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The Black Diamond run for filmmakers

Warren Miller Entertainment keeps on thrilling audiences with breathtaking athletics, brilliant production, and Adobe video apps

Many winter sports enthusiasts recall sitting in high school auditoriums or theaters on the edge of their chairs watching content from Warren Miller, a legendary American ski and snowboarding filmmaker. Miller produced, directed, and narrated his films until 1988. His talented staff continues to create iconic films about skiing and other outdoor winter sports that are renowned for their stunning photography, witty narrative humor, and impressive athletic talent. Two of the people who’ve kept the Warren Miller Entertainment legacy alive are John Barcklay, post-production supervisor, and Kim Schneider, executive editor. Both have spent decades working with Warren Miller and recently adopted an all-Adobe workflow, including Adobe Premiere Pro software.



Adobe: Tell us how both of you got started with Warren Miller?
Schneider: I was living in my truck in Lake Tahoe, California at a ski area when I met Warren. I knew what I wanted to do from the time I was 12 years old—to ski and make movies about skiing—so there was no hesitation in taking the job as editor with Warren. People tell me I’m one-dimensional, and my answer is “Isn’t that great?” That’s how I got started, and I have been working in editing films with Warren Miller for 35 years. I’m now executive editor—it never gets old.
Barcklay: I have been working with Warren Miller Entertainment for 25 years. I started back in 1989, running film back and forth from Hermosa Beach to Burbank to drop off dailies and bring them back. I would log all the key codes on the film, a very time-consuming and tedious process. I gradually worked up through different positions to become post production supervisor.



Adobe: How has the workflow changed since the early days?
Schneider: I’m dating myself, but I used to hack frames apart with a razor blade and then tape them back together. If frames were missing, I’d have to hack up film and put back the missing frames. We would cut the film and hang the footage up on hooks that were called trim bins—that’s where the term bin that is used today in digital video originated. Using bins was never foolproof, and sometimes cuts of footage got lost or fell. It was nightmarish trying to stay organized. Then we went to videotapes, which also had their issues. We tracked videotapes of footage using arcane methods like Polaroid pictures with time codes pasted on sheets of foam or cardboard. Then we had to find a shot by going through footage to find the right time code.

Adobe: When things first went digital, what was your strategy?
Barcklay: We started out with Avid, then moved to Final Cut Pro in 2003. But then when Final Cut Pro X came around, it didn’t meet a lot of our needs as professionals. We took a look at Adobe Premiere Pro and were impressed with its professional color correction, compositing, and so on. Also, when we saw that we could throw virtually any format on the timeline whenever people got back from a shoot without having to transcode it, we were instantly sold. We can just import footage and start working. That’s crucial for us for two reasons: we work with huge volumes of footage, sometimes upwards of 200 hours, and we have to cull it down to a 90-minute feature. And, we typically have a lot of cameras running in different locations using different formats when we’re making our annual feature film, so we can’t spare the time to transcode everything.

Adobe: What is your editing process?
Schneider: We start by formulating a plan for the year. In theory I’m just an editor, but I’ve been with Warren Miller for so long I’m always involved in the planning stages. We talk about the direction we want to go, but our plan is somewhat dictated by the weather. Eventually, the footage ends up on a drive in front of me. I work offsite for a good part of the year, and I just start dragging it into Premiere Pro and wailing away on it. In a lot of ways you can put us into the music video category because we rely heavily on the soundtrack to motivate the edits. In the end, it’s all about the action – how someone turns, how deep the snow is, and the overall beauty of a shot.



Barcklay: Before everything goes to Kim, we send out the shots for a quick color-correction on the dailies. After the edit is complete, we organize the shots and remove any spots on lenses, hair, or dirt using Adobe After Effects or Photoshop. We may also transform some of the footage for YouTube, Vimeo, and tablets for our Active Interest Media publishing arm. We also use After Effects for various graphic based projects and Adobe Encore to create Blu-ray discs for our annual feature film tour and many other projects.

Adobe: Has working with Adobe Premiere Pro made editing fun again?
Schneider: For me, it’s almost like playing a video game. The way we do it now has given me the longevity I needed. The computers just have to get faster and faster to keep up. Filmmakers are now able to bring excitement to editing, a part of the filmmaking process that’s usually not considered that glamorous. I remember the days when we laid pieces of film on top of each other and crammed them into a projector or sent them off to an optical house. We wouldn’t see the results for a week, and they were often not even close to what we were imagining. Today, we can composite several shots and see the results in 10 minutes—it’s amazing. The speed and professional features, combined with the ability to instantly work with any format on the timeline—all these facets have completely transformed our workflow for the better.



