Useful tools

In the lighting world, one of the most useful items is a good cart. Although it’s not a light, or a stand, or something to rig, you use it on every production. When it comes to improving workflow, a good cart is second-to-none other equipment and an absolute must for any serious production. It’s the backbone of the Grip & Electric (G&E) world.

It’s not often that I come across such an essential tool in the post world in 3D animation, but I might just have recently! There are many 3D programs. At Fifth Door we prefer Cinema 4D. Every program has its value and strengths, but one of the many qualities of C4D is being open-sourced. Anyone who can code can create a plug-in for this ever-expanding program.

Now, anyone who has used Microsoft Office programs knows the power of the Undo button, and some programs you even have unlimited undo’s. Keep that image in your mind for a minute. A major challenge in the 3D world is that we work with a LOT of objects at the same time, with each of them being its own entity. After hours, if not days, of hard work, if you want to undo something from 30 changes ago, and you don’t want to undo all the rest of the work that you’ve done. Because, well, who would?


(Don’t ask)

That’s where this story is leading too. This incredibly cheap, but damn useful tool allows you go back on individual elements.

Basically, you attach this tag to any object you may want to go back and forth on, and hit the button. Before this plug-in, a lot of animators used to duplicate the object on another layer just for safe keeping. But it gets tedious and very messy quickly. Imagine you’re stuck with 6 duplicates that you may not need, BUT you don’t want to get rid of them just in case!

It doesn’t save it automatically, but it’s just a press of the button, and bam, you’ve got all the important stages of your model within a complex project. Again, C4D’s open source allows many groups like EyeDesyn and GSG can develop these incredibly useful tools without charging an arm and a leg.

Maybe it’s just me, but to anyone who uses C4D I recommend making this a part of your workflow, you’ll thank yourself later for this purchase (c’mon it’s only 24 bucks!). It won’t make plumes of fire and smoke, but I bet you’ll use it on every single job, just like the trusty cart on set. The most useful tool really is the one that you use most frequently no matter how large or small.

Here’s a link to the website, which has videos on how to use it, and much much more!

EyeDesyn StorageBin

Post Production

Sorry for the delay from the last blog entry. The last 6 months had been action packed and exciting. Lots of new lighting projects and the company is now expanded into post production graphics including 2D and 3D animations. It’s a bold new direction and we spent last year solidifying resources and relationships.

This month I’d like to talk about one of our first animated projects. The animation was an American Greatest Cookies commercial contest, to which we won the Editors Pick. Our task was to come up with the concept and produce a commercial based on their creative brief. AGC wanted something that was simple, yet tugged at heart strings…with cookies. I don’t know about you, I like cookies and all, but I can’t remember the last time a big event in my life involved a cookie. Nonetheless we came up with this.

Pretty simple. Told from the perspective of a child, the story shows this girl getting a cookie for every milestone achievement. When her sister came down with a mysterious illness (ominous!), she shared her cookie, and then all is well.

Any graphics people reading this I of course know there are many many ways to do things, this is just how I chose to do this animation.

Drawing from my heavy Flash animation background I animated all the stick figures in Flash because Flash files can be imported directly into After Effects. In Flash we took advantage of the Bone tool that connects objects and make them into a skeletal structure.

Flash

Also the Flash files can be imported against an alpha (no background).

The background is made up of a combination of photos and video. Only the pages turning are actual video, everything else was photo. We took pictures of notebook paper on an old desk and put them together in Photoshop, making sure there was room for the video pages to overlay. It helps that After Effects can import raw Photoshop files.

Desk

Now we begin production in AE. After laying in the background, we made a camera and presto, zoomed in with camera motion and alter the speed of our animation. Even though it’s 2D, we viewed it from a 3D camera within After Effects, so all layers needed to be 3D within AE. Next, we used an effect in AE called page turn to well, make the pages turn. The main challenge was to pay attention to details like the holes on the paper, and such. Little details like that could really give it away.

Page Turn

After that it’s mostly just fine-tuning and tweaking to make sure everything looks good. I always say watch it enough times until you can’t see anything you’d regret showing your harshest critic. We got music from the band, Birdwatchers United, and voice work by Serena Demello. She was actually the voice of both characters, I tweaked her voice a bit in Audition to sound slightly different.

Final

I know some people prefer to do everything in one program, but we wanted to get in the mode of using multiple, because it is our firm belief that in the long run, no one program can do it all. Lately we’re doing a lot of 3D animations in Cinema 4D, but we take that into AE and add a lot of work to it. Just like in Grip and Lighting, no one tool fits every single job, you need a whole truck of tools! In the end it’s about what the client needs, and getting them the best results possible.