styles in film. The Phantom of the Opera 1925 The Invisible Man 1933 The Black Cat 1934 Son of Frankenstein 1939 Double Indemnity 1944 The Big Combo1955 Effective use of contrsting silhouettes and shadow. Classic cinematic noire tropes were used creatively during Blade Runner; for example the use of blue smoke and rain to produce a specific cinematic tone. Rutger Hauer as the sympathetic antagonist - a android trying to staive of death could be interpreted as a interpretation on the classic pro/antagonist of noire cinema. Distinct Visual Styles - A History Sin Sity 2005 The image on top shows how the live action footage was shot. The bottom image shows the final result, after post-editing. Live action filmed on Digital Backlot Footage converted back into black and white Extensive colour correction applied to footage: - contrast increased
- levels/curves altered
- saturation increased/decreased (depending on desired effect)
- colorization applied to pick out certain objects in the scene; for example, Yellow Bastard's skin colour. Process to achieve the style of Sin City 3D environments built in desired style match live action to environment so continuity of style and tone can be achieved Creative use of colourization to pick out the velvet red sheets and golden hair produce and interesting compostition, thus it creates a more distinct visual style. The white bandages have been altered in post production so that they stand out from the actor, just as in the graphic novel. 0:00 - 0:12 = The Opening of this video is a close recreation of its drawn counterpart. 0:15 - 0:24 Sin City: A Case Study Research and Investigation http://xstockvideo.com/index.php?svideo=1 Phil Fried. Shot on a EOS 5D MkII Fubar Redux 2012
Dickos,A. 2002. Street with No Name: A History of Classic Film Noir (pp.pp.9-34). Lexington of Kentucky Press.
Jeffry A. Okun, Susan Zwerman. 2010. The VES Handbook of Visual Effects. Oxford: Focal Press.
Graydon, Ballinger, and. 2007. The Rough Guide to Film Noir
Miller, F. 2010. Sin City - Third Edition. Dark Horse Books, Oregon.
Rodriguez, R. 2005. Sin City. Dimension Films, Troublemaker Studios.
http://bit.ly/YtFW4v Reference List Please feel free to scroll around and look at the images and videos in my presentation at your own pace, by clicking and dragging the mouse whilst holding the left button. Click the play button on the videos to view them, if they don not start themselves. Scroll the wheel to zooooom! Press the left and right arrow keys to move through the presentation. http://fubar-movie.com/ - Turn image black and white
- Raise contrast
- edit levels (drag both white and grey scales down, then raise grey scale to match white scale)
- edit curves
- edit brightness - add color - edit until you achieve the desired effect! Leonardo Machado, 2011 Strong use of contrast and shadow create a distinct style. Rotoscoping actors into a painted background not only reduced costs but allowed directors to experiment with style and tone. Throughout the film, the use of geometric and stylised backgrounds helped convey the idea of madness and unease. http://silentlondon.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/cabinet-of-dr-caligari.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/f/fd/CABINET_DES_DR_CALIGARI_01.jpg/220px-CABINET_DES_DR_CALIGARI_01.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-U9gM1MTruFw/UIPaoVThY6I/AAAAAAAAAyo/jlhldD3v67M/s1600/Poster+-+Phantom+of+the+Opera,+The+(1925)_04.jpg http://verdoux.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/the-cabinet-of-dr-caligari.jpg http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/24600000/The-Phantom-of-the-Opera-1925-the-phantom-of-the-opera-24690962-1256-1600.jpg http://vintage45.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/son-of-frankenstein-1939.jpg http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_mpjbXhcFrIA/TBEqljpl50I/AAAAAAAAEYw/82jAeQ1Mfb8/s1600/Frankenstein-Son-of-39.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/3a/Black_cat_poster.jpeg/220px-Black_cat_poster.jpeg http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-cHkRJFo4JIo/UH9GLKGz40I/AAAAAAAAAz4/oQ5asQ6hkb8/s1600/the-black-cat-lugosi.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/58/The-Invisible-Man.jpg/220px-The-Invisible-Man.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-CLr0Ffpk5vo/UFjTwkBN-4I/AAAAAAAADU0/oX3DwUHIZX8/s1600/1933_InvisibleMan_img8.JPG http://www.lassothemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/The-Invisible-Man-2.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MxOVrLX5TvU/TNPzkgHHG_I/AAAAAAAAABA/hFtfnm5LFl8/s1600/Cinemascreen3forweb.jpg http://www.impawards.com/1944/posters/double_indemnity_xlg.jpg http://www.fact.co.uk/media/1872673/Double%20Indemnity%202.jpg http://st1le.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-big-combo.jpg http://www.dbcovers.com/imagenes/backdrops/grandes/agente_especial_1955//agente_especial_1955_1.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/53/Blade_Runner_poster.jpg/220px-Blade_Runner_poster.jpg http://cache.io9.com/assets/images/8/2011/04/blade_runner_5.jpg The mixture of classic noire tropes and futurism makes for an entrancing experience. http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01839/Blade_Runner_1839621c.jpg http://onlyhdwallpapers.com/thumbnail/blade_runner_rutger_hauer_desktop_1920x800_hd-wallpaper-895419.jpg http://collider.com/wp-content/uploads/sin-city-movie-poster-01.jpg Shot on a Digital Backlot with the desired lighting and camera set up. Notice how Nick Stahl (Yellow Bastard) is painted blue - this is so that he stands out from the green backdrop and can be edited in post without much complication. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_eICXEK-q6oM/SRjK2MScKNI/AAAAAAAAADY/QmMUblFz_O4/s320/greenscreenexample.jpg http://i156.photobucket.com/albums/t20/jonathanzabel/sin_city__Mickey_Ro_198004g.jpg http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_uVSYfBrfZ4k/Sa4AhCv8TcI/AAAAAAAABIo/wm9nc9VsMo8/s400/SinCity_SetUp.jpg http://www.lacasadeel.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Sin-City-Marv.jpg http://consequentialart.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/miller19.jpg http://files.myopera.com/powerd2007/albums/2186891/goldie%20%26%20marv.jpg http://bit.ly/VEOkBu http://bit.ly/15bVNuO http://bit.ly/XTycbZ http://bit.ly/15Fpbeb http://bit.ly/133AlK4 - Leonardo Machado, 2011 Anon - 2008 - Anon, 2008 Hasraf Haz Dulull. 2012. Hasraf Haz Dulull