Adobe: Do you have any favorite features in Premiere Pro?
Schneider: I’ve never sat in an editing room with a monitor two feet away from my face. Instead, I work on a three foot by four foot screen that’s eight feet away. In my ultimate world I would edit in a movie theater. The one keystroke I use all day long is when you hold your mouse over the media browser and hit the tilde key and the frame goes full screen. I also like using the Blend Mode in Premiere Pro for compositing. My presets are all there and I can just cycle through them all the time and try new things. I’m convinced that many of the things that happen in digital that are truly amazing come from people’s mistakes.

Adobe: Do you think you will continue along this path for a while?
Schneider: This is a phenomenal line of work and I like what I do. I work with extremely passionate people throughout the industry but the people at Warren Miller are the best. The cameramen are on the side of a mountain shooting when they could be in a studio making $5,000 to $10,000 a day. It’s amazing to be able to marry our passions into a career. The work on the films we’re doing really conveys the passion people feel for skiing. We have a 75% return rate of audiences every year, and viewers range from 8 to 88 years old. It is something we’re privileged to be part of.

Watch the Ticket to Ride trailer

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:02:13 am Creative Cloud, Customers

Working hard in corporate video—and loving it

Leah Earle and Phanta Media deliver brilliant work with Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Leah Earle loves her job. As a video editor for Phanta Media in Toronto, she looks forward to going to work. Founded by Mark Drager in 2006, Phanta Media is a rising star in the corporate video universe, known for delivering great work on real-world timelines. Earle describes the 10-person company as cozy but rapidly growing, with a staff comprising business development representatives, producers, motion graphics, and video editors. Earle often works late and sometimes on weekends—and can’t get enough of it.


(Most of) the Phanta Media team: Mark Drager on the left, Leah Earle front center.

Adobe: What makes Phanta Media unique compared to other corporate video production companies?
Earle: We are extremely passionate, even if we are working on what some might consider a mundane corporate training video. We work hard and collaborate as a team. No one here is interested in being second best. This can lead to frustration, because I may get criticism from eight other people on my one great idea for an edit. But in the end it gives the client with the best possible product. We are a small company, and every client has a personal and highly creative experience with us. We “bring it,” every time to create beautiful projects on tight deadlines.

Adobe: What is it like working with Mark Drager?
Earle: Mark is the reason I took this job and also the reason I am still here. He is 31 years old and started this company when he was only 23. He had the confidence to know that he could make better videos then the next guy, and his enthusiasm is infectious—it makes us motivated to push ourselves. He promises clients that we will blow them away with our skills, and we always do.

Adobe: How did you get into this line of work?
Earle: I always wanted to do something technical, but I went to school for English literature because I was uncertain about what path to take. A few people guided me toward journalism. That led me to a video journalism postgraduate program at Conestoga College. I really liked shooting, and I didn't mind being on camera or reading a teleprompter, but what I loved right away was editing.



Adobe: When did you start using Adobe Premiere Pro CC?
Earle: I had never used Premiere Pro before I came to Phanta Media. Previously, Phanta Media was a Final Cut Pro shop, but like many in the industry, the company started looking for other options as soon as Final Cut Pro X came out. Premiere Pro is very "editor-friendly," and that’s been a huge plus in growing my career.

Adobe: How would you compare Premiere Pro to other editing software?
Earle: For starters, you don't have to log and capture footage. The scrubbing and playback in Premiere Pro is much faster than Final Cut, and not having to render something just to to watch it is a dream. I find the program makes it really easy to adjust my shortcuts and organize my workspace and projects. I like being able to save things such as title templates to use throughout projects, because I do a lot of subtitle work. Even the addition of the tiny window at the top left where you can preview your clip when you click once is helpful. I need to sort through mountains of footage fast. I like being able to export using Adobe Media Encoder as I work, because no one wants to have to stop and wait to export.



Adobe: What else do you use in your pipeline?
Earle: I use Photoshop and After Effects for most graphics. I can bring graphics files straight into the Premiere Pro timeline, without having to export them every time I change the file, which is so great. I can click on something and edit it on the spot, rather than having to look for the file and open it in another program. This saves so much time on projects, especially those with hundreds of After Effects files that you’d normally have to re-time.

I sometimes edit in Adobe Audition when I am facing a complex audio problem or when I’m tasked with voiceovers. When I first started I was in charge of setting up new DVD templates and Adobe Encore was so easy to learn and use to burn DVDs. Now, I use Adobe Media Encoder a lot to create files for various media: the Internet, PCs, or DVDs—whatever clients want.



Adobe: What was your experience in moving to Adobe Creative Cloud?
Earle: My favorite thing about the switch to Adobe Creative Cloud, was the new finding and re-linking function in Premiere Pro. This is crucial, because a few of us may be working on the same project. Files often reside in different places and get moved around a lot.

