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 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 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.