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USC graduate students embrace Adobe Creative Cloud to edit thesis film

USC filmmakers break new ground with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Filmmaker Christopher Guerrero—soon to graduate—and Maury Shessel—already on his career path—both attended The University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts (SCA). Both video pros have tried various software programs and suites to edit and post-produce projects and they agree: Adobe Creative Cloud with an emphasis on Adobe Premiere Pro CC for editing gives them everything they need to create a box-office hit. They decided to edit Chris’s graduate thesis film, Mike Garcia and The Cruz, using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and shared their thoughts about their exciting work-in-progress. Norman Hollyn, USC Endowed Chair in Editing and President of the University Film and Video Association, also weighs in on the choices available to students today.

Adobe: As graduate students from the renowned USC SCA, why did you choose Adobe Premiere Pro CC to edit Christopher’s thesis?

Guerrero: My first experience editing film was at UC Santa Cruz, where I learned to edit 8-millimeter film. Like a lot of folks in the industry, I graduated to non-linear editing and learned Final Cut Pro and Avid. I became somewhat of an editing guru and digital media specialist at UC Santa Cruz. When I went to USC, I was introduced to Premiere Pro and became addicted to its ability to ingest almost any raw camera format without transcoding and its integration with other Adobe programs like After Effects and Photoshop.

Shessel: In our first conversation, when Chris inquired if I would edit his thesis, we initially decided on Premiere Pro CC due to its flexibility. We did not want to wait forever for things to be ready to edit, and we wanted to shoot on the latest high-end digital cameras, including the Sony F5 and Sony F65. Our next thought was we didn’t have the most powerful computers, so we couldn’t afford a ton of RAM to transcode and start editing. When we started really putting Premiere Pro to the test, we were pleasantly surprised. We loved that we could bring in After Effects compositions or layers from Photoshop instantly. No more checking settings or dealing with alpha channels. As the first thesis project team at USC to use Premiere Pro, we’re really trying to innovate and show what can be done with the solution.

Adobe: Professor Hollyn, is this a trend you’re starting to see with more of your students?

At the School of Cinematic Arts, we’re always watching what’s happening with the NLEs. We want students to learn about all of the editing solutions available to them so they have more flexibility when they graduate. We’re beginning to see more interest in using Premiere Pro for projects. We’re moving toward a situation where in a couple of years the decision of which system to work with won’t be reserved just for thesis films, it will extend down further in curriculum, even to the undergraduate level.

I meet with every group before they start shooting their thesis projects. We talk about the story, their post-production schedule, and what tools they will be using. I recently met with another group whose film involves heavy visual effects and they asked specifically about using Premiere Pro because of its strong integration with After Effects. For Chris and Maury, I know they were really interested in being able to throw multiple formats on the Premiere Pro timeline without transcoding and the Dynamic Link capability between Premiere Pro and After Effects really piqued their interest. They also wanted to be the first to edit a thesis using an Adobe workflow. I like it when our students experiment with new stuff.

Adobe: What is the thesis film about, and how long is it?

Guerrero: My Master’s thesis is a comedy. Not many comedies come out of USC. That’s something Maury and I have in common. Both our theses are comedic and we both love that genre. Adding to his immense talent, this was another reason I asked him to help me with my thesis.
The film is about a punk rock IT student. He’s an anarchist who steals the Chancellor’s laptop. Right now, it is 27 minutes, but Maury and I are working on cutting it down to 15 or 16 minutes. SCA's high profile, annual student film festival, First Look, has strict guidelines about how long films can be. We’re anticipating that it’s going to be done in December 2013 or January 2014 and we hope it will premiere at the festival.

Adobe: What have you found most useful in Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

Guerrero: I’ve been working with Premiere Pro since version CS5, and I love its ability to support a ton of high-end graphics and seamlessly incorporate effects from After Effects. With the graphics card on my computer, I can throw 10 or more effects at the timeline through Dynamic Link, and I don’t have to wait around to render anything. Everything is elegant and ready to go without re-linking files or grabbing a hard drive. The simplicity is stunning. To me, after years of jumping around between software applications and transcoding and exporting files, that’s pretty insane.

Adobe: What was the learning curve like for you, Maury?

Shessel: I was trained on Avid, and worked on it most of my life. But with Premiere Pro, I was fluent almost instantaneously. The keystrokes were slightly different, but in two to three days, my muscle memory was going for the right keys.

Adobe: Can you describe some of the best parts of this experience?

Shessel: As editors, we are always looking for the best tools. After using Premiere Pro, I can’t imagine not using it again. I tell people how great of a time I’m having with editing this thesis and how easy Premiere Pro is based on other software I’ve used.

Adobe: If you had advice to give to other students, what would it be?

Guerrero: Choose Premiere Pro, and forget transcoding. I know from personal experience how grueling student deadlines are. We have 16 to 18 hours of class each week on top of all our other responsibilities. Take my advice: get from shooting to cutting ASAP.

Adobe: Professor Hollyn, what do you want students to know about the industry when they graduate?

Hollyn: One of the best things we can do for our students is to try to future proof them. This doesn’t mean teaching them every editing program. We try to provide them with knowledge about not just what’s happening in 2013 but what may be happening in 2017. Of course, we can’t predict the future, but we can make sure they learn how to continue growing their skills. There will always be new technologies, distribution channels, and formats. We want students to be able to look for these changes, adapt, and even take advantage of the opportunities that these changes present.

Adobe: Maury, Christopher, what do you both foresee in the future?

Guerrero: There’s an idea people have been throwing around for years, and that’s the democratization of filmmaking. There’s some truth in that. Now everyone has the tools. However, not everyone has the knowledge and creative alchemy and talent to bring all these elements—video, photos, and visual effects—together in a way that intrigues and excites audiences. Today and in the future, smaller teams will be able to create drastically higher quality productions through ingenuity and technologies. Ultimately, filmmaking is about problem solving. Adobe is providing far more tools to solve more problems, much faster. And that helps us create better, more gripping films with fewer resources.

