Recently, we were introduced to Digieffects customer, Julian Bleecker; photographer, digital media artist and founder of Hello, Skater Girl. We were so mesmerized by the imagery he created, capturing women skaters competing in the gritty backdrop of skate parks all over the US; we wanted to meet him and learn more about him and how he creates his art.
Digieffects (DE): Can you tell us a little about HelloSkaterGirl, and about yourself?
Julian Bleecker (JB): I moved to Venice Beach California awhile ago and wanted to get to know the history and culture of where I was living. I'm an over-enthusiastic amateur photographer. A camera and a lens provides a decent way for me to ask questions about where I am and who I'm around in an indirect way, which is comfortable for me. I stared shooting in the Venice Beach Skatepark because I knew that place was a dog-eared page of the story that is this beach town — the history of this place passes straight through surf-skate life and culture. It was an amazing visual-anthropology to shoot there and get to know all the wonderful and curious people and their stories about skating and the Westside — Dogtown, Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey. I became a bit obsessed with capturing as many facets of the life as possible. Almost by accident, I found myself traveling to shoot with skaters and at competitions all around the country.
I got to shoot at X-Games 16, which was amazing and daunting to be up close to incredible skaters. Towards the end of a long, hot, sweaty day of shooting and lugging around gear and being humbled by the other professional photographers, I went into the air conditioned Nokia Theater to cool down. The Women's Vert Ramp Competition was on. I hadn't even thought once about shooting any of the women's events. Why not? It's not an excuse, but I can only surmise that the bias of a year of shooting men unconsciously led me to ignore women skaters. Not shooting with women wasn't a choice so much as a result of the familiar systemic issue that skateboarding is for guys.
That day was an eye opener. The women were bringing heat. This was real competition. Plenty of thrills. Lots of air. They were 110% sporty. Competitive while also encouraging and supporting one another.
That event was the start of this project. Through the Hello, Skater Girl project I hoped to distinguish what these sportswomen are doing without fetishizing the fact that they are women in a sportsman's game. Rather that they are women skating like women. I hope that these images in the book show a bit of that and their spirit and personalities.
But, I don't do this full-time, although sometimes it seems so. I'm normally a designer and technology guy. I work in the Advanced Design studio for Nokia here in Los Angeles and I run a design and innovation studio called The Near Future Laboratory where we figure out what could be, even if it's really weird.
DE: What camera equipment and software was used?
JB: I'm a Nikon boy by birth. I have a bunch of bodies from a D3S to an N90S. The lenses run the gamut, but mostly I shoot with the wider ones — 14mm/2.8, 16mm/2.8, 20mm/2.8, 24mm/1.4, but I usually keep my old trusty 85mm/1.8 handy. My go-to lens for the skateboard work has been the 24mm/1.4. I've been trying to perfect shooting it nearly wide open with an nearly black-out neutral density filter to let me keep it open in bright sun. The bokeh you can get with these conditions and a bit of luck makes the photography more portrait-like, which is an aesthetic I've been going for. The hyperfocal on wider lenses or slower lenses makes the images lack depth and look quite flat, in my opinion.
On the software side, I use ImageIngester and Photo Mechanic for the ingestion and pre-processing and then Adobe Lightroom and a big RAID array for cataloging and managing photos. The workflow feels medieval. Someone is really going to put sort this digital asset management thing and make it all work nicely. Right now it's harder than it needs to be. All the VFX work is done in AfterEffects and Final Cut.
DE: How much time is spent in post and VFX?
JB: I tend not to fuss too much with the images, although the spontaneity of the subject and the fact that its not studio photography means that the light isn't always spot-on. You're basically trying to take photos of very excited squirrels running all over the place and so you never really know what the light is going to do to you — clouds move, the sun moves, sometimes you shoot into it, sometimes its oblique to you. So it helps to capture images with lots of latitude for some corrections between very dark darks and very bright brights.
I use Nik Software's tools to help with that sort of thing, especially their Viveza tool. When I find an image I want to use, I tend to spend a bit of time with it. And, if I'm using it for one of still life with motion animations, I'll spend anywhere from an hour to a couple of days working with it. Mechanically the DigiEffects Camera Mapper effect makes it easy to setup the animation. Actually getting an animation and camera move that's satisfying can take as long as you want.
DE: There are some really nice color and VFX treatments to your work. Which Digieffects products do you use and how did they assist the process?
JB: I used Camera Mapper for all the animations. That was the core tool for the animations. The Buena Depth Cue suite is great to work with. Although most of the depth effects I created in camera, things like the Depth tool allowed me to enhance the aesthetic I was looking in a couple of the animations with very few hassles.
DE: What features of the products did you most take advantage of?
