Week 13 – Assignment 3 (Major Assignment)

Shock horror, it’s done!

My compadres Tanapong Soontonbenyakul (aka Bird), Rob Glanowski and I are proud to present Manhunt.

Certainly no mean feat, the production of this 90 second gem was nothing short of exhausting and I shall go into great detail about the ins and outs of it all later in this blog post. For now though, here it is. Watch, weep and wail, because for sure, we the production team, all did!


Our team ruminated on a few ideas and eventually settled on a Denzel Washington style suspense thriller. We thought this would work well because I live in an apartment building that is an ideal location for such a storyline – city views, stairwells, lifts, basement carparks and lots of nooks and crannies for a villain and his quarry to hide in. The action genre was well suited to the application of special effects in the editing process.

The plot: Assassin breaks in to apartment to kill poor hapless target…hapless target escapes and flees down stairwell…assassin gives chase and takes the lift to head him off…they meet in foyer and assassin shoots but misses…they flee to basement and a gun-slinging, bullet-riddled pursuit ensues…assassin gets his man…the end!

The final cut varies slightly from our original plot idea which had two assassins and ended in a pool of blood and gunfire down by the river in front of our building. Alas we lost our two actors a week or two before the film shoot so Rob and Bird stepped in to cover the acting, and it was raining on the day so I decided to be kind and not make them run around outside!

The three of us worked well together and shooting the film was a lot of fun. We had to get it right the first time due to the tyranny of distance (Rob lives in Traralgon and Bird and I are on opposite sides of the city) so there were some logistical issues around coming together and doing the post-production. We pretty much did our various tasks individually and used the weekly lecture time to discuss and refine ideas.

Here is a guide to what each of us did for the project, and the effects used:

Bird (Tanapong)
Post-production using Adobe After Effects (gunshot smoke/flame effects, gunshot sound effects, bullet hole effects in basement scenes, blood on jacket in final scene)

Filmed hallway scene of assassin arriving (Sony pro-cam)
Post-production using Adobe After Effects (pool of blood effect in final scene, bullet holes in wall during lift shoot out scene)

Filming (Nikon D7100 DSLR)
Video editing/titles/colourisation (Adobe Premiere, chose Lucky 7 font as it is masculine and strong which suited the plot and the mise-en-scene)
Title effects (Adobe After Effects and Adobe Bridge, added Bird’s bullet holes and an explosion effect to the titles, added kinetic text to the “difficult, but not impossible” scene for impact)
Audio FX (Premiere and Audition), also modified gunshot effect to suit the style of gun used (added distortion, flanger, reverb and bass boost to give a more sci-fi laser effect)
Music – sourced/edited/synced-to-action a creative commons soundtrack (ccmixter.org [http://ccmixter.org/files/7OOP3D/29126] / Adobe Premiere)


Here’s a bit of a visual representation of what we had in mind…thanks to my partner Kaylene for the smashing artwork (drawing ain’t my forte!)….


Production process

The editing and post-production process was, as always with this subject, a fabulous learning experience. Cutting and editing the footage on Adobe Premiere, then adding the various special effects from Adobe After Effects as MP4’s was certainly the way to go in terms of efficient workflow. Sourcing a suitable soundtrack took some while, but I think the end result suits the suspense and pace of the film quite well. There were a few effects that we created but which ended up on the cutting room floor because they didn’t suit the script and would have been gratuitous had they been retained. A digitised gun sight view is one example of this, which I discarded because it gave the impression of someone watching the pursuit of our two heroes through a gun sight, which clearly was not possible.

There was a fair amount of trial and error in the post-production process, for example I initially used a static image of the city skyline for our opening credits, but decided against it in favour of a more professional looking ‘floating’ title with some After Effects attention. Syncing the opening titles in time with the music is on the one hand quite nifty, but on the other hand not that nifty after all because the pace is a bit fast for first-time viewers (so my partner told me). Sadly, by this time it was too late to change them as I’d already uploaded it to Vimeo three times and had absolutely no desire to do it again! Never mind, I’ll leave perfection to others!


Reflection on semester

Learning Adobe After Effects has challenged me every step of the way, and now that I’ve reached the end of the semester I would say I’m certainly no expert but I have developed a rudimentary grasp of this incredibly complex and limitless software. There is nothing that can’t be achieved with After Effects, providing you have the know-how to do it … if you can imagine something, you can create it.

