Archive for the ‘Technique’Category

Fun with After Effects and Illustrator

Spring Break has provided an excellent opportunity to spend time playing around in my new software programs. One of the things I had wanted to do was try importing an Illustrator document into After Effects. I already knew how to do this with Apple Motion and Photoshop; but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a simple way to get Illustrator docs into Motion if you want to work with vectors. After about an hour or so struggling with my paths in Illustrator (I’m not very good at drawing with paths), I had a basic comp I could send to After Effects:

In After Effects, you simply import your Illustrator file as a composition to retain and animate the layers you’ve made. I had four layers – the ribbon background, text, and two brace layers. You’ll want to have some idea of how you want to animate the objects in your comp – each object has to be its own layer if you want to animate it independently of everything else.

The trickiest part for me this evening was figuring out how to continuously animate the ribbon background. If I had done this in Motion, I would have used the ‘Replay’ behavior and been done with it. After Effects CS5 appears to have more controls for this sort of time remapping, but I couldn’t quite figure why it wouldn’t work for me.  The ‘enable time remapping’ option stayed grayed out no matter what I did; I have a theory it’s because my layer wasn’t footage. I could’ve tested this theory by exporting the layer out as an .mov and bringing it back in, but I opted to animate using the good ‘ol motion track option instead.  I made a 10 sec. version of the moving ribbon so I can use it again on a real project someday. That sort of concept might look good as a lower third or something.

What do you think of my little animation? Am I on to something?


03 2011

Exciting workflow changes

There’s  been a big change to my workflow recently and I feel that it merits a post. I’ve finally switched over to Adobe Creative Suite after years of using open-source projects like GIMP, Inkscape and Blender.  The main reason I hadn’t yet gone Adobe (besides the cost) was that I felt I could do most of the things I needed to do with open-source programs.  Plus, it feels good to show people how much you can do even if you don’t have high-dollar software.   The skills you learn on free or low-cost open-source software are essentially the same, and you’re never paying for more program than you need. It’s also a great way to show potential employers that you know how to do a lot with limited resources.

But with the faculty discount on Adobe Creative Suite and an impending job search to consider, it finally made sense for me to make the switch.  I also like that cross-compatibility is now a given with these creative programs.  For example, Final Cut Pro docs import easily into Adobe Premiere Pro, and it’s easy to make a quick motion graphic by importing Photoshop layers into Motion 4.  However, the biggest reason for my purchase has to do with my future employment opportunities. It seems employers are requiring more diverse software knowledge for multimedia jobs than ever before, so I need to buff up on many of these programs in order to be competitive.

I still ardently recommend open-source programs for communications students who don’t have the financial resources for software, or who don’t know yet which direction they’re headed in the field. The open-source route isn’t for everyone – installation and debugging are usually trickier, and there’s not always good documentation for how to use the program.  But if you’re up to the challenge, I can promise that you’ll learn so much more about computers, and you’ll appreciate having the real version of Photoshop that much more.

Looking for an open-source version of a commercial software product? Here’s a link to a great resource.


03 2011

Breaking up with your footage.

I recently re-watched this segment of Ira Glass on Storytelling while discussing the series with my class.  Ira’s message about being a ‘ruthless killer’ and cutting anything that doesn’t add to the story is really ringing true for me this week. I’m working on two more videos for Stan Clark Co.’s 20-year service award recipients, which is a huge undertaking.  I had less raw footage to deal with this time, but taking 6+ hours of video down to an end-product that’s 15 minutes long is still a monumental task! Adding to this challenge is the story’s form – I’m letting the interview subjects tell the recipient’s story with no voice-over or scripted narration.

With every cut and cull, I find myself asking if I’m ‘propping-up’ the recipient’s story or confusing the story’s natural flow. Particularly when there’s no script involved, one has to pay careful attention to editing, so that the interviewee’s statements make sense in context with others around it; and also that these statements aren’t edited so as to deceive their true meaning. This leads to situations wherein I have an amazing clip – the person is saying something funny, deep, or genuine and it really sings – but I don’t have any other material to support it and make it the best it can be. If I keep the clip, I’m only doing so because I selfishly love it; not because that’s the best context or helps the story. Thus, even though I’ve fallen in love with the clip, I have to let it go. It hurts for now, but with Ira’s support I’m sure I’ll have a story that’s a lot stronger in the end.


02 2011