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Blog posts from April 2012

Time Based Media: Week 5

Hi You!

So, as promised here is my final update on my Time Based Media project.

This past week (aside from doing various wedding / animation related tasks), I’ve been finishing off the music video I’ve been working on for the Rocking Horse track by “NK”.

In-Beat Signage

I’ve added the in-beat signage to the entirety of the music where there are drum beats, and have replaced the “snare” sign posts with “naturally taller” traffic lights. This adds a little more variety to the foreground items.

I’d originally had the traffic lights continue passing from left to right regardless of the direction of travel, but rather than feeling surreal this just proved a bit awkward and distracting. So I scrapped that idea.

As you will see, the drum patterns in the latter part of the track are rather different to those in the earlier part of the track.

To make things easier for me in terms of copying and pasting each sign animation clip, I played the audio/video through within Vegas and pressed “M” in time with the beats as I heard them, which created a range of markers (vertical lines within the project editing window) for later easy placing of the clips.

It required a few listens before I was confident enough to do it, as you might appreciate on listening!

Adding More Interest Early On: Balloons

I was aware that the first backwards pass through our scenery didn’t really add much to what’d occurred in the first forwards pass. So I decided to do something to resolve that.

The key change in this section of the music is the introduction of soft guitar notes, and I wanted the video to react to that.

My original idea was a load of hot air. Hot air balloons, specifically (…sorry). Floating past in the background.

I’d used a similar technique to that for the signs:

  • Cutting out balloons from a photo
  • Saving as transparent PNGs
  • Compositing into a video
  • Using Event Pan/Crop to simulate them passing by

To make them fit with the soft guitars within the music, I’d used multiple balloons to come in with each note, and at heights reflecting the position on sheet music:

I was pretty happy with this.

Unfortunately, compositing these into the scenery of the main video without having them appear to be “in front” of the foreground trees proved too complex – it would require chroma keying the foreground trees and placing the balloons in a layer behind that – and the end result featured very obvious white halos around the trees. It, frankly, just wasn’t working.

Adding More Interest Early On: Colour and Light Rays

The balloons didn’t work, but I wanted to add some further interest to the first backwards pass, using the soft guitar parts as my basis.

This time I decided to use the existing footage only. I utilised the HSL Adust effect on the scenery footage to create a “cooler” (green/blue) feel to the scenery when the guitar parts weren’t playing.

Then, in line with when the guitar parts were playing, I composited a copy of the scenery footage over the clip, which had a warmer hue to the base scenery and also extended the length of the rays in the Light Rays effect.

I chopped this so it would only be visible during the guitar parts, fading in quickly (1/10s) with the guitar and fading out slowly (2s) once finished. This gave the feeling that the guitar parts were “shining over” the scenery.

Further Colour Changes

Due to the changes in hue over the first backwards scenery sweep, I felt the journey through the music could be reflected in the scenery throughout the entire video – therefore in the hues are subtley modified into various blue/green/golden hues throughout the remainder of the track. This aids the flow of the video, and continues to enforce the surreal/dream-like feel.


In the final reverse sweep through the scenery, the music is at its most complex – not only through the drum patterns, but also as there’s a “tick-tok tick-tok” effect playing through the track, which I’d only noticed in the past week!

This allowed for a final effect to really build up the video to this peak within the music. I wanted to create a feel of the scenery “swelling” in line with the tick-tok feel in the music.

To do this, I:

  • Made an in-synch copy of the scenery layer composited above the original scenery footage
  • Used Event Pan/Crop feature to zoom in/out of the scenery footage in the new layer, so the scenery effectively swells/contracts in line with every other tick-tok” beat (doing it on each beat made it look like we were in a rave πŸ™‚ )
  • Lowered the alpha level of the new clip, so it appears a “ghostly” version of the scenery is swelling/contracting over the standard one – this yet again adds to the surreal/dream-like feel.

Fine-tuning / Improvements

Once all of the above were added, I went through the video to fine-tune existing elements:

  • Airplanes – these now have a much less obvious background around them (through some fine-tuning of the Clip Constrast FX plug in and some nursing of the Chroma Key settings).
  • Passenger – following a re-shoot of the passenger clip against a painted-white brick wall I could use Chroma Keying to completely remove the original background, so we no longer see two sets of scenery flying past during the intro/outro passenger scenes.