Shessel: I think Premiere Pro is not just a tool, it’s more of an enabler of style, and I’m a worshipper of style, almost to a fault. Over the decades, distinct styles have emerged based on whether people edit on a Moviola or on film, or using non-linear editing tools. Now, with the ease of integration among Creative Cloud components, including After Effects, Illustrator, and Photoshop, I think a new style may emerge as creative barriers are knocked down. So I’m watching closely.

Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud
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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 21, 2013 at 3:04:37 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Joseph Kosinski’s film “Oblivion” showcases elegant effects created with Adobe After Effects

World‐class user interface designers, graphic artists, and animators create crisp, timeless visual elements for sci-fi film

When you want great visual effects for your latest futuristic film, you need to hire a great team. That’s exactly what Joseph Kosinski did for his latest film, Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise as a drone repairman working on an uninhabitable future Earth. Kosinski turned to Bradley G. Munkowitz (GMUNK), who he’d previously worked with on Tron Legacy. As lead interface graphic designer, GMUNK then pulled a team together that included Interface Graphic Designers Joseph Chan (Chanimal) and Jake Sargeant, and Interface Animators Alexander Perry (AP), Navarro Parker (Nav), and David Lewandowski (D‐Lew). They were happy to reunite to share how much fun they had creating the 2D effects for the film using an Adobe workflow. (Now available on DVD.)

Adobe: What was your vision as design director? How did you become involved?

I had a prior relationship with Joe Kosinski because we worked together at Digital Domain doing some TV commercials for HUMMER. Then I did all the holograms for Tron Legacy. I’ve been a graphic artist for more than 12 years, and Joe respects my work. So when he asked if I was interested in Oblivion, there was no question in my mind.

How did the rest of the design and animation group come together?

GMUNK: I actually met Alex (AP) at a party and I knew he was fantastic at animating interfaces. Then we brought on Chanimal and Nav, some of the most amazing animators we’d ever known. Nav has been creating futuristic user interfaces (FUIs) for at least seven years, and Chanimal has a similar level of artistry and experience. This was such a unique gig because we actually assembled our little band together in Culver City right in Joe’s office, so we were sitting next to this famous director and his personal assistant. Every day felt like play, not work. And as design director, I tried to infuse some silly fun into the project. What was great about this project was that we could sketch out and present ideas and discuss them with Joe right there. He was accessible and amenable to a lot of back and forth. It was very fun, loose, and collaborative.

Adobe: What were the first steps on the project?

GMUNK: We wanted to create a very energetic and visually stunning sci‐fi world with a clean, sharp “vector‐ish” feel to it, so for the graphic design we used Adobe Illustrator and then brought the graphics into After Effects. There were two phases of the project. We started by creating an interactive light table for the sky tower. This was a big push with a team of four doing all the concepting, designing, animating, and outputting for the live action shoot of the sky tower. I worked on this part with D‐Lew, Chanimal, and motion graphics guru Jake Sergeant.

Next, we (Nav, Alex, Chanimal, and I) started on the post graphics, which included cockpit elements for the Bubble Ship and heads‐up‐display (HUD) elements for various equipment and weapons in the film. Throughout the whole process we used Illustrator, After Effects, and a little bit of CINEMA 4D. Keep in mind that this is not really a flashy 3D movie with all kinds of holograms and crazy 3D elements. It’s meant to look timeless, minimalist, and elegant, so Illustrator, After Effects, and CINEMA 4D were perfect because they gave it the clean, 2D look we wanted. We used a little Photoshop here and there for text and some Adobe Premiere Pro just for quick playbacks.

Adobe: Alex, tell us what you contributed to the project?

AP: I did a lot of the animations that you see just once in the movie such as a reticle (a grid or pattern placed in the eyepiece of an optical instrument) locking onto a drone. I worked a lot on the little effects on the gun reticles and drone vision that was undulating and looping back and forth. Working on graphics that are supposed to look like they have a function was a fun challenge. In terms of using After Effects, I kept it pretty traditional and used only a few effects. I love animating masks and assets from Illustrator because the workflow is straightforward and the integration is great.

Adobe: Nav, how did you get involved in the project and what was your primary role?

Nav: I’ve always loved computer screens in movies. I had worked on a commercial for Sony, co‐branded with the movie Skyfall, with GMUNK and we enjoyed collaborating. I was thrilled when he asked me to join the team on Oblivion. I primarily worked on the DNA sequence, the drone vision “eyeball,” and a ton of shots for the Bubble Ship HUD. I also assisted GMUNK with a weather display sequence that is part of the deleted scenes on the Blu‐ray.

Adobe: What were some of your main challenges and how did After Effects help you overcome them?

Nav: We were working at super high resolutions, mostly 4K with a handful of shots in 8K, because the goal was to keep the micro‐fine detail absolutely crisp and beautiful. Because After Effects has the ability to infinitely scale vector layers, we were able to scale up any vector file by massive amounts without losing detail. Then we handed shots off to Pixomondo for comping everything into the shots. After Effects also helped us work quickly. The global cache feature in After Effects makes it so once everything is initially rendered, a change to one layer can be rendered out much faster.

Adobe: As you move into using Adobe Creative Cloud more, are there any features you’re especially excited about?

Nav: Specifically for me, the integration between After Effects CC and CINEMA 4D is really useful because I won’t have to be jumping back and forth between applications. I can make faster changes and refinements and have more time to creatively experiment.

Adobe: What made this project special?

