I am quite pleased—thrilled, actually—to announce that Victoria Nece has accepted a job at Adobe as “Product Manager for Visual Effects and Motion Graphics”. This job includes the primary responsibility of being product manager for After Effects and Character Animator. As a veteran professional user of After Effects, both as an animator and as a creator of extensions for After Effects, Victoria is perfectly suited to represent the needs of After Effects users and lead the development of this application through its next phase of life.
Of course, some of you may recognize that this job that she’s moving into is my job. Yep. I’ve decided to tackle some very different challenges, so I’ll be stepping away from software development. I’m sure that I’ll still be using After Effects a lot, so I’m glad that I’m leaving this valuable tool in the hands of someone who will be serving the needs that I’ll have as a user.
Victoria will be starting in this new role in January 2016, and we’ll work together for a few months to get her ramped up before I move on. I’m still the right person to contact for After Effects product management questions and concerns through January 2016, but after that I’ll be passing more of these responsibilities on to Victoria until the hand-off is complete in April at NAB 2016.
As I’ve said before, finding the After Effects team meant finding the best possible place for me within the software development industry. Thank you, again, to the entire After Effects team for taking me in. And thank you, members of the After Effects community of users, for being such an engaged, creative, nerdy, helpful group of people. You’ve given me a lot over the past 11 years.
Fictional UI designer and animator adds stunning details to fantasy worlds in major motion pictures using Adobe Creative Cloud
Jayse Hansen is a sought-after fictional UI designer and animator who learned his trade not in school, but through books and from other great designers. After working in print and web design, he taught himself Adobe After Effects and set his sights on a career in the film industry.
Ten years later with a string of blockbusters under his belt, including XMen Origins: Wolverine, Iron Man 3, Ender’s Game, and Robocop, he still enjoys the unique challenges each project presents. He now also consults with companies exploring augmented reality and virtual reality technologies that may someday make his amazing fictional creations available for real-world applications.
Adobe: How did you get your start in the film industry?
Hansen: I was doing motion design and commercial work when a friend of mine showed me his reel. It was full of film UI work and I thought that would be the most awesome job. A while later I booked a commercial for Intel and pitched the idea of including futuristic interfaces. I shared that work with my friend and he started referring me for jobs. It took a while to break into the film industry, but I eventually made it!
Adobe: How does your early love of design apply to what you do today?
Hansen: I’ve always liked drawing and photography—design is a combination of the two. When I was young I would create engineering drawings and blueprints that broke down the inside structure of things. Through photography I learned all about composition, color, and lighting. Both of those early explorations apply to the work I do now.
For example, when I’m compositing a holograph, such as a part of the Iron Man suit, it is transparent so I’m designing the inside structure and showing the breakdown of how it works. When I’m putting that into a shot and compositing, I’m thinking about the lighting, contrast, and composition. I put everything to work in After Effects and it is both artistic and technical at the same time.
Adobe: What were some of your first projects?
Hansen: Trust is very important in the film industry. Everyone who is hiring is on the line, things move at a fast pace, and artists can sometimes be flakey. So I was very grateful when Gladys Tong at G-Creative took a chance and gave me a job working on XMen Origins: Wolverine and 2012. I created a few hero screens, which display full screen and tell a part of the story. It was cool that my first job was creating hero screens instead of something in the background that would get blurred out.
Along the way, I met Stephen Lawes and Sean Cushing at Cantina Creative. We struck up a friendship and that led to my working with them on Avengers and many other films. I still work with both studios today.
Adobe: Tell us about your work on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 1 with Cantina Creative.
Hansen: I was involved on set in Atlanta while they were filming, using Adobe Illustrator and After Effects to create the graphics that played on the computer screens while they were filming. I talked to some old-school hackers to get ideas of what to show on some key analysis and hacking screens in the film.
