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HP Sundance House hosts Dustin Grella and his unique chalkboard animations

Adobe Creative Cloud workflow helps artist create daily animations at Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is a haven for independent artists, each showcasing their one-of-a-kind voice. Dustin Grella is one such artist, invited to the Sundance Film Festival by HP, a sponsor of the festival. Grella is best known for his Animation Hotline videos, which combine audio recordings with chalkboard animation to create interesting, human works of art. From the HP Sundance House, Grella animated hotline videos live throughout the course of the festival with help from video and audio tools in Adobe Creative Cloud.

Adobe: Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?
Grella: I actually started a bit later in the game. I attended a school that didn’t have an animation program so I studied humanities. I’m fascinated by the human condition and human stories are what drive my work. I also took some art classes and computer classes, basically combining my studies into a “choose your own adventure” liberal arts degree. When I finally figured out what I wanted to do I attended the School of Visual Arts and received my MFA in Computer Art.

Adobe: How long have you been dong chalkboard animation?
Grella: I started eight years ago with a painted blackboard, drawing with chalk and recording everything in camera. The setup was very simple and I didn’t really know what I was doing. The exposure on the camera was not set correctly, but I still captured something interesting enough for me to want to keep exploring the medium. Since then, I’ve done a couple of short films and I established the Animation Hotline.

Adobe: Tell us about the Animation Hotline.
Grella: I have a public telephone number, 212-683-2490, and people are welcome to call and leave a message. I go through the messages on a regular basis and choose one to animate. To date, I’ve done more than 140 animations from the Hotline. I’ve had lots of friends call, and a homeless shelter asked clients to call and tell their stories. The rest of the messages are from people I don’t know who have called and told interesting stories. The more stories people tell, the more interesting the project becomes. The finished pieces are typically 10 to 40 seconds, but I’ve done one that is more than a minute long.

Adobe: How do you decide what stories to tell?
Grella: I try to stay as open as possible. Some are abstract pieces with no real story, while others are very touching and real. I tend to go for the real, human stories first. I prefer to hear something that is true but I also enjoy a good abstract message, poem, rant, anything really. If I’m listening to a recording and it hits me and I feel it, or if it is something that is visually compelling, I’ll try to animate it.

Adobe: How do you create the animations?
Grella: Every animation starts off with the audio. The story is the most important part. If I was telling my story over and over again, people would get bored. Telling other people’s stories keeps it fresh and exciting.

I use Adobe Audition to edit the audio files down to what I need. Next, I storyboard to get a rough idea of the sketches to include. It’s pretty much regular animation from there. I do drawings on slate by hand with pastels, and then create the stop motion animation using Dragonframe stop motion. I capture everything with a Canon camera, export the MOV files, and take those into Adobe Premiere Pro to clean them up and edit them down to the clips I need. By staying in the Premiere Pro timeline I can sync the animation with the audio and then export the video very easily.

Adobe: How did you end up at the Sundance Film Festival?
Grella: HP asked me to come and animate on site as part of the HP Sundance House. We built five Hotline Hotspots that have a small, 10-inch television with a telephone on top. People were able to watch some animations on the screen to get an idea of what they are, then they were able to pick up the phone and leave their own messages. The Hotline Hotspots were connected to a server, so all of the messages were captured on a computer. HP basically took my studio in New York City and duplicated it at Sundance, down to my exact table. Our goal was to complete one animation for each of the 10 days in Park City and we achieved it!

Adobe: Do you use Adobe After Effects for any of the animation?
Grella: When I first started I was a purist; I thought every frame had to be drawn by hand. Eventually I realized that the story is the most important part, and if I’m just drawing the same thing over and over again for the sake of drawing I’m wasting time. So I do use After Effects for some of my work, and I often hire an After Effects artist to help with commercial jobs.

Adobe: What type of commercial projects have you done?
Grella: I recently finished a remembrance piece for the New York Times about Nadia Popova, who was part of a Soviet all-female bombing regiment. Another piece I did for the New York Times was about a bike share program.

Adobe: What is your favorite part of the animation process?
Grella: I like the beginning, when I’m first in the moment of creating and problem solving and I can go in any direction. I storyboard very loosely just to get an idea of what the animation will be. Seeing the final product is also very exciting, as well as sharing it with other people.

Adobe: What is your favorite feature in Adobe Premiere Pro?
Grella: I’m not really tight on storyboards or frame count, I just draw an image that I like and it’s usually too long. The best thing is being able to adjust clips to fit the length of the audio.

Adobe: How was your move from Final Cut Pro?
Grella: Switching from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro took me an afternoon. It was an amazingly fast transition.

Adobe: How do you like working with Adobe Audition?
Grella: I used to use QuickTime to do quick audio cuts, but I recently started working with Audition and it’s much easier. I like being able to see the whole audio wave, and I can do much faster, cleaner audio cuts.

Adobe: How long do the animations take to create?
Grella: I tend to say that I can do 15 seconds of animation in a day, but it does vary. For commercial jobs it is 15 seconds or less because there tend to be more revisions and changes. If it is a personal project I can often complete it in a day, especially if I’m interested and have the visuals ready to go. Even if I make a mistake, I’m okay with it.

Adobe: What is your favorite animation?
Grella: My favorite one is a short, seven and a half minute animation about my brother Devin Grella, who was killed in Iraq by an IED. It is very personal and done in black and white pastels on a slate chalkboard, with just a few highlights of color. It was my first attempt at a beginning to end narrative.

