Video Post Production – Weekly Journal

Week One

On the first day of term we were split into groups of three and were tasked to choose from a selection of scenes, the one we would like to replicate using techniques we have learned and some that we haven’t. We were given the choice of:-

Minority Report – Futuristic screens.

X-Men 2 – Nightcrawler in the White House scene.

Superman – Bullet in the eye scene.

District 9 – Space ship arrive.

Terminator 2 – Mimicking of security guard.

Jason and the Argonauts – Skeleton fight scene.

My group chose to think about replicating a scene from Minority Report, in which they interact with glass screens with images projected onto them. We explained to the group how we would replicate this scene using a transparent plane on 3ds Max and compositing translucent footage over the planes. We then watched as each group explained how they would replicate the scenes they had chosen. It was after this that I found out we would be actually replicating these scenes independantly. While I may be pushing my abilities, I decided I would probably learn the most through investing my time into replicating the X-men scene of Nightcrawler teleporting and fighting in the white house. However, I understand that this is probably the most time consuming and possibly the most difficult of the sequence choices, so, as it uses both camera tracking and 3d modelling I will also look into recreating the District 9 scene in-case it becomes a bit too much to bare.

Initially I had intended on using a completely computer generated character in place of Nightcrawler, however after speaking to my tutor, I was advised to research further into other methods of going about this. While still I won’t be using the exact techniques that were used in the original scene, I feel it would be best to use a completely live action Nightcrawler, with some CGI implemented to include the tail movements. I figure this would be a good opportunity as I have never attempted to composite any virtual limbs onto live action characters previously.

Week Two

The Nightcrawler, Whitehouse infiltration scene is the opening sequence in the movie X2, or X-men 2. The scene was designed by the director with Fink, Smrz and Suwanath, Suwanath being the one saddled with creating the animatics for the fast cut and stunt heavy sequence, before they were given over to Cinesite to perfect.

Nightcrawler is played by Alan Cumming, the main antagonist in the original Spy Kids movie, though most of the flips and kicks are done by a stuntman. This means I will need an agile actor who can actually replicate these stunts, preferably with a suitable appearance to do the close up shots too. The special effects make-up artist for Nightcrawler was a man named Gordon Smith.

The effect of Nightcrawler teleporting from one place to another is referred to in the comic book as Bamf-ing.

“Even with a $110 million dollar budget it was a mad rush to reach the deadline on time. ” – A quote from Fink, oh dear.

This week I learned there is not much valuable information on the scene I wish to replicate, other than one horrific quote that makes it seem like a lot of effort for a one man job.

Week Three

This week I decided I should look further into the techniques used in the scene and how I should go about recreating them. Luckily most of them are things I have tried before.

The Bamf effect is something that could easily be replicated by a semi -retarded goldfish using after effects for the first time. For the sake of education though, here is a short tutorial on how I will be doing it.

I also had to look into camera tracking. Though the videos posted here are not the ones I learnt the technique from as we were supplied much more useful ones in class. These videos are pure space fillers for points.

One other thing I had to look into was a very small part of the scene in which a security guard is thrown through a pane of glass. While normally used for creating Cityscapes I realised the 3DS Max add-on “Greeble” was an efficient way of recreating this. I used this tutorial to learn how to use it in such a way.

Week Four

This week my first presentation is due in, a big part of the grading criteria for it was a complete set of clear storyboards. I decided to do the imagery on Flash while waiting to print them to add notes, I think this was the best option as I knew I’d have to add a fair few extra bits as I went along, showing the camera movements and such.  They are obviously meant to be on paper to help with shooting, but here they are in order. Week Five As I have only really dabbled in creating 3d characters and props I thought it would be nice to try creating a virtual environment for my scene recreation. While this wasn’t how it was done in the actual scene, it seems a logical alternative to a multi million dollar studio set and I think it would be a pretty good learning curve, whatever the outcome. After a few rough sketches I had established what corridors I would need and what angles I would need to view them at to recreate the scene as Nightcrawler is running riot past the security guards in the corridors. I realised I needed only a few corridors of different sizes. Initially I planned out where the walls would have to be and built up on 3ds Max from those foundations. After creating the walls I added skirting boards, carpet and pillars holding arches. This gave me the chance to play around with a fair few modifiers just to see the effects they had. I also needed props to keep the walls from seeming bare. In the actual scene the walls are filled with large artwork in pictureframes. I decided I should make a decent frame without an image in it and resize it appropriately depending on it’s location within the Whitehouse.

I then took the bases of the pillars I had already created and tweeked them a bit to make a stand for busts I wanted to have scattered around the Whitehouse corridors. The busts will be of bodyparts from the character I created for another module I am doing at the same time.

I made a quick video render of the Whitehouse before I added actual pictures to the frames on the walls. It looks like this.

Unfortunately, as this was my first time creating a proper virtual set, I accidentally created  a few of the initial objects with a higher poly count than needed, which meant that once they had been repeated a fair few times it was quite a large file, once lighting and cameras came into it, the computers I had access to struggled to even open the file, let animate with it. I tried to counter this by using the OptimizerPro modifier, but this didn’t do much.

Week Six

I wanted to create a virtual tail to composite between the Nightcrawler character and the virtual environment. I created the initial shape for this on Sculptris.

I then found a scaley texture I could apply to the tail and turned it blue.

When the texture was applied it looked like this.

While at first the tail was straight, once I had applied bones to the tail I was able to move it in the way it moves in the actual scene.

Week Seven

This week I focussed on getting together any props I might need for filming. There is a shot right near the end of the scene in which Nightcrawler comes very close to the screen and snarls. This exposes his teeth a lot so I decided to invest in some false teeth that look similar. These came with Stay-Put putty which keeps the teeth in place and looking realistic.