All in all, the interfaces, shortcuts, and other commands among Adobe’s creative software apps are so uniform that I grow more familiar with the tools and the workflows every day. This makes me increasingly more efficient and gets rid of that frustrating gap between what the technology can do and what you think it should be able to do. With Creative Cloud, I can take greater advantage of each program’s full potential to realize any creative ideas we dream up.

Mark Drager and Kyle Wilson of Phanta Media are presenting an Ask a Video Pro session on April 24, 2014 at 10 am PT called How to Build a Successful Corporate Video BusinessRegister here to join this free online seminar. 

Visit the Phanta Media website

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:41:50 am Creative Cloud, Customers

Creating a visual experience for Fatboy Slim at Coachella

Production company creates immersive experience for well-known DJ artist at art and music festival using Adobe Creative Cloud

Plastic Reality is a production company known for branding and other video work for big corporate clients such as BP and Unilever. But unlike most corporate video companies, Plastic Reality has a wild side, called The Happiness Labs, focused on producing experiential content and graphics for live events and installations.

In creating new realities and immersive experiences, The Happiness Labs raised the bar for British DJ, musician, rapper, and record producer Fatboy Slim at the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Tim Fleming, executive producer of The Happiness Labs, shares how Fatboy Slim’s otherworldly stage experience came together.

Adobe: What makes you excited about working with bands?
Fleming: I worked at an advertising company at the beginning of my career, but then I had the chance to work with big-name artists and tour with various art collectives. I was excited to be working with people who were very receptive to new creative ideas. Layering visuals and lighting was becoming a big part of these shows and I started to think about how video content could further enhance the experience.

Today bands think about shows as a whole experience with intricate props and designs from the moment they kick them off, but it wasn’t always that way. Seeing how these shows were being constructed as an experience, especially in the electronic music space, and being a bit of a party boy I thought it looked like a lot of fun.

Adobe: How did you get connected with Fatboy Slim?
Fleming: I’ve had a longstanding relationship with Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook. He is a superstar DJ and lovely bloke all at the same time. When I started with him around 2000 or 2001, he was already famous for his videos. His record label had seen the work we’d done with some artists, and asked us to submit a treatment for his upcoming video, “Star 69.”

A while later, Norman was approached to do a show on Brighton Beach. It was one of the first large outdoor shows with a DJ and his team knew they would need some content for the show. They liked what we’d done for “Star 69,” so they asked us to work on the show. The first Brighton Beach Boutique show had 60,000 attendees, and the second one had 250,000. From then on I was on the bus and the next stop was a show in Brazil for about 350,000 people.






Adobe: How would you describe the Coachella show?
Fleming: Coachella in 2014 has a big focus on electronic acts and electronic dance music. The performance at Coachella was an evolution of everything we’ve been doing over the last several years to turn watching a DJ into a magical experience that transports audiences into another realm with incredible lighting, imagery, effects, video, and graphics. The heart of his show is focused on his hit track “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.”

Adobe: Tell us more about “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.”
Fleming: Well there’s an interesting story around where the actual lyric for “Eat, Sleep, Rave Repeat” came from. In between shows I was editing some shots for Norman and he sent me a mail at around midnight when I was still working, asking how it was going. I sent him a one line reply saying, “Eat, Sleep, Edit, Rave, Repeat.”

Next thing I knew he sent me a demo titled “Your Tune.” Then he got RivaStarr and Beardyman involved and the whole thing grew into a monster to the point where, a few months after this email conversation, we’re getting photos sent in from people who have tattoos saying “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat.”

Adobe: How did this idea translate to Coachella?
Fleming: Coachella originally approached us asking if we would like to do a show based around the four seasons. The set at Coachella is 60 minutes long, so the festival organizers were looking to split it into four parts and use a bunch of physical effects, such as fire, snow, and rain, to accentuate the different seasons. We had a think about this and obviously loved the idea of the different physical effects but thought the four seasons might be a bit like doing opera.

We got Team Fatboy together over a good lunch as we usually do and started throwing some ideas around. We realized we could re-work “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” into “Heat, Sleet, Rain, Repeat”—job done! We got to keep the physical effects but incorporate them into Norm’s global smash hit.

Adobe: What special elements are included in the Coachella show?
Fleming: As well as building a boom box that has ice, fire, and rain built into it we used a 3D model of Norman’s head that was shot at Pinewood Studios. We inserted it in with other graphics and 3D elements around the head. It appears every couple of bars in the song. All of the mapping was done and put together in After Effects CC, along with the textures and finishing.





We also put Norman in the middle of the screen in a 9x9 matrix and created accompanying video content and original graphics, including a fun fruit machine. All of the video content was edited in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. It was great to be able to throw multiple codecs and file types right onto the timeline in Premiere Pro CC and have it work seamlessly.