JB: Camera Mapper makes it relatively easy to get a great alternative to the tired Ken Burns pan-and-zoom for still images. I mean — I'm trying to use still images in a very time-based media world. It was a challenge to figure out what to do and once I saw that sort of effect in films like The Kid Stays in the Picture and Riding Giants. Camera Mapper and animating camera moves that reveal parallax is a really exciting alternative to 3D that is more authentic to photography in a video format.
DE: Can you talk about any particular challenge or frustration that Digieffects helped with?
JB: It took me several tries to figure out how to make Camera Mapper work. I think I wasn't thinking visually and just following the steps as I understood them in the tutorials. I think I'll do my own tutorial. The moves I'm doing are quite simple visually so I think a tutorial would explain the basic principles simply. Camera Mapper set me up to focus on what and how I wanted to animate stills. After doing it many, many times I can imagine how I could do it without the plug-in — but it greatly simplifies the workflow.
You can see more of Julian’s work on his web site here: http://helloskatergirl.com Or check out his Vimeo page here to see more stunning videos created with Digieffects: http://vimeo.com/helloskatergirl
Julian is also working on a new book; a limited edition collection of photography and the stories behind the Hello, Skatergirl photos. He’s using Kickstarter as a way to get the book into people’s hands. To support this effort, please visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/221647184/hello-skater-girl.
Posted at 04:33 PM in 3D, Cinematography, Digieffects, Film, Fun, Online Video, Post Production, Video Editing, Production, Sports, VFX Software, Web/Tech, Workflow | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
I've been watching the viewer numbers steadily rise for "Plot Device," the brilliant short from the creative minds of Seth Worley (who directed and co-wrote the film) and Red Giant's own Aharon Rabinowitz (who also co-wrote the film and executive produced it).
I think what's so fun about this whole thing is; they never really set out to create some Internet sensation. They really wanted to do something a little different...and fun...to promote a visual effects suite (Magic Bullet Suite 11) in a way that wouldn't make their fellow filmmakers gag. The result - over 600,000 views on Vimeo, and over 60,000 views on YouTube!
If you haven't seen it, check it out here. It's very well done.....and a lot of fun. I kind of want one!
Digieffects' announcement today hones in on some very impressive technology innovation under the hood in their families of VFX plug-ins; Delirium v2 and Damage v2. While Digieffects has amassed a significant fan base over the years due to their very high quality VFX at accessible price points (their plug-ins make your shots look incredibly high end, and their pricing makes it a no-brainer, must-have in your tool kit), one point that's been overlooked is their attention to workflow efficiencies. Bottom line is, for editors and VFX artists, it's not only about making your stuff look good, it's about taking the tedium out of the workflow too. And that's exactly what Digieffects AutoAnimate technology does.
DC Shoes used Damage to create a 70's look to their stop motion short, featuring surfing sensation Clay Marzon. Check out the short here...
Here's today's announcement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Digieffects Integrates Sophisticated, Workflow-Enhancing Innovations into Delirium and Damage Family of VFX Plug-Ins
Digieffects’ Delirium v2 and Damage v2 Builds In AutoAnimate Capability Into Select Plug-Ins; Advanced Features, Technology Typical in High End VFX Systems Enables Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro Editors to Instantly Visualize Effects on the Timeline in Real Time
Wilmington, NC (May 24, 2011) – Digieffects® (www.digieffects.com) announced today it has integrated powerful, innovative workflow-enhancing technology into its family of Delirium v2 and Damage v2 VFX plug-ins, significantly accelerating the editing and VFX workflow for Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro artists. By integrating powerful AutoAnimate capabilities into several of its plug-ins, Digieffects is enabling editors and VFX artists to seamlessly drop an effect on any clip in a Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro timeline and instantly see animated results, in real time with no rendering.
Typically available in high end VFX solutions not accessible to independents, smaller boutique agencies and students, Digieffects AutoAnimate capability significantly accelerates the editing and VFX workflow and eliminates the tedium of manually animating parameters of the effects to test their viability in the shot, which is typically an extremely time consuming and impractical process for editors and VFX artists on a deadline. There is no need to keyframe any of the controls unless users want to adjust a certain parameter over the course of time.
“Digieffects’ AutoAnimate innovation is another example of how we’re empowering everyone in the market with very sophisticated workflow solutions at price points that fit today’s constricted budgets,” said Robert Sharp, president of Digieffects. “We have an extremely talented team of developers here at Digieffects that implicitly understand that VFX solutions are not simply about delivering visually stunning results. It’s also about delivering workflow efficiencies and eliminating the obstacles that slow our customers down. And we’re doing it all at a price point that enables our customers to deliver high value results without draining their budget.”
