How to: Loopable frame by frame animation.

Animation, Film

I’m back in Malmö studying Visual communication again. I took a break for a year (6 months at home with kids, 6 months studying Experimental mediaproduction). One of our startup assignments was to create a loopable 5 – 10 sec animation which can be used as a digital businesscard, or as a creative element in your E-mail signature.

After Effects project footage.

I filmes myself on a rotation chair going around full circle with, and without a rabbits mask. I used a dissolvetransition between the takes and ended up with a loopable video. After that, I simply (actually this is the tedious part), sketched around my face in After Effects with my Wacom Intuos board.

24 frames per second, using the brushtool. On export i ticked the box “paint on transparent” in the Effects panel and job done. I could have easily used 12 FPS instead to save some time but since I painted every frame of the video I got som really nice organic details.

Final export.

Reanimating dead walls – The secrets behind the ArtstreetHBG-trailer.

Animation, DIY-builds and hacks, Film

A few days ago I handed over three versions of a video I produced for Helsingborg’s Stad. I guess you could call it a trailer of some sort for the upcoming street art festival ArtstreetHBG. The original seed which sparked the idea for this video was the tagline; “Be there when dead walls come back to life”. After weeks of planning, pitching scripts and drawing up a storyboard the idea was given the green light. While my colleagues were busy hunting actors, clearing permits and making sure we had a casket for the shoot, I started creating props and shooting the VFX-footage.

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The plot is quite simple. Mourning humans carrying a casket. All black. Spray cans, which are alive, are watching, wondering if the sorrow will ever end. One of the cans chooses to act. The can gets hurt (looses cap), and causes an accident. The cascet falls, out comes the body. But the body is actually a dead wall (mono-coloured bricks). The spray can brings the wall back to life by giving it colour back. Everyone happy.

I created black flags for drama and a dynamic image. Black smoke to up the drama some more. I chose bamboo-sticks for the flags so that I could hide the smokecharges inside the sticks. I had two sets of bricks, 16 “boring ones”, and 16 “happy ones”, which I painted one afternoon while my kid was asleep. I had some old spray cans in the studio which I banged up quite a bit to make them look really worn and broken. It’s always nice when the hero has some flaws in your story. The stakes are higher that way. I went and got this spinning breakfast-tray from IKEA which I painted green. After that, I started shooting my cans. I wanted them to be able to bend and spin at the same time in my video to make them look as “real” as possible. I could have used a photo of a can, and the PIN-tool in After Effects to get them to bend, but I think the rotating effects really worked well and gave it that extra nudge.

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Shooting rotating cans on greenscreen.

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Final composition after using the Pin-tool. The can which rolls away was brought to set and thrown in front of the camera after giving it some time to fall.

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The shot from above planned out in the storyboard-phase.

After the casket falls we reach a peak in the video. All hope seems lost but of course, it’s not. It never is. The bricks you see during the fall are the normal, unpainted ones. After getting my “misery-shots”, the pile of “dead” bricks was replaced with the coloured ones. All I had to do in post was to duplicate the layer (I made sure to shoot with a tripod of course), mask out the stones and de-saturate the masked out top layer. After this, I could simply keyframe the saturation back (by changing the opacity of my top layer from 100% to 0%), and voila, boring stones are no more. Add a touch of the 80’s and we’re golden.

Stenar

I really enjoy using real, on-set effects where you get the result straight away. I’ve done reverseshots before and this was my go-to plan for the end, when the bricks come to life. I hade the actors throw the bricks into frame twice – so that the shot could be reversed later. I had my multitalented friend Christian walking backwards in frame to sell the effects a bit more.7For the final shot things got a bit more complex. Here I had to shoot a backplate (a clean background of the wall which is blocked by rope and actor in my used shot), and mask out the rope and actor afterwards. It’s not that hard in theory, but on set, with time pressure, it occasionally happens that you forget the backplate. So I made sure to really get that down on the storyboard and shotlist. Here is the original footage for the scenes mentioned before they are reversed and masked. Just look at Christian! Walking like a pro even following the bricks in reverse with his gaze.

OG-FOOTAGE

I’m so happy with the final production and I had a blast shooting it. We shot the whole thing in about two hours (!) and got everything we needed pretty much straight away. Of course I couldn’t have done it without the help of an amazing crew that day (and the days leading up to the shoot). There is a massive credits-list in the end of the video and it shows how much work everyone put in just to create this little bizarre, but lovely video.

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The video will be playing before screenings at cinema Röda Kvarn in Helsingborg, on the big screen at the central station, all over the web and with a little bit of luck, on busses and trains. I’m so excited to see how it will be received now that it’s out after one stressful week of editing. Here it is – enjoy.