Adobe: How do you pull off these surreal experiences?
Fleming: We combined a well-researched history of being the last one on the dance floor with other techniques, some involving big rig or prop installations and others requiring software. We’ve always been big After Effects users. CINEMA 4D and After Effects are at the heart of everything we do and their widespread adoption throughout the creative industry is a reflection of the quality results that can be achieved. Adobe Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC are also key to our workflow and we appreciate having all of the tools available to us in Adobe Creative Cloud.

Adobe: What do you think of the closer integration between Adobe After Effects CC and CINEMA 4D?
Fleming: The forthcoming era of deeper integration between CINEMA 4D and After Effects CC is very exciting and we are really looking forward to seeing how it enhances our workflow. We really just find them a joy to play with and encourage all younger artists who are working with us to learn this combination. We’re also excited about the option of rendering in the cloud so we don’t tie up local resources.

Adobe: The shows you put together have an entirely new look. What is it you’re trying to accomplish?
Fleming: EDM shows tend to look very polished, high-def, and fast moving. We wanted to do something a little different to set us apart. That’s why we shot some original content for Coachella in black and white and slow motion and edited it in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. In one shot, we have people jumping around that we filmed with a slow motion camera. So the look is a bit different than your classic EDM footage. We also slapped Norman in the face with a fish and filmed that in slow-mo!






Adobe: What are the benefits of moving to Adobe Creative Cloud?
Fleming: We work with small teams plus many freelancers. Our Adobe Creative Cloud for teams membership helps us move seats around so artists working in different locations are all on the same version and have the software they need when they need it. We’re also looking at trying new tools like Adobe Prelude CC for ingest, at no extra charge. That’s a big bonus.

Adobe:
What’s in the future for you?
Fleming: Fatboy Slim has the World Cup coming up in June in Brazil, followed by the 2014 Glastonbury Festival. Norman is trying to go for the world record for the most consecutive Glastonbury Festival’s played, so he can’t miss it! There are other festivals planned during the summer months as well, so we’ll be busy.

Our work has become so diversified that we’re going to continue to use Plastic Reality for our corporate work. But now we’re developing The Happiness Labs for the fun, experiential work we’re doing for bands and brands. We’re looking to develop content for immersive, virtual reality technologies such as Oculus Rift, Leap Motion, and Thalmic Labs MYO. There’s a big shift in the way content and storytelling is being developed, and we intend to be at the convergence of the amazing new wave of tech and tools and the never-ending desire for a good story that we humans have.

Tim would like to thank long-time collaborators Chris Cousins, Joe Plant, and Bob Jaroc, as well as Mike Sansom at Bright Fire Pyro for working on this year's content.

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 18, 2014 at 1:28:23 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Setting the stage for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Video Playback and Graphics team uses Adobe Creative Cloud and plugins from FxFactory to create period-specific news content

To make the set of GNN, the 24-hour news channel featured in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues as realistic as possible required one essential element: content. It was the job of the video playback and graphics team to fill the dozens of screens throughout the fictional studio with realistic, period-specific news.

Rather than filling the screens in post production and using archived news reports, the team produced nearly all original content and fed it to the screens in real time. News reports were shot and composited together with stock footage using an Adobe Creative Cloud video workflow and plugins from FxFactory, which offers a broad range of VFX tools for editors and compositors.

Playback Supervisor, Todd Marks, worked closely with his hand-picked team, designers Perry Freeze and Jeb Johenning to create the functioning 1980s GNN studio and news-office that helps set the stage for the blockbuster comedy. Todd and Jeb have worked together on many projects over the last 12 years. Perry was added to the team when they worked on the film The Internship in 2012.



Adobe: What were your roles on the Anchorman 2 movie?
Marks: I was the playback supervisor, responsible for overseeing all of the content creation and playback. In this case, my team put together and ran the functioning GNN studios, and we created all of the content, some which was story specific and some was just background imagery to add to the reality of the time period and the set. We call it “bg" (background) footage and we created a lot of it.
Freeze: I worked as a designer on the film and also helped coordinate the data asset management, which involved keeping track of all of the moving pieces and approvals. On this movie we had a fairly short development cycle. We had to get up and running with a graphics package for the studio, and within the studio we wanted to have up to 10 channels on air featuring news from around the world.
Johenning: I was also a designer, working with Perry on the content. When we initially looked at the breadth of content it was enormous. We had in excess of 100 different videos with one or more ways that we needed to create them, without actually knowing how they would be used.

Adobe: How does it all start?
Marks: We get a script and have to breakdown what’s written, which involves meetings with the production designer, set decorator, director, and even the props and construction people. We make recommendations and try to push beyond what most people think can be done. With the story specific content, we needed to help tell the story in a short amount of time in a visually accurate, period-specific manner. Each film has different needs. For this movie, we needed to recreate a news studio look (we referenced CNN’s style during its launch in 1980). GNN starts with a simple graphics package at launch, as they are on the air longer, we had the look mature by increasing the complexity of the font and graphics package.



