Interview with Stereo Layout Artist Sean Amlaner


Sean Amlaner, Stereo Layout Artist for Wreck-It Ralph (now on DVD and BluRay) gave me a lot of great info about his role on the film and his thoughts about the current situation of the VFX industry. This is what he had to say:

G: On Wreck-It Ralph, your title is “Stereo Layout Artist,” could you explain what that title entails in your own words?

Sean: A Stereo Layout Artist performs stereo layout duties.  In case anyone is unfamiliar with 3D stereo films, the literal process of “stereo” is the creation of a pair of side-by-side images that are used to generate the illusion of actual “depth” in an image by slightly offsetting one camera from another hero camera.  In a nutshell, this means in a digital world that the artist sets up the computer-generated stereo camera pair, which mimics the same camera settings and location in 3D space as the mono hero camera.  The main difference between the mono camera and stereo camera pairs is that, like mentioned above, the stereo camera pair is horizontally offset from each other to create a separate image for each eye.  This allows us to create the illusion of stereo depth through various means of delivery to the viewer, for example, by simply interlacing the image for a 3D monitor or through stereo image delivery to high-end 3D stereo projectors used in theaters.  As well as stereo camera creation, a stereo artist will also set how much stereo depth is in each particular shot as well as do final stereo-related compositing (also known as stereo finishing) work to ensure that no stereo artifacts are present within the final-rendered 3D stereo images.

For me personally, my job requirements as a Stereo Layout Artist also included a few other secondary duties, which included assisting in training additional artists for low-level image finishing, task-centric training demonstrations, Nuke tool development (utilized within both stereo and lighting pipelines), and Wiki-style training documentation.

G: What type of programs do you use for Stereo Compositing? Are they standard compositing programs such as After Effects or Nuke, or is it something entirely different?

Sean: Well, probably the most commonly industry-accepted node-based compositing package is Nuke, but there are others out there that can do some pretty awesome stuff.  Fusion is another comp package along with several pretty cool proprietary comp packages that have been developed by various individual VFX houses.  An example of this would be the Rhythm & Hues compositing package known as ICY (not publicly available outside their studio).  After Effects can do some types of compositing, but it was originally designed as a motion graphics software package and is really good at that, but the majority of post-production VFX houses lean towards node-based compositing packages (such as Nuke) as their versatility and high-end control is significantly greater.  After Effects versus node-based comp packages is a discussion some people will vigorously debate, but in my opinion, whatever tool is right for the current job is the one that you should use.

G: 3D movie experiences seem to be holding steady over the last half a decade or so. Do you see this 3D movie experience staying around indefinitely, fading away entirely, or evolving into something different (virtual reality, etc.)?

Sean: I see stereo as something that is here to stay.  As you said, stereo films have been around for quite some time and if you look at the cyclical wave of how stereo films have come and go over the years, it hasn’t ever actually “disappeared”.  When looking at compositing or effects-related job descriptions, you will see that more and more of them list stereo experience as a requirement.  Major film companies like 3D because it does generate an additional amount of revenue that a 2D-only film otherwise might miss out on.  Whether the future is in 3D stereo imagery or something straight out of the Star Trek ‘holodeck,’ I have no doubt that 2D films won’t be the only thing offered in the theatre from now on.

G: What drove you to post production, and more importantly, what made you decide to become a compositor?

Sean: Oh my, well, it was a bit of a convoluted path to be quite honest.  When I was in grade school and through high school, I did a lot of web and graphic design.  While in high school, I was recruited by the dean of my college art school.  He showed me this awesome little animated short that they had made of two Kung-Fu strawberries fighting it out in a dojo and I was like “you can do that?!”  Well, needless to say, I was hooked from then on.  I started out training as a 3D Animator in college but a couple years into that, I realized I enjoyed fluid and particle sim effects work better.  I focused on that for a couple of years and graduated, then went on to grad school which then ultimately led to my finding a unending passion for digital compositing.

G: Editor is such an ‘umbrella’ term in my opinion. For myself in particular, I find it very difficult to find a specific niche — “Do I want to be a compositor, or how about matte painter, or animator, or lighting artist … maybe previs …” — The list goes on and I’m wondering if you have any tips on how someone could better hone their focus and discover the job that is right for them?