Adobe: What’s next after the Sundance Film Festival?
Grella: I’ll be working on an animated landscape painting that is more of a gallery piece. I have one test done and I absolutely love it. I just moved my office from downtown New York to a larger studio in the Bronx, where I’m able to spread my wings and do bigger wholesale projects that I couldn’t do before. I hope to still get some commercial animation work, and the Animation Hotline will continue.

See Dustin's videos from the Sundance Film Festival

View the entire archive of Animation Hotline videos

Check out more projects from Dusty Studio

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:46:35 am Creative Cloud, Customers

Malaysian-born filmmaker debuts short film at Sundance

Short film shot on RED in 4k edited on Macbook Pro using Adobe Premiere Pro software

Diffan Norman is not just a filmmaker, he’s a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and designer. His nine minute short film Kekasih, which won the Audience Choice Award at Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Norman credits his Adobe workflow with helping him realize his vision for the film.

Poster by Iman Raad

Adobe: Tell us about your background.
Norman: I’m originally from Malaysia. I earned my bachelor of fine arts degree at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California. I started out directing music videos and short films. My first short film, Wanita Cosmos, was about a Malaysian woman who is chosen to travel into space. It was shown at ResFest, The International Film Festival of Rotterdam, The 27th Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Fest, and The New York Asian American International Film Festival.

I eventually moved to Los Angeles and became absorbed working with boutique studios, including Brand New School and National Television. I initially worked as a freelancer, but ultimately took a full-time job as senior animator and designer at National Television. We produced commercials, print ads, and other motion graphics work for clients. I like to think this was where I earned my Master’s degree.

Adobe: When were you first introduced to Adobe software?
Norman: In 1994, a friend and I played in a band that never existed and we wanted to make an album cover for our cassette recordings. He had Photoshop on his computer and we were completely blown away by the facet/cell filter. When I got to college I learned After Effects. I didn't know anything about motion graphics and was very attracted to what After Effects could do.

Adobe: How did you decide to make Kekasih?
Norman: I started out in DV filmmaking and animation. After Otis I worked for about five to six years in boutique studios in and around Los Angeles that mainly produced live and animated commercials, and music videos with a particular appreciation for motion graphics. After my father’s passing, I realized I wanted to get back to what I originally set out to do. I wrote the script for Kekasih a few years ago, and my father and I would discuss the theme of the film, as well as details such as whether it should be animated or live action. After he died, I cleaned out his office and found a copy of the script on his desk. That’s when I decided to make the film.

Adobe: What was your process?
Norman: I needed financial help to make the film, so I applied for and received a multimedia grant from The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS). The organization gives out two grants, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end of the year, and the requirement is that you make a short film. In addition to the funds I received from the FINAS, I also helped finance it myself. We got two veteran actors, Nasir Bilan Khan and Fauziah Nawi, who don’t usually do short films, to participate in the project. They liked the story so much that they jumped on board.

Adobe: How were Adobe tools used in the production of Kekasih?
Norman: We shot the film on a RED camera and edited it using Adobe Premiere Pro. I’d used Premiere Pro on Wanita Cosmos, which was drawn in Photoshop and animated in After Effects. I hadn’t edited anything in a few years, but I wanted to use Premiere Pro for the film because of the intuitive RED workflow.

Adobe: What did you like most about working with Adobe video tools?
Norman: Premiere Pro let me watch 4k footage without losing quality, easily add sound, and output the film quickly. Being able to edit RED footage on a Macbook Pro using Premiere Pro was really fascinating.

Overall, the Adobe products allowed me to take ideas that I had in my head, such as the animated inspiration sequences in Kekasih, and make them happen. I’m most attracted to the immediacy that Adobe products enable. I have the ideas, I have the tools, and I can do it. For Kekasih, I created everything in Adobe products – the graphics, trailer, postcards, animated sequences, Instagram teaser, and the film itself. I cannot imagine doing all of this without Adobe products. I've also just joined Adobe Creative Cloud, and I’m looking forward to working with even more tools to explore different looks, styles, and creative directions.

View the trailer
Visit the website
Instagram: #diffannorman

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:39:22 am Creative Cloud, Customers

“Dig” explores what it’s like to be a kid

Short film edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CC delivers big impact at the Sundance Film Festival

When you’re a kid, even the most mundane things can spark your curiosity. That’s the premise for Dig, a short film directed by Sundance Film Festival veteran Toby Halbrooks. After successfully producing a string of feature films with his partners, Halbrooks decided to take his turn directing a short film based on a story he’d written. Shot in just three days, Dig was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CC and was one of 15 short films selected by YouTube to go online concurrently with the festival.

Dig Premiere - 2014 Sundance Film Festival

Adobe: Tell us about your background.
Halbrooks: I was in the rock and roll band the Polyphonic Spree from 2000 to 2006. I started working for an editor in Dallas in my spare time when I wasn't on tour and found that I had a knack for it. I really enjoyed it, so I started making films with my friend David Lowery and we became partners and have been working together ever since.

Adobe: Did you know that you wanted to be a producer?
Halbrooks: My role as a producer came about organically; I never even knew that’s what I was doing. I formed a company, Sailor Bear, with David and James M. Jonathan and we produced David’s first feature, St. Nick. David and I wrote for television for a while, then moved back to Dallas and decided to make Pioneer, a short film directed by David that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. After that, the universe kind of opened up for us and James and I were selected as Sundance Creative Producing Fellows with David’s feature script Ain't Them Bodies Saints. With the help of some partners, we made that movie to great critical success. We recently produced another feature in the fall of 2013, Listen Up Philip, by Alex Ross Perry.