Shooting Sins – The work behind the camera.

Film

Sins In Vain is a melodic metal band from Sweden and I’ve been friends with some of the members for years now. The band decided to record a cover of Killswitch Engage’s song The end of heartache, as a way to thank them for all the years of inspiration.

Rigging

Christian (guitar) setting up the mic for Lenny (vocals) in the studio.

The band wanted a video which documents the recording process in the studio and I wanted to give it a shot. A full day in the studio, and everything ran smoothly, probably because we all decided and agreed on the look and feel of the video beforehand. We decided to go for a grainy black and white, somewhat faded video, since the word “nostalgia” popped up a lot when I asked the band about their connection with the song. I shot the video in (FLAT) colour just in case the black and white feel would be a disaster and so I had to prep for this before hitting REC. The studio is very rustic and has a nice homely feel to it so I went with warm lights and tones. The point of the video was to show the love and respect Sins In Vain all have for the cover they were about to record. If I wanted them to look hard as hell and stone cold, I would have gone with a more blue and cold setup. But remember, black and white was always the main goal for the video, the decisions with the colourtemp was just precautionary planning.

Hey ho let's go!

Anders, Christian, Lenny and Jens toasting while Tommy is off rigging his drums.

A cosy studio usually comes with a lot of extra stuff (this one came with a rocking horse attached to the ceiling), and stuff casts shadows. Lighting the studio was a bit tricky so I often directed my redheads away from the subject, bouncing the 800W light off the ceiling instead. This way I eliminated many of the shadows which would have caused some confusion in the shots. I used vintage constructionlights to separate the subjects a bit from the background, and to add some quality to the cosy atmosphere I was going for. I didn’t use any makeup on the band because I wanted to capture the process in a raw and natural way. Some may argue that one should always use powder on subjects while working with hot lights, some don’t. We went raw and I personally think it adds to the “realness” of the video.

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A quick walk-through of the lighting approach used for this video.

The video was shoot with my trusty Canon 700D and I alternated between two prime lenses. The classic 50mm f1.8 and my latest addition, 24mm f2.8. The 24mm lens gives you a shot which is close to what you see from your own point of view  so composing your shot is quite easy since you kind of get, “what you see” from where you stand. The 50mm brings you closer as you probably know and is great for more emotional closeups. I kept the shots stable and consistent always using a tripod or a 60 cm slider. Not going handheld forced me to focus on creating a good composition before each take, keeping the rule of thirds in mind whenever possible. I did shoot some handheld B-roll I labeled “goofing around in the studio”. The plan was to let these images slip into the video towards the end, but while editing it just didn’t match the overall feel I was going for. Instead I used some of those shots in the intro for the video accompanied by sounds captured while setting everything up.

Setup

The Canon 700D running on the Magic Lantern firmware with matte-box and a 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Videotripod with fluid head for smooth tilting while filming.

The camera was running on Magic Lanterns firmware. This enabled me to view the shots with bars. I love shooting with bars. They are not permanent but it’s another safety when it comes to editing. You compose your image to match the bars but they’re not there on the actual footage. When you add bars in post you have more control over the image and are able to reframe your footage. Before Magic Lantern (which also lets you shoot in RAW if you wish) I used masking tape on the viewfinder where I wanted the bars.

I’m not going to write a full report on how I edited the video but I had lots of footage to choose from. I shot three takes of each member (Wide tripod / Close tripod / Slider) except Tommy on the drums who got two extra slider-takes to capture the footwork from both directions. The video drops on Valentines day, but until then you can watch the three promo videos below which I put together for the bands Instagram.

Curious about the music? Listen to Sins In Vain on Spotify

Shooting a musicvideo – Top 10 tips.

DIY-builds and hacks, Film

So you’re about to shoot a music video (or film) – and since you’re here I bet you’re on a tight budget too. Not to worry, after this you’ll (hopefully) feel a bit more organized. Your first video isn’t gonna be great, but it will be the best lesson you’ll get so you can get up again and make your second video your best video, so far. Let’s dive in.

1. Get to know the track – and incorporate it into every essence of yourself.

Wierd right? But really, the best way to start seeing the video before it exists is to loop that sucker all day everyday. Listen to it while going to work, being at work, going to bed (Warning: your brain might get great ideas around this time – but sleep isn’t gonna be one of them), cooking, shopping, pooping… You get it. You’ll start getting images in your head, and by knowing all the beats and hooks you’re probably gonna get some sweet ideas for editing and syncing images and cuts with sound.