GMUNK: I am not sure anything quite like this will ever happen again, where a team like this comes together and we have so much close collaboration with a director like Joe Kosinski. I heard designer Jessica Walsh speak at a conference once and she said something along the lines of, “If you treat work as play, you’ll never work another day in your life. The people you work with, the fun you have, and the sheer joy in creating takes precedence over everything.” That’s what this project was like.

Learn more about the video tools and services in Adobe Creative Cloud
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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:33:15 am After Effects, Customers

Upping the HUD ante with Adobe After Effects

Cantina Creative creates next-generation heads-up display effects for Marvel’s Iron Man 3

Stephen Lawes, creative director and co-owner of Cantina Creative and Cantina VFX Supervisor Venti Hristova raised the bar once again on the heads-up displays (HUDs) for Marvel’s Iron Man 3, which premiered in May and released on DVD in September. The film features Robert Downey Jr. as superhero Tony Stark, along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and other top stars in supporting roles. Lawes and Hristova’s primary task was the creation of 100 HUD-only shots in the film, used with multiple versions of Iron Man and other character’s suits. Lawes and Hristova discuss how they used Adobe After Effects to create the next-generation HUDs for Marvel’s latest superhero hit.

Adobe: Some people might not fully understand what a HUD is. Can you explain it to us in layman’s terms?

Basically, a HUD shows what Stark (Iron Man) is seeing as a graphical representation when he’s in one of his suits. It represents either what he sees from his point of view when he’s looking out, or what is reflected in his visor.

Adobe: What made Iron Man 3 especially challenging?

Hristova: We had to do 100 HUD-only shots, which is pretty daunting. Then we also discovered that in a very short period of time, the CG Iron Man suits had made a huge leap. We met with production VFX supervisor Chris Townsend and VFX producer Mark Soper in September of 2012 and learned that the armor-like CG suits used in movies like Marvel’s The Avengers and Iron Man had gone through multiple generations, from Mk7 to Mk42. They had broken new ground in terms of the number, design, and complexity of the suits, so the HUDs had to match the new suits seen in the film.

How did you go about taking the HUD experience to the next level?

Hristova: We needed to push the visual sense that 2D elements would really have a 3D feel, a physical presence like a hologram. We built two laser lights into the actual HUD, and were able to project holograms from them. We also gave the graphics a more tactile, textural feel. They glow in a glassy way that feels photorealistic. I know the word photorealistic can be misconstrued in many ways, but in this case it just meant that we really had to create the optical illusion of 2D objects genuinely feeling and looking 3D and even adding light streaks to the objects. We used both After Effects and MAXON Cinema4D to accomplish this. Toward the end, we started using the 3D capabilities in After Effects so that we wouldn’t have to re-render a shot every time we added a new dimension. That really sped up the process.

Adobe: When you’re working with HUDs, it’s very procedural and it’s crucial to maintain consistency from one graphics effect to another. That requires a lot of complex math. How did you deal with this in Iron Man 3?

After working on HUD VFX for three different movies, including The Avengers, we created a rig that sets up the math expressions so that they are embedded within the script. The rig uses 3-point tracking in After Effects that captures the two corners of the eyes and the tip of the nose and triangulates that data to create a virtual 3D space. The VFX artists can focus on being artists, not programmers, and that’s what we want to achieve. We also train each artist on how to maneuver, track, and animate the HUD with some intuitive booklets we’ve created so they don’t have to know the math behind it. One caveat: most of our VFX artists are experienced and have previous knowledge. We don’t want to take risks with the HUDs because they’re pretty difficult to wrap your head around (no pun intended). We averaged only about seven to a maximum of ten experienced artists over five months because we’d prefer to use fewer experienced artists, dedicated for longer periods of time.

Adobe: How did Cantina create the graphics shots?

Hristova: At Cantina, we work together to maximize our strengths and many artists contribute to most shots. The graphics on this project were created in After Effects with a team of artists and production staff that included Sean Cushing, Lily Shapiro, Alan Torres, Leon Nowlin, Matt Eaton, Aaron Eaton, Lukas Weyandt, Jon Ficcadenti, Johnny Likens, and Jayse Hansen.

Adobe: Did you also create the HUDs for other characters?

Hristova: Yes, we created a HUD for Rhodey and other characters. We did around 40 HUD CG shots just for Rhodey. Again, we combined mini-teams and assigned them to specific projects so that everyone could maximize his or her strengths.

Adobe: As you move into using Adobe After Effects CC, are there any features you’re especially excited about?

Lawes: Specifically for us, the integration of Cinema4D in After Effects CC is fantastic because we won’t have to be hopping back and forth between applications, and rendering time will be greatly minimized. Also super helpful for us in After Effects CC is the 3D tracking and the new scaling algorithms—both have improved by leaps and bounds. Adobe meets in person with us a couple of times each year to exchange ideas. We love it because we’re able to provide technical feedback into how the development team can help solve the issues we face, and the Adobe team is very savvy and responsive.

Adobe: Why is After Effects CC so well suited for what you do?

Hristova: I think in many ways, we’re the ideal customer for Adobe’s video tools. Our work spans motion graphics, as well as VFX for film and commercials. So we cover the same ground After Effects covers. We use After Effects 90% of the time in our workflow.

Adobe: What’s next for you?

Lawes: We are collaborating with our close friends and neighboring office mates, Bandito Brothers, on Need for Speed!, which is based on the popular Electronic Arts game and slated for release in February 2014. This is going to be huge, as in roughly 900 shots. We’ve got a couple of interesting commercials and movies coming up that we can’t talk about yet, too.

One of the things we’re most excited about is that Venti and I are starting to co-direct commercials that are spec projects with no client involved, so we’re letting our creativity run wild. We’re using more craft-oriented animation techniques, from hand-drawn pieces to stop-motion and 3G, incorporating more of a mixed media approach. Ultimately, this will encompass the launch of an entirely new spin-off company, Little Foot, and the productions will appear on social channels. It’s very entertaining for us, and, of course, creative freedom always makes us happy.

Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 20, 2013 at 1:06:30 pm After Effects, Customers

VFX and motion graphics experts use Adobe After Effects on “Star Trek Into Darkness”

Andrew Kramer focused on movie titles while OOOii team created stunning graphics and heads-up displays for blockbuster film

Resurrecting the classic science fiction franchise of Star Trek is certainly a challenge that any motion graphics and VFX artists would gladly accept. For the latest installment, Star Trek Into Darkness, Andrew Kramer of Bad Robot and author/owner of the site Video Copilot was the lucky one tapped to create more than 30 title sequences for the movie. Production studio OOOii eagerly took on the job of designing all user interfaces and future technologies within the movie. Kramer, OOOii CEO Kent Demaine, and Lead Designer Jorge Almeida all shared their great experiences working on the latest seminal Star Trek film (now available on DVD).

Adobe: What were some of the unique challenges of creating titles for Star Trek Into Darkness?

Kramer: I’m sure the folks at OOOii will agree that one of the biggest hurdles was that the film was shot in stereo so everything had to be “true” 3D from start to finish to look realistic and fully dimensional. We used After Effects and Video Copilot’s Element 3D plug-in to create real 3D object-based particles within After Effects. We had a short timeline to create 30-plus titles, so we did not have the hours or need to delve into what people might consider a full-fledged 3D tool. The other challenge was that we had to stick to the same basic Star Trek aesthetic, but make everything more refined and pay strict attention to details.

Adobe: Tell us about the work you did on the film.

Kramer: With a short timeline to create and finalize the titles—filled with very long days and nights—we created more than 30 different titles. JJ Abrams, the film’s director, asked me to come up with a more refined, updated-look for the extreme space fly through title sequence. We had a small modeling team that created a library of high-quality 3D planets, from moons to asteroids and ice planets. The planets were color-corrected and we even designed a planet that broke into pieces of debris. We replicated the pieces hundreds of thousands of times and had them breaking off to give the scenes a sense of depth.

There were multiple “spacescapes” and we needed to make sure they were colorful, vivid, and tangible with debris, asteroids, lens flares, and so on. The cool thing about the lens flares is that they are built from scratch by filming them and then isolating each individual lens flare frame iris in Photoshop and then adding textures. We got some really fun effects. Ultimately, we wanted each title scene to have its own unique world. For example, we created one unique world with the sun burning with hot-looking tendrils as the core. We built a texture using animated fractal noises. As you can tell, we had a lot of fun and tried new techniques that we never had before. The ability to work natively in After Effects for a stereo workflow, not having to render out each planet individually, and being able to make changes dynamically that affected all of the designs was pretty critical.

Adobe: Kent, what was your team’s primary role?

Demaine: OOOii worked closely with the art team and the Production Designer Scott Chambliss to develop iconography and a visual language for this iconic film. Our interfaces and vision of future technologies helped define the revamped USS Enterprise and Starfleet and support the unique vision of the filmmakers. Our specialty is information technology design and human-technology interaction. This involves the creation of things such as holograms, digital signage, and interfaces on devices. Our use of this expertise in films helps provide a vision into new interaction modalities with technologies such as mobile phones—everything we do focuses on natural interaction models that happen between users and information.

Almeida: All of our designers are set up with full Adobe Creative Cloud pipelines. We started by creating some concept art that gave an idea of the style and then we designed based on those concepts, using the previous movie as a guide. Initial designs were done in Illustrator and Photoshop, but by the middle of the film when we had a lot of the elements built we would just go straight into After Effects. Once we hone in on a look everyone likes, we start showing animation tests. There is a lot of back and forth, but as the production moves along everything becomes more specific.

Adobe: Can you give us an idea of the scope of the work that OOOii did on the film?

Demaine: We created more than 300 production and post-production shots over a year’s time. We do the designs and we often composite them, too, but in this case ILM composited the graphics and HUDs into the scenes.

Adobe: Here’s a question for both you, Andrew and Kent: did you use Adobe Premiere Pro for any of your work on Star Trek Into Darkness?

Kramer: We used Adobe Premiere Pro for editing, timing, and prepping primarily. We would do all of our timing and figuring out the music beats, bring in the score, and lay in the still frame designs before we did the camera movement and final compositing. We also used Premiere Pro to determine reference points of different locations for animators so that everything moved in one flowing, orchestrated whole. This was important because there were thousands of layers involved because of the complexity of our stereo camera rig.

Also, one of the key things in the title sequence was getting the color right. For that, we used Adobe Bridge to open the screen shots of each planet design, for instance, and show them all on the screen at one time to see what color palette looked the best: blue highlights, green highlights, too much red, needed more monochrome, and so on. We used it as a color reference for final output before animation.

Demaine: We were traditionally an Avid or Final Cut Pro shop but we’re now exclusively Premiere Pro. We do a lot of plate acquisition through RED cameras, and with Premiere Pro we’re able to drop whatever we are given onto the timeline. We can get camera data from ILM and render out graphics using that information. Like Andrew, we also used Bridge as a file management tool because it let us preview files, visualize layers in files, and drop them into different programs with ease.

Adobe: What about Adobe Creative Cloud? Are you using it, and if so, what are you most enjoying about the newest version of Adobe’s cloud-based video and creative software?

Kramer: I’ve been using Creative Cloud for a while now and, although I know it’s not an entirely new feature, the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects is definitely more advanced and mature. The stabilization movements seem more fluid, and that saves a lot of time. Also, After Effects seem to work more responsively with plug-ins, with faster GL rendering speed, so that saves a lot of time. The quality is magnificent, akin to IMAX feature quality.