And… that’s it. Phew. All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with the end result:

I hope you agree it’s an improvement on the previous version, and that it fits in reasonably with the music.

If you don’t, then maybe wait a while before telling me. At least until I’ve got my grade back so I can agree/disagree with you. πŸ™‚

‘Til next time!


Posted on Wed 25 Apr in Uni,Video Production Journal with No Comments

Hi, Robot


Well, after a week largely featuring preparation for and celebration of my mates Matt and Rachel coming together as husband and wife (wooohooooooo πŸ˜€ ), there’s not much yet to report for my final Uni “Time Based Media” production log.

However, it’ll be here in the next couple of days as I blitz through the remaining tasks and provide a lovely, polished video for you to enjoy.

I hope.

In the mean time, today was the first set of tutorials for our new module, for which we will be creating an interactive “e-Learning”* system for Key Stage 2 pupils of ages 7-11. Alongside the tutorials, I had a chance to play around in Flash a bit.

I thought I’d share with you the rather bizzare thing I knocked together. It involves the following exciting things:

  • Use of Alpha, tint and blur properties
  • Shape, motion and classic tweening
  • Guide paths
  • Nested movie clips
  • Me saying “Hello?”

All of the above are not only rather basic in the world of Flash, but also eclipsed by this final exciting inclusion to it:

  • An old piece of background music that came on the Support CD of my parents’ AST Microcomputers 486DX2 in 1994.

Oh hell yeah.


That reminds me: I really need to get on with making the new PunBelievable toon…



(* The “e” stands for electrode)

Posted on Mon 23 Apr in Creative,Uni with Comments (4)

Time Based Media: Week 4

Hi There!

So, after the previous week of footage-related disappointment, I’ve spent this week utilising the footage I did get and making some drafts of my video.

An Aside: “Oh, Adobe…”

Originally I’d planned to work on this footage using a combination of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premier Pro.

I must admit defeat; not only do both programs struggle somewhat in the “mere” 4GB of RAM on this “slow” i5-M480 laptop, but more importantly the interfaces are, well, unpleasant at best.

I could easily spend an entire blog post listing how the interfaces of Adobe Premier Pro manage to defy logic and intuition (in fact are sometimes entirely counter-intuitive). I could compare the aforementioned interfaces with those in, say, Sony Vegas to explain how a program can still be very powerful without obfuscating even the most basic of functions.

However, that’s for another day and as my earlier-in-the-week Adobe Video Software Rage has subsided it just wouldn’t be as enjoyable to write. πŸ™‚

So, instead, I’ll summarise with this: after several hours of getting my footage to line up, stretch, fade and have cropping applied to it, I realised that I could’ve done all of it in Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum within about 15 minutes.

At that point, I put on my practical hat. Projects in Premier and After Effects were saved, and Vegas was opened.

15 minutes later I was indeed at the “Adobe Premier >3 Hour” point, and bloody glad of it.

First Draft

A few hours later I’d created a first draft of my video, using a number of Vegas techniques such as Event Pan/Crop, Event FX chains (including Chroma Keying), Fade Envelopes, Clip Time Stretching.

Below is a sample of the first draft video, and if you’re interested here are some details on how I made it:

Fitting the Footage to 8 Bars of Music

This involved:

  • Zooming into the clips so the foreground walls are not included – they were moving too fast for the pace of the song)
  • Merging two scenery clips together to elongate to approximately 8 bars
    • Found a point that was easy to mix on both clips (a bit with lots of fast foreground and little background so the switch won’t be obvious)
    • Zoomed one of the clips a little to match the heights of the scenery
    • Moved the mix point so it was as a wall passes on the revealed clip – thus further masking the join
    • Quickly faded one clip to the other to ensure there was no awareness of “two scenes merging”
  • Stretching scenery clips to match 20 second 8 bar sections

Adding some scenery to the beat

In order to provide the intended illusion that the scenery is responding to the music, I composited a transparent PNG of a cropped “Caravan Site This Way” sign post I’d taken on my footage-gathering expedition.

So that the sign would move past in time with drum beats, I placed the “clip” of the PNG (which I’d sized at around 0.25 seconds) into the timeline, and then used the Event Pan/Crop function to set the clip’s initial camera position to the far left (so the “Caravan Site This Way” sign post was off screen), and then final (0.25 seconds later) position to the far right. This gives the effect, on play back, of the sign flying past the camera, in time with the beat.

