Mountain Workshops, 2011

Once again this year I had a the pleasure of volunteering as a staffer at the Mountain Workshops sponsored by Western Kentucky University’s Photojournalism program. As a ’92 grad of WKU‘s PJ program, it’s always a blast to be immersed in this intense “boot camp” environment for a few days along with an awesome and inspiring staff. What started over 30 years ago as a black and white still photojournalism workshop has evolved into a high tech, multimedia cross-discipline, online, twitter’d, vimeo’d and facebook’d experience.

My job as a volunteer was to assist the multimedia students with titles for their videos along with various design jobs for the behind-the-scenes workshop video.

Here is a highlight reel of some of my work this year produced over two and a half days starting with the WKU and workshop front bumper and ending with the full Mountain Workshops end bumper logo. The 3d logo was created in Cinema 4d and all motion graphics animation was done in After Effects. Enjoy!

You can see more multimedia stories from this year’s workshop here along with this behind-the-scenes workshop video produced by Tim Broekema:

Tracking a video with Mocha AE for After Effects

It may not be readily apparent, but for the last several versions After Effects has shipped with a 3rd party tracking tool called Mocha AE from Imagineer Systems. Look on your hard drive where you install AE, it’s there.

Mocha is a really nice tracking tool, but when you first open the app the interface can be a bit intimidating in that it looks nothing like what you’re used to if you’re used to After Effects.

Mocha is not a 3d camera tracker, but instead it’s strength is a method of 2.5d tracking known as planar tracking. It’s far superior than AE’s built in point tracking, it’s more accurate, can deal with motion blur and doesn’t always stumble when one of the tracking points ventures off screen or out of the camera’s view.

Here are some samples I worked up yesterday while studying how to use Mocha AE. In these examples I took some handheld HD footage of a picture frame and comped in a photo of my good friend Indiana Jones. Before shooting the source footage, I removed the actual photo from the frame and inserted a piece of black paper. This way, once I track the footage and add in the new photo, I can set the transfer mode of the photo to screen thus preserving the original reflections in the glass. This subtle effect goes a long way in increasing the realism of the comp.

At the start of each example you will see a few seconds of the original source footage, then a wipe to reveal the final comp.

After Effects CS5.5 Warp Stabilizer

We recently upgraded to Adobe After Effects CS5.5 at the office and after reading about the new Warp Stabilizer effect, I decided to do some experimenting. Here are two quick tests that I produced this morning to demonstrate the before and after of this effect.

The top shot featuring the empty hallway worked quite easily with default settings. The 2nd clip feature the school children walking down the hall way worked fine, but the synthesize edges functionality really struggled to generate clean edges.

DIY Camera Dolly

After watching some of the nice tutorials on The Frugal Filmmaker, I decided to follow his lead and make my own version of his PVC table dolly. It’s still a work-in-progress, and I’m changing my design slightly to accommodate a DSLR camera, I wanted to go ahead and post this first test video.

This video is very rough and comprises just a few simple shots of my kids around the kitchen table. The first thing I discovered is that I needed to choose a few different wheels. I had a set of 8 wheels that I pulled from an old set of roller blades that I bought at a local thrift store for $4. Of the first four that I put on the dolly, two of them had little flat spots, probably from the original owner skidding to a stop. Also, I need to apply some WD-40 to the wheel bearings to loosen them up and allow them to spin more smoothly.

In the video you will notice the slight shake when the dolly rolls over those flat spots. Last night I did try out some different wheels and it is smoother. I will try to shoot an updated video soon. Also, I have plans for a simple, inexpensive, track system that I want build.