Digieffects AutoAnimate: How it Works
Digieffects AutoAnimate technology enables Delirium v2 and Damage v2 users to easily drop an effect onto a clip in the editing timeline and see the animated results in real time. This significant workflow enhancing capability eliminates the need for artists to manually animate the different parameters of the plug-in to test the viability of the look in each shot. The manual key framing process is extremely slow and tedious and often takes valuable time away from the edit and slows down the post-production process. When the user selects the Delirium or Damage plug-in that works for the shot, they can simply adjust the controls within the settings and that effect will be AutoAnimated.
Delirium v2 includes 45 effects in 5 categories, such as Phenomena, Color, Patterns & Distortions, Mood, and Compositing Tools. Additionally, the Delirium v2 family of VFX plug-ins are available for purchase individually as part of the Company’s a la carte offerings. Delirium v2 plug-ins enabled with AutoAnimate include:
Damage V2 includes 7 effects to artistically degrade footage, including Aged Film, Archive, Blockade, Destabilizer, Interference, Overexpose and Skew, and are all enabled with AutoAnimate capability.
Pricing and Availability
Digieffects’ entire family of VFX plug-ins are available immediately and are priced as follows:
For more information and pricing on Digieffects a la carte options, please visit www.digieffects.com.
Founded in 1996, Digieffects is a developer of visual effects software. Our software functions as "plug-ins" and work in conjunction with Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, Boris RED and Grass Valley Edius. We have customers all around the world including many of the best known brands in the media and entertainment industry. We service a variety of other markets including corporations, government agencies, universities, non-profit institutions, independent freelancers and hobbyists. Digieffects has also licensed its plugins to Adobe and Roxio for inclusion in their video software applications.
DC Shoes is one of the most recognized, skate driven action sports apparel brands in the world. Recently, the marketing and production crew at DC Shoes was challenged to come up with new, fresh ideas to reach these consumers. We spoke with Ross Haines, Justin Smith, and Dino Manuel who shared with us some of the details of their newest stop action short, featuring the likeness of pro surfer Clay Marzo. Here's what they told us:
After a series of focus groups with kids, surfers, skateboarders, and people in the industry, we learned they wanted something new and different, something they'd never seen before. So we got together to brainstorm some ideas and came up with the idea for a series of stop motion shorts, but with a fun twist, and one that captured the kitschy look and feel of old time monster movies.
We didn't know what we were doing, but we poured our heart and soul into it; inspired by Wes Anderson and his work on Roal Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, and even the funky kung fu flix from the 70s, we had the most freedom we've ever had to do something weird and fun.
So when we were done, we had some really clean footage of a fun, unique stop motion flick. But it was missing something. It was missing that roughed up look. We wanted to make it look as close to an old school, vintage, scratched up film, but without looking obvious, cheap or cheezy.
And that's where Digieffects came through as the hero at the 11th hour! Digieffects did an amazing job giving the film the exact look and feel we were going for. This film was such a success, we're now working on series of 4 more shorts; and Digieffects will definitely play a huge role in giving us those classic looks that simply complete the look and feel of the movies. And our fans love them too; our FaceBook page is approaching 5 million fans and our YouTube Channel is the second most viewed and subscribed to in all action sports. So check out our latest flick complete with the help of Digieffects Damage at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rEAgude9T8
This is pretty exciting news for all who have endured the head-spinning, sometimes nauseating experience of watching shaky, trembly and frankly, unwatchable home videos. My friends at Digieffects have teamed up with Roxio to provide their professional-caliber stabilization technology in the newly released Creator 2011 software.
The announcement crossed the wires this morning, but here's the text of the press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Digieffects Teams Up with Roxio to Deliver Powerful Video Stabilization Technology to Consumer Markets
Roxio Licenses Digieffects Stabilization Technology; Integrated into Roxio Creator 2011 to Allow Consumers to Smooth Out Shaky Home Movies
Wilmington, NC (October 6, 2010) – Digieffects® (www.digieffects.com), a developer of popular visual effects software plug-ins, announced today that it has teamed up with Roxio® to deliver powerful, professional-caliber stabilization technology to consumer camcorder markets. Roxio has licensed Digieffects stabilization software for inclusion in Creator® 2011 to enable customers to quickly stabilize shaky home movies.
With the explosion of consumer-generated video content resulting from significant growth in cell phone and ultra-small form factor, tapeless video cameras, the issue of jittery, unstable video images has not been addressed at the consumer level, until today.
According to Robert Sharp, president of Digieffects, "This announcement represents a watershed moment for Digieffects. The past few years we’ve seen tremendous growth in demand for our products in the high-end professional content creation marketplace. This partnership with Roxio positions our products, technology and brand very well to a significantly larger and rapidly growing customer base."