Adding a little bit of horizontal linear blur and a whole lot of copy and paste later, we have a to-the-drumbeat set of signs flying past!

Going surreal

As I passed Gatwick last week I took the chance to film a Ryanair plane on its way to the runway. To add the intended air of surrealism to the video, I’ve composited the plane itself on the video… but it doesn’t quite pay attention to the direction of the car…

This was done in two stages:

  1. Creating a video of the plane footage, zoomed in so the other parts of the scenery (bushes, walls etc) were cropped out
  2. Compositing the new, zoomed video of the plane over the main video, using the Chroma Keying effect to both remove the background cloud and also add a washed out, semi-transparent effect to the plane.

Although the plane footage needs to be stabilised, I was quite pleased with the overall results:

Second Draft

Next steps were to add a “passenger”, increase the dream feel of the piece, fine tune the beat-based scenery and fine tune/add even more surreal sections. Again, you can see the result below – this time it’s the entire video

Adding a passenger

At the moment I’ve not got some passenger-in-the-car footage, so I’ve composited the footage I took of my mate Matt driving his car. As a result, the chroma keying I’ve performed on it hasn’t really worked (as it’s a varied, moving background), but it’s only a temporary thing so don’t panic. I’ll get some footage of a passenger in the car on a blue/green background in the next week and all will be good πŸ™‚

Making it more dream-like

In order to help with the dream feel of the piece, I’ve added a white vignette around the video, used Color Curves to super-saturate the sky (removing any detail of the grey clouds) and a subtle Light Rays effect to have the trees / scenery “shine out” at the camera a little. I think this creates a sense of non-reality and dreaming quite nicely!

Fine-tuning the beat-based scenery

Not much to say here other than that I created a “tall” and “short” version of the sign clip, and now have the short sign go past with each bass beat and the tall sign with each snare hit.

It’s made it look a lot more active. So far, I’ve only done it for one of the directions, but this will be expanded later on!

Fine-tuning the surreal areas

To really emphasise the surreal feeling with the plane, I’ve now… well… you’ll see towards the end of the video. It gets a bit busy around the airport off-camera πŸ™‚

Next Steps

There’s still more to do in terms of adding elements to the scenery (e.g. the in-beat signs will be continuing to fly past in a more surreal manner in the latter half of the song), plus there’s a good bit of fine-tuning to go on the various elements (e.g. perhaps a slow zoom in/out of the scenery will allow the scenery to “flow” better with the changing song sections). I’ll be doing this in the next week.

It seems that despite some changes due to the footage issues encountered, I’ve been able to retain a lot of the intented feel of the video, so I’m quite relieved!

I’d welcome your thoughts and ideas, of course.



Posted on Mon 16 Apr in Uni,Video Production Journal with No Comments

littleBits: Lego Technic Eat Your Heart Out

I fondly remember the days spent as a boy playing around with my various Lego Technic sets. It was always satisfying to complete a pre-designed construction (my Power Crane was truly a beauty to behold), but the most fun had with those sets was to play around with the motors, pneumatic pumps and various switches. Planes, etch-a-sketch type drawing devices… all sorts of bits.

I also remember the feeling of satisfaction upon finally getting my printed circuit board (which I’d painstakingly drawn out and had created in an acid bath) to connect to a light sensor, power supply and LED to create a light-sensitive lamp.

It took blooming ages, and would’ve been so much easier had a cross between manual circuit board creation and Lego Technic existed.

But nothing like that did. Or does. Does it?

Enter littleBits

Here’s Ayah Bdeir’s TED lecture on what littleBits are, and their potential:

SO good, right? Just think of the things you can create with these, and also the learning potential for kids.

Personally I think if schools can purchase various sets of these, and also (eventually) get their hands on a Raspberry PI, we could see a whole generation of kids who are much more in touch with the technology that we find ourselves understanding less and less about as time goes on.

Not only that, these could inspire future engineers and designers to come up with fascinating solutions to problems we’re not even aware of yet.

I’ve bookmarked the littleBits web site, because I think there’ll be a lot of interesting things coming from the community on it.

‘Til next time,


Posted on Fri 13 Apr in Technology,Thoughts with Comments (2)

Time Based Media: Week 3

Hi You!

Well, after a hiatus on the Time Based Media project (hey, we’ve all got to have a holiday sometime!) I set back to it in the past week, working on finalising my storyboard and then going out to film the footage.

