Video Copilot Twitter

I’m not one to jump on to new technology or even jump on my bed for that matter but the more I’ve been using Twitter to follow industry news and artist-insights, the more I kinda like it.

Usually I post things to Twitter related to website updates but lately I’ve been considering posting daily news that might be perfect for Twitter. Like how the Video Copilot office was caught in a CRAZY storm and large hail was blasting inside our office door and then I ate a bagel. This is hard-hitting news!

I want to make an effort to post to Twitter all the happenings at Video Copilot and all we need YOU to do is Follow Us! But what’s in it for you? Well I’m glad you asked. Right now we have about 16,000 followers, if we can reach 25,000 followers in the next 2 Weeks from now, I will give away a special downloadable stock-footage/design package with some great stuff, valued at about $25! Plus I won’t Axe you up!

And if we can get to 40,000 followers, I have another surprise waiting…

So what are you waiting for, simply create a free twitter account and then follow us! After all, I have made about 110 free tutorials… what’s one little minute? How shameless Andrew… guilt-tripping people is just wrong! WRONG!! Oh great, now you’re talking to yourself, this isn’t good. We’re going to talk about this.

Click here to follow us, you won’t regret it!

An Axe to Grind

Well if we’re going to do some axe-throwing I figured it would safer (for me) to design it in 3D first. As for Sam, well he still has to watch out for the real axe but don’t worry, we have plenty of band-aids and bactine.

The 3D model is fairly simple, I took a picture of the real axe, and then traced to rod for a lathe modifier like this. The blade was a little trickier but I managed to box model the shape and added turbo smooth.

I used a couple of textures and Vray to render and I may have added a couple of Optical Flares as well. The scene took me about 5 hours to make.

What will be useful here is having the object exist in real life to do close-ups or shots of someone holding the axe and then we can use the 3D axe for other exciting things. Someone pointed out this example in the new Resident Evil trailer of a throwing Axe at the end…

My model is still missing the decorative piece on the top of the Axe but that thing can go to H#))!

Check out render with wire-frame

Axe, Body Spray

And I’m not talking about some old deodorant but the kinda axe that keeps you safe at night. An axe opens up a lot of possibilities, people don’t mess with people that have Axes. It’s a fact.

Now I have this cool axe and I need to do something with it so I’m going to call Sam and see what we can arrange. Maybe we can throw the axe at the camera or even throw a camera at the axe, I don’t know!!

But whatever we do, we’re going to have some fun.

Should Adobe Improve Expressions?

After working through a test project yesterday with the 3D orbit Preset, one of the things I noticed is how slow the expressions made my fairly simple comp. Admittedly, there were several expression connections but there wasn’t crazy rocket science equations that required cloud-computing. So, why so seriously slow?

It never really bothered me before but with the impressive speed performance that the 64-bit native After Effects CS5 brings, I can’t help but think of other areas in need of improvement besides my marriage (JOKE! I love you honey… but we need to talk.)

So before I present this to the folks at Adobe, who have been very open to new ideas, I wanted to post my thoughts and hopefully gauge community interest in such a core feature improvement and where it currently stands.

Look, expressions are fine for linking a few parameters together but for more complex systems, there has to be a way to make it faster and more integrated.  This would lead to more powerful custom presets and functionality and make certain work flows more practical.

Think of the POTENTIAL!! And I’m not talking about your teacher telling your mom, he thinks “Andrew has a lot of potential but he doesn’t apply himself.” What does that mean?!

Anyways, we have a preset called Sure Target 2 that uses expressions to link together a camera with several 3D coordinates to save time animating. Now it does a pretty good job but admittedly, it can get bogged down with too many targets and all the features turned on so we added features to make the lag controllable. For example, we have a feature to bake the expressions into keyframes so you don’t have to reprocess the expressions after it is processed. This is ok when you are done animating but the process to bake the keyframes is a bit slow too. Surely, there must be a way to allow higher level of processing expressions?

One Possible solution with some benefits:
Make expression automatically cache the keyframes so that the values become absolute instead of on-the-fly calculations; this could be a switch you turn on and off too for specific values. Then if these values are changed or affected they could be updated and re-cached, but like I said, the current cache system or keyframe baking is much too slow.

Bottom line is the core system of expressions needs to be improved to make them faster throughout the applications. Do I know how to do that? No. Frankly I don’t even know how it works but programs like 3D Max seems to do a good job and even the python in Blender and Nuke seem well integrated. Though it is hard to compare apples to apples but what could be learned from these structures and applied in AE?

So why not just make a plug-in:
The nice thing about expressions is that 3D layers in your composition still interact, intersect and even cast shadows. A plug-in only renders inside a solid layer and essentially does not interact with the layers in the After Effects 3D space so effects can appear out of order. I guess the plug-in architecture could be changed to use real 3D space but that discussion is for another day.