I feel we’ve had a good introduction to the program and have been given the tools to take our investigations to the next level and beyond. For me, as a sole trader running my own communications consultancy, having a familiarity with AE does give me a competitive edge because few people in my field have any experience with it. My aim is not to promote myself as an AE expert – which I am not – but rather to be able to advise clients on its capabilities, and discuss parameters with ad agencies to the benefit of my clients. For this reason, I am really pleased with my decision to take this unit.

Kudos to the inventors of this program – and to those who have mastered it – because it takes your imaginings and makes them real. And that is pretty cool.



Week 12: World…meet Manhunt!

Manhunt on show as a rough cut

Last week we showed Manhunt to the world (or a bunch of fellow students and Jonathan!) for the first time. It was good to get some independent feedback on our film because I had spent so many hours trawling through the footage, adding effects, to-ing and fro-ing, that it was good to get a different perspective.

Some of the advice we took on board was:

  • shorten some of the clips, such as the one of Rob bobbing his head up and down from behind a car in a comical fashion
  • lose the scene of the car entering the carpark – it adds nothing
  • add a few more special effects, such as flame from the gun in the final scene
  • fix the titles and credits

I spent quite some while creating rolling credits and trying different effects for the opening credits in Premiere. In the end I deleted the credits I’d created in Premiere and redid them in After Effects so that I could animate them and sync them with the theme music. They probably run a bit quickly for that reason, but I think they fulfil the requirements of the assignment better than had I left the Premiere titles in place. I also added some kinetic text to the mid-way scene where the words “difficult, but not impossible” are narrated as part of the music, because this added to the sense of the assassin hunting his prey.

Finally, we had our film ready to upload to Vimeo and present to fellow students as part of the Media & Communications student exhibition at Swinburne on 4 June 2014.

Below are some images to demonstrate activities during this period.

One of many Premiere versions of the opening credits

One of many Premiere versions of the opening credits

After consideration I redid the titles in After Effects, much jazzier!

The final iteration of titles in Premiere, soon after this I redid the titles in After Effects, much jazzier!

Creating kinetic text to mirror the audio "difficult, but not impossible" in Adobe After Effects

Creating kinetic text to mirror the audio “difficult, but not impossible” in Adobe After Effects

Kinetic text in production in Adobe After Effects

Kinetic text in production in Adobe After Effects

Here she is in all her glory...Manhunt, effects added, edits complete, sound in place...ready to export as an H.264 / 1080p MP4 file, then import into Vimeo.

Here she is in all her glory…Manhunt, effects added, edits complete, sound in place…ready to export as an H.264 / 1080p MP4 file, then import into Vimeo. 


Week 11: Making progress, still some way to go

Starting to come together

By now we were well on the road to having a rough cut of our project ready for next week’s in-class presentation. I had pretty much sorted out which footage would make it and which would end up on the cutting room floor. It was a continual process of watching and re-watching the footage, editing on the fly, and watching it again to see how things flowed. I was beginning to realise what a massive job it must be do edit a feature length film because I had spent days working on our little 90 second job and still wasn’t done.

Rob and Bird had created some good gunshot, smoke and fire effects, and a nice pool of blood for the final scene. I had enjoyed the process of working with AE and Premiere to get the effects we wanted.

Here are a few images to demonstrate where we were at by now.

An early cut of the film, before any colourisation had been done.

An early cut of the film, before any colourisation had been done.


Sorting out sound effects in Audition

Sorting out sound effects in Audition

Week 10: Edit, cut, snip snip snip!

So, this week’s post is all about the editing process.

Having spent the first 9 weeks of the semester being tortured by Adobe After Effects, I enjoyed being back in the saddle of Adobe Premiere. We had a good amount of footage and had managed to get just about every angle we needed to tell our story in a dynamic fashion. All except one, which was a close up of Bird (the assassin) picking the lock to the apartment. The footage we had made it look like he was opening the door with a key which I felt threw the whole plot into disarray. Having in a previous post alluded to how far away our stars lived from the “film set” (my home) in Footscray, I decided to do what any sensible director would do…reshoot the scene using my own pasty old hands and try to pass them off as Bird’s youthful tanned ones!

You be the judge…did it work?

Close up Bird's hands

Close up of Bird’s hands

Close up imposter's hands

Close up of “imposter’s” hands

Anyway, by the time our weekly lecture came around I had a reasonable cut of the film and was keen to meet the team at uni and see what effects they had come up with. There was a risk they may have added effects to footage that I hadn’t used in the final cut, but I was hopeful that wouldn’t have occurred. Surely fate wouldn’t be so cruel…


Fate is indeed that cruel, and in fact they had cut ALL the effects so far onto bits of footage I hadn’t used so it looked like I would be returning to the drawing board for another round of snip snip snipping…

Here’s a screen grab of what we had so far. The plot was thickening…

First cut of Manhunt. Original titles done in Premiere using an image I shot at dawn one morning...a nice image, but it wouldn't make it to the end of the editing process.