Toby directs the kids, Mallory, Myles, Kaitlyn and Kelsey.

Adobe: What was it like to be selected as Sundance Creative Producing Fellows?
Halbrooks: Undeniably it launched our careers. David had brilliant script, and James and I submitted and got to go. Once you’re in that family, and that’s exactly what it becomes, there’s just a huge support group. At the Sundance Resort there’s an actual lab and four other producing fellows that you get to meet. You’re there for a week talking with mentors about the project, figuring out solutions for making the movie, and just learning more about being a producer. From there they shepherd you through your whole process and give you feedback. It’s not a free ticket, though. I still had to submit to the festival for Dig, but when they found out that I got in they all wrote separately to say that they were just thrilled.

Adobe: Where did you shoot Dig?
Halbrooks: I shot Dig in my backyard in Dallas over the course of three days and edited it during the fall when we were producing Listen Up Philip. Fortunately for all of us, Dig and Listen Up Philip both premiered at Sundance this year.

John, Toby and Joe discuss a scene minutes before filming it.

Adobe: What was the genesis for Dig?
Halbrooks: The genesis was that I wanted to do my own thing. Knowing how many different projects I had coming up I knew it wasn't going to be a feature, and I wanted to do something simple. David and I have a lot of kids in our movies and I wanted to tell a story about the adult world from the perspective of children. No matter what an adult is doing it seems like it has some higher purpose behind it, it seems magical, you’re always curious, no matter how mundane the task is. In Dig, the dad is just digging a hole in the backyard and doesn't directly answer why he is doing it, which causes much curiosity as his daughter tries to figure out what he’s doing and make a connection with her dad.

The official poster image for Dig, feature Mallory Mahoney.

Adobe: What Adobe Creative Cloud tools do you use?
Halbrooks: I started out using Final Cut Pro, but as I got more into producing I found that I was doing less and less editing. Everyone in the Dallas filmmaking community uses After Effects and Photoshop. When Final Cut X launched everyone started switching to Premiere Pro. Rob Wilson and David Maddox did the editing on the film, and they had already made the switch so I purchased Adobe Premiere Pro CC. I don’t edit that much but I needed to be able to access the files. Any time I wasn't directly in the room with them they would send over the project file when changes were made. We all had the media and could see changes immediately in Premiere Pro, make tweaks or suggestions, and send it back.

Adobe: Did you learn Premiere Pro CC for this project?
Halbrooks: It wasn't much of a learning curve from Final Cut to Premiere Pro CC. I didn’t really have to learn anything, I was able to just start using it.

Adobe: Were any other Adobe tools used on Dig?
Halbrooks: Photoshop and After Effects were also used on the film. There are two shots that absolutely used After Effects. In one we had to composite something on the TV. In the other, we parked a regular car on the street because we couldn't get a police car, and the visual effects artist used the Roto Brush tool to transform it into a police car.

Adobe: What’s next for Dig and for you personally?
Halbrooks: Dig will be live on YouTube during the festival and I imagine a lot of people will get to see it that way, which is exciting. We’re being invited to a ton of festivals, which is really great. Any time you make a short the idea is to get as many people as possible to see it. Personally, James and I just won the Indy Spirit Producing Award, which comes with a $25,000 grant and David and I are writing a Disney movie based the studio’s Pete’s Dragon title. It is a whole different concept than the original. So lots of great things to come!

Watch the short here: 

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 24, 2014 at 3:32:09 pm Premiere Pro, Customers

Motion graphics and visual effects work shines at Sundance Film Festival

In the lead up to the Sundance Film Festival we had the good fortune to talk with a number of creative professionals involved in creating some of the great films premiering in Park City. From animated and live action shorts to feature-length documentaries and dramatic premieres, these films display a dizzying range of creativity and talent, as well as inspiring uses of motion graphics and visual effects. Me + Her, Hits, and The End of Eating Everything are three films in which Adobe After Effects played an important role.

Me + Her
Joseph Oxford started making Me + Her in 2009 when he was working as a production assistant. After creating characters from some pieces of cardboard, he started writing a script to tell their story. He developed the script and created the characters and set pieces by hand in his spare time. In 2013, he was finally able to shoot the live action short featuring animatronic rod puppetry.

The puppets that appear in the film were designed in Adobe Illustrator and mass produced so duplicates were available if needed. Oxford used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to develop early color concepts to help determine the visual style before capturing the majority of content in camera.

All visual effects shots went through After Effects at some point, and the time-lapse sequence of the tree growing at the end of the film was the most labor intensive. While some elements were created in Maya, composting the live action and 3D content made it all feel like live action. Oxford and his team used the Roto Brush in After Effects to fill in missing sections of the sky and the 3D Camera Tracker to turn on 200 light bulbs in one scene. Overall, the six page script took 18 days to shoot, resulting in a whimsical short film about love and loss.

For more information, read the recently published Studio Daily article.

See more at

Viewers who attend the screening of Hits aren't expecting to be wowed by visual effects. In fact, most would never guess that all of the YouTube screens that feature prominently in the film were built using After Effects. The production studio Final Cut worked on both editing and visual effects for the film by Screenwriter and Director David Cross.

