All posts by Glenn.Clarkson

Meeting Report: Visual FX with Ken Turner

Our December meeting saw the welcome return of visual effects supervisor and animation director Ken Turner.

Ken works on on high-end drama ( Poldark, Downton Abbey and The Paradise ) and low budget horror features films. Both forms have similar budgets suitable for a small high-end studio such as Lexhag where he works as head of CG.

DSC_2956-2Ken’s latest work on the TV series Dickensian is set to start broadcasting on BBC One in December 2015.

He started the evening by running two of his show reels and discussing some of sequences in detail. For the sequence of the boy growing angel’s wings Ken said “this blend of visual and physical effects to create the boy in bed and wings emerging was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I spent two months working on the feathers. Each one individually modelled and animated”.

Ken talked of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ effect required to cause distraction and focus the audience on the action required by the director; “With and understanding of the brain and artist composition we can direct the eye where we want it to go. Stuff that feels real will hide the stuff that isn’t because the brain doesn’t have time to process everything before we move onto the next shot”

Visual effects require extremely large amounts of computing power. Minutes to process each frame can become hours to complete each shot. But the technology behind VFX becomes faster and cheaper every year. Improvements in cloud computing mean that Ken can being to compete with the capabilities of studios with large in-house computing power.

Observe then CreateDuring the evening Ken talked of the process of observation and iterative creation as depicted in this image; commenting on the fact that this applied to all creative processes not just animation or visual effects. “the key is to approve the broad strokes first before adding the finer detail. There’s no point in painting wrinkles on skin if the director can’t decide on the shape of the monster.”

wasp_stillBy way of illustration of this Ken described his starting point as creating mood-boards and showing how he created menacing wasps for the film Dementamania. He started with much research about wasps, acquiring lots of images and comparing them. Lots of repeat images and patterns emerged as he created the threatening wasps.

Ken used 3dsMax to create working 3D physical models, and Allegorithmic Substance Designer for look development. “realtime tools such as Substance Designer are the future of VFX. Iterating surface qualities without waiting minutes for the screen to refresh is amazing.”

sunset_stillFinally Ken demonstrated compositing in Blackmagic Design Fusion . He showed how to create a video sequence sunset scene with moving clouds and a flock of birds flying across the sky. The background was created from a photograph and the birds from just one basic bird shape repeated multiple times. [YouTube tutorial of the composite].  Fusion has free to download and professional versions.

This evening was hosted by Modern Art Oxford as part of the Film Oxford Residency month.


Visual FX with Ken Turner

On December 17th we move to Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke Street, OX1 1BP for an evening of visual effects with Ken Turner starting at 7:30pm. After Ken’s talk and demonstrations we shall adjourn to The Royal Blenheim next door for Christmas drinks.

Please use this link to book your free ticket to this event.

Ken’s talk will present a range of work from high budget BBC dramas to micro budget sci-fi shorts, including the recent PoldarkThe Paradise, and BAFTA winning series The Fades. The talk will cover a range of techniques including matte painting, invisible mending, creatures, motion graphics, and more.

An illustrator at heart Ken has spent the last 15 years leading teams in animation and visual effects mainly for drama on the BBC but also for computer games.

Ken Turner is an award winning visual effects supervisor and animation director with almost 20 years’ experience working in TV and games.

Meeting Report: Creative Cloud Event

Our November meeting saw a welcome return of Niels Stevens and Richard Curtis from Adobe for a Creative Cloud Event; a whistle-stop tour of what’s new in ‘Cloud’ for filmmakers and photographers.

Niels Stevens
Niels showed us a pre-release version of Premiere Pro tablet apps. In particular he demonstrated CreativeSync which automatically syncs assets, settings and metadata across desktop, web and mobile apps. A Creative Cloud subscription enables this service across all devices. Niels also demonstrated Morph Cut transition that lets you quickly create seamless talking-head scenes.

