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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.


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.

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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

Patrik Forsberg will be presenting the session “A VFX Artist’s Guide to Getting the Most Out of Motion Control” in the Adobe stand 7.G27 at IBC 2015 on Friday, Sept. 11th at 12:30 pm and Saturday, Sept. 12th at 11:30 am and 3:00 pm.

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.


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



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.


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.

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud



Andrew Kramer helps grow and inspire the VFX and motion graphics industry

Andrew Kramer started creating Adobe After Effects tutorials for fun, with no idea that his hobby would lead to an enormously successful and rewarding career. After starting his Video Copilot website when he was just 20 years old, he has become a highly respected professional in the visual effects and motion graphics industry. In addition to creating software and tools for professional designers, he also works in the film industry. No matter what he’s working on, he always finds time to train and inspire others in the community to realize their creative potential.

Andrew Kramer likes staying busy, and this past year was no exception. In addition to releasing a new 3D plug-in for Adobe After Effects CC, he’s been working with Bad Robot on a couple of new, top secret projects. He also created a new city destruction tutorial that highlights the use of 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects.


For the tutorial, he shot HD aerial footage of downtown Los Angeles, and broke up the city as if there was some type of monster invasion. He used the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects to track the scene, identify the track points, and then place objects and layers in the 3D space. In one scene there is a hole punched into a skyscraper that shows the inside levels of the building in a completely photorealistic way.


After creating this tutorial, Kramer wanted to explore what it would be like to use this same effect on a human. He filmed an actor and used the same 3D tracking on his face. The tracker assumed the geography in the same way it would do in a landscape, added track points, and let him create the camera position for the compositing.


“We’re trying to show tutorials that have deeper uses,” says Kramer. “Our city destruction tutorial shows an innovative way to use the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects to create a popular effect. There are so many different things you can create once you have a good track on a scene or even on a person.”


To see more of Kramer’s work with the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects, don’t miss his presentation at the 2015 NAB Show entitled “After Effects CC: Motion Tracking the Impossible” in the Adobe theater on Tuesday, April 14th at 2:00 pm.


Watch Andrew Kramer’s presentation at NAB 2014.


For more information on Creative Cloud, see this page for details or check out this overview video and the Creative Cloud FAQ list.

Behind the scenes of “Word Crimes”

Talented artist uses Adobe After Effects to create fitting typographic animation for parody video

On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, the most shared video on YouTube and Facebook was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Word Crimes,” a parody of Robin Thicke’s popular “Blurred Lines” single. With more than 12 million YouTube views and climbing, the song is both clever and catchy. But what really brings it to life is the video’s impressive typographic animation. Jarrett Heather, a software developer with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, spent 500 hours over three months working with Al Yankovic on the project, which relies heavily on Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator.

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Creating a visual experience for Fatboy Slim at Coachella

Production company creates immersive experience for well-known DJ artist at art and music festival using Adobe Creative Cloud

Plastic Reality is a production company known for branding and other video work for big corporate clients such as BP and Unilever. But unlike most corporate video companies, Plastic Reality has a wild side, called The Happiness Labs, focused on producing experiential content and graphics for live events and installations.

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Seamless visual effects for “The Wolf of Wall Street” created with help from Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC

Paul and Christina Graff of Crazy Horse Effects (CHE) are visual effects aficionados, with projects to their credit such as There Will Be Blood and Life of Pi. They also work with a team of some of the best matte painters and designers in the visual effects industry, and are recognized for their award-winning compositing. They recently created some seamless visual effects for The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, with Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato overseeing the shots.

Adobe: How did you become involved with The Wolf of Wall Street?
Paul: I actually met Rob at a panel presenting outstanding work in VFX done in After Effects. We went to have a drink afterwards and he asked me about our new office in New York. We had worked on The Aviator andShutter Island with him and he thought we could help with some of the shots in The Wolf of Wall Street. We were stoked to make the reunion with Rob, and excited to work on the project, although we joined the team late in the game when most of the effects were already well underway.

Adobe: What type of work did he send your way?
Christina: We didn’t do any of the normal set extension work that we usually do. Instead, we focused on a lot of last minute fixes and designed several sequences. We worked on a lot of quirky shots! We contributed to several corporate identity “videos,” a few driving scenes, and a longer sequence with the real Jordan Belford at the end of the movie. Our work is really scattered throughout the movie.

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Setting the stage for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Video Playback and Graphics team uses Adobe Creative Cloud and plugins from FxFactory to create period-specific news content

To make the set of GNN, the 24-hour news channel featured in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues as realistic as possible required one essential element: content. It was the job of the video playback and graphics team to fill the dozens of screens throughout the fictional studio with realistic, period-specific news.

Rather than filling the screens in post production and using archived news reports, the team produced nearly all original content and fed it to the screens in real time. News reports were shot and composited together with stock footage using an Adobe Creative Cloud video workflow and plugins from FxFactory, which offers a broad range of VFX tools for editors and compositors.

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“A Liar’s Autobiography” Filmmakers Switch to All Adobe Workflow for Tribute to Monty Python Member

Made Visual Studio and Bill and Ben Productions switch to all Adobe workflow to bring the animated Graham Chapman memoir to life

Justin Weyers faced a challenge: help create an animated movie that integrates the work of 14 animation studios into a holistic 3D stereographic film, to celebrate the life and multifaceted career of deceased Monty Python member Graham Chapman. Weyers is co-founder and director for multi-disciplinary creative agency Made Visual Studio. Switching to an all Adobe workflow based on Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium provided the tools needed to weave the creative visions and talents of many contributors into a film that mirrors Chapman’s genius. Recently, Weyers talked with Adobe about the project, the switch to Adobe Premiere Pro, and his experiences using the latest versions of Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium, including Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Flash Professional, and Photoshop Extended.{C}

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Tom Lowe breaks technological and creative bounds with TimeScapes

On April 17, 2012, award-winning cinematographer and director Tom Lowe debuted his film TimeScapes at the Brenden Theatre in Las Vegas during NAB. The tickets sold out in a matter of hours. The film takes viewers on a journey across the American Southwest using stunning, slow-motion and timelapse cinematography. His moving photography is the product of some highly technical camera and editing setups, but Lowe isn’t secretive about his techniques. Recently, he talked with Adobe about the project and his experiences using Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium for editing in 4K resolution.

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“Marvel’s The Avengers”: Taking the HUD to new heights

An interview with the HUD’s Creative Director and Screen Designer

Stephen Lawes, creative director and co-owner of Cantina Creative, Venti Hristova, graphics and HUD supervisor, Wes Sewell, stereo supervisor, and Jayse Hansen, freelance screen designer/animator, had their work cut out for them on Marvel’s The Avengers, which premiered May 4th and has already passed the $1 billion mark. The movie, directed by Joss Whedon, features Marvel’s most popular superheroes: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. For Lawes, Hristova, and Hansen, the most challenging on-screen graphics job was the creation of the heads-up displays (HUDs) in the film, used for two versions of Iron Man’s suits. The team also created the on-screen graphics to fill in countless digital computer screens throughout the movie. Here, Lawes and Hansen talk about using Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium for the project.

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