Phil Brooks, a graphics and visual effects artist with Final Cut, was given free rein to recreate the YouTube site so he would have more control over the animation and camera moves. First, he used Illustrator to rebuild the user interfaces and buttons as vector graphics so they could scale as needed for shots. The screens were then taken into After Effects, where Brooks created most of the layouts and pages.

The magic of Photoshop enabled him to crop, prepare images, and remove people from backgrounds as needed. By creating invisible visual effects, Brooks effectively helped tell the film’s story without stealing the show.

The End of Eating Everything
The End of Eating Everything by Wangechi Mutu is a visually stunning short film that follows a creature through a vast atmosphere. Digital Artist Joaquin Jutt joined Mutu’s team mid-way through the project as an editor, applying his background in 3D modeling and animation to add more dimension and scale to the fine art film.

Using Adobe Photoshop, Jutt took existing screenshots from the project and composited textures and colors to adjust the overall feeling. Various elements in the atmosphere, such as smoke and birds, add depth and interest. Jutt rendered one bird, animated it flying and diving, created a loop, and then used Particular in After Effects to create the swarm of birds. Animation techniques were also used to make the tentacle on the creature’s head and the internal organs move, pulsate, and change as she moves and spins.

Editing the eight-minute short took eight months. By tackling each challenge individually, from matching the model’s skin tone to mapping the spinning actress to the animated model, Jutt and the small team of editors and animators helped create a film that was true to Mutu’s vision and point of view.

Watch the visual effects breakdown

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 22, 2014 at 2:03:44 pm After Effects, Customers

Sundance veteran offers up lyrical documentary film

Film about American music history comes together beautifully with Adobe video workflow

The feature-length documentary This May Be the Last Time doesn't only detail the history of the Seminole community’s ancient songs of faith and hope, it also explores their connection to Director Sterlin Harjo's own personal history. It’s his first documentary project, but not his first time premiering at the Sundance Film Festival or his first experience working with Adobe software. Together with his filmmaking partner Matt Leach, Harjo is fully immersed in the Adobe video workflow and the duo are happy to share how it has supported their efforts and fueled their creativity.

Photo credit: Sterlin Harjo

Adobe: Tell us about your backgrounds.
Harjo: I’m from Oklahoma and I’m a member of the Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) tribes. I’ve been making films since my early- to mid-20s. I was invited into the Sundance Feature Film Program when I was 23 and received a lot of support through the Sundance Institute. My first short film Goodnight Irene premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 and I've had two other films—Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water—that also debuted at the festival.

Leach: I studied film at Oklahoma University and when I graduated I started doing music videos. One was on MTV and another was shown at South by Southwest. I also worked in news and advertising for a couple of years, working on a variety of projects, until I met Sterlin.

Photo credit: Royce Sharp

Adobe: How did you two connect?
Harjo: Matt and I went to school together but we never met. We were both living in Tulsa and working in the film industry, so we got together and started trying to figure out how we could combine our talents. There was a new company in town called This Land Press that was publishing a magazine featuring long form journalism. We pitched them on creating some online video work and ended up doing some online documentaries and videos with the same journalistic style. We had been using Final Cut Pro, but we were shooting with DSLR cameras with a more “run and gun” style and fast turnaround times, so we made the switch to Adobe Premiere Pro.

Leach: We ended up doing a 12 episode TV show called This Land that was all edited on Premiere Pro. With just a two man operation, it was the only way for us to work quickly and deliver the quality we wanted in the given timeframe. I originally learned Premiere Pro in 2000, so going back to it was familiar, and a lot better. It enabled us to do more of the work we wanted to do quickly and affordably. Premiere Pro has made all the work we've done in the last three years possible.

Photo credit: Jessie Harjo

Adobe: How did you decide to make This May Be the Last Time?
Harjo: It was a story that I had always wanted to tell, so I pitched it to the team at This Land Press and they were excited and wanted to do it. Originally, it was just about the songs of the Seminole community and their story and history. As we made the film it became obvious that one of the main stories that needed to be told was my story and my connection to the songs. I feel like the finished film is part musical and part documentary.

Adobe: How did the process differ from your past films?
Harjo: It wasn't actually that different. We shot the film in just six months and we were editing the whole time. This was the first really personal film I’d done about me and my family. Most documentaries take at least two years to shoot. But because I’m a narrative filmmaker I took a fiction storytelling approach and it went much more quickly. It also helped that I knew the material and most of the people we interviewed were people I know personally so a level of trust was already established. I felt like I’d been researching this film my whole life.

Photo credit: Shane Brown

Adobe: What other Adobe products do you use?
Leach: For This May Be the Last Time we used Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects, and Media Encoder. The poster for the film was created using Photoshop and Illustrator.

Harjo: The poster is really beautiful. It was made by a friend of mine, Ryan Redcorn, who does really amazing work.

Adobe: When did you begin using Adobe Creative Cloud?
Leach: We started this project just before Creative Cloud was announced, so we were hesitant to switch in the middle. We ultimately ended up making the switch so we could use After Effects CC for a lot of the graphics shots. We also used the latest versions to finish up the last tweaks to graphics and photo animations. The Detail Preserving Upscale Effect in After Effects CC was particularly useful for the archival footage in the film because it helped us keep everything sharp.

Harjo: We shot the film with a Canon C100 and there were a lot of handheld shots. Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro CC really saved us on some shots.