First cut of Manhunt. Original titles done in Premiere using an image I shot at dawn one morning…a nice image, but it wouldn’t make it to the end of the editing process.

Week 9: Preparing for Hollywood


Having written an action-packed and rather suspenseful script, now came the hard part – filming it! We booked the Swinburne camera gear and jotted “film shoot, 9am Saturday” into our diaries, and soon enough the big day arrived.

The location for the shoot was a dream for me because it was at my apartment (a good suggestion on my part I thought!)…not so good for Rob who had to travel all the way from Traralgon (well, he did choose to live there!), and Bird made his way across town to Footscray by the allotted time. I’d had a slight glitch the day before when arriving at Swinburne to collect the camera gear because the AV chaps had shot through. Jonathan went above and beyond when responding to my distress call and came back to uni to help me out, but alas I’d also shot through by then having decided to use my new DSLR for the job. Rob was bringing his Sony pro-cam that he’d never used before, so the question was would we sink or would we swim?

We loosely followed the script with a fair amount of creative licence, and spent a highly enjoyable three or four hours creating our masterpiece. Rob shot a few scenes with his Sony but for the most part was acting, plus his camera weighed a ton so I wasn’t keen to use it. Plus I love my Nikon so shot the lion’s share of the footage with that. I was very glad of my experience making another short film, “The Medusa Syndrome”, last year because it had taught me the importance of doing numerous takes of critical scenes from different angles to aid the editing process.

Bird and Rob seemed to enjoy their brief stints as Hollywood leading men and got nicely into character as assassin and prey respectively. They were responsive to direction and happy to repeat scenes when Lady Spielberg demanded it! I thought I was quite generous only making them run up and down the stairs a few times, but suspect they may have been spared by the arrival of our building cleaner to check that Rob wasn’t having a heart attack (he was panting like a champion and it echoed quite alarmingly in the stairwell!).

After all scenes had been shot I left the chaps to download the footage onto their various hard drives and memory sticks while I raced around the building grabbing sound effects on a digital sound recorder.

As I waved them off we all felt we’d had a great day and had some good footage to work with. Next steps – I’d cut the film into a cohesive piece on Premiere and they’d start working on some effects in AE.

Here we are shooting scene 2 in the hallway…

Rob filming scene 2

Week 7: Assignment 2 – Video Effects Treatment

The Flying Whatsit

The second assignment of the semester required students to capture15-30 seconds of video footage then add a range of video effects – known in the business as VFX – treatments to it. Before I go into the where’s and what for’s of my submission, why don’t you check out the film first…here it is in all its technicolour glory…



Plot and key details

The Flying Whatsit was edited and exported as a high definition1080p video and runs for 23 seconds. I filmed the laneway scenes at a location near my apartment in Footscray, and the city scapes from my balcony. The plot is fairly self explanatory once you’ve seen the film, but basically involves a woman taking flight in a laneway and then zooming around happily over the city streets, just as Superman does, only without any pretentions of thinking she’s a superhero!

Music and sound effects

I chose quirky and suspenseful theme music to suggest to viewers that they may need to suspend belief while watching the film. The musical piece is called Mykonos and I sourced it on the creative commons website http://www.freesfx.co.uk.

The ‘liftoff’ sound effect when the subject becomes airborne was sourced from the same website, and is an explosion that I slowed down to around 120% using the time stretch feature of After Effects. I also added some bass and reverb to make it sound less like an explosion and more like the ‘whooshing’ sound someone might make if they were they to take off for the heavens. It took quite a bit of time to find a suitable sound, and then tweak it to sound reasonably realistic. There were quite a number of other SFX used here in the trial and error stages, but hopefully the final effect works quite well.

The wind sounds which accompany the flying woman as she soars over the city scape were sourced from http://www.soundbible.com, and are an effect created by Mark DiAngelo. I modified the audio levels and the start and end points, but didn’t need to do too much else to the clip to get the desired effect.

The final sound effect when the flying woman zooms off into the distance and out of view was sourced from http://www.freesfx.co.uk, and needed a fair bit of love to make it work. I stretched it to give it a deeper sound and also to make the trailing off effect match the footage. I also played around with the audio levels and the placement of the audio, and think it turned out okay in the end.