Sean: Well, just to clarify, but the classification for an editor is actually not much to do with our VFX side of things. An editor is actually the person who does the literal cutting together of shots in a film/tv/music video and then the VFX house typically gets the edited imagery as they’re cutting the film. For those of us on the visual effects side of things, most of us are classified in the “artist” category, not an editor. Then within the artist category, it’s broken down for: animator, lighter, compositor, technical director, etc.

That being said, it can be a difficult thing to decide.  I mean, there are so many different facets of job options within the visual effects world to choose from.  It would probably be best stated that one should pick an area of visual effects based upon where their strengths and interests are.  Let me give some examples.  If you are really good at programming and enjoy doing that, you could be a TD (technical director) who would create tools, pipeline structures, software engineering, etc for a studio.  But if you are really good at painting, then you would probably be quite suited to be a matte painter.  But if you enjoy drawing characters and designing them from scratch, then you might be a character designer or modeller.  Maybe you enjoyed creating those little animated flip books when you were a little kid, shoot, maybe you enjoy that as an adult or you desire to act out different actions through a character, so you might then become a character animator.  Or, if you are like me and enjoy some technical challenges as well as cheating reality through modifying and blending together different images, then you might want to become a compositor.  These are just some of the many different jobs an artist can pursue within the visual effects world.  It just depends on what the individual enjoys and is willing to really focus their skills on.

G: In general, do studios look for a “renaissance man” who can do various editing tasks or do they prefer someone with one particular skill?

Sean: In many ways, this question actually depends on the type of studio someone is working at.  Sometimes, if it is a smaller VFX house, the employer is going to be looking to hire an individual who is good at many things (a generalist).  One of the main reasons for this is because it is too expensive to hire one person to do one thing for every single aspect of a boutique-style visual effects pipeline.  But then the opposite is true of larger post-production VFX houses.  These types of studios are typically handling a very large bulk of visual effects shots where they will be looking to typically hire someone who is an expert in one specific aspect of visual effects, such as compositing, lighting, or animating.  All this being said, it can definitely vary from studio-to-studio.  It just really depends on what each VFX house is looking to accomplish with the resources that they are given.

G: For people hoping to enter the VFX world, do you feel with recent events (R&H declaring bankruptcy, DreamWorks layoffs, etc) that this is a poor time to attempt to get in the industry? Is this an optimal time to try and get a job? Is Los Angeles still the best place to search for work or are there other areas with rising demand you can recommend?

Sean: This is a bit of a tricky question.  I don’t think that any time is a bad time to get into the VFX world.  It is more about just making the decision and going for it.  That being said, these current events within the visual effects industry, such as what you mentioned, are rather painful and saddening.  A lot of really talented people have given so much to help establish places like Rhythm & Hues and sadly, the post-production visual effects industry is being affected by certain negative factors that are hopefully going to be addressed in the coming months and years.  This being said, with the globalization of the visual effects industry, opportunities around the world tend to be quite plentiful.  To someone who is starting out their career, there are several major hubs for our industry.  Los Angeles, Vancouver, London, New Zealand, among other places do offer some great opportunities.  Especially if you are willing to travel, then I say go for it!

G: How did you get your big break in the VFX industry when you started out?

Sean: Well, I worked on several VFX-related projects while in college.  The summer before I went to grad school, I actually had an opportunity to work on a really fun independent film which suddenly opened several doors for me.  Then, while in grad school, I was privileged to work remotely as a freelance VFX artist for several studios located both here in LA as well as up in New York.  These opportunities helped to cascade into others and ultimately I was hired by Rhythm & Hues through their apprenticeship program and they moved me out here to Los Angeles, where I’ve lived and worked at a number of pretty awesome studios since then!

G: With Wreck-It Ralph finished and coming out on Blu Ray in a couple of weeks, what projects are you working on now?

Sean: Unfortunately, the projects I am currently on can’t be disclosed because the films haven’t been released yet.

G: Do you have any final tips for someone who is trying to get established in the VFX industry that can help them stand out among the sea of other applicants?