Photo credit: Shane Brown

Adobe: What do you like about Creative Cloud?
Leach: It’s really helpful just to be able to have access to everything online through Creative Cloud. If we’re out in the middle of nowhere and someone sends us a file we can easily download the relevant application in just a few minutes. Creative Cloud isn’t just for low budget filmmakers. When we started working on the film there weren’t many people using Premiere Pro, but now almost all of the editors I talk to are using it.

Harjo: The efficiency we get from Premiere Pro alone is worth the cost of Creative Cloud. The ability to bring files into Premiere Pro without spending an extra five hours converting, combined with the hard drive space we save is really amazing.

Watch the trailer:

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 20, 2014 at 1:19:21 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Klip Collective pushes film into new spaces at Sundance

Projection mapping installation relies on Adobe Creative Cloud tools

It almost had to happen. Tom Wait’s spooky spoken word song “What’s He Building in There,” is so evocative, so visual that it’s like film that plays in your mind. The challenge, though, is how to actually make a film that does justice to the genius of the original piece.

Ricardo Rivera, visual artist, filmmaker, and founder of Klip Collective, began exploring video projections when he worked as a club VJ in Philadelphia. “In 1998 I was playing around with Photoshop and discovered how to map images to surfaces,” recalls Rivera. “When After Effects added the ability to preview work through a mini DV connection, I discovered that I could easily play content through a digital projector.” Rivera pointed the projector at a wall in his kitchen and used it to canvas the surfaces. “Then I masked all of the elements in the kitchen using Photoshop and created what was, in effect, a multi-channel projection feed through one projector and one feed.”

Once Rivera had figured out the workflow, the possibilities were endless. Today Klip Collective holds two patents on projection mapping, a technique whereby video content is projected onto non-traditional display surfaces such as the sides of buildings, often as site-specific art. Different physical surfaces come to life in unexpected ways in a dance of shapes, color, and imagery, melding the permanence of architecture with the transience of light. These are the kinds of new frontiers for art that digital tools make possible.

“We map with After Effects, tap into a projector with a laptop as a second or third display to get the 1:1 ratio, and then map the resolution,” explains Rivera. “The key is to maintain the 1:1 pixel ratio so that the final result remains visually coherent across the various surfaces and angels. It has to be accurate down to the millimeter for everything to work. It’s a very intense process.”

In addition to working with Photoshop CC and After Effects CC, the team recently switched to Adobe Premiere Pro CC.  “We initially used Final Cut Pro but moving to Premiere Pro makes our workflow so much faster,” says Rivera.” The integration between the Adobe products is fantastic.”

And they’ve had commercial success with the approach as well: the company works with ad agencies or directly with a diverse list of clients, including organizations such as Central Park Conservancy, the New York Public Library, and Temple University to brands like Gillette, NBC Sports, New Balance Nike/Jordan, Target, Urban Outfitters, and more. Visual installations by Klip Collective have been featured in commercials, music videos, and films, as well as a whole range of different corporate, sporting, and social events.

And that’s where Tom Waits comes back into the story. Last year Klip Collective created a brilliant 15-minute projection-mapped installation of What’s He Building in There? as part of the New Frontier exhibit at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Projecting onto a suitably scary-looking building, the imagery took the viewer through the walls revealing strange goings-on in different parts of the structure. Then the walls seem to slide down into the ground, exposing the entire interior of the building. A remarkable piece in it’s own right, it also solves the problem of how to bring Tom Waits’ song to the “big screen” without losing it’s strangeness, or diluting the drama of the original piece with conventional storytelling techniques.

This year, Klip Collective is back at Sundance with a clever pre-roll trailer honoring past festival favorites, which is being shown at all film screenings, making it the only film this year that every Sundance attendee will see. The piece is a narrative, incorporating live action panels and 3D animation projected onto the front of the Egyptian Theater in Park City. A 10-minute story plays out and then loops back into abstract geometric forms against the complex façade of the building. The Egyptian Theater projections themselves will also be included in the Sundance New Frontier exhibit as part of a short called What’s He Projecting In There?

“We used Photoshop for compositing and to create the setting,” says Rivera. “Then we brought that into After Effects and composited everything together to build the base map.” The team filmed all of the live action on green screen. “There are four zones and the characters moved between them.” The Klip crew used Premiere Pro for editing and then moved to After Effects for the final compositing and timing. They used two HD projectors side by side to project the video onto the theater.

“I love how Dynamic Link lets me do a little bit of editing in Premiere Pro, easily go into After Effects for the mapping, and then finish in Premiere Pro, utilizing the alpha channel masks for the piece,” enthuses Rivera. “It’s so much more efficient than if we had to render content every time we wanted to move between our tools.”

And Kilp Collective is already developing ideas for new projects that open up the interiors of buildings to tell their stories. “We have a new project in the works called Vacant America,” says Rivera. “I’ll tour America with my team and do site-specific installations on vacant buildings. For example, we may film a Campbell’s soup can factory and tell a story about that location through the use of projection mapping and the experiences of people who worked there. We’re currently bring partners on board and there’s a lot of interest in this project.”

