Friday, 30 April 2010

3WR: Iron Man 2

Iron Man, improved.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

3WR: Date Night

Very, very funny.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


So yesterday I decided that I would look into what is involved in writing an app for Android, Google's mobile phone OS.

I downloaded the various SDKs, eclipse plugins and emulators and spend about half a day setting them all up (Tip of the day, if using this in a Jazz client, change the Jazz client to use a Sun JVM instead of the default IBM one).

Once the set up was done, I jumped right in at the deep end and started to put together a UI for a very simple app designed to display a D&D character builder save file. I originally tried to build the UI using java, but nothing appeared. Puzzled, I looked through a the docs and tutorials and nearly everything used XML files to define the UI instead, so I tried that and quickly got something up and running. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job.

I'll reserve judgement until I see how hard it is to make it pretty (including the support of changing orientation to landscape).

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Silent DVD?

I recently completed putting together a DVD of the Appleton Players last show, following some changes I made after review the first version. This time everything looked fine, but there was no sound on the footage of the show!

The extras I had put together had sound, and the previous version I had produced had sound, but for some reason this copy did not.

So, this morning I went back to the project and looked (and listened) to each stage only to find that the sound was not playing back in Adobe Encore. The clip in question was a Premier Pro sequence, included into Encore as a dynamic link. Opening the sequence in Premier Pro revealed that the sound existed there. I started trawling the web for answers and found that there may have been an issue with transferring the data from Premier Pro to Encore, and this is related to the cached files.

I have now spent most of the day clearing caches, reloading assets and reverting transcoded files to originals. Having tried several times, I finally have the sound back in Encore (it is writing to DVD now, hopefully the sounds will be on that too).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Lightsaber Effects

Being a Star Wars fan, one of the first thing I looked at doing when I started editing video was to create some lightsaber effects.

I trawled the internet for some examples and tutorials and found this excellent one from I tried it out on a simple animation I was working on at the time and was very impressed. Having got it out of my system, I left well alone and got on with other, more serious, bits of work.

While putting together the DVD for the latest show by my drama group, the Appleton Players, I took the opportunity to recycle some footage of a rehearsal of a sword fight and add the lightsaber effects for the amusement of all.

The clip I used was only just over 30 seconds long, but there was no way I was going to manually track both ends of two swords for the 900+ frames, so I decided to make things a little easier with motion tracking and expressions in after effects.

I followed the tutorial to set up the lightsabers and get the look that I liked, then I set about creating 4 trackers, one to track the tip and base of each sword. This was the time consuming bit. While the motion tracking tool in After Effects is OK, when you have fast moving items or light coloured items against a light coloured background, it has some difficulty. These swords were both fast moving and light against light (sigh). So, after many hours of correcting the motion tracking, I had my points plotted. By using expressions similar to the following I set the start and end position of each of the lightsabers to use these tracked points.

comp("mycomp").layer("clip.m2t").motionTracker("Tracker 1")("Track Point 1").attachPoint

With these expressions plugged in, my effects followed the action in the clip as expected. Unfortunately, I had to manually mask out items as they passed in front of the lightsabers, as shown in the tutorial, however I am hopeful that the new Roto Brush in CS5 will automate this too.

So I have my video, but a lightsaber just isn't right without that sound. So I went trawling again. I found a number of samples of lightsabers (and I already have some myself), but I was after a "clean" sound so that I can modify it as required. Eventually I found this site describing how to create you own sounds in a similar way to the way Ben Burtt did for the original film. While this is a bit too technical and long winded for what I was after, there was a download of a premixed lightsaber hum, so I grabbed that instead.

As I was using two lightsabers, I pitched one up slightly (the green one) and both slowed and pitched down the other (red), so that each had a unique sound.

The final part was to adjust the volume of the lightsaber as the sword was moved on screen so that the faster the blade is moved, the louder the buzz.

After some experimentation and research I created the following expression for the audio level of the lightsaber.

// Use the combined speed of both the tip and base of the lightsaber
totalSpeed = thisComp.layer("Green Saber").effect("Saber_Controls")("Start Position").speed + thisComp.layer("Green Saber").effect("Saber_Controls")("End Position").speed;
// Convert the speed to a volume, maximum volume of 2.5dB
vol = Math.min(totalSpeed * 0.05 - 12, 2.5);
// return the volume for left and right channels

My short clip, "Darth Mo", was finally complete.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

3WR: Clash of the Titans

Original is better.