After Effects has a new streamlined UI and CreativeSync. Niels showed uninterrupted previews that allow adjustments to a composition’s properties without stopping playback. In development is a character animator that can animate vector based artwork in real time with sound and video inputs.

Premiere Clip – the free app (through iTunes App Store) that allows you to create and edit videos right on iPhone or iPad and send them to Premiere Pro on the desktop for additional refinements.

Richard Curtis
Richard said that Lightroom 6.3 had shipped the previous day (18 November) with additional camera raw and lens profile support and that the Import function had been improved and restored.

Lightroom on mobile app – capture, organize, edit, and share photos on smartphone or tablet. Richard pointed out that using Smart Previews the app can edit everything from smartphone photos to raw images from DSLRs, access those images across devices and automatically sync with Lightroom on the desktop.

Photoshop Fix – a free app (through iTunes App Store) that allows you to liquify, heal, lighten, colour and adjust images and share them across other Creative Cloud desktop and mobile apps.

Adobe Slate – a free to use service that works in the browser. The Slate service allows users to write and illustrate a high impact web story without coding. The story is created online and when ready is published as an HTML5 web page on the Adobe Slate portal with a URL allocated for the story.

Raffle winner
Congratulations to Erica Wood who won the raffle prize of a one-year free subscription to Creative Cloud. Time to get even more creative Erica, enjoy!

L-R: Darius DzialaDigital Film Editors User Group co-manager. Richard Curtis, Niels Stevens and winner Erica Wood. John TwycrossDigital Creatives Oxford User Group Manager. Richard DuriezDigital Film Editors User Group Manager.

Creative Cloud Event Oxford

On November 19th Adobe specialists Richard Curtis and Niels Stevens are coming to Film Oxford, Catherine Street, Oxford, for a special presentation on the new features of Creative Cloud for photographers, designers and film makers starting at 7:30pm.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see the latest features in the new release of Adobe Creative Cloud 2015, including Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, After Effects, Speedgrade and more. Learn about what’s new in this 2015 release that will help you do everything you do more efficiently using the latest innovations and modern standards. Get answers to your questions and get inspired by film makers and photographers who are creating amazing work.

Adobe will be providing a One-year Creative Cloud Membership as first prize in our free raffle. You must be present to win.

Richard Curtis
Richard is a Principal Solutions Consultant at Adobe with a focus on Digital Imaging. Richard is the UK contact for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements and Imaging workflows around the Creative Cloud. Richard is also the primary contact for Adobe in the UK and EMEA for 3D and 3D printing with Photoshop. He is a keen technologist and a photographer for over 20 years, with a focus on travel and portrait photography.

Niels Stevens
Niels has almost 20 years consultancy experience in the content creation business.  He spent 10 years in the content creation reseller world, specialising in sales and training for Audio post-production systems. He moved to Avid Solutions Consulting in 2006, where he looked after most of the major Broadcast Accounts in EMEA, specialising in storage networks, media asset management, and editing / finishing workflows.

Since 2010, he has looked after the Pro Video market at Adobe, as a Business Development Manager for the Creative Cloud. He has overseen double-digit percentage growth in Premiere Pro market share every year, which continues apace, as the company transitions towards a connected, hosted services model.

Meeting Report: 3D character animation online with Mixamo/Adobe

John Twycross demonstrated products from Mixamo the online 3D character animation company acquired by Adobe in June of this year. Mixamo’s products are expected to be included in Adobe’s Creative Cloud offering in the New Year.

Mixamo has products to Create, Rig and Animate 3D characters. John started by showing Fuse which is a modular 3D character creator with over 280 customizable attributes allow anyone to make a vast range of 3D character types and styles. John created a new character and showed how the character can be given required body features, clothing and footwear. The character can also be given action attributes from a database of animation clips, e.g. running, jogging and jumping.

Auto-Rigger is the Maximo automatic online rigging tool to build the skeleton and place the bones of the 3D character. The tool allows you to identify pivot points in the skeleton of the character, e.g. elbows, knees, neck etc. The product is a rigged character with skeleton and mesh weighted to bones that can be downloaded, scripted and included in your game.