Adobe: How did you go about creating the content?
Freeze: We couldn’t possibly get clearance from actual archived material or we would have had to stick to a very narrow, stock footage type of content. So very early on we decided to make all of the content.
Johenning: In the GNN studio’s office, there is a big wall with 15 different monitors that show everything happening around the world. Every piece of footage had to look local to its environment. We hired actors to be our period reporters and we then filmed “man-on-the-street” interviews. I’m a videographer, so Perry and I worked with our video team and shot most of the unique footage for this project. The wardrobe people put the actors in period costume and we filmed them against a green screen in both interior and exterior locations.



Later, we composited them into different locations, such as in front of the Pyramids in Egypt, the slums in Kenya, or farmland in Iowa. Each one had a different graphical look and feel. We created fake names for the people and used different fonts that would be local to the region. The backgrounds were sourced from stock footage or public domain sources. We also went around Atlanta, Georgia and filmed b-roll elements that we later used as content in our news reports, in addition to the composited green screen shots.



Adobe: Was it easy to integrate the new and old footage?
Johenning: All of the new footage was shot on a Sony F3, so it was beautiful HD quality. The stock footage backgrounds were 10, 15, or even 20 years old, standard-definition video and film, so the look of the two formats was completely different. We had to dumb down the foreground shots to make them look believable with the background stuff. We used an extensive array of Adobe tools, including Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop, to make everything look authentic.
Marks: The PHYX products from FxFactory were used extensively. We used PHYX KEYER tools, PHYX CLEANER, and PHYX DEFOCUS to create composites, match the looks of the different footage, and add depth to the shots to make them look realistic. Using the PHYX filters with After Effects and Premiere Pro really helped to streamline our workflow.
Johenning: In some cases, we could stay entirely in Premiere Pro, and in other cases we would take footage into After Effects for more specialized compositing. We would ultimately always end up in Premiere Pro, where we would up-res the SD to HD so we could have the cleanest keys, edges, and color correction. The last step was to down-res and use the link to Media Encoder to output a SD piece of footage for playback on an SD monitor.

Adobe: Did you use any other plugins from FxFactory?
Marks: In addition to the PHYX filters, we used FxFactory Bad TV filters to add static hits and signal degradation, just as you would see with a normal satellite feed. Using these plugins adds a sense of reality and gives us the opportunity to do cuts that aren’t perceived by the audience. We used about 10 different FxFactory plugins throughout the film. For news elements, there are specific plugins that add realism to the feel and look.

Adobe: What was the most challenging part of the data asset management?
Freeze: Films don’t shoot chronologically, so it’s important to keep track of what media needs to be on air and how it needs to look at that point in the movie. We used Adobe Bridge to keep track of revisions, star approved artwork, and manage all folders. Bridge is universally tied into Photoshop and Illustrator, making it easy to create contact sheets of all of our work, print them out and post them, or show the top 10 revisions on an iPad to the director while on location, for quick approval.
Marks: The studio had about 150 CRT monitors, and we were able to route from 14 different feeds to each monitor at any time. It requires keeping track of what’s on each monitor in what scene, which involves lots of logistics in additional to the technical aspects. Some of first scenes we did in the studio were in Linda Jackson’s office, where there were three monitors on a far wall. We thought they would just be in the background, but the actors were placed right in front of them. You never know whether something you work on for days or weeks will be shown for just seconds or be featured prominently in a scene. This makes it even more important to keep track of shots so you don’t see the same footage in more than one scene.



Adobe: Have you started using Adobe Creative Cloud?
Johenning: I was already using Adobe Master Collection CS6, but when Creative Cloud came out I jumped on the bandwagon. An added benefit of Creative Cloud is that it included Adobe Muse. I was a user of Muse for my own business website and having that part of Adobe Creative Cloud was a real bonus! I had switched to Adobe Premiere Pro after Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X, and it’s the only editing program I use right now.
Freeze: I’m using Creative Cloud as well. The thing about using Creative Cloud is that when we’re working with teams everyone is on the same current, updated release. We used to deal with people not installing updates, or being on a different version all together, which created problems in our pipeline.

Adobe: What was the process like when you were on set?
Freeze: As prepared as we were, it was very much like a live news broadcast. We were using an AJA IO system to connect After Effects and Premiere Pro directly into our video switcher that was going out to the studio floor. It wasn’t what you would typically do in a TV production situation. We were creating content for the movie on the fly by tying directly into a switcher that was taking live camera feeds of Will Ferrell’s character, and then using After Effects to quickly apply lower thirds and over the shoulder graphics.
Marks: Because we were using standard definition CRTs, to make them look like they came from the right period, the set dressing department created plastic bezels that made the screen sizes even smaller than typical CRTs. This made the normal safety area even smaller, couple that with each old TV monitor’s slightly different scaling, and often I would actually have to be on the studio floor talking the control room through the proper positioning of the graphics on a featured screen.
Freeze: We would run around on the floor with cameras and take pictures of our work on the older TVs, go back to Photoshop or Illustrator and create a matte, and save it as a new title or action safe that could then be applied in After Effects or Premiere Pro when we were working so we knew how something would look when we put it on the period monitors. When you’re on a movie set and you have an entire crew, including all of the actors, waiting for you to finish something or change something it’s a lot of pressure.