Learn more about Klip Collective 2013  - or check out the Klip Collective Art Reel 2013

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 19, 2014 at 7:47:29 pm Sundance, Filmmaking

“Last Days in Vietnam” to premiere at Sundance

Adobe Creative Cloud integral to working with archival content for PBS documentary

Last Days in Vietnam isn't the first trip to the Sundance Film Festival for Director Rory Kennedy. Her film Ethel premiered at the festival in 2012 and went on to garner an impressive five Primetime Emmy nominations. But for her Associate Producer, Taylor Johns, it’s not only his first trip to Sundance, but it’s also the first film he’s worked on since graduating and taking a job with Kennedy’s company, Moxie Firecracker Films. In addition to doing some shooting on the film, Johns’ main job was to oversee the archival content, which involved working extensively with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Adobe: Did you always know that you wanted to be a filmmaker?
Johns: I studied both film and pre-med at Pepperdine. I had the opportunity to intern with Rory at Moxie Firecracker Films one summer, and she offered me a job right after I graduated. I had just taken the medical school entrance exam, and I was accepted to medical school but decided to defer for a year to explore a career in filmmaking. It’s been a really great experience, working directly for such a talented documentary filmmaker has taught me a great deal. Now I have to decide if I want to go on to medical school or keep making films.

Adobe: What was the genesis for the film?
Johns: Rory was approached by Mark Samels, the Executive Producer of American Experience, who was interested in developing a story focused on the Americans on the ground during the final days of the Vietnam War. We started doing some research, were immediately interested, and jumped on board. The film doesn’t get into the politics of the war, but instead focuses on the heroic efforts of individuals to evacuate people and save the lives of South Vietnamese citizens.

A CIA employee helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. Credit: Copyright Bettmann/Corbis/AP Images

Adobe: Where did you get the archival content?
Johns: We largely secured the archival footage on our own. We had access to PBS archives from previous documentaries, but that wasn't all encompassing. There are iconic shots of the Vietnam War, but we wanted to shy away from those so people wouldn't feel as if they've already seen this story. A lot of the archival content came from the characters featured in the film. We also acquired images from Getty, AP, and other news services. As we researched and developed the story we knew what we needed. There are more than 140 photos included in the film and many weren't in very good shape.

Adobe: How important was Adobe Photoshop CC to your workflow?
Johns: Photos came from both personal and professional sources, which meant that there was a whole range of quality in the images we used. Some were in perfect condition, some needed major restoration work. The Spot Healing brush and Content-Aware Fill tools in Photoshop would routinely get me 90% of the way to removing scratches and damages on the images. Any document treatment that needed to be done was similarly done in Photoshop. Most of the documents came from original scans, so some existing markings and page tears had to be cleaned up. Once again, the robust Content Aware capabilities in Photoshop again proved to be essential.

We had the text of back channel communications, essentially telegrams that were sent back and forth between Washington and the Embassy in Saigon, but not the original telegrams. I used the custom brushes in Photoshop to create a textured paper background, to apply to the text to give it a more authentic feel. It was so easy to make adjustments to these files and sync them to Creative Cloud so I could work on them from my laptop or my desktop.

We also had a newspaper headline that we wanted to use but the text of the article was oddly spaced and split between pages, as it came from an old scan. It was incredibly easy to apply a paper texture to the background and move the text around so it was inline and looked like a cohesive article. From there, it was even easier to send the PSD file to my Online Editor, Eric Robbins, to apply the necessary camera moves in After Effects to the PSD file. Any changes or revisions I made to my file would then be automatically reflected in After Effects.

Aboard the USS Kirk, crew members signal the Chinook to hover over their deck and drop its passengers out. Credit: Hugh Doyle

Adobe: What other Creative Cloud tools did you use?
Johns: All of the images needed camera moves applied, such as pushing in or pulling out of a photo. Photoshop and After Effects were ideal because of how well they work together. A photo could be restored in Photoshop, then animated in After Effects. Additional restorations could easily be made as needed, as After Effects natively supports PSD files and allows you to see changes made in Photoshop instantly. This made it quick to integrate last-minute changes into a section of the film, even if the images had not been restored previously. After Effects also scales images quite nicely since it uses the full resolution of an image. A lot of the images weren't very high res, and we couldn't have any letter boxing, so we had to push in to fill the whole screen. With After Effects, we could be fairly aggressive with some of the camera moves and not impact the quality of the image.

When I had archival footage screeners that I need to show our editor, I would throw them into Premiere Pro CC and apply whatever effects I needed to make them work for our purposes, mainly simple flips or cropping, with the occasional warp stabilization. I used Premiere Pro CC for this because the clips came from a variety of sources, including some home video footage shot on one of the Navy ships, with a variety of frame rates. In Premiere Pro CC I could have them all on the same timeline without a problem.

Adobe: What do you think of Creative Cloud?
Johns: When Creative Cloud was first announced I wasn't sure about the model, but now I just love it. I love having access to Typekit, and the ability to sync settings in the cloud and sync important files in the cloud is really great. I love being able to easily download programs when I need them and access new features immediately instead of waiting months for the next major release. I think I've experimented with all of the software in Creative Cloud. It’s nice to tread in waters I haven’t previously ventured into.

Adobe: How long did it take to complete the film?
Johns: Rory and I started doing the preliminary research in June 2012 and worked for a year. We took a hiatus over the summer, and then came back in the fall to finish. The online editing for the film took about two months.

Adobe: What are the plans for Last Days in Vietnam?
Johns: PBS/American Experience owns the film. We’re starting with a premiere at Sundance, and then we hope to continue on the festival circuit. There may also be a theatrical run this year, and then the PBS American Experience broadcast will likely coincide with the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of Saigon in April 2015.

