AFTEREFFECTS

News, Information & Workflows from Users & the Adobe Ae Team

Avoid crashes. If you use After Effects on Mac OS X v10.10 (Yosemite), update to Mac OS X v10.10.5.

If you use After Effects on Mac OS X v10.10 (Yosemite), update to Mac OS X v10.10.5.

We can see in our crash reporter data that a lot of folks are experiencing crashes when using After Effects on Mac OS X v10.10 (Yosemite). These crashes are nearly all occurring on old versions of Mac OS X v10.10, previous to the current v10.10.5.

Apple made a lot of great fixes in the Mac OS X v10.10.5 update to fix issues regarding GPU usage by many applications, so it’s a good idea to update to this version of Mac OS X v10.10 even aside from the impact that it has on After Effects.

Because of some additional GPU work done for After Effects CC 2015 (13.6), this version of After Effects is especially affected by the issues in the versions of Mac OS X v10.10 before v10.10.5.

A specific crashing problem with After Effects that is fixed by updating Mac OS X v10.10 to v10.10.5 is one that gives the message “<GPUManager> <2> Sniffer Result Code: 7” when trying to start After Effects. This same problem can also occur on Windows 7 if you have not yet installed Windows 7 Service Pack 1.

To discuss this issue or others, please come to the After Effects user-to-user forum. Please, don’t leave comments on this blog post, since the blog commenting system just isn’t set up to have conversations and engage in troubleshooting.

Please submit bug reports here.

Stay tuned to this blog for news next week about a bug fix update that we are currently working on to address a few issues in After Effects CC 2015 (13.6).

After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) and Character Animator (Preview 3) updates now available

After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) is now available. For details about what’s new and changed in After Effects CC 2015 (13.6), see this page. That also means that Character Animator (Preview 3) is available.

This update brings many advances to After Effects, including performance and user interface improvements for previews, multi-touch gestures, optimizations for small and high-resolution screens, improved color fidelity, new importers, scripting additions, the ability to search and license stock video from within After Effects, and streamlined Creative Cloud Libraries workflows. For details, see this page.

The Character Animator (Preview 3) update adds “sticks” to control rigidity of the puppet mesh, multi-touch gestures to control character limbs, the ability to share rigged puppets, increased recording flexibility, performance improvements, and much more. For details, see this page.

For an overview of what’s new in all of the Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page. For details of the updates for all Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page.

If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can download the new version by checking for updates through the Creative Cloud desktop application. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers. For more information about Creative Cloud, see this overview video and the Creative Cloud FAQ list.

IMPORTANT: The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update will update and replace After Effects CC 2015 (13.5). This updater will not modify instances of After Effects CC 2014 (13.2) and earlier; however, before installing the new version of After Effects, please read this page about the default behavior of the Creative Cloud installation system, which is to remove all previous versions of applications, and this page about why you might not want to do that.

Welcome Victoria Nece to her new role.

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.

Jayse Hansen helps movie audiences suspend reality

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Hansen: I love being able to go to JavaScript writers, tell them what I need, and have them write a script or develop a plug-in for it. I also love how After Effects can work with graphics and animation of graphics so well, and then become a compositor at the same time. It is definitely my bread and butter, my main program. If I had to cut out everything else and I only had one program, After Effects would be it. It’s really one of those great tools.

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.

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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.

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud

 

Cantina Creative, setting the scene

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud

Back to the Future: Creating Your Own Hoverboard Effect

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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.

After Effects and Character Animator ready for Mac OS X v10.11 (El Capitan)

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 (13.5-13.7), including Character Animator (Preview 3, Preview 2)
  • After Effects CC 2014 (13.2)
  • After Effects CC (12.2.1)
  • After Effects CS6 (11.0.4)

After Effects CC 2015 (13.5-13.7) has an incompatibility with a Mac OS X drawing API that changed in Mac OS X v10.11 (El Capitan) that causes the entire Timeline panel to be redrawn each time that only a subset of the panel should be redrawn—e.g., if only the preview time indicator should be redrawn because it is moving. This excessive redrawing can cause the effective frame rate of previews to drop below real-time speed. Apple and Adobe are working to address this issue. In the meantime, you can work around this issue by not showing the Timeline panel during previews; maximizing the Composition panel during previews with the accent grave (`) key is one good way to do this.

All versions of After Effects that use Mercury Transmit for video previews encounter an issue with the base version of Mac OS X v10.11 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. Install the Mac OS X v10.11.2 update to fix this issue.