2. Make a storyboard – it’s cheaper and you’ll spot the pitfalls before you’re on set.

Storyboarding out your video will save you a great deal of time and pain on set. You’ll see how your story fits together (or doesn’t) and you’ll be able to change it just by spending another A4 paper, instead of spending more days reshooting or trying to make sense of the material you have in the editing stage. It doesn’t need to be pretty – as long as you know what’s being portrayed. It also gives you a greater sense of what needs to be arranged when it comes to props, actors, gear and locations. There are plenty of places where you can download printable storyboardtemplates, but a marker and a sketchpad works just fine.

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Storyboard – Just do it, you’ll thank me later.

3. Avoid making your story too complicated.

It’s a music video, not a blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean lower your ambitions. No sir! Never. What I’m trying to say is you can do a lot with a little. Make sure to switch it up with different angles (wide/close/high/low/static/moving) and remember, sometimes simply switching locations does loads. Nobody wants to see a band perform for 4 minutes from a single tripod. But make sure your story is doable otherwise you’ll end up with angry artists and low self esteem.

4. Work with what you’ve got – make your story awesome.

There’s nothing better than getting production value for free. So start asking around and look around you. Does your second uncle have an old broken helicopter in his yard? Then center your story around that! Does your neighbours ex own a bar? Do you know anybody who’s got something unusual and special? Borrow it. You can write a plot around anything so make sure you use all the spots and objects you can get your hands on to make your production stand out from the norm. Be weird – in music and film there are no limits. The only rule is: never be boring or un-original.

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Minimal set with cheap props and some harsh dramatic lighting (from: Tyler – “Apathy”)

5. Get the best footage you can – with the best camera you can.

Now I’m not saying you’ve got to rent an ARRI or RED to make a video that looks good. I’m saying, get a hold of the best camera you can. If you can get your hands on a old vintage camera with physical film in it – use that. Borrow a DSLR-camera if you don’t have one. The shallow depth of field always gives you cinematic points and they usually shoot in full HD. Everybody knows somebody with a GoPro. Get creative! Those suckers mount on anything and you can always correct the lensdistortion in your editing software afterwards.

6. Surround yourself with creative people.

If you get people involved who are creative like you – you’ll feed of each others positive energy. People love to help out when they can – especially if you offer them a part or a special credit in your video. Build props, hammer out a story, edit in teams. And if you’re all by yourself – do exactly what you feel like doing no matter how insane your idea is. If enough people tell you “you can’t do that“, you’re on the right path.

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DIY-cart for camera and actor (used in: Tyler – “Apathy” during the one take scenes)

7. Time flies on set – plan ahead!

This is where the storyboard comes in handy. Hopefully if you make it onto a set you’ve remembered all your gear and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to shoot, and how to shoot it. Make sure you take breaks to eat and drink – when people get hungry they get tired and cranky. And at that stage everybody wants to go home, and start to make compromises. This is a bad idea – and can easily be avoided by showing a banana into your head.

8. Editing made easier – Yes, storyboard again.

I hope you all know the basics of shooting a band with instruments? You re-shoot the same song over and over again from different angles, with the song you’re gonna use in your final video in the background – right? This makes syncing up the track quite easy in your editor. I know there are loads of great plugins and software which makes this even easier but if we’re going old-school on this – a tip is to add 4 loud beeps or something before the track you’re using on set. These 4 beeps will show up in your audio track of your footage in the editing software and you’ll sync that shit up in no time. And since you have your storyboard and listened to the song a thousand times before – you’ll know exactly how, when and where to cut right?

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DIY-slider built with old tripod and carbox-railing.

9. Ctrl-S all day long.

There is nothing more soulcrushing than having your software die on you because you’ve made your video awesome with so many sweet technical and complex editingmoves that your CPU just can’t handle it. Save constantly – and backup your footage! It might take some time to copy your files, but it will take you even longer to drag your whole operation out again and re-shoot.

10. Tutorials.

Nowadays we have the power to do so much, right at home with our visual media it’s mind-boggling. Don’t let your lack of knowledge stop you. I promise you, whatever idea you have for building a rig, a cheap prop which still looks great or if your video needs 5 exploding cars and severed heads – there will be at least 10 tutorials on YouTube just on that, all that, just for you, for free.

There it is. My top ten list of things to consider while shooting a video. You might find your own way though – I’m simply passing on what has served me well since I began. And a final word of sincere advise:

DO NOT compare yourself with Hollywood. The game is rigged in their favour. They have the manpower, studios, actors and gear to make their productions insane. But what they don’t have is the freedom you as a small time filmmaker possesses. You don’t need an ok from a studio executive, and you don’t need to worry about how well your video will perform around the globe. So use that – and remember; Be creative, original and believe in your idea. Good luck!

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DIY camerajib/crane built with gym-weights, industrial lightstand and fencerails.