Adobe: What’s next for Moxie Firecracker?
Johns: We’re in the middle of shooting two new projects that are part of a larger, eight part series called MAKERS: Women Who Make America, also for PBS. The series consists of one-hour mini documentaries focused on the women’s movement and women who were pioneers in their specific fields. The two we’re working on are women in politics and women in Hollywood.

Visit the website:

Watch the trailer:

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 17, 2014 at 1:44:48 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Adobe at Sundance 2014

Adobe will be at the Sundance Film Festival again this year in support of emerging independent filmmakers and great new cinema.

Adobe will present a special filmmakers panel Friday, January 17th from 3-4:30pm MST at the New Frontiers Microcinema: Engaging Story, Brilliant Visuals, Low Budget - the changing face of independent film. Presenters on the panel include filmmakers Kyle Alvarez, HaZ Dullul, and Jim Mickle. This event will be available as a live webcast for anyone around the world who wants to learn more about how emerging filmmakers are making higher quality films on small, or even micro-budgets.

During the festival, the Adobe Creative Cloud products can be seen at the HP booth at Sundance House. There student filmmakers will be hard at work on short films using the Creative Cloud video applications on HP workstations. Visitors can try out the Creative Cloud tools themselves, including Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC on demo machines, and artist and animator Dustin Grella will present a Sundance Animation Hotline using crowd-sourced voicemail messages and Adobe Creative Cloud to create unique interpretive animations.

Throughout the Sundance Film Festival, Meagan Keane and the Adobe TV crew will be covering events and interviewing filmmakers. You can view these videos on the Sundance channel on Adobe TV.

More information about Adobe’s Sundance Film Festival activities and information on Creative Cloud for filmmakers can be found on the Adobe at Sundance Film Festival mobile app. You can also enter to win a free HP ZBook 15” mobile workstation with a DreamColor display and Thunderbolt™ and a one-year Adobe Creative Cloud membership.

Creative Cloud offers a complete creative toolset with regular updates for a low monthly membership. Increasing numbers of filmmakers are relying on Creative Cloud for cost-effective production applications – as well as other creative tools to present and promote their work. We are excited that the majority of films at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival used Adobe software for part or all of their post-production work (133 out of the 187 accepted films). Adobe congratulates all the Sundance 2014 filmmakers!

Register for the Adobe at Sundance filmmaker panel live webcast on January 17

Access the Adobe at Sundance Film Festival app from your mobile device


Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 15, 2014 at 1:14:36 pm Sundance, filmmaking

Drew Christie returns to Sundance

Animated short film leverages tools in Adobe Creative Cloud

Drew Christie is a new kind of multimedia artist, as comfortable with pen and ink as he is with computers and creative software. Allergy to Originality, which will be shown at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a case in point, demonstrating how fluidly he moves between natural media and digital image manipulations.

Combining illustration with animation, the short film riffs on the theme of originality and plagiarism with long passages lifted verbatim from Wikipedia. The piece maintains a natural hand-drawn feel along with the uneven, slightly jumpy cinema of the old silent movies.

“I started creating animation before I knew what animation was,” recalls Christie. “When I was a young child I filmed my Star Wars figures using my dad’s video camera. It just went on from there.”

He’s been using Adobe creative tools since he started to get serious about art and animation. “They’ve just always been there,” he says. “I started experimenting with Photoshop and After Effects when I was in high school.” Along with Adobe Illustrator CC and Flash Professional CC, Christie’s primary filmmaking tools are Adobe Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC.

Many of Christie’s short films, such as his 2012 Sundance selection, The Song of the Spindle -, are like a visual editorial, offering insight, artistry, and a whole lot of whimsy in a fun, handcrafted package. “I do a lot of non-fiction based work, so I’m often researching topics, so Wikipedia always comes up,” says Christie. “That’s where the idea for Allergy to Originality came from. There’s also a certain style to the language in Wikipedia that I find really funny.

“I’m also quite inspired by Soviet-era animation from the Eastern European countries. It was a thriving filmmaking scene that served as a way to communicate complex and abstract ideas, not just have cute animals go on adventures. For me, animation serves as a bridge between the disparate worlds of research, reportage, memoir, art, illustration and film.”

All of the images in Allergy to Originality began on paper as drawings using pen and ink, which Christie then painted over with acrylics giving the images a washed water-color appearance. “I scanned in each image and brought them into After Effects,” he explains. “In After Effects I color corrected the images for color and lighting continuity and morphed each image into three frames. This gave me ten drawings per second, or 30 fps in filmspeak.”

To enhance the natural-medium look of the film, Christie overlaid paper texture onto the images before rendering out the complete sequence. Then he brought the whole project into Adobe Premiere Pro CC where he synced the audio and added a self-composed music track.

The result is a visually striking and very funny short film depicting a discussion between a theater patron who is lamenting the lack of original ideas in the movies, and the ticket seller who has an answer for everything – courtesy of everyone’s favorite online encyclopedia.

Meanwhile Drew Christie continues as a one-man cottage industry turning out beautiful and humorous content at a remarkable rate. He produces animated TV commercials, album artwork, is working on an illustrated book and creates editorial content for The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Vanity Fair He even finds time to keep up a lively, and lovingly-illustrated blog on his web site

Christie became a Creative Cloud member a year ago, not long after the new Adobe subscription model was first announced. He found it an easy decision to make since he uses so many of the tools. “I like keeping my applications up-to-date,” he explains. “It’s so easy to go up to the navigation bar and sync to the latest versions. It’s much more streamlined and I love that there are no boxes and serial numbers to keep track of.”