By far the longest part of the process was editing the footage and creating the various effects, namely making someone fly and creating an earth ripple and a sonic boom when they take off. I found a great tutorial from www.VideoFort.com on YouTube which assisted with the ‘take off’ effect at After Effects: Superman Take Off. Here’s how I achieved the feat of making a woman fly:

  1. Filmed myself walking into frame, jumping in the air, then running out of frame
  2. Split the clip just before I started to fall back to the ground and again at the point where I left the frame (creates 3 clips)
  3. Delete the full clip and ripple delete the space between the ‘jump’ shot and the ‘nobody in frame’ shot
  4. Add a freeze frame to the jump shot using time > freeze frame – this added a new layer of myself frozen in the air
  5. Using the pen tool (with RotoBezier selected to give auto curves) I traced my outline in mid-air for later use
  6. Added some motion blur for realism (see screenshot below)


A2.3 Outline keyed to start point

Creating the ground shudder

  1. I created a new solid, named it earth shudder, pre-composed it, made it square then clicked > layer settings > make comp settings, to remove the white space around it
  2. Created a circle that was just bigger than the square, then used the mask expansion scrubber to reduce it til it disappeared (minus 690), added a keyframe, moved the scrubber forward a few frames then set the circle size to zero
  3. I duplicated the mask layer > changed the settings to subtract > selected the keyframes and moved it to offset it against the first mask layer
  4. Added some rough edges using the stylise filter
  5. Turned on the 3D feature to give the circle depth and rotated it to align it with the ground (see screenshot below)
  6. Finally I returned to the main comp, selected the displacement layer, adjusted the vertical and horizontal displacement to get a ripple effect (see image below)
A2.11 Earthshudder in action

Ground shudder effect in 2D


A2.13 ripple effect

Ground shudder effect in 3D with ripple effect added


Finally I added a vignette to darken the edges of the footage, adjusted the curves to make the whites and blacks more true, added a tint and adjusted the colourisation to make the film seem dark and other worldly.

Here’s how the raw vignetting looked…

A2.14 Pre vignette


For the city scape scenes I created a new composition from the first part of the film (as described above) and copied the outline layer of me taking off into the new composition, and rotated it and added animation to make it appear that I was flying around the sky. Finally I added some rippling to give it the appearance of moving in the wind, and gave it a frontal glow to match the sun’s directional lighting on the background. This part was far simpler to achieve than the first part of the video.

As with everything we’ve done in this subject, I learned heaps and am feeling much more at ease with After Effects as each week passes.

As for improvements in the piece, of course they are many and varied, but I did the best I could with the skills I have thus far. I would have liked to have used more complex 3D animation on the flying woman and have her moving her body parts more, but I wasn’t able to achieve these effects satisfactorily so I decided to leave her as a more static figure and just use the rippling effect to give her some life!

Week 7: Planning, plotting and pilfering…

“It’s time to get serious. It’s time to set our sights on the finish line and prepare a sensational, mind-blowing piece of digital compositing for our major project. Yikes!”

We’ve reached the half way mark of the semester which means knuckling down and getting stuck into major project mode. We knocked over the easy part of the task (possibly the only easy part) which was to form a project team. Tick, done. Our team is:

  1. Rob Glanowski
  2. Tanapong Soontonbenyakul (aka Bird)
  3. Teri Cooper

We knocked around quite a few ideas and are currently leaning towards a suspense or sci-fi theme, not least because they are enjoyable to watch and are well suited to the addition of special effects. We agreed to research some ideas and come up with one concept each that we’ll present to the team this week, and we’ll then pick the best one (i.e. something that sounds interesting but is also achievable in a technical sense for After Effects novices such as ourselves) and march forth to produce it.  Should be a snap!

My research so far has led me down some interesting paths, with the website fxguide.com (referenced in week 6 by our Digital Compositing lecturer Todd Anderson-Kunert), being a wealth of information and great ideas.

I find myself very drawn to editing techniques that bring historical events to life by compositing contemporary actors into very old footage, as was done in the 2012 HBO film “Hemingway & Gellhorn”. I’ve admired Martha Gellhorn ever since reading Caroline Moorehead’s 2004 biography, “A Life”, which chronicles her fearless 60-year career as a war correspondent (she covered every major 20th century conflict from the Spanish Civil War in the 1920s through to the American invasion of Panama in 1989 when she was 81 years old – no mean feat!). Her private life was almost as interesting as her professional one, with numerous high profile romances dotting her life, the most notable, and the reason for the existence of the footage below, being her fiery marriage to Ernest Hemingway from 1940-1945.