Adobe: How is this different than the visual effects we see in other films?
Johenning: None of what we do is done in post production. A lot of visual effects in movies involve after-the-fact effects. I’m not diminishing the importance of that approach to moviemaking, but in our case rather than filling a monitor with a solid green image and creating, tracking, and coloring the content after a scene is shot, we have to do it as if it’s a live TV show and make it look real and believable.

Adobe: Why was this approach useful in the Anchorman 2 production?
Freeze: We ultimately helped make a better movie because the content was live. The actors could see themselves on the monitors and ad lib, and we made changes to things like titles on the fly.
Marks: We surprised the crew with our capabilities, and it freed the post production people up a lot. There was one scene where we were able to use Photoshop to quickly build a full map of the United States, with temperatures throughout the country, and then overlay satellite imagery using Premiere Pro. Because they were able to use the map in the scene instead of just having a green screen, Steve Carrell was able to see himself on the monitor and play off of what was happening. The director was also able to give him direction based on what he saw evolving. It was some of the most hysterical stuff we shot and it wouldn’t have happened if it was done in post production.

Adobe: Can you give an example of how After Effects was used?
Marks: One of the scenes in the movie shows the characters covering a car chase. Production was quite concerned about the cost of staging the chase, but the stock footage we had wasn’t long enough. Through some creative editing, Perry made it happen.
Freeze: We had chase footage of two cars, one grey convertible with a closed black canvas top on the freeway and one larger grey car primarily going through neighborhoods. We used the Roto Brush in After Effects to track the roof of the larger car and then darken the roof to match the other vehicle. By using tools in Premiere Pro to flip the footage and slow down and speed up shots, we were able to edit together a longer scene, with four different segments for playback.

Adobe: Were there any other benefits of working with Adobe video tools?
Marks: With Adobe tools being so portable we were able to take the same laptop we used on stage back to our hotel room and still have the same powerful workflow. It was especially useful when we were working late on graphics that were needed for the next day of shooting. Doing our job would be nearly impossible without Adobe’s powerful software tools.

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 15, 2014 at 10:26:25 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Producing content for the largest sports show on earth is no small task

An ambitious content delivery goal will be met with a workflow featuring Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Pulling off the broadcast of the largest sports show on earth, spanning nearly a month’s worth of content, is no small task. HBS, the dedicated host broadcaster for one of the largest sporting events in the world, has contracted EVS and Moovit. EVS will provide for the central Media Asset Exchange Server located at the International Broadcast Center (IBC) and all editing workstation will be supplied by MoovIT. Central to the editing workflow is Adobe Premiere Pro CC, which will help editors quickly turn around content for distribution to multilateral production facilities and Media Rights Licensees (known as MRLs).

The central media server is the hub for the production operation during the competition. All material generated by HBS will be uploaded and logged onto the server and users connected to the system will be able to search and browse via dedicated browsing stations and transfer content into their system for unilateral programming requirements. All multilateral editing workstations required for post-production and multimedia will also be connected with the large SAN storage as part of the central server based on EVS technology.

Moovit was brought on board to provide the 54 workstations with Premiere Pro CC for editing live content and creating features, promos, as well as all components required for multimedia production. This new workflow will enable editors to turn content around more quickly than ever before. The central media server, acting as a shared storage, integrates with Premiere Pro CC by using the EVS IPLink interface.

Editors using Premiere Pro CC and the IPLink interface will be able to directly connect to the server, making it easy to create final edits of updates, promos, and multimedia packages. In addition, external media from various sources will come in from the ENG crews and be combined on the workstations without any transcoding to quickly produce the content.

For multimedia clients a wide selection of Video on Demand (VOD) clips will be provided by the host broadcaster. These clips need to be provided quickly so they can be immediately featured on websites, through mobile subscription sites, or by sponsors and broadcasters. After an event happens, such as a goal or a red card, a clip should be available online within minutes and available in various languages.

Moovit and EVS will both help HBS to meet this enterprising goal so that fans in multiple countries will be able to experience the action in near real time. With a customized workflow that includes Premiere Pro CC, HBS, through this service, will keep fans around the world on the edge of their seats as they follow the action and relive key moments from their favorite teams and players.