“Adobe is the real deal for filmmaking and gives you all the essential tools,” he continues. “I have used After Effects for 12 years for animation work. It’s like the invisible hand that allowed me to make a film that doesn’t look like it was done on a computer.”

Creative Cloud member Drew Christie is an animator, illustrator, filmmaker, and artist. Learn more at

Adobe will be at Sundance! Join us for a live-streamed filmmaker panel:
Engaging Story, Brilliant Visuals, Low Budget - the changing face of independent film

Friday, January 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM PT -

Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 9, 2014 at 2:26:49 pm Sundance, filmmaking

Live from Sundance: Adobe to stream filmmaker panel on January 17

With today’s technologies, low budget no longer means low-quality for independent filmmakers. On January 17, 2014 [] Adobe will present a special panel discussion at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where filmmakers will discuss their work, their workflows and why they believe that awe-inspiring storytelling and high production value are possible, on modest, or even micro budgets.

The panel will feature Jim Mickle, Kyle Alvarez, and HaZ Dulull. Director Jim Mickle has been earning critical acclaim for his gothic horror film We Are What We Are, which screened at Sundance in 2013 before seeing theatrical release. Writer and director Kyle Alvarez premiered his second feature at Sundance 2013. C.O.G. was released in theaters in September. Visual effects artist and director Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull earned acclaim with his sci-fi short Project Kronos and now has a Hollywood feature film project in development.

We spoke with all three filmmakers about Adobe and the Sundance Film Festival, and asked them what advice they have for aspiring filmmakers today.

Why are you joining the Adobe panel at Sundance?

Kyle Alvarez: What I’ve been most impressed with as I’ve gotten to know the people at Adobe is how much they care about their customers. They want to educate, to create a community around their users. I think it’s so incredible that Adobe participates in, and supports, Sundance.

HaZ Dulull: It’s important for Adobe to take part in events like Sundance. By developing affordable, industry-standard tools that empower people to realize their visions, Adobe is already supporting many filmmakers.

Jim Mickle: I love Sundance. It seems like a great match for Adobe to be here to celebrate the films of this year and interact with the filmmakers of tomorrow.

How are the Adobe video tools helping independent filmmakers?

Mickle: The Creative Cloud applications are leveling the playing field for filmmakers by making postproduction tools more accessible for independent filmmakers.

Alvarez: I think that the use of Premiere Pro in the independent film world is going to start growing more and more each year and so for Adobe to be at the core of Sundance, the center of indie filmmaking in this country, is vital. It’s so great for filmmakers and editors to be finding out they have a really strong option out there in the Creative Cloud products.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers today?

Mickle: Just do it! Don't wait for an opportunity to be handed to you. Take whatever tools you have and whatever talent you're surrounded by and make your movie.

Alvarez: Find your own voice. What kind of filmmaker do you want to be? What kinds of stories do you want to tell? So many people jump into making a film before asking themselves these basic questions. Figuring out the core of what you want to communicate as a filmmaker is the first and most important step. Staying true to that instinct will keep you grounded.

HaZ: And yet many aspiring filmmakers get trapped in the thought of waiting to write the perfect screenplay before picking up a camera and shooting stuff. Even shooting test shots with your phone is a good way to get started. It will inspire your writing and make the process real for you.

When I did my first short film, I just shot loads of photo angles I liked and then put them into my editing program and slapped some music on. When I pressed play… it really gave me that butterflies feeling inside. It’s that small cinema magic that you can create yourself that propels you to discover the stories waiting inside you to be told.

Register for free live webcast panel discussion from Sundance:
Engaging Story, Brilliant Visuals, Low Budget - the changing face of independent film

Friday, January 17, 2014 at 2:00 PM PT -

Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 8, 2014 at 3:27:15 pm Sundance, filmmakers

Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull continues to innovate with Adobe Creative Cloud

New animated short film for Universal Studios expands on the visual style of HaZ’s first film Fubar Redux

Our friend and Adobe Creative Cloud enthusiast Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull was recently hired by Universal Studios to direct a motion comic as part of the marketing for 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves. Working with the team at production studio DSF, HaZ created the animated short film 47 Ronin: The Samurai Spirit in the same style as his short film Fubar Redux.

The animated short expands on the visual style of Fubar Redux with DSF’s Hyper Motion Cinema format, which combines branded and original short form content and a mix of still photography, VFX, and animation. It’s created entirely with Creative Cloud, utilizing the Dynamic Link workflow between Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe After Effects CC and Direct Link between Adobe Premiere Pro CC and Adobe SpeedGrade CC.

HaZ says the team at Universal Studios is very happy with the project. “The whole workflow with Adobe Creative Cloud made it such a fun project to do,” says HaZ. “We were not worried about technical pipeline but instead just pushed ourselves to see how far we could take the Hyper Motion Cinema animation format creatively using Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro and SpeedGrade throughout.”

Watch the short here:

HaZ will be participating in the Adobe panel discussion: Engaging Story, Brilliant Visuals, Low Budget - the changing face of indepe... at the Sundance Film Festival. Stop by to meet him or click the link to register for the streaming panel discussion on Friday, January 17, 2014 from 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM PT.

Posted by: Adam Spiel on Jan 7, 2014 at 10:32:34 am After Effects, 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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