Roxio Creator 2011, bolstered with Digieffects stabilization technology, is available immediatley at www.roxio.com.
Digieffects also announced today its partnership with Green Parrot Pictures of Dublin, Ireland. The company was founded in 2004 as a digital video technology company providing IP licensing, consulting and software development. Green Parrot Pictures is providing Digieffects with consulting and development services for its stabilization technology.
About Green Parrot Pictures
Green Parrot Pictures makes visual algorithms for the post production industry. The team has years of research and development experience in video processing. The founder, Anil Kokaram, won an Academy Award for his motion technology in 2007 alongside colleagues at The Foundry.
Digieffects is a developer of popular software visual effects plug-ins for Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Autodesk Combustion, Grass Valley Edius and Boris RED. The company has been in the business since the beginning of the “plugin revolution” which dates back to 1996. Over the years, Digieffects has had great success with software products like Cinelook and Delirium and is proud to call thousands of film and video producers all around the world its customers and friends.
Earlier this year, Italian director Francesco Calabrese and VFX freelance artist, Fabrizio Bonaga were thinking of ways to collaborate with Amari, an aspiring band from Udine, Italy, with whom they’d become quite friendly with in recent months. Calabrese wanted to do something funny, creative, challenging, and even a little crazy. So the idea was hatched to make a film-style music video based on a series of classic science fiction movies and to realistically insert the band members into as many shots as possible.
With the concept solidified, Calabrese and Bonaga began pouring through as many sci-fi movies as possible, looking for inspiration and ideas on how this project could evolve. They also carefully reviewed and planned out the process and workflow in detail to ensure they had the most cost-effective and simplest approach.
They started the project by stitching together scenes from multiple movies, successfully finding sequences with enough continuity between the films. Calabrese then created a rough cut of what would eventually become the music video, carefully piecing together scenes based on the actors’ movements, ensuring the least amount of rotation and changes in perspective. When you’re about to embark on a major face-replacement project, the less ambiguity in each shot, the better!
“The biggest challenge was replacing the actors’ faces with the band members’ and creating the most realistic, seamless look possible. And that’s tough when you’re working with low-quality DivX as your source,” said Bonaga, who was charged with all the visual effects for the music video. “We knew in the planning stages that tracking these shots with an average point tracker would’ve been impossible. So we decided early on that Imagineer Systems’ mocha was the only way to go. Even with such low quality source material, mocha worked with extreme precision in every shot.”
“I started the process by making some rough face substitutions; literally roughly dropping in faces throughout the video,” continued Bonaga. “I specifically started the process this way to give me a sense of where my most challenging shots would be. But tracking with mocha was so solid and accurate, there was really nothing else for me to do - mocha tracked scale flawlessly. We did such a good job on the first pass, all I needed to do was track position and rotation; I never even needed to track perspective. The second pass was really about color matching. mocha’s tracking was solid, just as we expected!”
Creating a music video with such sophisticated visual effects doesn’t come without its problems, however. With only one day to shoot the band and capture all the green screen shots needed to begin the face replacement in post, the team was tired. “At the end of a long day of shooting, we were exhausted. When we discovered that a few of the shots were the wrong perspective with the faces in the wrong positions, we decided not to re-shoot, but to take advantage of some of the tools in post to fix the problems. This turned out to be a relatively easy fix. I simply removed the entire original head from the movie, wiped it clean with a plate created in Photoshop, tracked the background with mocha and replaced the head completely with the band members’ head!”
The second major challenge was color matching. Since many of the movies they selected for the video were older, they had a grainy quality. So not only did Bonaga have to precisely track each face, but he needed to recreate the lighting and grainy look as well. “I’m not an expert in color correction,” continued Bonaga. “But I jumped in with enthusiasm and managed with a very practical approach. The ability to export my mocha tracking data, and do it in low-rez jpeg compression, I was able to recreate the grainy, squared ‘noise’ that matched the original film perfectly.”
Bonaga also credits Francesco Calabrese’s expertise behind the camera as key to making color correction and matching that much easier. “After studying the source material closely, Francesco was able to capture such a close look and feel with the on-stage lighting as he was shooting. This truly made my job easier too!”
One day of shooting, two days of pre-production and approximately 90 hours of post production went into the creation of the Tiger music video for Amari. The result is nothing short of spectacular, with images so clean and accurate, it’s almost impossible to tell that a major face replacement project took place. And the result was exactly what Calabrese, Bonaga and the band members of Amari were striving for.
“We wanted a challenge,” concluded Bonaga. “But we knew we could have never even conceived this project without mocha!”
And here's the finished product; amazing!