Read the Sports Video Group Europe article

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 9, 2014 at 9:43:49 am Creative Cloud, Customers

Recreating reality with visual effects

Seamless visual effects for The Wolf of Wall Street created with help from Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC

Paul and Christina Graff of Crazy Horse Effects (CHE) are visual effects aficionados, with projects to their credit such as There Will Be Blood and Life of Pi. They also work with a team of some of the best matte painters and designers in the visual effects industry, and are recognized for their award-winning compositing. They recently created some seamless visual effects for The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, with Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato overseeing the shots.

Adobe: How did you become involved with The Wolf of Wall Street?
Paul: I actually met Rob at a panel presenting outstanding work in VFX done in After Effects. We went to have a drink afterwards and he asked me about our new office in New York. We had worked on The Aviator and Shutter Island with him and he thought we could help with some of the shots in The Wolf of Wall Street. We were stoked to make the reunion with Rob, and excited to work on the project, although we joined the team late in the game when most of the effects were already well underway.

Adobe: What type of work did he send your way?
Christina: We didn't do any of the normal set extension work that we usually do. Instead, we focused on a lot of last minute fixes and designed several sequences. We worked on a lot of quirky shots! We contributed to several corporate identity “videos,” a few driving scenes, and a longer sequence with the real Jordan Belford at the end of the movie. Our work is really scattered throughout the movie.

Adobe: What sequences stand out?
Christina: We had a great scene to work on where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is dizzy on Quaaludes and stumbles down a staircase at his country club. The actual set had only four steps, but Leonardo’s Quaalude-induced point of view the staircase appeared much longer. Rob had a version of the same staircase built that was much longer surrounded by green screens. This set was a bit bouncy and needed attention. Our job was to connect the extension stairs with the original set environment and make the staircase appear sturdier by rebuilding them digitally and blending everything together. We rebuilt the scene using a 2.5D set up in After Effects CC. We also extended the country club in the establishing shot that looks up to the top of the stairs. In the end, it looked believable, as if it really happened. On other projects, we’re also using a lot of the 3D capabilities of CINEMA 4D—its integration with After Effects CC is allowing us to do 3D work with much greater speed and ease.

Adobe: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Paul: There is a corporate identity video playing at the beginning of the film and we had to recreate all of the stock exchange footage in that scene from scratch. We had some content that was very low quality, NTSC material and we needed to basically recreate the shots avoiding any copyright issues. Rob shot extras on green screen and we did our own mini VFX shoot in our New York office and used Adobe Photoshop CC to create matte paintings for the background. We only had about two days to do it and it was very challenging, but creating environments is one of our strengths.

Adobe: Were any particular features of After Effects CC helpful?
Paul: For one shot on a yacht, we had to recreate the floor and the reflections on the floor, including replacing a diamond-shaped logo. The shots we had to work with were created using a Steadicam stabilizer, but they were not quite steady enough. Based on Rob’s suggestion, we used the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects CC, and were impressed with the results. We’ve now started using Warp Stabilizer on more shots.

Also, the dwarf toss scene was shot spherical on Alexa, so we had to match it to the rest of the sequence that was shot on film with anamorphic lenses. It was quite tricky to get the texture of the files to look close to identical. We didn't use plugins, we just relied on curves, blurs, and displacement maps in After Effects to achieve the desired look.

Adobe: What was it like coming in late on a project? How did you succeed?
Paul: We came in late, but all of our work was high quality with a fast turnaround so Rob kept giving us bigger and bigger pieces of the pie. The Wolf of Wall Street included some content that was considered inappropriate by the Motion Picture Association of America. In the last phase of post production, Rob asked us to go on site at Deluxe Labs in New York where the final DI color corrections where being done to help them with some fixes to make the film more commercially appropriate. I went to Rob’s office at Deluxe and set up an iMac with After Effects on it and started working. In one day we did 16 retiming shots and one scene where we placed a chair in a scene to block some of the content. For me, it’s all about the finishing. You really show your colors at the end of a movie, and anything that came up last minute we knocked out.

Adobe: What was the benefit of working with Creative Cloud?
Christina: Creative Cloud lets us be super mobile. We can do what we do from anywhere—in the field, on site, or in the office.

Adobe: What was it like working with Rob Legato again?
Christina: He’s a genius, one of those people who has creative vision but also knows technology. He has fantastic concepts and vivid mental images, but also gives his VFX artists the freedom to devise their own ways of doing things.

Brian Sales and Blake Loyd of Crazy Horse Effects will be presenting in the Adobe booth at NAB 2014 on Monday, April 7th and Tuesday, April 8th.