Almeida: I’m having a lot of fun using the 3D features in After Effects to build animations. I’ve also just started to dive into Cinema4D and look forward to exploring what that integration can do. The speed and flexibility of After Effects are what I like the most. I often get to the point in post where I’m designing directly in After Effects as much as anything else. I actually prefer it because I can start building things that are more of a finished product and After Effects just lets me design on the fly.

Demaine: Adobe Creative Cloud came along right when we were finalizing this project, but we were already beta testing it and we are impressed. We really like the instantaneous feature updates and more predictable pricing that Creative Cloud offers. I think it’s a good step forward that will let us take advantage of Adobe innovations even faster than before. We’ll also continue to venture into other areas of Adobe’s tools without additional charge. For example on this project, we worked with BlackBox Digital and used Adobe Flash Professional and Adobe AIR extensively to create a cool mobile app that revolves around some of the most impressive VFX scenes in the movie. We think this is just the beginning of what Adobe Creative Cloud will facilitate.

See how Andrew Kramer created the titles for Star Trek Into Darkness using After Effects and Element 3D.

Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud
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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 19, 2013 at 11:10:30 am After Effects, Customers

Seasoned film editor takes Adobe Premiere Pro CC for a spin

Customizable interface, visual effects integration, and fast rendering time impressed long-time Avid editor

Born in Rome, raised in Switzerland, and son of director Andre de Toth, Nicolas de Toth is a second generation film maker. After studying acting for six years Nick worked in production, occupying various positions, from gaffer and grip to production manager. His editing career started as an assistant editor, working with Academy Award-winning editor Neil Travis for eight years. He’s now been editing on his own for 10 years, with film credits including Stoker, This Means War, and Wolverine: X-Men Origins. The windows of time between feature films are small, so Nick only spends about 5% of his time editing commercials. He recently had the opportunity to edit a commercial for MagnaFlow, and chose to work with Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Here, he talks about his first experience with Adobe’s video editing software.

MagnaFlow's 2013 Andretti Commercial

Adobe: What made you decide to try Adobe Premiere Pro?
de Toth: I was aware of Premiere Pro for a long time, but I hadn’t given it a fair shot. I’ve worked with Avid since it was trying to dethrone Lightworks. Though Avid has been the de facto editing system in features, I think it’s important to stay on the lookout for software that is evolving and reinventing itself. For the last seven years, I’ve been lucky enough to work on consecutive projects at 20th Century Fox and even luckier to become friends with Ted Gagliano, President of Feature Post Production. He mentioned that Premiere Pro has made significant strides. When a side project materialized for me, instead of going to Final Cut Pro, I decided to try Premiere Pro.

Adobe: As a long-time Avid and Final Cut Pro editor, how was the learning curve for you?
de Toth: I expected the learning curve to be much steeper than it turned out to be. The interface was malleable, so I could customize it to make it more Avid-like. I’ve worked with Avid for 15 years, so there is comfort in finding a familiar layout. Ultimately, my editing requirements are rather basic, including cutting and timeline editing. Finding something that does as well if not better than what I’m used to working with is encouraging.

MagnaFlow's 2013 Andretti Commercial

Adobe: What are some of the things that you think Adobe Premiere Pro does well?
de Toth: I was impressed with the color timing functions in Premiere Pro. I also thought that the manageability of visual effects and the ability to interface with powerful visual effects software was better in Premiere Pro, which makes sense given the tight integration with Adobe After Effects. Overall, it was very nimble and I never found myself waiting for anything like I do on occasion with Avid. When I’m rendering certain effects, this wait time can interfere with the creative flow. Editing is somewhat like writing. If your process is interrupted you can lose your train of thought, and with it your overall creativity. Premiere Pro was more fluid than I expected.

Adobe: Tell us about the project you worked on using Adobe Premiere Pro.
de Toth: The project was not terribly complex, but I only had a couple of weeks to work on it. We had a lot of dailies for a 30 second spot, so there was a lot of footage to quickly review before bringing it into the project. I liked being able to use the Media Browser and the Hover Scrub feature to scrub through clips before deciding to bring them in. Avid has a rudimentary version of this, but it is not as smooth.

I also received ProRes files of the dailies, which were not graded, so they had a flat, raw look. With the Lumetri Deep Color engine in Premiere Pro I was able to take a lookup provided by ARRI and nondestructively apply it to the footage. It didn’t bake the color in, so when I went to color correct the spot, I was able to turn the lookup on and off. This was cool, because I wasn’t backed into a corner based on how the dailies were graded.

MagnaFlow's 2013 Andretti Commercial

Adobe: How did you prepare the final commercial for delivery?
de Toth: I used Adobe Media Encoder and the experience was very good. Creating the final files is usually something an assistant will do, so I don’t have a ton of experience. I found it to be a foolproof and seamless process. With Avid it is much slower and less straightforward. I posted the commercial for review at a lower resolution and then delivered the final files in the highest possible resolution. Outputting in multiple qualities was easy. The entire experience was good; I was pleasantly surprised and would use Premiere Pro again on future projects.

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:03:58 am Premiere Pro, Customers

Cutting‐edge post production house switches to Adobe Creative Cloud video workflow

Senior Post chooses Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing for web, broadcast, film, and music video content

Josh Senior founded Senior Post in September of 2012 on the principle that at the heart of every project is great storytelling—that makes clients look good. That was nearly a year ago, and Josh still has the napkin he used to sketch out his initial ideas. He has lots of napkins, but that one is special. The company focuses 75% of its time on video editing and 25% on motion graphics work—100% storytelling all the time. We talked with Josh about how his studio is able to accomplish so much—from trailers and teasers to web series, corporate videos, music industry highlights, and branded content—and why he is using an all Adobe video workflow through Adobe Creative Cloud.

Adobe: Tell us about Senior Post.

