By Aharon Rabinowitz
Published on Thursday, May 12th, 2011
In a previous blog post we talked about the film, “My Sucky Teen Romance,” directed by 18-year-old Emily Hagins, and how we got to be a part of the process. In this Blog entry, we’ll explore the visual effects of the film. Brian Behm was the VFX supervisor, and he broke down several of the VFX shots he worked on, in the film. In his words:
Arm Reflection Removal
We discovered (after the fact) that the aviator glasses our evil vampire was wearing were reflecting the sound guys arm in some of the shots. We had to figure out a way to remove them while not making them completely black. Using the keyer in Colorista II’s secondary correction, I was able to take the sound guys arm color and bring it back to a color that more closely matched the nearby areas in the reflection. Then, I manually tracked the lens area of his glasses and used them as a track matte on a solid that brought the overall levels on his glasses down. Then the shot was handed over to our colorist.
You can see in the video how the color pass wasn’t able to eliminate the reflection but with the darkening and Colorista II pass we were able to mostly eliminate it.
During re-shoots or lead actress got a pimple at the edge of her nose that wasn’t there during principal photography. Using the wire/rig remover that comes with Key Correct I was able to blend it away. One of the key distinctions between the wire/rig removal filter that comes with After Effects and the one built into Key Correct is the ability to feather out the edges of the two point line the rig creates. This made blending away the pimple much easier since it was in a conspicuous place and I needed it to be seamless.
Emily’s movie takes place amidst a group of high school kids who go off to a science fiction convention for the weekend. We wanted to create a title sequence that allowed us to get into the kids heads a bit, conveying some of the energy that’s there and hinting at some of the things we might see throughout the rest of the movie. We mined public domain horror movies for imagery they might have seen growing up and created looping 8-bit animated pieces that we composited together in Final Cut. The secondary color corrector built into Colorista II came in really handy. Using the hue dial I could dial in what I actually wanted the color to be after I applied my blend mode.
Over the course of the opening sequence there are close to 100 instances of Colorista applied. Each cut would have a Colorista II instance on both the background and text layer so that we could dial in the specific color of each while keeping our blend modes the way they needed to be so that we could get the layer interaction that we wanted to get.
If you look closely in some of the animated loops you’ll see that I was able to use some of Harry Frank’s Video Rock pieces to help create my 8-bit kaleidoscopes.
After a first screening of an early draft of the film, it was suggested to Emily, the director, that we should somehow show what the heightened senses of a hungry vampire might look like. She came up with the idea that when a vampire senses blood they can home in on artery and actually ‘see’ it. I took our original clip into Mocha and set up a track that followed along with the camera movement and then using transfer modes in After Effects and an anatomical image purchased from an on-line stock agency created a see-through look.
To create the veins we used multiple instances of Trapcode 3D stroke and bevel filters. Because 3D stroke generates its lines from masks, I was able to animate my bezier paths over time to create the illusion of blood pulsing. After the first draft, we decided that since vampires eyes ‘go red’ in our universe when they’re ready to feed that that should be carried over to the shot as well. We took our first effects pass and dropped it into a new composition and created a duplicate layer. On the duplicate layer we went into Magic Bullet Looks and created a pretty extreme look with soft focus on the edges, accentuated blacks and diffusion. We then faded between the original and the final to make it seem like his vision was ramping up.
Vince’s death had been shot practically on set but I was presented with a request to change the tip of our practical stake to a sharp stake and make it look like it was actually going into Vince’s body. Using various pieces of stock blood footage I was able to create a rather grizzly death look, but Colorista II again, helped me get to the point where I felt everything was blending together. If you look at the image to the left (click it for an enlarged view) you’ll see that the blood coming out of our practical appliance is multi-toned.
Using Colorista II’s color keyer, I took all of the reds in the blood and lowered the brightness and midtones until they blended more evenly.
Additional applications of Colorista to each of the blood layers that we composited together and a final adjustment layer to blend all of the blood together with one more instance of Colorista got the shot to where I wanted it to be.
On working with Red Giant, Emily (the director) had this to say:
“Red Giant was instrumental to to completion of MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE. They donated software that we used to pay our visual effects team, which helped us during crunch time before we premiered at SXSW. Between the personal contact with the company and the professionalism of the products, I would recommend Red Giant software to productions of any scale.”