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.

If you want to report a bug, please do so here. You can bring issues to the After Effects forum for discussion. Do not leave comments on this blog post to report bugs.

Territory Studios applies VFX expertise to “Hitman: Agent 47”

Visual effects studio designs screens and graphics for blockbuster films using Adobe Creative Cloud

Territory Studios enjoys its reputation for being able to handle nearly any project that comes its way. With expertise in branding, motion, and digital, the studio works on a range of projects including feature films, brand work, and popular video games. After completing graphic and screen design for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Territory worked on Hitman: Agent 47, applying its design expertise across screen graphics and UI, VFX, logo, and titles. David Sheldon-Hicks, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Territory, appreciates being able to work with a talented team that regularly pushes the limits of creativity with help from Adobe Creative Cloud.Territory Studios

Adobe: How did Territory Studios get started?

Sheldon-Hicks: After getting my start doing computer screen graphics for Casino Royale and The Dark Knight, I met my two business partners, Lee and Nick. We decided that instead of working for other companies, we wanted to form our own studio. We pitched Electronic Arts for a project producing the opening 90-second cinematic for the game Medal of Honor, won the job, and got our first monetary investment.

We worked on video games and brand work for about a year, then one day we got a call from the art department working on Prometheus. Ridley Scott was doing a prequel to Alien and wanted us to be involved in the screen graphics for the film. It was obviously an amazing opportunity. As graphic designers we were huge fans of the title sequence and graphics in Alien. That project lasted a year and was a turning point for us in terms of producing on-set screen graphics, often with a 3D or holographic feel, and user interfaces for big name directors and films.

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Adobe: Tell us about your toolset.

Sheldon-Hicks: The backbone of the work we do is with Creative Cloud. We’re all designers, and Adobe apps are the first tools you learn as a designer, then you augment with everything else. We work with CINEMA 4D for our 3D pipeline and have one license of Nuke, but we’ve found that we can do almost all of our compositing in Adobe After Effects CC.

The tight integration between CINEMA 4D and After Effects lets our team experiment more, and with the perfectly exported cameras and lights, we can do more without going back to the main 3D app. For example, we can swap backgrounds easily, test ideas out quicker, and with 3D alignment we can position our graphic elements perfectly.

For editing we were using both Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Final Cut Pro, but now we’re primarily using Premiere Pro and occasionally Avid if that’s what our clients want. Not having to transcode footage in Premiere Pro makes for quick work when we’re putting together rip-o-matics that use lots of different sources, or when we bringing in rushes from a camera card need to turn things around quickly.

One of the main workflow improvements of upgrading to Creative Cloud is how fast we can now import vectors and get them prepped for animation. The vector to shape layer option has saved us lots of time where previously we would painstakingly re-draw the Illustrator files as shape layers.

Adobe: How did you get involved in the Hitman: Agent 47 project?

Sheldon-Hicks: Charlie Woods, the production designer we worked with on both Marvel Studio films, Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, recommended us to the producer who was looking for a team to take on screen graphics in post. We met with the editing team in London and really hit it off, especially with the Editor Nicolas de Toth.

Nick and his team were trying to solve a number of narrative challenges with the story, and needed help adding some graphics and user interface elements to support parts of the story that weren’t coming across in dialog or action sequences. We helped them figured out some of the narrative points and pull together some sequences.

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Adobe: How did your role on the film evolve?

Sheldon-Hicks: When Nick realized how well we worked together building a narrative, he asked for help on the title sequence. We suggested including some backstory to give texture and history to the film before launching into the main action. Nick created an idea and we worked it up as an animatic with live action and a design treatment that included beautiful typography, creative compositing, and grading done in After Effects.

After a successful test screening, Nick got the green light to direct a second unit shoot. It was stunning, very filmic, moody, and impressionistic without giving away too much. We did all of the graphic design and integrated it into the title sequence.

Adobe: Did you help solve any other challenges on the film?

Sheldon-Hicks: During many scenes in the movie [SPOILER] the viewer sees what’s happening through the agents’ eyes. We needed a creative treatment on that footage to make it obvious to the audience that the viewpoint had changed. We used After Effects and various blurs to generate a particular look that was applied across over 40 shots. This project was great for us because we touched more elements than in any other film we’ve worked on. We were close to the storytelling and the people running the project and defining the narrative. We had a great time and want to find more projects like this one in the future.