Senior: Senior Post is an experiment. It is the name of our post house located in Brooklyn, New York. We founded the studio in September 2012 out of necessity. I was working as a freelance video editor and producer, and had multiple post‐production jobs to manage at once. I was in desperate need of organization and structure. When my clients all wanted to book me on the same days, it created logistical challenges outside of just post producing content. What came out of that challenge is Senior Post; comprised primarily of Joanna Naugle and myself. We share a studio space with New Flint, Inc., our production company partner. New Flint is the production company for Senior Post, and Senior Post is the post house for New Flint.

I’d been working on the aesthetic of a company that I hoped to create, and it has been great to finally see it come to life. We currently have two full time people who are always editing, and at any given time we can bring in six or seven editors for a day, week, or however long is needed for a project. That flexibility has allowed us to take on all types of projects at varying levels of budget and resources. We love that.

Adobe: Do you only focus on web video production?

Senior: When we started Senior Post, we positioned it as a digital post house. Our experience comes from online video. We are as passionate about end delivery as we are about packaging, and there aren’t a lot of vendors that only work on web content, so we’re in a good place. We do some broadcast and commercial content, as well as more cinematic endeavors such as short film and documentary editing. That said, our expertise and future is as a web video post‐production house and we like that focus. By offering consultation services and working with New Flint, we can provide a broader agency offering if needed, which is convenient if that’s what a client requires.

Adobe: How do you work with VEVO?

Senior: Senior Post is a preferred vendor of VEVO. We partner with them often, but not exclusively, operating as an outsourced post house and production outfit in conjunction with New Flint. VEVO does some video production in house, but often partners with us to help with throughput and creative for more complicated shows, such as web series and special music industry events. One example of a project we worked on recently for VEVO is a VEVO News HOT97 Summer Jam interview series. HOT97 has been the most popular hip hop and rap station in New York for years. They make hip hop history. Every year, the station puts on an epic festival for rappers that includes hip hop and R&B artists, and VEVO turned to us for help with an interview series in association with the event. We were given a room, a list of people to interview, and simple instructions: “make it cool.” We worked with VEVO and HOT97 to tell the right story, while maintaining the highest possible production value.

Adobe: Why did you decide to work with Adobe Premiere Pro?

Senior: Before we started Senior Post, I had only used Premiere Pro for personal projects. As we established our company and our clients became savvier, turnaround times became tighter and integration with motion graphics programs became more critical. These factors pointed us toward Premiere Pro.

The Hot97 Summer Jam video series was the first time we used Premiere Pro for something professional and it was also the first series that we produced soup to nuts, from pre‐production to end delivery. VEVO gave us full access to tell the story. The series was shot on 5D Mark III cameras, which are perfect for the web. They aren’t RED cameras but they can shoot in an ideal web format, and they aren’t news cameras, but they let us get creative and cinematic with the look of our content. With Premiere Pro, we were able to edit the footage straight from the camera. We wouldn’t have been able to do this project if we had to do a day and a half of transcoding. Using Premiere Pro, we were able to deliver an eight video web series within 36 hours of the shoot—it was really special!

Adobe: What are some key features you like in Premiere Pro?

Senior: As former Final Cut Pro users, we just mapped our shortcuts to match what we were accustomed to and within a short time frame we felt like we’d been using Premiere Pro forever. Premiere Pro is particularly great when you have a client sitting in on an edit. There’s a performance element in that situation, and editors are not really performers. It’s nice to find a happy medium where the program isn’t an obstacle to the workflow or storytelling capability.

It’s awesome to look at the clip thumbnails, Hover Scrub through them, and set in and out points all in the Media Browser. These functions allow our assistant editors to take more ownership of projects and integrate themselves more seamlessly into our teams. I also like the Adjustment Layers in Premiere Pro that let us come up with a look and apply it across all of the clips. Although we often color grade our content before delivery, having a conversation about looks while we are reviewing our edits is really helpful. I learned that I really like trying new programs to see what parallels and what doesn’t. It was a good first dance with Premiere Pro.

Adobe: How do you output your video?

Senior: For the HOT97 Summer Jam job we had output specs, so we simply created a preset in Media Encoder, exported the footage, and then uploaded it to the client’s FTP. We also host content on Vimeo or transfer files using a file sharing service. We don’t deliver anything physical.

Adobe: What role does After Effects play in your projects?

Senior: The HOT97 Summer Jam project came with a specific set of criteria. We had to make and modify lower thirds on the fly, and After Effects made that not only possible but also really easy. Dynamic Link between After Effects and Premiere Pro is a game changer for us and dramatically speeds our workflow.

In addition to editing video content, we do a lot of After Effects projects that include motion graphics with recorded voiceovers. We use After Effects to illustrate experiences, apps, products, or procedures.

We’ve also worked with real estate companies that want to highlight their investment funds and companies preparing their marketing materials for IPOs. For all of these clients, After Effects helps us deliver high‐quality motion graphics work that enables us to tell our clients’ most effective stories.

Adobe: How do you use other apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud as part of your production workflow?

Senior: Most of the campaigns we work on are sponsored or branded, so we receive brand guidelines with artwork that we need to incorporate in creative ways. Creative Cloud gives us all of the apps we need for various stages of a project. We use After Effects to create different types of content, including motion graphics bumpers, lower thirds, watermarks, spot animations, and animated text – basically any enhancement to the video that isn’t the actual footage. We often start with Illustrator, as that’s how companies send their brand lockups with logos and visual identities. We isolate the elements we need in Illustrator, take them into Photoshop to create TIFFs with transparency, and then transfer the visuals into Premiere Pro.

Adobe: Are you taking advantage of any other features in Creative Cloud?