Sean: Make sure you have your best work on your demo reel.  And don’t make it too long.  Do the best that you can and never, ever give up!  Focus on quality and always be willing to work hard with others.  Stay humble and be kind to those around you.  This is a very small industry and you never know who and when you will bump into in the future.  Above all, love what you do!!


Using the Rotobrush in After Effects

after effect

The rotobrush in After Effects is a helpful rotoscoping tool any compositor and visual effects artist should have in their arsenal. The video that will be used as reference throughout this tutorial is ‘Cardboard Robots Battle in Space.’ Take a moment and give it a gander so that we are all on the same page.

This tutorial is supplied to you in both the video and written format, and I am going to show you how you can master this tool in three simple steps:

STEP 1: Evaluate your Scene.

STEP 2: Select your subject

STEP 3: Refine your settings

STEP 1: first let’s take a look at what type of scene we’re dealing with here, and what all needs to be done.

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Here we see Justin delivering his famous ‘pappa vador’ speech and obviously the green screen needs to get keyed out in order to use it in a final composition. However, looking closer I noticed the amount of color spill that is on Justin’s jump suit and helmet. Meaning, any normal chroma key effect would eat away at the image to a point that it would not be usable. So instead I thought I could cut around the green screen using the rotobrush, and later apply a simple hue and saturation effect to take out the green spill without deteriorating the image. But in general, it’s just good practice to be prepared and have a mental image of where you’re going before you dive in.

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Now, to get started, set your source clip to the beginning of the time line, double click on it, then select the rotobrush tool here.

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STEP 2: The way the rotobrush works is by going over a section, clicking, and  coloring in a crude form inside what you want selected with this green color.

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When you let go you see the rotobrush deciphers color and shape and makes what it feels is an appropriate estimate to what you were aiming for. Then, just keep coloring with the green until you collect everything you want. However, say you color to much, or the rotobrush chooses an area you don’t want, then simply hold down the ALT key, your brush then turns red for negative, and then go over what you don’t want selected.

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Before we start going through the entire source clip with the rotobrush, take notice of this bar here. It indicates how long the rotobrush will estimate your subject before needing to be re-selected. If the bar doesn’t reach the end of your source clip, simply grab the end and drag it to match the length.

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Once you’re all set, you can hit the space bar to have your clip start playing through with the rotobrush working its magic. As is goes through, it may lose track of the main subject, in which instance, just stop, or go back and make the proper adjustments with the red and green selectors. Repeat this process until you’re all the way through the clip.

STEP 3: When you’re finished it’s time to clean up the matte a bit by playing with your settings. The first thing I like to do is select REFINE MATTE. Doing so helps reduce any chatter and accommodates for any motion blur or quick movements where the edges need to be smoothed out. In the alpha view I can see I still need to clean up the edges a bit, so I head over and increase the smoothness to about 5, increase the feathering a bit, and even play with the choke which basically shrinks in the overall matte — so maybe take that to about 5 or 10% at most.

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And that’s it! You now have a cleaned up roto’d image to work with and add into your final composition.



The Cinematic Series – Episode One










Hello everyone, and welcome to a little a series which I’m starting here, all about cinematics, short movie editing, and everything inbetween. So last week I came up with the idea of shooting a little chase scene, so I can touch on some of the things you can do to achieve a more professional look in a short movie. I met up with a couple friends, but they were in a hurry, so I had literally 15 minutes to shoot, and well, that reflected in the quality of the scene. Take a look at what I made:

The original footage was not the best but nonetheless I did what I could to clean it up in post-production. Below I’ll summarize what was good and what was bad in this movie chase scene;


1. Although the acting was not the best and there were mistakes, there is still some good things you can pick out from the scene. For instance, the shot types. We had a variety of different shot types, tracking shots, pans and close ups. It’s important to keep these varied throughout a short film as they can be useful in creating different effects as well as keeping the audience interested.

2. Another thing to point out was some of the techniques that I used to help with the continuity. A match cut was used when the boy realised that the man was holding a weapon. This obviously illustrated that the man was dangerous and showed that the boy was scared and was the victim.