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Adobe: What other projects have you really enjoyed working on?

Sheldon-Hicks: We worked on The Martian with Ridley Scott. The film features a lot of highly detailed and story driven screen graphics and we worked very closely with NASA to get accurate information for all the screens. Ridley is the first director we worked with and his creative direction of our work was formative in shaping our own approach. He’s an inspiration to us because he really values the role that screen graphics can play as strong narrative devices and we’re incredibly thrilled to be working with him a second time.

For Guardians of the Galaxy we got a lot of inspiration from the creatives on the film set, including costume design, set decoration, and concept art. We created styleframe iterations in Photoshop and Illustrator, shared graphics using Creative Cloud Libraries to make sure they were consistent across multiple screens, and collected the typography to design the overall language. Next, we animated in After Effects, comped everything, and then moved between After Effects and CINEMA 4D to keep a quick, tight workflow so we could deliver the graphics in front of the actors and directors.

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The graphics for Avengers: Age of Ultron were based around director Joss Whedon’s vision for a grittier, more human story, so our concepts were based on the characters lives and interests, as well as on their superhero efforts and collaborations. It needed to feel grittier than the original Avengers so we looked at real-world references and merged them with the Marvel comic book-based design work. We varied the color palette when we designed the screens for the different characters to give each of them their own look.

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Adobe: What skills do you look for when hiring new motion designers?

Sheldon-Hicks: Our motion designers need to know Adobe Illustrator CC, Photoshop CC, and After Effects CC and they need to be able to design and art direct. Ideally, they will have a secondary skill, such as photography, stop-frame animation, sculpture, or drawing and illustration that they bring to the mix. Everyone on our team knows how to design and choreograph movement and how to create emotional connections that tell a story.

Adobe: What other apps do you use in Creative Cloud?

Sheldon-Hicks: We use Adobe Acrobat for all of our mood boards, presenting initial ideas to game companies or film directors, and creating style frames, storyboards, and presentations. It is probably our most used piece of software! I’m looking forward to working with Adobe Character Animator. It’s really clever, especially for getting ideas across to clients quickly. We’ve also seen some of the mobile apps and Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Brush CC look really interesting and I’m sure we’ll be using those in the future.

Adobe: How does Creative Cloud for teams benefit your studio?

Sheldon-Hicks: Creative Cloud for teams is an essential offering because we spend less time assigning software when new team members join us and we don’t have to worry about assigning licenses on an individual basis. It is pain free, adaptable, and always up to date so our teams can collaborate and expand as needed, without the software being a barrier. We can also figure Creative Cloud for teams into our yearly spend more effectively and strategically plan against our ambitions for the studio.

Adobe: How has your film work influenced work with other clients?

Sheldon-Hicks: The computer game manufacturers we work with see what we we’re doing in film and want similar effects incorporated into their games. Similarly, the work we do producing high-quality digital experiences and telling stories in interesting ways in films is very relevant to brands such as technology companies and automotive manufacturers. As a result, we’ve expanded the services our studio offers to include product design and service design from a brand experience perspective.

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud

 

Fix it in pre: A VFX artist’s guide to motion control

Visual effects studio enables filmmakers to achieve amazing motion control shots at a lower cost with help from Adobe Creative Cloud

Though he started his professional career touring Europe as a musician, today Patrik Forsberg is the Creative Director at Stiller Studios, a Swedish creative agency that focuses on intricate motion control work. The path he took to get where he is today was paved with skill, creativity, and bold decisions. He is now working on achieving his vision—producing precise motion control work that rivals what can be achieved in Hollywood blockbusters, at a fraction of the cost.

While the focus of Stiller Studios is narrow, Forsberg hopes that it can help democratize the creation of advanced shots typically only available for high-budget films. To capture these shots against almost any background—from 3D scenes to pre-shot stills and moving plates—Stiller Studios uses a range of equipment, proprietary tools, and off-the-shelf products, including the video apps in Adobe Creative Cloud.
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posterImage-411posterImage-205Actual Shot (L) Background Shot (R)

Adobe: What led you to working in visual effects?

Forsberg: My career includes producing radio commercials, films and videos, visual effects and motion graphics, and live action on computer generated images (CGI). Ultimately, I wanted to do something that has never been done before. I had a vision to build the best place in the world for live action on CGI with a moving camera. It required a lot of investment and learning to get started, but it’s amazing how far we’ve come!

Adobe: What equipment do you use in your studio?