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 3, 2014 at 1:25:31 pm Creative Cloud, Customers

Expert filmmaker builds online community

Pioneering filmmaker Ryan Connolly shares his passion for Adobe video software

After graduating from film school, Ryan Connolly started out in a fairly typical fashion: creating music videos and commercials for local clients. He then went on to run the video studio at PC game company Alienware. But rather than continue following the typical path of many aspiring filmmakers, Connolly came up with the idea to create Film Riot, an online show that would let him share how-to filmmaking tips, get feedback on his work, and ultimately build an audience and a community. Today, his renegade style has earned him a loyal online following and his company Triune Films continues to produce weekly online video content as well as short films and other film projects.



Adobe: What makes you a rule breaker in the industry?
Connolly: My success with Film Riot lets me be my own boss and do less and less client work. Not that client work is bad, but at Triune Films we just wanted to be a group of friends having fun, doing what we wanted to do. We’ve been fortunate enough to achieve that. We don’t have a typical day or week; it really depends on what we’re working on at the time. If things get too normal I get completely disinterested. That’s why Film Riot isn’t the same thing each time.

Adobe: Your name is associated with Triune Film and Film Riot. Can you tell us how they are related?
Connolly: Triune Films is the parent company that produces Film Riot, along with our other programs and projects. Film Riot is an online training ground for how to make great effects, learn best practices for editing, and so on. We also do video challenges and give out prizes to winners. The big thing for me with Film Riot is that we’ve built an amazing community—it’s not mandatory, but it has become part of our DNA to be kind, helpful, and supportive to each other in our creative efforts, versus critical. We’ve also built a loyal following on social networks: Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.




Adobe: Are there other aspects to the business?
Connolly: Yes, we have built a brand that caters to indie filmmakers, who are a passionate bunch. We sell t-shirts, color preset packs for Adobe After Effects, sound effects packs—all kinds of things that our audience wants. We’ve also started a weekly YouTube show called Variant that focuses entirely on comics.

Adobe: Which software have you chosen to use over the years?
Connolly: After Effects has always been our go-to for visual effects. For editing, I started using Adobe Premiere Pro right off, and then switched to Final Cut Pro when I went to film school. When Apple introduced Final Cut Pro X that was the end of that.

I’m now back on Premiere Pro CC and the integration among all the Adobe software solutions is amazing. It saves me hours every week because I’m not spending time rendering out sequences and trying to put them back in the timeline and fuss with them. The first time I saw Dynamic Link, I was amazed. If an edit to an effect was required, I could just Dynamic Link the change from After Effects and have it flow to Premiere Pro automatically. The integration among all the Adobe software programs seems to get better and better, too.



Adobe: Now that you have Adobe Creative Cloud, which applications do you use most?
Connolly: My main four are Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Audition CC, and Photoshop CC. Every now and again I use SpeedGrade CC for color correction and I’ve also started using Adobe Story CC for collaborative scriptwriting. Adobe Story CC, which I first tried because it was available to me through Creative Cloud, is the best collaborative scriptwriting software on the market, in my opinion. My designers also use Adobe Illustrator CC for title designs and so forth. I have to say, once I got Creative Cloud, I downloaded all kinds of software and kept thinking, “Wow, I can have this, too?” The choices were exciting.

Adobe: How big is your team and what volumes of content do you produce?
Connolly: Today, we have four full-time and two part-time employees. Two of us are editors and we have one VFX expert. The others are focused more on logistics such as shipping, customer service, and social networking. I’m the only all-around filmmaker. I focus on writing, producing, and editing, tossing the heavier visual effects stuff to our VFX artist.

In terms of volume, we produce a lot of content between our weekly shows and other projects. We’re doing about three online episodes a week in addition to short films and miniseries-type work. We recently created a short film called Proximity. There’s always a ton going on.



Adobe: How can your team keep up?
Connolly: A lot of it has to do with Creative Cloud. It’s so important to have everyone on the same software versions and be able to bounce everything back and forth on Macs or PCs. There are fewer kinks and version control issues in the workflow. That makes it easier for our small team to stay incredibly productive.

Adobe: How has your audience grown?
Connolly: We’re always looking at our Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube numbers. When the numbers get stagnant, we know we need to switch gears and amp things up. We experienced gradual growth for many years, but over the past year-and-a-half our growth has accelerated. During that time we doubled what took us three or four years to grow. We now have 441,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 66 million views of our Film Riot videos.




Adobe: What’s next for you?
Connolly: We plan to get into more new media and online shows as well as publishing comic books. We’ll continue to create short films, but we really want to move into creating full-length feature films. For now, one of the most exciting things for me is to have the opportunity to be somewhat of an online presence. It has been exciting to build a community that is friendly, collaborative, and constructive for creative indie filmmakers.

Ryan Connolly will be participating in Adobe’s Post Production World Keynote Breaking the Rules: The Next-Gen Content Creator on Sunday, April 6th from 10:30 am - 11:30 am.

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Posted by: Adam Spiel on Apr 1, 2014 at 9:13:45 pm Creative Cloud, Customers



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