There is not too many shots through the scene in which you can actually make out Nightcrawler’s skin tone. However for the close up shots that clearly show it, he is a shiny, almost metallic blue colour. I think I managed to find the right colour in Snazaroo make up.

Since most of the shots will be filmed in the blue screen room, I realised that the make-up would make the character completely disappear when I key the blue-screen out, so I’d have to shoot the close up shots with a green screen. I also thought about the amount of flips and ragdoll flying that happens throughout the scene. I figured since all filming will be done in a blue screen room I could use a blue Morph-suit to throw my actors about and slow the motions down. This will stop the second person from being seen in the footage.

Week Eight

This week I actually realised how much work I was actually preparing to do in conjunction to my other modules and it dawned on me how much time I would actually have to invest to accurately replicate the Nightcrawler scene to even a fraction of the extent at which I’d be happy.

Luckily I noticed that the Nightcrawler scene, with the addition of the BAMF teleport effect and the glass smashing effect, relies on pretty much the same techniques as District 9 though on a much bigger scale.

Just the first 27 seconds of this scene would have to be replicated, which I feel is easily doable.

If I swap to the District 9 scene at this point in the project, I still feel I could recreate the scene to a high standard. First though I thought it would be best if I researched into how it was created.

I decided to look at a few examples of other people trying to replicate the scene and how they have gone about it.

I then watched a tutorial on how to go about creating the effect, this helped a bit though through what I’ve noticed about the actual footage I wont be following the tutorial exactly.

District 9 is produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, which means that of course the virtual special effects are done by Weta Digital. Renown for their world class ability to create amazing scenes in films such as Lord of the Rings and King Kong. However, as none of the clip relies on particularly hard techniques I don’t feel that bit of the film required even a small fraction of the movie’s $30 million budget.

The first thing I noticed is that 2 fairly long shots within it are very simple static interviews that really need no skill to replicate. The rest however is either also deceptively easy or hard to produce, depending on where your talents lie.

Aside from the spaceship, which I will look into afterwards, the shots used seem to be intercut, possibly with just cityscape images. While I’m not overly sure it is actually what they are doing I feel this would be a simple yet effective technique to experiment, as it is an effective way to add depth to a shot. When a spaceship is added between the two image layers it makes it seem much bigger.

Here are a few images of Leeds cityscapes that could be intercut with foreground footage.

Here is a quick attempt at a still version of what I mean.

The next thing I noticed was the quality of the footage, as most of the shooting is in a verité/handheld style, the footage is actually pretty poor quality to add the hand held authenticity. I did notice that the foreground of the shot is much clearer than the cityscape in the distance.

The filming was primarily done using digital Red One cameras to keep the hand held feel about it. Any CCTV or documentary style footage however was shot on Sony EX1/EX3 XDCAM-HD.

It would be easy to twist and tilt this footage all together while enlarging the layers at different rates, this combined with a lot of blurring where the footage overlaps should create a very realistic and distant feel.

The last thing I looked at is probably the first thing looked at by anyone else doing this sequence. The spaceship.

I personally don’t feel this deserves much of my attention as I am not too shabby at box modelling on 3ds Max, which I will use to create it.

However I did notice that it seems the footage of the ship, especially on one of the shots is also layered, in much the same way as the environment. I might give this a go as well, if not just blurring part of the layer that the ship is on.

To make my sequence a bit more original I will be creating a spaceship on 3DS Max, Though it seems I only really need an image of a spaceship to replicate the scenes. I figure research into loads of different spaceships and UFOs would be pointless as the one from District 9 is quite distinct and I would like to base my ship on the appearance of that one.

I also learnt about a 3DS Max plugin called Greeble, this not only allows for simple creation of city scapes, but would also be good for adding a nice texture to the surface of my spaceship.

Here is a short video explaining the basics of what Greeble does and how it does it.

I also found another add-on called Suicidator for Blender 3d, this is something else I’d like to look into as I am very interested in improving my skill using Blender as I think freeware will be of massive use while I try to pick up freelance work through university.

I will experiment with this and the difference between using a virtual and real life set over the Christmas holidays.

Week Nine

As I have changed what I am doing, I decided to start over, the first step was storyboarding. I decided to do my storyboards through the use of screenshots as it was fairly hard to convey small things occurring in low detail drawings.

I also had to think about how I can achieve these effects Also, since I now have to film on location and not just use a virtual environment I had a look for the location I felt would best represent the location in the scene. I found a place I felt would be fairly easy to access when filming. Luckily I managed to find a view suitable within Leeds. Here is a shot of the location in relation to the university.

Here is a look from the view up there.

I also found a good shot of a busy city road on the Headrow in Leeds City Center.

Week Ten

This week I decided I should film, I was planning to film Nightcrawler over the Christmas Holidays as this usually means a completely free blue screen room for a fortnight and as I don’t think I could shoot that whole lot in even around 5 2 hour sessions. Anyway to recreate District 9 I need to shoot off of Headingley Campus I had to fill out another risk assessment form for high risk filming.

I had used animation techniques in a lesson last year which allowed me to create perspective  and add depth to two dimensional imagery. Here are a few examples of what I mean.

An effect used in films such as Jaws.





I decided it would be a cool thing to try and do for this project to add a little bit of quirky to it and to gain a better grasp on how to add the depth with video footage, while still using all the same post production techniques.

All special effects shots in the sequence are created completely with still imagery and animated objects.

It’s under the 45 second recommended runtime but all the effects are present and the initial clip was only 33 seconds long.


While I know this wouldn’t be the conventional way of going about creating the special effect, the pass based rendering is still clear, I used a combination of both Flash and After Effects to create animation within the scenes.

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