Forsberg: We built our studio in 2007 around the same type of equipment used on Harry Potter and Quantum of Solace. The first unit we bought was a Cyclops motion control from Mark Roberts Motion Control. It weighs 4.6 tons, reaches up to six meters, and is the most exact motion control available. We also have a six axes Motion Base, a moving platform that can carry up to one ton, and a high speed motion control called Bolt.

We use plenty of proprietary software and workflows to help us reach our goal: to be world leaders in live action on computer generated images with a moving camera and live on set previsualization from anywhere.

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Bolt and Cyclops (L) Motion Base (R)

Adobe: With all of the specialized gear, how important is planning in your process?

Forsberg: Previz is critical to every project. We start off with a storyboard and talk to the director and VFX director about what they want to achieve. Then we produce a 3D previz and 3D setups, put things together, check the pace, and see if it looks right. Next, we start setting up everything for the studio.

Adobe: How do you combine the physical equipment with the software?

Forsberg: We see the studio as an add-on to the 3D or finishing program. Instead of sending things out to the compositing software and 3D program, we think of the studio as a plug-in to it. If we need another layer and that layer will be live action, we think about how it should be shot in order to be pixel on pixel when we put it on the CGI content, so everything is lined up perfectly and looks as realistic as possible.

We’re working hard at getting it perfect, and we’ve got it down to 0.0014 degrees, which is sort of exact. We don’t need tracking markers and we don’t need to do any post tracking. We can just go in and shoot, using virtual sets as if they are real. Actors see where they are and the directors and producers see a live comp with a moving camera.posterImage-233

Final

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Actual Shot (L) On set (R)

Adobe: What software do you use?

Forsberg: Our whole system is made of off-the-shelf products, and proprietary software. We use Maya, 3D Studio Max, Motion Builder, Unreal, QTake, Flair, Nuke, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and various compositing software including After Effects CC.

Once we’ve shot everything it goes into compositing software, such as Premiere Pro or After Effects, as different layers. Seconds after a shot, artists can make sure the light is coming from the right direction and everything is set up right and then start working on it. We like that our artists can focus on making shots beautiful rather than fixing problems.

Adobe: What is your core value proposition for filmmakers?

Forsberg: We produce live action on computer generated images and deliver pixel on pixel for the artist in the end. We shoot technical stuff in a way that makes sense to people who are more traditional storytellers and filmmakers. Instead of getting one or two shots a day, which is typical with this type of work, we can accomplish the fifteen or sixteen shots a day that you get on feature films or commercials.

We’re the only place in the world where you get all the data and film layers on top of the 3D or pre-produced layers, seconds after you shoot. It’s a narrow technique used mainly on blockbusters as well as some big TV series. We’ve built a workflow that is available, not super expensive, and fits in with European or Swedish film budgets. We’re making it possible to shoot scenes that look as cool as big American blockbuster movies.

In an ordinary green screen, motion control shoot environment filmmakers don’t see an edit until three to five days later. If they’ve done something wrong it’s too late to change it. It’s important to be able to see what we have seconds after a shot, especially for people who don’t regularly work with visual effects. They can get a feeling for what it’s going to be and see that it is going to work. It makes things much faster and reduces the amount of content we shoot that never makes it on screen.

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Actual Shot (L) On Set (R)

Adobe: Why is a workflow like this needed?

Forsberg: If you look at blockbusters for the past 10 years, somewhere between 90% and 95% have used techniques like this, but in inefficient and expensive ways. Just setting up a workflow like ours is $600,000 to $700,000. We wanted to do something that worked for European budgets, where we can deliver a setup that lets filmmakers shoot really cool shots for considerably less cost.

If our setup works for you, there’s no way you’re going to do it more efficiently anywhere. On feature films we’re saving 70% of manpower costs in post-production by having computerized system delivering everything as a pre-comp in the compositing software of choice, including After Effects and Premiere Pro. Everything is aligned and setup, and artists can go straight in and get to work.

Adobe: What’s next for Stiller Studios?

Forsberg: We did a couple of feature films in the early 2010s. We’ve also produced some of our own technical films telling about our high-speed motion control workflow. One hit 10 million downloads! With more and more people seeing what we can do we’re getting a lot of interesting propositions.

We’ll likely do some work with American and British filmmakers in our studio in Stockholm. Everyone wants to know if we can build another system somewhere else. It is possible to duplicate, it’s just a matter of getting the right hardware and implementing all of the software knowledge we’ve gained.

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