We also did the post work on the film, replacing screens with more story-specific versions, as well as creating all of the holographic effects using After Effects and CINEMA 4D. I used to always create temp or slap comps using Illustrator and Photoshop to show the screens and comps with the actors. I’ve now started going straight from Illustrator to After Effects where I’ll do a quick mock up. If it gets approved, we can just hand it off to artists and they have all of the settings to begin animating, tracking shots, and rotoscoping right away.
Adobe: Have you worked on projects on your own as well?
Hansen: I love working with companies and being part of teams, so there are only a few films that I’ve done on my own. One example is Big Hero 6, which is probably the film I’m most proud of because it’s Disney and it was so good! I was contacted by Paul Felix, a legendary Disney Art Director. He said they were working on a new film, had stuff from my website on their inspiration boards, and were big fans.
I never thought I’d work on an animated film because most of my stuff is so realistic. But when I found out that they wanted me to work on holograms and UI screens it was perfect. They knew I worked in After Effects and Cinema 4D so they had me concept out a ton of stuff and deliver a kitbash that they could take modules from to use throughout the film. Bruce Wright was the visual effects artist who took what I created and gave it a Disney look.
Adobe: What did you do with Cantina Creative for the film Pixels?
Hansen: The filmmakers wanted us to put Easter eggs into the military interface that referenced Galaga, Pac-Man, or other old-school video games while still maintaining a hard-core, no-nonsense look. I recreated all of the Galaga icons and made them more military looking and designed controllers for their video feed that were shaped like old school video game controllers.
Adobe: What do you like about working with After Effects CC?
Adobe: How are you starting to work with augmented and virtual reality?
Hansen: There are few companies that have reached out to me. One that is really intriguing is called Meta. They are being super ambitious, wanting to do transparent, which is a lot harder than virtual reality. They want to make it possible to reach out and grab digital data and move it around. It’s a lot like how we’ve been designing stuff for Iron Man and Enders’ Game, but they’re looking for real-life applications.
I’m consulting with their design teams, doing concepts and mock ups in After Effects and Cinema 4D that their development team can replicate. Digital holograms are going to be a big new thing. Just imagine a doctor having access to a patient’s heart rate and other digital data without using a screen or needing to touch anything. It’s very surreal.
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Leading design and effects house anticipates 10x improvement in RAM preview times with latest release of Adobe Creative Cloud
For the talented team at Cantina Creative, hanging out with superheroes or spending time immersed in future worlds is just a typical day at the office. The studio produces monitor replacements, matte paintings, heads-up displays, set extension composites, and other amazing visual effects for some of the world’s most action-packed science fiction and comic book-based films. Working for companies such as Marvel and Lionsgate, Cantina Creative’s animation and visual effects veteran and Co-Owner Stephen Lawes regularly applies his visual storytelling expertise to blockbuster feature films.
Adobe: Can you tell us about some of your recent blockbuster projects?
Lawes: It’s been a busy year. We worked on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and we’re currently working on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. For the Avengers: Age of Ultron we did a lot of HUDs, monitor graphics, and comps. Another really interesting project for us was Furious Seven. We also completed 23 design and graphics shots for Pixels.
Adobe: Is this work being done using Adobe Creative Cloud?
Lawes: Absolutely, we use Adobe After Effects CC, Illustrator CC, and Photoshop CC on nearly every shot. We use them for everything from initial design and animation of graphics to on-set and post material. We’re also doing more holographic displays, too, using a combination of After Effects and CINEMA 4D.
Adobe: How do you see the latest release of After Effects CC impacting your workflow?
Lawes: We have a rig that we built and have refined over the years since our work on Iron Man 2. For Avengers: Age of Ultron we gave it a refresh to make it simpler and faster so it is easier for artists to animate and navigate. One of the most complex rig shots we had revolved around the Mark 44 suit. It’s like a suit within a suit, so the comps were very heavy and it was hard to navigate around them and even animate simple things.
I tested this shot with the redesigned rig and saw incredible performance improvements. With 32-bit comps, we saw a three-fold speed increase playing back and reviewing content, and with 8-bit comps it was 13 times faster. That’s really a game-changer for us. It is a 62 frame shot that previously took 39 minutes to RAM preview so we would just do it in small chunks. The latest release of After Effects CC reduced that time to just three minutes, which is just incredible. That kind of speed will be insanely good on the next projects.