3. Last of all, the sound. We used a Zoom H1 sound recorder for professional audio as well as some sound effects from the AudioMicro library. Audio stimulates the mind in a different way than video, bringing you closer to the action so it is always a good idea to record some of the ambient sounds, and the fast paced chase sounds. Music can also be used, depending on the style you’re trying to achieve.


1. Sub par acting. Even with the best director and equipment, your film will always look mediocre if your actors are not up fully to the task. The idea was to build up some tension when the boy started hearing strange whistles, instead though, he started to frantically look around, rather than standing still and slowly approaching. This didn’t increase the tension as much as I would have liked to.

2. Make sure anything happening in a scene with two or more different takes are consistent. A very common mistake people make is with the pace of the action and the place where events happen. For example, towards the end of the chase, the boy trips up in two different places in two different angles, and in the shot before when he was running, one of them had to be sped up as they weren’t consistent.

3. Prepare for your shoot properly. Rushing everything in 15 minutes will not give you the best result, regardless of the cinematics. With filming and editing, one of the most crucial things is to have attention to detail; every shot needs to be accurately framed and you have to have complete control on what happens within your scene.

So let’s get a little more into some of actual techniques that I used in this scene to enhance the footage. We’ll start off with the transitions; the majority of the transitions were just simple straight cuts, I didn’t want to go too overboard. I took advantage of the trees in the woods and used a slide transition coupled with some motion blur and a swoosh sound effect. At the end of the chase, when the boy trips up, I used a ‘chopping’ effect. I slowed down the footage of the attacker striking the boy with the hammer and cut out a frame with a gap of one frame. Straight after this, I used some contrapuntal sound; there is a calm once the flashing finishes, you can hear the sound of birds tweeting in the park which gives a strange, silent feel. Just little things done to your scene in post can really make a difference, don’t be afraid to experiment with some of the techniques I used in this scene.

Watch out for the next episode in the Cinematic Series.

Until next time, Peace, Love and After effects…well, Premiere Pro this time.

Sound Effects

Resources for Stock Footage

A Team NLE

As editors, we will run into situations or projects where footage we need to tell a comprehensive story isn’t always available. Knowing that, we have the option to go online and search for footage shot by others to help us tell our stories. That’s where stock footage comes in. However, finding the best place to purchase stock footage can be a tireless effort. I’m here to provide some info on reliable sites which I’ve used in my career to help me fill in gaps in my projects.


ArtBeats (
One of the oldest and most respected sites for stock media, Artbeats sells a variety collections to accommodate any project. Footage from their site has been used by every major broadcast network on the planet. They offer footage in SD, HD, Stereo 3D and 4K. The formats of the clips tend to be Photo JPEG but if you want any 2K-4K media, you have the option to get an R3D file. They are the most renowned site for stock media and also the most expensive. If you want to use clips from them, make sure your client’s budget can withstand it. They provide excellent previews and training tips on how to integrate their footage into your projects as well as the option to create bins to group specific clips. Membership is required if you want to partake in purchasing their footage.


Unlimited Stock Media (
Another site that’s been around for some time is Unlimited Stock Media. They sell stock media based on an access plan. For $49, you have 24 hour access to unlimited downloads from the USM library. For $197, you get 30 day access to unlimited downloads from the USM library. These clips are shot by the highly talented staff of USM and they provide these plans with client budgets in mind. You can browse the entire library at once or by collection. One of the best features is that whatever clips you download within that time period are yours to keep and use for business or personal use even after your subscription period expires. The footage from USM comes in the Photo JPEG format and has a frame rate of 29.97 unless otherwise specified.



Shutterstock (
One of the newer sites I’ve used for stock footage, Shutterstock has been selling stock footage since 2006. Known for their affordable stock image library, they offer customers stock footage based on a subscription plan or on a per clip basis. Their footage is available in multiple formats such as DVCAM, HDCAM, Betacam and more. If you are purchasing a clip online from them, you can get a clip that is web friendly, SD quality or HD Photo Jpeg at various frame rates. As of today, Shutterstock has over 1 million royalty free stock footage clips.

Overall, these are just a few of the sites I’ve used for my stock footage needs but they are not the only ones out there. Below is a list of few other respected sites that I rely on from time to time for stock footage as well.

