Simple, elegant screenwriting.

  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
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    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz

Entries in Visual Effects (83)


Red Giant Universe

From the Red Giant blog:

Red Giant Universe is a community that gives members access to fast and powerful free tools for editing, filmmaking, visual effects and motion design.

Every tool in the Universe library of effects and transitions is GPU-accelerated, both Mac and Windows compatible, and works across multiple host applications including: After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and Motion. The Universe library of tools is continuously growing—new effects and transitions are added regularly, and existing tools are updated often, based on user feedback.

A free subscription gets you access to tons of effects. A paid subscription ($10 per month, or $99 per year) gets you more. Don’t like subscriptions? Buy a perpetual license for $399.

How can Red Giant promise to keep Universe growing so quickly? Because they built Supernova, an internal development tool that’s like a 3D printer for plug-ins:

If you want to be a part of this today, you can sign up for the public beta.

Inverse-disclaimer: Universe doesn’t fall within my Creative Director duties at Red Giant. I don’t have anything to do with it (yet). I’m just a huge fan. And speaking of being a huge fan, the directing/producing team of Seth Worley and Aharon Rabinowitz did such a rockin’ job on both this video and the teaser.


Cinefex Classic on Kickstarter

Cinefex needs your help to make something great.

The first issue of Cinefex I bought had Robocop on the cover. It was bagged and boarded at Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis, and I remember thinking it was expensive, and really fancy. I read it cover-to-cover, not understanding much of anything I was reading. When I got to the end, I read it again.

The Robocop article still stands out as one of my favorites. I went back and read it several more times, and with subsequent issues providing context, each new reading brought new understandings. It’s not only where I learned about zirc hits and methylcellulose, but also where I learned about Paul Verhoeven’s philosophy about violence in movies, and how an MPAA-ordered cut-down of the film’s more violent scenes had the unintended effect of transforming satirical, intentionally over-the-top violence into just plain violence. This wasn’t just an article about how some visual effects were accomplished. This was a juicy, practical essay on the filmmaking process.

Cinefex is still great, but nothing they’ve printed in recent years matches the infectious, inspirational glory of the back catalog. Here are some tidbits I remember to this day:

  • The elevator shaft that McClane throws the explosives down in Die Hard is a miniature, built in forced-perspective. This was, in part, to allow the model to be smaller—but the real, ingenious reason for the perspective trick was to make the explosion seem to accelerate up toward the camera.
  • When filming the motion-control miniature of the flying Delorean landing in the rain for Back to the Future II, the model was covered in vaseline, which was smoothed and re-stippled with a toothbrush on every frame, to simulate the wet car being pelted by raindrops.
  • Speaking of crazy stop-motion, in Robocop, ED–209’s machine-gun fire was animated by hand, as an in-camera effect. On each frame with gunfire, Tippet’s crew would shut off the set lighting and the rear projection, insert a tiny light bulb into the miniature gun barrel, hand-sculpt a cotton muzzle flash over the bulb, and re-expose the frame.

The deceptively minimal writing in these articles made these ideas and techniques seem not only understandable, but downright doable. Every issue would light a fire in my brain that could only be doused in my backyard, with a Super 8 camera, a cable release, and probably some unsafe household chemicals.

This was my education in visual effects. Cinefex is the reason I didn’t sound like an idiot when applying for film school, and for my first job.

When I landed my dream job at ILM, I thought maybe I’d “made it.” It was when I was first interviewed for a Cinefex article that I knew it was true.

Cinefex launched a great iPad version of their magazine last year, and each time I launch it, I see that floating wall of covers, and wish that I could have my dog-eared, worn-away back issues in this searchable, slick format.

And that’s exactly what they’re going to do—but they need our help.

Cinefex Classic is a Kickstarter campaign to bring the Cinefex back catalog to the iPad. There are ten days to go in the campaign, and they are close. Let’s get them to their goal so we can all have access to this amazing archive.


After Effects Next

Adobe has revealed the new features they’ll be showing off at NAB. Here’s some of what’s new in After Effects:

  • Cinema 4D Lite and live 3D pipeline between Cinema 4D and After Effects
  • The Refine Edge tool, which adds crazy good soft edge matting to the already amazing Roto Brush.
  • Snapping. This doesn’t sound big, but it actually is. Make a cube in seconds rather than minutes.
  • Bicubic resampling. Ahem. Finally.

Read more here. And here’s a good rundown of what’s new in Premiere—looks like they focused on solid usability features rather than glitz, which is great to see.

Now, back to After Effects. Cinema 4D Lite will be bundled with this “next” version, and you’ll be able to create a C4D scene right from within AE. You create the 3D animation in C4D, but you can change your view on the scene using the AE camera. Then, when you render your After Effects project, the C4D scene is rendered on-the-fly. This is not just a welcome simplification of the standard render-import-render workflow, it puts powerful 3D features into any After Effects session. Pretty cool.

Creative Cloud subscribers will get these new features as soon as they are released, which, I suspect, will create a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings about the whole software-as-a-subscription model.

A big, personal congrats to my friends on the After Effects team. Nice work all!


A Night to Remember

Last night was a rough one for the Visual Effects community.

I was about to embark down the road of writing up the evening’s events, as if I was some kind of journalist.

But I’m not. I’m a director, and a visual effects artist. I’m a fan of film who fantasized about making movies ever since seeing Star Wars at age five. I’m also a survivor of a VFX company bankruptcy.

So I know what it’s like to be an artist who feels overworked and under appreciated.

And I know what it feels like to start your dream company, and see it collapse.

I also know what it feels like to be a director who can’t afford all the VFX I’d like in my own work.

And here’s what I have to say:


Congratulations to the visual effects crew of Life of Pi. I am simply blown away by your work. Your tigers and waves and artistry and technical mastery made me laugh and cry and revel in how wonderful movies can be. I know how hard it is to do what you did, and even though I know exactly how you did it, I have no idea how you pulled it off.

Congratulations to Bill Westenhofer, for your amazing work to be sure, but also for the nonobvious gift of being cut off at the exact right moment to make the experience awful enough for all involved that the world took notice. You did the right thing by starting off with proper acknowledgments, and then the right thing again by jumping right into the controversy. You came off as a class act, and as is so often the case with visual effects and cinema, you’ve captivated the world’s attention with what they didn’t get to see.

Congratulations to Claudio Miranda, who I know in my heart appreciates the hell out of the work that shares the frame with his. Although he failed to mention the VFX crew as their images danced behind him on stage, he later acknowledged it to press backstage.

Congratulations to the 400+ VFX artists who demonstrated in a way that got all the right kinds of attention. That’s not easy. As a nation, we suck at it. As a group of nerdy artists, you nailed it.

Congratulations to Ang Lee, for both your talent behind the lens, and also for the gift that awaits you. You’ve put your foot in your mouth twice now about how you wish visual effects could be less expensive, and in doing so, I dare hope that you’ve made it nearly impossible for yourself to continue to ignore the nuances of the situation. A wonderful education awaits you. Please listen to the thoughts and frustrations of the visual effects artists whose work you presided over so masterfully.

Their stories are true.