Senior: Working with Creative Cloud helps us run a truly digital post house. We are able to seamlessly collaborate with editors and other members of our team using the sync and share capabilities. We’re also able to share a package of Illustrator files in an After Effects project or share a project that includes an InDesign storyboard and art created in Photoshop and broken up into folders. We’re really happy with the efficiencies that Creative Cloud offers, especially in empowering our team members to work from home.

Watch the Summer Jam videos

Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud

Download a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 12, 2013 at 8:50:46 am Premiere Pro, Customers

Stargate Studios Sets the Bar for Visual Effects on Productions

Adobe Creative Cloud and automation create competitive edge for iconic production studio

Delivering content for some of televisions top shows, including House of Lies, Grey's Anatomy, and, of course The Walking Dead, Stargate Studios continues to break the mold of how feature films, television series, electronic games, and commercials are generated. The studio was founded in 1989 by Sam Nicholson, a distinguished cinematographer and visual effects supervisor with 30 years of expertise in film, television, and visual effects. The now international production company provides concept development, advanced production services, and state-of-the-art postproduction services.

In an industry that requires ever-more impressive productions to be created with the same or even smaller budgets than in years past, Stargate has developed a winning strategy. We had a chance to sit down with Sam Nicholson, CEO and founder, and Adam Ealovega, vice president of technology for Stargate Studios to learn more about their strategy and success.

Stargate Studios

Adobe: What do you think differentiates Stargate from other studios?

Nicholson: Over the years, Stargate has adopted the latest cameras, visual effects, editing, and other tools and pushed them to their limits. We have always stayed at the forefront of technology with developments such as our Virtual Backlot (VB), VB Library of virtual environments and stock locations, and VB Live process of real time compositing. We’ve also developed and refined a diverse array of proprietary production tools. And our people are the best of the best, with advanced skills in live action film, HD production, CGI, digital compositing, matte painting, and on-line HD editing.

We are working really hard toward streamlining the difficult process of visual effects. Most people think of VFX like an all-day root canal. They’re expensive. They’re slow. They’re painful. We’re working hard to change that. For instance, on The Walking Dead, we’re showing how creating zombies digitally can be faster and less expensive than physically producing them using prosthetics—although the award-winning prosthetics on The Walking Dead are impressive and deserving of the accolades they receive.

The Walking Dead Season 2 Visual Effects Reel

Adobe: What does being at the forefront of technology mean from practical and business standpoints?

Nicholson: We’ve been able to grow a company based in Los Angeles to a company where we now have facilities in Los Angeles, Toronto, Berlin, Vancouver, Malta, Atlanta, Dubai, and soon Cairo. And what’s amazing is that we can go into countries like Germany or places in the Middle East and win the business, where their cost of business and labor is much lower. We’re not just involved in doing blockbuster features with unlimited budgets. Instead, we’re doing a lot of international TV shows and blockbusters where budgets are very, very low—but at the same time, we refuse to sacrifice quality and creativity. One major benefit is our use of Adobe Creative Cloud. The software is well integrated and easily attainable via Creative Cloud. Everyone is on the same version and it’s easy to update when our team members are working all over the world.

Adobe: How is it possible for Stargate to expand when other companies may be having difficulties?

Ealovega: We face a wide range of both creative and financial challenges and are always looking for flexibility and economy. We’re long time After Effects users—we began using it even before Adobe acquired the software from CoSA—and it is the lynchpin of our operations. We use Adobe Photoshop for all of our matte paintings. We're not an editing house per se, but Adobe Premiere Pro is our tool for ingesting everything, in pretty much any format. We’re also starting to use Adobe Prelude for reviewing and Adobe SpeedGrade for color grading VFX. With Creative Cloud, we can work with artists from all over the world and streamline our creative and production processes so we can pass the savings and creative options along to our clients.

The Walking Dead Season 2 Visual Effects Reel

Adobe: How does your process work?

Ealovega: We essentially started working in the cloud before Adobe Creative Cloud was a reality. Our clients present us with the rough edit on a show online. Then we gather the source EDL files and match them to the original camera source to be sure we’re on target.

We match up what we’re finding in Premiere Pro with what we’re seeing in After Effects and ingest it into our Stargate system that is capable of sharing files with each of our facilities. We transfer all the information into our VFX system and the assets then get transferred to the local digital asset management system on the site that’s designated to working on the project. Keep in mind that this is all transparent to the VFX and editorial departments. So essentially, any artist, staff, or supervisor in any of our global facilities can review material in real time, create proxies, and send a project to a render farm in the background.

Using our proprietary software, we can review a VFX spot, make assignments, and build projects in After Effects. The composited assets automatically land in the final facility, in the right color space specified by the client. The artist doesn't even have to know what color space is needed. It’s applied automatically.

Adobe: Why is Creative Cloud central to your workflow?

Nicholson: We work on productions shot all over the world at different frame rates and on multiple cameras. I think we work with, literally, almost every camera format ever invented. We have to be able to ingest material from every camera manufacturer in the world at everything from 6K to PAL and NTSC resolution. Truly, we can’t use anything but Premiere Pro. It’s the only system that will handle the different formats we’re shooting and throwing on the timeline.

Ealovega: I have to add that Creative Cloud, and After Effects in particular, is an open framework. We can add functionality to the software through open source tools. This has allowed us to write our own virtual operating system (“VOS”) to assist us in integrating all of our facilities. It’s one thing to say that you’ve got one big facility with an integrated pipeline. It’s an entirely different thing to say you have seven or eight facilities and to be able to span each of these facilities with render data and have artists flowing their work back and forth to one another. Our artists can literally click a flag of the country on their screens and it sends an automated delivery to that render farm and ensures it is rendered correctly and delivered to the right destination. We also have incorporated other tools into Creative Cloud so that we can view dailies very quickly, without spending a lot of per-seat licensing for codecs that would otherwise be required.