Digital Juice (VideoTraxx) (Slow Motion Videos)

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

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Interview with Digital Compositor Diego Galtieri


Digital compositor, Diego Galtieri, was kind enough to answer some basic questions surrounding the role of a digital compositor. Diego talks about what the role of a digital compositor is, what type of programs and processes he uses as a digital compositor, and how to get a job in the industry.

Diego currently is employed by Stargate Studios and has worked on television shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, Heroes, and most recently Doctor Who. With nearing a decade in the business you can review his whole body of work on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB). One of Diego’s most notable contributions to the compositing world is the iconic scene in the very first episode AMC’s The Walking Dead showing an aerial shot of the protagonist (the Sheriff played by Andrew Lincoln) trapped in a military tank while a swarm of zombies overtake the city streets.


In creating a final image the process included multiple set extensions along with layering in numerous digital zombies to really bulk up the numbers. When a scene calls for a high volume of people, in this case zombies, it is not always in the budget to get all those actors on set, in make up, fed, and organized. That is where visual effects comes in and blends together live action with digital footage seamlessly saving time, money, and headaches.

The process from filmmaking to post production in this instance would look something more like this: The raw footage is shot on set with the actors while a VFX supervisor guides the process on where to place green screens and leave negative space for his VFX artists to work. A digital matte painter would then go in and key out the green screen in the image and create set extensions and matte paintings to create the atmosphere and look the director was going for. Motion capture artists would bring in actors to act out the motions they require in order to create a digital zombie form, along with taking numerous stills of zombies already on set in full make up and prosthetics. From there a 3D artist would compile the data and still images and create his wire frame model of the zombie and utilize the motion capture data collected to bring it to life.

It is at this point a digital compositor would receive the files from both the digital matte painter and 3D artist and begin to layer in all the extensions and 3D mo-cap models on top of the original raw footage creating one final seamless and realistic looking image — THAT is what a digital compositor does. He composites. He is the one who works with a post production team taking in all the various visual effects from all the various types of artists saved in all the various types of file formats, looks at it all like a puzzle, and begins to piece it all together. Once the digital compositor assembles the final image, it then goes off for color correcting and for sound mastering before the scene is considered finished.

Post production and VFX is such a time labored and artistic field that works so unbelievably hard to convince you, the viewer, that what you are watching is “real,” or at the very least, visually compelling.

This is Garrett Fallin with AudioMicro telling you that no matter what life throws at you that you can always “fix it in post.”

Sound Effects


Using Photoshop for Matte Creation


One of the things I love about Photoshop is how deep and flexible it is. The industry standard image editing software has the ability to do a multitude of things that just listing them wouldn’t do the software justice. Photoshop is a valuable part of my post production workflow. One of the things I enjoy creating in this application more than anything are mattes. Using the shape tool, I have the ability to create unique shaped mattes which I can then use in my editing software of choice. Below is a tutorial I did 2 years ago for using mattes from Photoshop to create a diagonal split screen effect.

I’m going to quickly show you how to create a matte in Photoshop from a shape you can use in your editing software.

Matte Creation

One of the first things I tend to do when creating a matte is use the paint bucket tool and make my first layer black. When dealing with alpha and luminance, black represents the area that is transparent while white represents the area that is opaque.

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Next, I will use the shape tool and go through my available shapes. By default, Photoshop has a plethora of shapes you can use. You have options such as the rectangle, rounded rectangle, ellipse, polygon, line and custom shape. If you want to add more shapes to your collection, you can download some from Deviant Art – some are free and others you can get for a reasonable price.

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I’ll use the custom shape tool and choose a chevron shape. I’ll make sure that it is white. It can be any color but black or grey, as those would cause transparency to happen which we want to avoid.

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I’ll create multiple instances of this shape so that it stretches the length of my composition.

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Now we can save this composition for use in our editing software. When you want to save items like this from Photoshop, you can go about it a few ways. You can of course save it as a .psd file and it will import fine into your editing software. This tends to be of higher quality and will help you maintain access to your layers and have more import options.

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You can also save it as a .jpeg, .png, .tiff or any other image format. When you save it in an image format, this will merge your layers into one image,unless you save it as a .tiff, which supports layers. Since I want to use this as one image in my editing software, I will save it as an image format.

