Vivid Motion Graphics Workflow Tutorial & Free Wallpapers

(via: Ok guys, This is a big one, I recently posted this over on my blog, but thought it would be cool to share it around. I'll take you through the process that went into making this project plus a few screencaps that work really nicely as widescreen wallpapers! To start to view it in HD, click over to Vimeo (I recommend that, HD is a big plus) or just check them out here.

and just for the sake of it here's it on youtube HD. (notice the difference in quality of this and if you got to the vimeo page and watch it HD there!)

Last weekend I was worked on a short motion graphics piece. The idea was to record myself in front of a greenscreen and then incorporate an element of visual effects. As the recording and editing progressed I become more interested in abstracting the video to become a new medium, a sort of particular environment that I could explore. This intruiged me so I continued down this road. In this atricle I hope to share some of my own thoughts and techniques when it comes to working with after effects, etc. You'll see that even with some rudimentary materials you can create some pretty impressive and vibrant visuals.

Picture 40

Ok so to give you a break down of what was involved it was something like this.

Film Greenscreen Content >> Capture/Cut/Key in Final Cut >> Particle Visuals, AE Camera Control, Sound FX & Music >> Final Ram Export

Thats the rough workflow, of course there were some forward-backward process as you can imagine. This isn't going to be a tutorial but rather how you might approach working on something similar, I'll go through each of the stages and fill you in on what worked and what didn't. To start:

Film Greenscreen Content

Ok, so I had pretty limited access to facilities, it was about 3am so no recording studios would let me in. Armed with a pretty decent budget HD camera, tripod, one lamp, a .7x wide converter, some tape (you'll see why) and of course a few square meters of green cloth. I set it up like so:

Greenscreen Camera Set Up

had the camera and the lamp in pretty much the same place, at 300w the lamp was too bright and was going to cast a strong shadow behind the subject so I pointed it up against the white ceiling so that it would bounce and defuse the light onto peter, that way you'd avoid a as much shadow on the green screen. Bare in mind peteys (he let me call him that) pants are green, so they would be tricky to key out, you might have to masked it out frame by frame (rotoscoping), he refused to wear anything different as you can imagine. Try to wear clothes that contrasts green, nothing from the green spectrum is what you're aiming for. You want the greenscreen to be as evenly lit as possible. Ideally I would have had a lamp on either side lighting from behind and making the greenscreen bright for an easy key. There was also an ugly florescent light – you don't really want these, if you can avoid it - directly behind and above me which actually helped soften the lighting in general. That came in handy in post when I was keying the footage. As you can see the camera is about at hip height. I'd also recommend getting the most vibrant green you can find, the green I found was a little muted. Ideally you're looking for something that's pretty easy to key like this. As the lighting wasn't perfect I had to rotoscope some of the frames, you want to avoid that if possible. Say you need to rotoscope 3 seconds and you're shooting 25fps, that's 75 frames. Depending on the complexity of the movement that could eat up a plenty of time. Try do everything you can before post so that in post it's a smooth process.

Greenscreen Camera Set Up

I turned the camera on it's side for the full body recording, for two reasons, first off, so that I could fit in the whole shot; and secondly when you're recording a full body shot on a greenscreen it makes much more sense to turn the camera so that the shot is vertical, this way you maximize the resolution. The action of the scene is now taking up pretty much all the frame.

I said earlier I had tape and a .7 wide converter, yeah, about that... erm, I taped the converter onto the front of the camera, and surprisingly it worked a charm, it was crucial for full-body shots. I had no other way of doing it, the room wasn't big enough to move the camera back far enough. As I didn't need the image to be totally sharp this was ok, however if you want a really sharp image, dont tape your lens on. I think thats obvious; anyway, here's what it looked like.

Taped on Wide Converter

Cut/Key Capture in Final Cut

After a recording I captured the MiniDV in Final Cut. I didn't need the key to be perfect., I just needed to get rid of the main bulk and isolate me to some extent. Here's a quick breakdown of the process.

Workflow Animation

Raw footage was keyed then converted to B&W using Gradient Ramp in After effects. I had the particles respond to lights and darks so I crushed the blacks & whites together creating a strong contrast.

Particle Visuals/AE Camera Control, Sound FX & Music

After the footage was processed then came the main task, the one which required the most thought and was essentially the hardest of them all. I used Trapcode Form, an extremely powerful plug-in from Red Giant Software for After Effects. There are tens of thousands, quite possibly millions of different combinations for how this plug-in can look. It's easy to navigate but I think I've only scraped the surface. It was my first time using this plug in, be sure to check out their site for more info plus you can download the trail for free which is a great way to learn it.

The way I had the plug-in set up was to convert the video into a 3 particle deep system. Consisting of the colours red,green,blue. I could have made it 2000, 243 or 68 deep, any number, it's totally up to you. However this will effect loading times. This is also applicable to all the setting, if ever you've used after effects you'll know that there is a huge range of possibility, a fantastic piece of software. Anyway by linking the particles to only display the lights of separate precomp (the b&w video footage of me talking) I now had a pseudo-3d animated environment that I could maneuver the after effects camera around. While After Effects may look 3d it's considered to be 2.5d so it has some of the appearance of 3d(X, Y & Z axes) but it isn't 3d in the same why 3DMax, Maya, Blender or C4D are. I was able to expand the particles to add some more depth to the video, like when I zoom into the face and you can sort of see my side profile even tho the shot was static and didn't move. For example you could achieve a similar effect with a photograph, actually for some of the parts I did use stills from the footage.

Here are some shots of the flowchart from After Effects; how each layer and comp relate to one another. This is just a small portion of it.

Picture 39

Final Ram Export

Here is the result. Watch in HD if you can!

When I was done I added it to the Render Que and exported it. Full HD so it came out pretty sweet. I'll also note that I was working in 32BPC, not the 8BPC default, this really worked nicely to bump out the glow.

Here are a few screen-caps. Click them for full-res, the work pretty nicely as widescreen wallpapers.

So there you have it, that's the rough workflow. If there's one tip I can give you to take away from this, it would have to be; try do everything you can on set to make the work in post as easy and clean as possible. I think this can be applied to plenty of other mediums, photography etc. You want a solid beginning to work with and then everything you do after that will be a breeze.

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Youssef Sarhan's picture
Youssef Sarhan


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