Stargate Studios

Adobe: What do you see as the vision for the future?

Nicholson: Frankly, we hope we are inventing it. We create about 10,000 shots a year—that’s 40 to 50 shots per day from simple driving comps to 3D interfaces involving our virtual backlot. Using our workflow, we’re really proud of the quality. We are shooting four to five cameras at 4K resolution simultaneously. So we’re talking about a 16K to 20K background, and every frame must be processed. We break the frames up on the back end to be as light as possible. Then we use After Effects as a front-end tool to proxy the footage, and stitch it all back together.

Think of it as real-time compositing on green screen. It reminds me of sound mixing. You wouldn’t mix one or two cuts like you do two or three scenes in a movie. Adobe products and our own innovation are leading us into a visual mixing arena where we are talking about time rather than an individual cut. It’s all about the automation and efficiency of the tools, so that artists can focus on the genuinely complex shots. We can increase our creative capabilities and quality at the same time. The world has changed so that feature-film quality is being achieved on television series, and that efficiency has reached new heights. Creative Cloud and our virtual operating system let us accomplish two times the shots most companies can achieve—all at half the budget. We think it’s a model that will succeed in a world where automation is vital yet the human, creative touch is essential.

Watch the video:

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 8, 2013 at 8:56:59 am After Effects, Customers

"We Are What We Are" enjoys theatrical release following Sundance premiere

Filmmaker’s third film edited with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Premiere Pro

Countless filmmakers have launched their careers at the Sundance Film Festival, many going on to gain honors as highly regarded as an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. For Director Jim Mickle, having his third independent film, We Are What We Are, premiere in the Midnight category was nothing short of an honor. After cutting his first two films on Final Cut Pro, Mickle made the switch to Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Creative Cloud for his latest work. The film has now been released in theaters, and we talked with Mickle about how working at full resolution in Adobe Premiere Pro not only saved time, but helped him complete the film—from first draft to final edit—in just a year’s time.

Adobe: How did you come to the decision for your third feature to be a remake of a 2010 film by the same name?
Mickle: I’m not a big fan of remakes, but in this case we looked at the original as more of an interesting concept, a story that could happen anywhere. It isn’t a gross out horror movie; I consider it more of a cool, artsy drama. I knew of the Mexican film because it played at a lot of the same festivals as my last film. I knew the story, and it sounded like a cool movie. Instead of Mexico City, we based the story in rural upstate New York and the main characters are girls rather than boys. We built the rest of the story from there.

Adobe: What is your background in filmmaking?
Mickle: I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I started out doing work as a grip and production assistant. Then I went on to freelance for post-production houses that mostly did corporate and documentary work. During that time I worked with Final Cut and After Effects. My first movie, Mulberry Street, had a crazy low budget and I shot it with a Panasonic DVX 100. It got picked up and did pretty well. My second film was Stake Land, which premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and earned the Midnight Madness Audience Award. In between making my own movies I would always go back to my day job, editing to pay the bills. It was really great practice and helped prepare me to edit my own films.

Adobe: What made you decide to switch to Adobe Premiere Pro and Creative Cloud?
Mickle: My last film was shot on RED, and I transcoded everything to Pro Res. There was a lot of back and forth between Final Cut and After Effects and I only had Pro Res 2k files. I ended up going back and redoing all of the effects with the 4K raw files, which was pretty time consuming. I started shooting We Are What We Are at the end of May 2012, when Creative Cloud was just launching. When I heard that I wouldn’t have to do Pro Res working with Premiere Pro, I made the jump. I was able to use a 5K raw workflow for the entire film, without having to transcode.

Adobe: Did you do your own special effects?
Mickle: There are 60 effects in the film and I handed off 10 that were more 3D stuff. I did all of the compositing in After Effects. The film takes place during a big storm, so we did a lot of practical rain on set and a LOT of post rain in After Effects. We also made adjustments when, say, a house didn’t match the background. It’s really fun to make these adjustments while editing because if you didn’t get a shot on set you can make it up as you go along.

Adobe: Were there features in Adobe Premiere Pro that are worth noting?
Mickle: I used Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro and it was great. We have a lot of tricky dolly shots, and we wanted a really sleek look. I was really impressed with how it helped smooth everything out. I also like to do a lot of playing around with color. Even for rough cuts, I could adjust the color so it more closely matched the look I was going for. Being able to recolor a movie, reassign the ISO, and adjust the color temperature in Premiere Pro is awesome. Lastly, we did a lot of reframing and repositioning shots. I would say one third of shots are repositioned in some way. The film is a thriller, so there is a lot of zooming in. Working with raw files made it easy to push a shot to 300% without losing quality.

Adobe: What do you think of the Adobe Creative Cloud offering?
Mickle: The Creative Cloud membership is really awesome. I don’t know why more companies don’t offer software this way. I always knew I was working with the latest software versions, and I liked being able to store files and access them from anywhere. I also used Adobe Ideas to jot down notes for the VFX guys that I then accessed through the cloud. For independent filmmakers, it is an affordable solution that gives us access to all the tools we need to make the films that will get us noticed.

Adobe: What’s your next project?
Mickle: I just wrapped shooting on a new film called COLD IN JULY starring Michael C Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. It’s a Southern Noir set in the 80s. I have lots of post ahead and it should be coming out sometime next year.

Interview with Jim Mickle at Sundance

Watch the We Are What We Are trailer

Watch Adobe & Sundance 2013 - Part 01

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Nov 5, 2013 at 2:54:27 pm Premiere Pro, Customers

Find out what the movers and shakers in Adobe's Digital Video & Audio Organization are thinking about, and get a glimpse into their vision on everything from product direction to hot trends in the worlds of video production and content creation, as well as see how other filmmakers are using Adobe products to realize their creative visions.
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