My feeling is that expressions should be integrated on a core level so that they run as fast as any normal code process and not a layer on top of the system. It should be embedded it into every parameter and allow access to addition data types ( like slider controls) for other information. Why we’re at it, let’s add a real 3D coordinate controller and perhaps and a way to manage some of this stuff to make it easier for people to deploy them without having to be a programming genius.

There are already several great presets that use expressions and if expressions were more capable there would be no limit to what is possible. The new system should allow users to include and exclude groups of layers without having to assign expressions to every layer. These target layers could simply be controlled by a master expression and you choose what settings are inherited.

It’s hard to explain exactly but think about the parenting function. You parent multiple layers together with a simple pick whip and then moving the parent layer moves the child layers at the same time. This idea could be taken further by having a parent option box, that listed the transform parameters that you want to inherit. You could choose to exclude the rotation, so everything else would move accordingly but the rotation would be unaffected. I know there are ways to do this example but the idea is to control many layers without having to add expressions individually to every layer like our 3D fallout preset.

“But I don’t use expressions…”
Whether you use them or not, a new system could allow better and faster tools for YOU, that would be simple to deploy and easy to add or remove without getting a million errors when you delete a referenced slider control. Then pulling out you’re hair because the variables are just names of fruit drinks and 80’s rock bands.

Things like Global Variables, would be nice too. I say THINK BIG, expressions don’t have to be small self-contained functions on every value, but instead they could be the life-blood of every parameter through-out the applications just like in the movie Avatar but you don’t have to wear the 3D glasses.

I should probably proof-read this after lunch but I’m hungry now!

So, what would you like to see? What problems have you had with expression that could be improved?

3D Orbit FX

I found some time to play around with the powerful 3D Orbit preset and a free icon pack. I created small groups of Icons that were linked to a Null Object and then after making 6 groups, I used the 3D orbit preset to control the smaller spinning groups with a larger spinning group. Similar to how the moon orbits the earth and our earth orbits the sun. ( and our sun of course orbits William Shatner.)

Now, I also used expressions to offset the the layers in each group so the icons did not overlap each other like in this tutorial. Then by animating the values of the orbit preset as well as the scale and rotation of the Null Objects, you can come up with some fun stuff. I also set the layers “Auto-Orient Towards Camera” so they would not turn into flat paper and collapse the universe.

Now if it still doesn’t look good… just add some lens flares and take the rest of the day off! That’s what I did, CYA

Watch Sample Video

NEW TUTORIAL: Depth Charge!

In this exciting new tutorial we will explore the underwater abyss from concept to completion! The idea for this tutorial was to take a project and figure out solutions as if we were working from scratch.

I know nobody will EVER work on a submarine movie, it’s not possible but if you learn to solve problems and combine the techniques you have learned, you can do anything. You can even be an astronaut!

We’ll cover many tips such as:

  • Composite multiple explosions to create a underwater charge
  • Build volumetric lighting AND shadows in AE!
  • Basic concept of a 3D animation pipeline for After Effects
  • Combine multiple render passes in AE
  • Add glows and camera shake
  • Tips for adding realistic bubbles and debris

To take this tutorial a step further you can use the Foam plug-in to create great looking bubbles and with a little work you could even add some damage to the submarine too. Another idea is to add a stream of bubbles coming from the propellers and maybe even out of the ship after it gets cracked open… lot’s of fun to have!

Watch Tutorial

Inception Sound FX

I’ve always been a big fan of quality audio and here is a great video that highlights what goes into such amazing sound. And if sound doesn’t get you excited, there are some really cool guns around 4 minutes too!

Motion Blur & Lens Flares NOW AVAILABLE!

We recently added a new feature to Optical Flares to generate native Motion Blur. This makes a lot of sense because when your light source is moving rapidly it becomes blurred and naturally the flare elements should follow. Sorry for the back-to-back plug-in updates but this one is actually fun!

The feature is simple to use, just turn on motion blur for the layer and comp switch, then adjust the samples in the plug-in Motion Blur roll-out.

The light streaks in the sample video are made with Particular and the light is moving with a wiggle expression.

Remember, too many motion blur samples can be slower so adjust the value as needed for your project.

Download Update Now

If you are interested in learning more about Optical Flares with tutorials and examples, click here.

See Sample Video

Underwater Explosions

Alright like most of you, I spent a lot of this weekend thinking about underwater explosions and more specifically… underwater IMPLOSIONS!

See, when an explosion or charge is set off underwater the force of the explosion diminishes and the pressure of the surround water collapses in. Take a minute to visualize this… feel free to include sound effects as needed. So naturally I started experimenting with ways to create the effect using clips in our Action Essentials 2 kit and I think the results are pretty convincing.

For the tutorial I wanted to incorporate it into a cool scene but my bathtub was full of my kids toys so I had to build my own underwater silent destroyer!

The first thing I did was buy a 3D model from an online marketplace, then I brought it into 3DS max for lighting and animation. In After Effects I added the atmosphere and built the exciting implosion!! Stay tuned.

See Screenshots