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If I heard over to my editing software, I can import the image into my project panel.

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Now if I perform the method of using a matte filter (for Premiere and Media Composer) or matte blending mode (for Final Cut Pro) I can place my video inside the matte and create a cool composite.

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Matte creation in Photoshop is a valuable technique to know as Photoshop tends to be more flexible in image manipulation/creation than your editing software may be.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Sound Effects

Resources for Virtual Sets

A Team NLE

There are times when we are shooting green screen footage and we don’t have any idea what type of background to use for them. Well I’m here to provide you with some resources for places you can purchase virtual sets for your next green screen edit.

Animated Shoulder Sets (Digital Juice)


One of the newest products of the DJ family is this collection of virtual sets. Designed for green screen news talent, these sets come with creative backgrounds, over the shoulder screens and transitions. With options available for After Effects, Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas and Final Cut Pro/Motion you have your choice of using these sets across PC and Mac. The best part about these sets is you can either purchase the entire collection for $99 or individual sets for $25. Currently, Digital Juice has released two sets of this collection with newer sets on the horizon.

Virtual Set Backgrounds (Footage Firm)

Footage Firm logo

Footage Firm is a site which has sold royalty free video assets for the last 10 years to numerous broadcast stations and has a great offering of virtual sets if you purchase from their DVD collection. With these sets, you have a greater variety of news style sets which also come with transparent video screens. They have sets which accommodate breaking news, entertainment, sports and more. Using one of these sets is a simple process of layering it underneath your green screen footage. You’ll be up and running in no time with these virtual sets.

Virtual Reality Sets (Tube Tape)

tube tape logo

Tube Tape sells a variety of products to the budget filmmaker to bring their imagination to life. With the Tube Tape collection of virtual sets, you can mimic a news room, lecture hall, court room, conference room or concert. These sets come in the PNG file format at 1920 x 1080. The best thing about these sets is they come in pieces. This gives the user great flexibility to accommodate how they shoot their talent. These sets are typically $79.95 each but Tube Tape is running a 50% off deal where you can purchase them individually for $39.98 or in a bundle for $99.99.

Virtual Sets (Virtual Set Backgrounds)

Virtual Set Backgrounds specializes in selling customers digital backdrops for video production. They offer over 100 virtual sets to choose from and are compatible with a variety of editing and compositing software. One distinct feature these sets tend to have is that their monitors either come in green screen or have luma mattes which can be used with a keying filter to place footage inside of. The price range of these sets varies from $49-$135. VSB offers tutorials with various editing software to help the user get up and running quickly.

These are just four of the resources you can check out if you ever need a virtual set for your client. You can always create one yourself but if time is of the essence, you’ll fair much better by investing in one of these resources. The ease of use each company provides will make a seasoned editor look like a superstar.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

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Adobe Creative Cloud – What You Need to Know


Adobe made the announcement at Adobe MAX – the Creativity Conference, on May 6th 2013 that they will no longer be making any new editions to the Creative Suite (CS) line up. Instead, moving forward they will be putting all of their attention in the Creative Cloud (CC). But what does that mean to you, the consumer? Outlined below are different categories which highlights everything you need to prepare yourself for its launch this June.

Topics to be covered:

  • What is Adobe Creative Cloud?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What new features does it offer?

What is Adobe Creative Cloud?

Adobe Creative Cloud has everything you have come to love from Adobe software – Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and more – now using the cloud. This allows you to keep everything in your creative world in sync from your files, to fonts, settings, and updates all across multiple devices. You also gain access to Behance, the world’s leading creative community, where you can post, share, and connect with like minded creators around the globe.

To clarify, Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) is not new. CC was released with Adobe Creative Suite 6 (CS6) back in 2012. The sudden stir about CC is because during Adobe MAX 2013 conference it was announced that moving forward Adobe will no longer be releasing any new version of CS and will now only be focusing on their CC service. As such, with CC utilizing cloud based technology Adobe will no longer be selling a boxed version of their software and instead will be moving towards an online monthly subscription system. By doing so this will allow Adobe to innovate, update, and develop their software programs much quicker and seamlessly offer it to their subscription users.