DSC_2147In the picture here John is working with the Face Plus product. The character on screen in real-time is following John’s movements through the web-cam on his laptop. In this way it is possible to create and record a scripted animation take with believable lip sync of the character.

Face Plus was made for Unity developers. Click the record button to capture facial expression, creating an ANIM file for your character. Then edit the 3D facial animation to get the exact result you want.

3D character animation online with Mixamo/Adobe

On June 1st of this year Adobe announced its purchase of the company Mixamo.

For our meeting on October 15, 7:30pm at Film Oxford, John Twycross will demonstrate some of the features of the current Mixamo website, look at how this currently integrates into game engines and discuss the implications of this for designers.

The Mixamo online service provides a motion capture library, character generation and automated rigging. It is exciting because it makes character animation accessible to all. It also clearly signals Adobe’s commitment to gain a foothold in the 3D character animation field and expanding Photoshop’s 3D features.

johnTwycrossJohn Twycross is Senior Lecturer in Digital Media Production, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University.

Visit to Audiomotion and Oxford Film Studios (SOLD OUT)

For our September meeting we have been invited to visit Oxford Film Studios and Audiomotion, Europe’s leading performance capture service provider – right here in Oxford! 17th September from 7:30pm.

Please book your free ticket at Eventbrite using this link. Ticketing is required in order to ensure that there are enough guides for visitors. This is a joint visit with Digital Film Editors Oxford.

There is ample parking at Audiomotion and Oxford Film Studios. London Road, Wheatley, Oxford, OX33 1JG – MAP

Audiomotion Studiosmotion

Mick Morris (Managing Director) and Brian Mitchell (Operations Director at Audiomotion and Founder of The Mocap Academy) will take us through the background of motion capture and how Audiomotion Studios has evolved in the industry. They will explain how the medium can be used, and the benefits of digital characters. We will discover how their technology facilitates directors and actors to bring ideas to life.

cameraIt is Audiomotion’s belief that some may be put off by the restrictions posed by using technology in a creative environment. However, they will demonstrate how understanding this technology will open up a vast array of possibilities.

During the presentation at Audiomotion Studios, Mick and Brian will demonstrate Real-time previs, a visual tool that aids both actor and director to understand, navigate and interpret the virtual environment. Using real character rigs, environments, objects, terrain and props they are able to create a live, accurate and authentic representation of a 3D world.

Whilst motion capture is well know for its use in blockbuster films such as Exodus: Gods and Kings, World War Z, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, Popular TV titles such as Dr Who, triple-A video game titles such as Ghost Recon and Call of Duty and everything in between, this technology is fast becoming more mainstream, affordable and integral to the entertainment, animation, arts and sports industries.

Oxford Film Studiosstage

With a 32 ft x 16 ft green screen, roller door access, substantial ceiling height, Motion Control Crane, and a VFX 4K camera kit package Oxford Film Studios are equipped for all filming needs.

Just 2 miles from M40 Junction 8, approx 45mins from London, their brand new, large scale permanent green screen appeals to those in the film production, commercial, corporate and photographic fields alike.

Meeting Report: Drones, Aerial Filming and Photography

Matt Nicholson of Hollywood Drones and his colleague Danny MacGreggor Gill brought drones to our May meeting at Film Oxford and talked about the applications and challenges of deploying drones for aerial filming and photography.

Surveying, search and rescue, 3D mapping, building inspection and parcel delivery are just a few of the uses to which drones are being applied today in addition to the more usual aerial photography and filming. Numerous members of the meeting’s audience have drones of various sizes and capabilities.

