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:
- Filmed myself walking into frame, jumping in the air, then running out of frame
- 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)
- Delete the full clip and ripple delete the space between the ‘jump’ shot and the ‘nobody in frame’ shot
- Add a freeze frame to the jump shot using time > freeze frame – this added a new layer of myself frozen in the air
- Using the pen tool (with RotoBezier selected to give auto curves) I traced my outline in mid-air for later use
- Added some motion blur for realism (see screenshot below)
Creating the ground shudder
- 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
- 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
- I duplicated the mask layer > changed the settings to subtract > selected the keyframes and moved it to offset it against the first mask layer
- Added some rough edges using the stylise filter
- Turned on the 3D feature to give the circle depth and rotated it to align it with the ground (see screenshot below)
- 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)
Ground shudder effect in 2D
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…
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!