Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Girl In The Window Part 1: Designing Everything

Working on my own no budget, indy, sci-fi, film requires that I pretty much to everything, including props and monster design. Here are both, that I've designed and built for my short film "Girl In The Window." Shooting starts next week. I give you two ray guns, and the Anigav Beast.

 ...and for a bonus, one of my early story designs and a couple of idea sketches.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Videos

As many know, I've done my fare share of interview videos. I have fun putting them together from shooting to editing. Here are a few examples of my work over the years, from then 'till now.
In the early days, I just used Windows Movie Maker (a good place to start for anyone, I think) but now, as you see in the top video, I'm using Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Premier.
There's plenty more at the Moonlight Art Magazine You Tube channel, if you care to see more. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My First Marionettes

These are some of the very first (of many) marionettes that I've made for my little no budget indy movies. I've already made some better stuff since this video (and my handle on visual effects has vastly improved) but I still enjoy these. I'll post the better ones after the movies they're in come out. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Working On The Ray Bradbury Odyssey: Part 4 (Why Mars?)

Out space is a particularly fun thing for me, to animate in After Effects. I've actually found that creating the elements in Adobe Photoshop can make for just as convincing stars and planets, as the 3D programs. That may be a bold statement, but when you're working on a project that can't budget for expensive 3D rendering, it can be done, and it can look good.

In this case, producer Michael O'Kelly wanted a slow run through the solar system while Malcolm McDowell read the Ray Bradbury poem, "Why Mars". A problem arose, though. The animation which was being crated by a 3D artist didn't look very convincing. In addition, the concept wasn't fitting the Mars theme of the poem in quite the way that was hoped, as well as the fact that the render time was far longer then we had. Action had to be taken. The result is this animation...

Why Mars? from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

Okay, so, that went by fast. You didn't think I was going to make you sit through a slow zooming vista of Mars, did you? No. You get the idea though. So, what did you just see? After talking with Michael, it was decided that we would use several moments from the script that we liked, but had to be cut for time. Ray has a love of old Sci-Fi movies so we wanted to show some of those, but didn't see how it fit in the play. Ray also ha a vision of Martians that wore golden masks to hide there emotions, but we didn't know how to fit that in, anywhere. I suggested that since the whole play is a journey into metaphor, we might be able to show these things as we slowly descend into the red planet. It could be as if Mars was sending them out to us. The final moment also inspired one of the two finished posters for the play.

An aside note, worth mentioning here is the look of the mask. Ray had always thought that the Martians were very much like the ancient Egyptians, so I based my design for their masks on the sarcophagus of King Tut.

My Catalog Work: Day Into Night

Photo compositing is a big part of what I do for Lamps Plus on a day to day basis. If you go to the Lamps Plus website, you'll find that almost every product featured there is also viewable in a "room scene" so that an online customer can get an idea of it might look like in a home setting. The catch is that to shoot every product in one of these settings would cost an immense amount of money. The solution is photo composite the products into scenes, using photoshop. The idea is that a room can be shot, and used over and over again, to show off different lamps, fixtures, and furniture.

Now, far be it for me to give away any trade secrets to how we do it, I'll just let these images I got off of www.lampsplus.com speak for themselves. A particular challenge I'm proud of was the one to turn day into night, as there were no nighttime shots available to be used for our outdoor lighting section. So, just keep in mind: Non of these products are really in the original shots AND non of these photographs where shot at night.

One thing I (along with the other ingenious Lamps Plus photoshop artists that do this sort of thing) have to keep in mind in doing this, is the fine line between complete realism and making the product as clear to the customer's eye as possible.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Working on the Ray Bradbury Odyssey: Part 3 (Of Groons and Ghosts)

Of Groons and Ghosts from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

This video is of some moments from the effects shoots for Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey. It demonstrates how I created the underwater puppet effects (with green screen) for such Ray Bradbury creatures as "The Groon" and "The Monster on the Stairs." Family members from Ray's past were also a big part of the story, so we had to come up with a way to make them look ghost like (ghosts from his past) using only some green felt, and a 7D camera. 7D is a great camera for shooting actors, but is hard to deal with when it comes to keying out green, because of the way that it compresses files. In the end, we ended up using some of the noise that compression caused as part of the look, instead of spending time outside the budget, trying to clean it all up. The results turned out very nice, if I do say so myself. As always, I had my loyal team of visual effects supervisor Rich Goddard, co-director and DP Jeremy Hanes, and model builder, grip, and actor Dave Grave, to aid me in making the magic happen. Written and produced by Michael O'Kelly.

These photos are of my creature design for "The Groon" and the staircase I photographed at Dave Grave's home. I then broke the staircase down into layers, so that Rich Goddard could more easily blend the puppets into the scene.

Drawing "It's A Tech World After All" (step by step)

Believe it or not, writing and drawing Aaron Sallan's comic strip, "It's A Tech World After All" (originally written by Aaron and his dad Bruce Sallan, and then drawn by Aaron) for www.boomertechtalk.com is one of the harder jobs I have. Humor does not always come easy for me, and when it does, it's not always family friendly. It's also hard for me to draw in such a simple and concise style, but I am fortunate enough to have the creative freedom to do it in my own style and employ my own techniques.

Because writing family friendly humor is so far off from what I'm used to, I run all of my ideas past Bruce, before I go on with them. I'll start with a rough sketch, and then develop the words around it, before brushing on the ink. Because I letter in photoshop, it's no big deal if Bruce asks me to change something.

Once the ink is on, I start to color. Even though I keep the colors simple for the sake of keeping in sink with the Sunday Funnies look, I also ad elements from photos that I take when I'm out and about. For instance, Bruce asked me for an ominous Gothic look to the junk yard that "Dad" and "Son" get lost in. This photo I took from my car (I kept my eyes on the road the whole time and didn't look at what I was shooting... got to be safe) was perfect for the gloomy cloud cover that I needed.