Matt’s professional background is in aviation which made it easier for him to gain Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) permission to fly an Small Unmanned Aircraft (UAS) for commercial purposes. This permission required that Matt attend a 2 day ground school, plus theory tests on air law, operation of the unmanned aircraft and a risk assessment of flying procedures. In addition he was required to set up an Operations Manual to show how he intended to operate the aircraft.

mattNicholsonAfter discussing the CAA legalities of flying where the pilot is flying within line-of-site up to 500 metres distance Matt showed us his DJI S900 drone. This aircraft requires two-man operation, a pilot to fly the aircraft and an operator to manipulate the camera during flight.

Weighing in at more than 7kg the aircraft carries a GH4 Lumix Olympus camera. The GH4 operates on a radio-controlled 3-axis gimbal and imagery is monitored in real time on a radio connected tablet. Satisfactory filming with a drone was said to take up to three times longer than a ground based cameraman.

To demonstrate the capabilities of the S900 Matt showed a short film he had shot of the new maths building at Oxford University for HobsonCurtis Films.

Matt pointed out that CAA permission is not required for social flying of smaller drones providing that “the aircraft will not be flown close to people or properties, and you will not get ‘valuable consideration’ (i.e. payment) from the flight”. [source]

Film Oxford and Hollywood Drones are planning to run courses on filming with drones in the near future

raffleWinnerMichaelDunningRaffle winner
At the end of the evening photographer Michael Dunning won the twice-yearly raffle. Michael now has a one-year subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud. Congratulations Michael!

Drones – Aerial Filming and Photography

Everyone’s talking about Drones, come and find what the fuss is about!

Thursday May 21st, 7:30pm at Film Oxford.
Guest Speaker: Matthew Nicholson of Hollywood Drones.

Bring your business card to enter this quarter’s free raffle for a one-year’s subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Matthew will bring along his filming drone so you can get close up and see what it is all about. He will explain what is involved in setting up and running the business from a legal perspective, how to operate drones legally and demonstrate some of their more recent short films.

Hollywood Drones is an aerial filming company based in Oxford. Fully licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority they film up to Ultra 4K using the same equipment as used by major broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV. Since setting up in 2014 they have established work for Sky Sports the National Trust and Oxford University as well as other Oxfordshire companies.

(Photos Hollywood Drones)

Meeting Report: The Fantastic and the Invisible – Ken Turner on VFX

chopperKen Turner mesmerised our April meeting with his  show reel of 2D 3D generalist animation and composition work showing spaceships, aliens, angels, falling bombs, helicopters crashing into skyscrapers; all without anyone being hurt in the making of the film.

He was talking to a standing-room only audience about his career. Amongst his many accomplishments Ken supervised computer graphics on The Fades and picked up the RTS award for best effects digital along with Alexis Haggar and Dan Marbrook of Lexhag.

KenTurnerAn illustrator at heart Ken has spent the last 15 years leading teams in animation and visual effects mainly for drama on the BBC but also for computer games. His most recent success was creating composite scenes for the BBC production Poldark.

Using Fusion 7 from Black Magic Ken demonstrated how he used the product to add a non-existent roof to a Cornish mine. He also removed a number of people from the skyline whilst cast members walk in front of these added and removed parts of the scene.

poldark1The tin mine before composition

poldark2The final composited scene

Similarly Ken showed how he had been able to add buildings to a scene along with smoke from chimneys, making ground less green and more industrial, as well as adding a galleon sailing past the coastline, creating what he referred to as a ‘moving collage’.

In addition he displayed a sequence and explained how he used Fusion to create the illusion of a large crowd walking up a long coastal track. The actual scene was shot numerous times as a small group of actors walked up the track. Ken composed the final scene by merging numerous sections of the timeline together to give the illusion of large crowd of people walking up the track.

Ken pointed out that Fusion 7 is available free of charge by simply downloading from the Black Magic site. It runs incredibly quickly allowing for great productivity on the part of the animator. Currently only available for Windows PC a Mac version is being created by Black Magic.

“Most of my work starts with mood boards in Pinterest” said Ken whilst emphasising the critical need for research. “So far I’ve enjoyed a 15 year career in Computer Games and TV. Now with Digital Cinema production the next 15 years promises to be even more exciting.”