Storyboard Modification

I successfully completed the storyboard based on my previous intentions. I reviewed this with my peers and tutors at the University and the idea was slightly tuned as follows: rather than just having the scenery be modified with every pass back through it, I could have the newer parts of the scenery float slight above the ground to further emphasise the “dream like” feel of the piece.

Filming: Getting the Footage

I went ahead with filming in the past week, with the following requirements:

  • Smooth, gentle passing through countryside.
  • Hills moving past, with little/no foreground items.
  • Slow movement, so it could be sped up/slowed down for the main piece/changing direction sections.
  • Good visibility and no rain.

Fortunately I didn’t leave filming to this week (as it’s been miserable all weekend and looks like it will be for the remainder of the week), so I managed to get some shots of sun-lit fields.

In addition, I obtained some still shots of various bits of scenery to later composite on the video.

Filming: The Issues

However, despite the kind help of my friend Matt (who drove me around various parts of the Sussex Downs), the shots I collected were blighted with the following:

  • Bumpy roads: Sussex Roads are bumpy. Even the “smooth” ones. As a result many (if not all) of the shots had a number of jolts in them.
  • Lots of foreground items, always: from fences to other cars, trees to houses – meaning “clean” shots of distant hills weren’t possible.
  • Faster movement: even during the middle of the day, the roads were busy enough that we never had a free run to be able to slowly creep through scenery.

Filming: Tackling the Issues

So. What to do?

I realised that I could resolve the “bumpy” issue by filming from a train window as opposed to a car window – and give the impression that it was still from a car window by later compositing the inside of the car / person in the car over the “from the train” footage.

This was still a risk as I couldn’t guarantee that there would be any “foreground free” stretches along a journey.

However, I took the chance and filmed a number of stretches of my journey from Brighton to London Victoria on Friday. This resolved the “bumpy” issue and also provided a couple of foreground-free sections.

Sadly, these were very short (a few seconds at most), and because I couldn’t control the speed of the train (I didn’t ask the driver as, well, it was a Southern Bank Holiday service so I was anticipating a good deal of 1-10mph stretches…) it wasn’t possible to get any slow motion scenery movement.

Next Steps

This week I’m going to film some more “from train” footage, and start working on compositing the footage together to see what I can salvage from what I’ve got so far.

Realistically I believe I may need to simplify the idea, to remove the “going backwards and forwards” approach and replace with a “going through the same 2 seconds of scenery over and over, but with extra bits composited on it” method.

This should still retain the overall feel of the video, as “floating” scenery elements will replicate the dream-like feel of the original “rocking back-and-forth through the scenery” idea.

By next weekend I intend to have some draft footage to show you!

Til then, adios!


Posted on Mon 09 Apr in Uni,Video Production Journal with No Comments

DIV Scrollarama!


I’ve been playing a little this afternoon with HTML/CSS/JavaScript, specifically regarding movement around a page to emulate multiple pages.

In doing so, I decided to create a quick (and basic) demo of this function, with two layers of parallax scrolling going on in the background:

Preview of HTML Scrolling About Demo

Click here to have a play!

It works fine in Chrome, FF 11, IE 9 on Windows, plus Dolphin on Android. No idea about any other browsers – but please let me know πŸ™‚

(Doing this has inspired me to have a number of other ideas, which may well make their way to these pages in future!)



Posted on Wed 04 Apr in Creative,Fun with No Comments

A Trip to Brighton Beach

Yesterday morning I packed a sketchbook and pencils and headed off to Brighton Beach.

You’ll probably be utterly gob-smacked at this, but in my opinion trading my laptop and office desk for a sketchpad, pebbles, waves, sunshine and a gentle breeze was a brilliant idea.

I managed to get a fair bit of planning for my future Voice Over world domination (read: “reasonable success”) done, along with a little bit of pencil sketching and a fair few photos.

I thought I’d share some of the photos with you, as I attempted to be a little arty with them.

I call the series “Photos of Some Pebbles on Brighton Beach”. I think it’s pretty catchy:

1/4: Pebbles
Pebble Photo 1/4

2/4: Hillside
Pebble Photo 2/4

3/4: Out to Sea
Pebble Photo 3/4

4/4: Rubbish
Pebble Photo 4/4

I think I prefer 3/4, but I’m not sure. Whatcha think?



Posted on Tue 03 Apr in Photos with Comments (2)