How much does it cost?

By signing up for CC, you will be able to access all of their programs for $49.99 a month (about $600 a year) with an annual commitment. Previous Adobe product owners (CS3 or later) will get a 40% savings for the first year and be charged $29.99 a month (about $360 a year) for an annual commitment. Students and Teachers have a 60% discount paying $19.99 a month (about $240 a year) with an annual commitment and proof of institutional affiliation. Alternatively, if you only require the use of a single Adobe program, or just looking to try something new, instead of utilizing the whole collection, individual programs run $19.99 a month – no annual commitment required. If you’re nervous about jumping into the creative cloud and want to try everything out to see if it fits your workflow, no fear, there is a free 30 day trial offered as well. For additional pricing for larger creative teams and companies I recommend checking out Adobe’s pricing page for more information.

What new features does it offer?

Adobe CC offers everything you are already used to using with your regular Adobe programs – and more:

  • Photography: A new addition that everyone is looking towards is the new camera shake reduction ability becoming available with Photoshop CC. What that means is you now have the ability to save those blurry pictures you took. What happens is it analyzes the general path of motion and then compensates and corrects the issue. You even have the ability to choose where you want to be in focus and leave the rest of the image still blurred out.

  • Video Editing: Rotoscoping just got a little easier – and let’s face it – rotoscoping is no walk in the park, and anything that can make the job easier is warmly welcomed. For those of you who are already aware of Photoshop’s ‘Refine Edge’ tool, it now can be applied to moving images in After Effects CC.

  • Design: Amazing new tools like the Kuler app for smart phones will allow you to use images to extract color swatches that can be imported and used with your designs. Type is now easier to edit as each character performs like its own object and can be scaled, rotated, and resized like any other object.

  • Web: The internet is everywhere, and more and more today we are finding and using it on devices other than a computer – smart phones and tablets are on the rise and not going away anytime soon. Dreamweaver CC now offers a fluid grid layout that allows you to adjust your designs on the fly in order to fit the size requirements of alternate devices utilizing CSS3 and HTLM5 coding.

  • Promotion: Need to reach the top creators and show them your best work? Why not let them find you? With the CC workflow you can now upload your work to Behance, the leading professional social network. Creators from all over the globe will be able to review, critique, and connect with your work by viewing your online portfolio – all easily managed by Adobe CC.

These are just a few of the hundreds of new features available on Adobe CC. If you would like to be one of the many creators to join the Creative Cloud experience, you can sign up today on the Adobe website and keep current with all new features and announcements.


Saying Goodbye to Visual Effects Pioneer, Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013)


From sword-fighting skeletons, to dinosaurs attacking, to giant bugs slithering, all the way to spacecrafts exploring the vast sea of outer space, Ray Harryhausen, was nothing short of a pioneer in the field of special and visual effects. If you are unfamiliar with Ray’s work, take a moment and watch his animated creature list, presented in chronological order.

The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation on Facebook reported his death on Tuesday May 7th 2013, in London, at the age of 92. Ray’s work inspired so many of the greats in filmmaking over the years, and the foundation goes on to show some of the most remarkable tributes paid to him:

 “Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS”

~ George Lucas.

 “THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie’. Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least”

~ Peter Jackson

 “What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.”

~ Terry Gilliam.

 “Ray, your inspiration goes with us forever.”

~ Steven Spielberg

 “I think all of us who are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”

~ James Cameron

First inspired when he saw King Kong (1933) as a 13-year-old, Ray Harryhausen, became obsessed and found his life long passion pushing the boundaries of film effects and stop-motion animation. His most popular film with iconic sword wielding skeletons Jason and the Argonauts (1963), took over three months to film as he worked alone on his projects and would often shoot no more than 13 frames of film per day (13 frames being roughly half a second).