Beyond refining the rig, we’re also doing a lot more work that requires a combination of CINEMA 4D and After Effects CC as we move into doing more stereo, 3D work.
Adobe: What type of work did you do for the Hunger Games films?
Lawes: These projects were interesting because we don’t usually do onset playback graphics, but we were lucky enough to come onboard early and worked with the Director and Production Designer to create graphics that displayed on monitors as they were shooting, rather than shooting with blue or green screens and replacing the monitors in post.
In Mockingjay – Part 1, District 13 has a giant, 40-foot wide monitor that provides most of the light in the shot. We did the playback graphics on that screen to generate the correct color and lighting rather than flooding the scene with blue or green. In post, we replaced what was there with design material and still ended up doing a lot of rotoscoping using After Effects, but it gave us a better lighting scenario to start with.
Adobe: How was the Furious Seven project?
Lawes: We started off doing design for monitor graphics. We came into the production early, so we started influencing some of the storytelling elements of the film. We created content that they could use for bridging the edits. One of the big storytelling elements we helped create was the God’s Eye, which is a surveillance device that characters in the movie use to locate people and wrestle for control.
Adobe: From an insider’s perspective, what do you think of the increasing use of visual effects in film?
Lawes: Technology has been changing the way people tell stories in film for a long time. It influences how we all approach a story artistically and creatively but I think one of the biggest challenges going forward is how to use this technology wisely. Now that we can pretty much create anything with incredible detail and realism in CG, filmmakers shouldn’t get lazy and use it as a crutch to fix story lines. Sometimes the best approach involves a lack of money. It forces you to be more creative.
Adobe: What is next for you and Cantina Creative?
Lawes: We’re always pushing ourselves to evolve as a studio, so in between projects we work on internal ideas as a way to test out design and story concepts. Ideally, these concepts incorporate all the aspects of our studio including editorial, visual effects, and color correction. Ultimately, these ideas will hopefully benefit a movie project in the future, or could take on a life of its own.
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This month marks the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future. The trilogy certainly brings fond memories of my childhood and really made me believe in the power of movies to change your potential reality.
Robert Zemeckis was allowed to have his way with movies and spared no expense. However, when you look at all the special effects in Back to the Future, you’ll see most of them related to the famous DeLoreon car—of which, I wanted one, flying or not.
However the hoverboard, to me, was the coolest. I did a bit of research online and found out that to do the hoverboard effect, the characters were suspended from a rig on the back of a truck which drove them around the Universal Studio’s backlot. The hoverboards were nailed or glued to their feet to appear as if they were floating in the middle of nowhere.
Today, we can do it much more simply in After Effects. In honor of the trilogy, Adobe gives you a modern day approach to creating your own hoverboard effect and one of our After Effects guru’s, Brian Maffitt, shows you how it’s done.
Check it out here.
We have tested the following versions of After Effects on Mac OS X v10.11 and found them to work with this operating system:
- After Effects CC 2015 (13.5.1), including Character Animator (Preview 2)
- After Effects CC 2014 (13.2)
- After Effects CC (12.2.1)
- After Effects CS6 (11.0.4)
All versions of After Effects that use Mercury Transmit for video previews encounter an issue with this version of Mac OS X that prevents video previews from being re-enabled when switching back to After Effects if the Disable Video Output When In The Background preference (in the Video Preview preferences) is enabled.
Note that After Effects CS6 requires the 11.0.4 update to work on any version of Mac OS X from 10.9 forward because of an incompatibility between newer versions of Mac OS X and a GPU library used by After Effects.
Also, After Effects CS6 has a known issue regarding Motion Sketch on versions of Mac OS X v10.9 and later. To use Motion Sketch with After Effects CS6, you must use Mac OS X v10.8 or earlier. After Effects CC versions do not have this issue.
For information on updates to After Effects and other Adobe professional video applications, see this page.