After that, some finishing touches were in order. I digitally painted in some headlight glow, and fog to complete the look. The finished strip can be seen here. All of the strips, including the old school Aaron Sallan strips can be seen by clicking, here. Don't forget to leave a comment on your favorite ones.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Passport To Explore: Coming This Fall !!!

Passport To Explore is a teen travel show coming out this fall. I did all the animation designs, painted backgrounds, storyboards, and trademarked logo designs, using both hand drawn and painted illustrations, as well as coloring in Photoshop . When they were looking for a catchy abbreviation for the show's name, I coined "PTX" for them. Unfortunately, the trailer doesn't show any of the animated segments I worked on with the show's motion graphics editor Adam Bedford, but the circular PTX logo with the plain flying around it is my design. Keep an eye out for it, this fall.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Concept Art: Aliens Vs. The Simpsons

I'm a big fan of Bongo Comics (arguably the best part of The Simpsons franchise in my opinion) and a big fan of Fox's other great big franchise (no not Star Wars) Aliens. I've got a a couple of friends there, so when my good friend Frank Kane suggested it might be fun to see The Simpsons go head to head with the Aliens in the town of Springfield, I had to pursue the idea. Long story short, the idea didn't fly with Matt Groening (concerns over crossovers and copyrights, I think, but don't quote me on that) and it's never going to happen. However, I have these nice concept painting to show for it. As you can see, I had a lot of fun cross pollinating some of the classic Simpsons gags with a few of the great moments in the Aliens movies and H.R. Giger's art style.Link

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Working on the Ray Bradbury Odyssey: Part 2 (Mr. Electrico)

Mr. Electrico Demo from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

Ray Bradbury's story of how the carnival magician Mr. Electico sat in an electric chair and knighted him with an electric sword, was another very important part of the play. It is indeed the moment where the young stage actor playing Ray as a boy, stands before his projected image on stage, and is told "Live Forever." That's the name of the play, so we needed to get this right. The only problem was that all we had was a piece of green felt, some lights, an old aluminum lamp, and Dave Grave's (whom we got to step in as Mr. Electrico at the last minute) back patio to shoot the whole thing on. Again, I had Jeremy Hanes as my DP and Rich Goddard as my Effects Supervisor, who I worked with, using After Effects, to get the results you see above. The producers where happy.

I also created this mock carnival poster, for the show. Here are some photos from on set...

It's also worth mentioning that Jeremy Hanes was in charge recording the sounds of Malcolm McDowell, who read four poems by Mr. Bradbury, that aided in telling the story of his life.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Working on the Ray Bradbury Odyssey: Part 1

The thing that I'm most proud of, in regards to the play Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey, is that my small team and I did so much on such a small budget, and on such a tight schedule. I quite frankly was lucky to have a team at all, but I had the fortune to have access to some of the top talents, at just the right time. It didn't start out that way, though. First, as leader of the group, I had to prove that I had a vision, a plan, and the knowledge to execute both. I had to start with some tests, that I did at home, to show other talents and the producers what I would do with the project, if put in charge. So, my first task was to pitch the project, which I did by creating some story boards, and simple versions of effects, which I had to create on my own.

This video provided many of the starting points for what I would later turn into a malty media video production, taking the audience into the farthest reaches of space, and into the heart and mind of the man, Ray Bradbury, himself. But, I also had to do it in a family friendly way.

Goblin Test from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

This puppet was an early test I did at home. Based on a poem by Ray called The Groon, I had to seek out a way to make a monster both menacing and family friendly. I ended up going with a design that was not a copy of, but could fit in with monsters from an old comic book cover that Ray gave us.

Michael O'Kelly, the play's writer and producer took the finished puppet over to Ray for approval, and he loved it, so that was a good feeling.

Another challenge was to create a Ferries wheel full of creatures from Ray's childhood movie going days. Originally, the idea was to rotoscope characters from old movies from Rays Childhood, and put them in the cars, but due to time and budget, it just wasn't possible. It was decided that paper cut outs of these figures would have to do, as non of the shots last more than five seconds, projected on a screen, in the play. It's a shame really, as the effect could have worked really well. It's not a hard one, just time consuming.
However, I knew the wheel it's self had to be sensational, so I brought on one of the greatest improvisational monster and set builders I know. Mr. Dave Grave. Based on my descriptions, and supervision, Dave met the challenge with zeal, and came up with a real show stopper, which we shot using stop motion animation.

Live Forever Ferris Wheel Set from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

After the model was built, I had Jeremy Hanes (as my DP) help light and shot the whole setup with green screen, using the rapid fire fetcher on his camera, as Dave and I ever so slowly turned the Ferries wheel, using monofilament line.

After that, it was up to Rich Goddard and I to composite the whole thing. I spent time, putting together some digital mat backgrounds, like the trees and moon, while Rich did the final green screen keying, color corrections, fog effects, and composting. Go teem. The final result was this...

Opening Sequence - Compositing from Rich Goddard on Vimeo.

Next: Mr. Electrico

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pre-Viz Spaceship

Piece for an animated Si-Fi pre-viz, written and designed by me. The spaceship is a filler piece, shot in stop motion, until a real spaceship design is done.

Space Ship Pre-Viz from Christopher (Moonlight) Cooksey on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ray Bradbury Pitch-Viz

Early pitch-viz for the project Live Forever: The Ray Bradbury Odyssey. This was used to help producers get funding for the play. Special thanks to Rebecca Kim for the 3D work, and Rich Goddard, for the first lightning effect. The Ferris Wheel is a stop motion piece, set against green screen. The goblin is a puppet, designed and animated by me. Storyboards, also by me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011