To provide context, here is the trailer for Hemingway & Gellhorn…


…and here is an expose on the special effects used throughout the film (due to privacy I can’t add the clip directly but you’ll find it a few paragraphs down via this link).



You can see that by using ‘green screen’ the editors have been able to seamlessly insert Nicole Kidman (who plays Gellhorn) and Clive Owen (Hemingway) into original 1940s footage, to great effect. This is something that our team project may consider using.



Week 6: Motion Tracking Madness

Ever wondered how they get the words “zoom zoom” to follow a Mazda as it hurtles over cobblestoned streets in a nameless European city at 120 km an hour? Well, tonight we learned how to do exactly that!

The effect is called “motion tracking” and it basically involves pinning an object (such as text, a shape, a video or whatever) to a fixed point in a video composition – called the “attach point” – enabling the object to follow that point, in a scaled and proportional way, for the duration of the video. The golden rule is that the attach point needs to be visible at all times during the video, otherwise the effect tends to go a bit pear shaped, and we definitely don’t want that.

Rather than telling you, i will show you what I mean. In the first video below I’ve pinned the words “Big Black Bag” to my, well, big black bag. This is an example of a 2D effect whereby the subject moves but the camera remains static.

Big Black Bag



And here’s another one, also in 2D.

I Like Bins



And last but not least, an example of 3D motion tracking where the camera moves around a stationary object. In this case I tracked some text to the top of the subject (a tripod) and added a couple of shape layers, onto which I added images (sourced from the web) of the Mona Lisa and the character Lucy from Peanuts. You can see how the tracked objects maintain a realistic scale and perspective as the camera moves, just as they would if they were real objects attached to the tripod.

Mona Lisa Goes Peanuts



My examples are very basic but this exercise did give me a glimpse into the myriad potential uses of After Effects to spice up, personalise, brand and enhance video content. Below is something far more schmick, sourced from Vimeo…

Week 5: Masking Unmasked!

Tonight’s tutorial was all about masking, which is a technique that enables you to hide certain sections of a video clip while blending multiple clips together to create a special effect. The video below shows one of many such effects – I’ve created multiple versions of myself in a video!

It was an amusing exercise to undertake, and took a bit of tweaking to ensure that I visualised the final layout while acting out each scene so as not to interfere with the places you intend to carry out the other scenes. An example of where I didn’t get this quite right was where my waving arm blocked the place where I needed to be in the following scene. I got around the problem by turning one of me’s upside down which does look quite ridiculous, but never mind.

Here’s the final result of two hours of effort!


The music in the video was sourced from a Creative Commons website and is called Walkampfchampagne by an artist called Erdbeerschnitzel. No more need be said about that!

Here’s an example from a random dude on YouTube of effective use of masking to create the effect I tried to emulate above.



Assignment 1: Motion Graphics Video – “Mister Muddle Kerfuddle”

Here’s a little yarn I wrote which I hope is well suited to the kinetic text motion graphics format. The tale itself concerns a lovely but hapless chap called Mister Muddle Kerfuddle, who’s mixed up world causes him – and his loving wife – constant trouble and confusion. The moral of the story can be wrapped up by the notion that nothing is as bad as it seems, if only you’ve got someone close at hand who understands you! A good motto for life perhaps.

In technical terms it was certainly more challenging creating an engaging, edgy motion graphics video, than it was to write the original story! Although I’m very much a beginner with this software I did find that through the course of creating the video many elements of the process started to gel with me. Aspects such as rotating, scaling, moving and zooming groups of text to add vibrancy to the video initially proved problematical and I often had to repeat the process several times to get it right. I found that placing keyframes in the right place, and doing the actions in the right order, were usually the cause of my difficulties. This repetition did serve me well though, and I am feeling more confident with the software than I did previously.

Still a long way to go though as we are only just touching the very tip of the capabilities of this very powerful software package. I don’t plan to ever be an expert or full time use of After Effects, but I’m really looking forward to being comfortable enough with the program to know what colleagues and clients who use it are up to, or to advise clients on what they can achieve with the program.

My motion graphics video is pretty simplistic and reflects my current level of aptitude with After Effects software, but it is a marker on my pathway to greater proficiency and that is the important thing. Here we go…

Note: All works original by Teri Cooper. The background music was sourced via a Creative Commons website, the track is called “Ants”