Stop-motion animation is a painstaking process that requires a whole lot of patience and time. At the absolute most basic level, a stop-motion animator takes a still image of an object, moves the object ever-so-slightly, and then takes another still image. Over time these still images will be combined creating the illusion of motion. Each second in time is 24 frames, which translates to 24 still images. Now imagine you have to animate a terrified boy running down the street from a ravenous mob of zombies. In each still image you would have to move every single character only a tiny bit, remembering which sequence of motion they were in, and repeating this process for a 10 second scene. That roughly calculates to requiring 15 thousand still images from start to finish. As previously stated, patience and time are the most important skills to have as a stop-motion animator, and the scene just described comes from the animated film Paranorman (2012). To get a better appreciation of what Ray Harryhausen and all stop-motion animators undertake to complete their projects you can watch this b-roll segment put together from the making of Paranorman.

This is Garrett Fallin with AudioMicro bidding a fond farewell to one of the greats, who inspired generations of filmmakers, and left a permanent impact on the way we all see films today.


Create the ‘Iron Man Hand Blast’ Visual Effect


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In recognition of the third Iron Man film I thought it would be a great idea to show you how to make a simple Iron Man hand blast. I have created both a video tutorial and written directions you can follow to create this effect.

This effect can be achieved in 3 simple steps using Adobe After Effects:

  • Creating the Shape
  • Animating the Shape
  • Adding Fire and Flares


The basis for all energy blasts is creating a color solid and drawing out what it looks like. That’s really it. So to start off lets go to LAYER>>NEW>>SOLID. From there choose the color you want for the energy blast (I’m choosing a faded yellow to stay true to the iron man image).

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Then, using the pen tool, I am going to draw out the shape and perspective I want my blast to follow. For me, I will be adding an energy blast firing from the actor’s hand in the foreground and destroying the car down the street in the background.

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Perspective wise, I am going to draw the energy blast to be rounded and thicker towards the actor and it will stretch out and become thinner as the energy blast nears the car down the street. Make sure to feather out your edges under your mask settings to soften the edges (shortcut key is by hitting ‘M M’ (2 m’s) on your keyboard).

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Now add a glow to your energy blast by going to EFFECT>>STYLIZE>>GLOW. This will give our masked solid the punch it needs to start looking more like an energy blast.

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For this what I mean is you are now going to be adding the movement of your energy blast. To do this you first need to pull up your mask settings on your energy blast layer (shortcut key is by hitting ‘M M’ (2 m’s) on your keyboard). Then you are going to want to select the stopwatch icon next to ‘Mask Path’ and by doing so set a keyframe for where you want your mask path to begin. Because Energy blasts are extremely fast, the blast itself should only last for 3-5 frames at most. So what you are going to do is go frame by frame and move the energy blast closer and closer to its target. I find it works best to move up a frame, highlight a couple of points on the mask and stretch it closer to its destination.

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Around the 4th frame I am going to start having my energy blast scrunch up on itself as it’s collapsing in on the car target. This will be the last frame my energy blast is visible.

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A footnote before I begin this step, the explosions and optical flares used in my version are from VideoCopilot. Yes, they cost a bit of money, but as aspiring editors and VFX artists you should always strive for perfection – so I will continue to show you the best means to achieve the effect no matter the cost. That said, there are free alternatives of which I will make note of as I continue through the process.

To add some explosive elements to the scene, I first had to track the car that would be blowing up from the energy blast. To do that I right clicked on my source footage and chose ‘Track Motion.’ From there I placed my tracking marker over the car and tracked forward frame by frame.

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After I was finished tracking, I applied the data to a new null (LAYER>>NEW>>NULL). Now I am able to add in my explosion and make it look like it is part of the scene. The explosion I chose to use if from the Action Essentials stock footage pack created by VideoCopilot. A free alternative to check out for explosions would be Detonation Films. Once I choose which explosion I want, I can resize it, and parent it to the tracked data of the null object.

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To take this one step further and really polish the look, lets add in some flares. Using VideoCopilot’s Optical Flares plug in, first add in a new color solid (LAYER>>NEW>>SOLID), and from there apply the optical flares plug in (A free alternative would be going to EFFECT>>GENERATE>>LENS FLARE — it is free but the controls and look of the flare are very limited). In the optical flares control panel clear out the default flare, and simply choose the ‘Glow’ flare object — this will be the only flare object necessary to complete the effect.

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Choose the color that matches your energy blast and hit ENTER. Line the flare up top of the blast and change the BLENDING MODE to ADD and keyframe the position of the flare to follow the blast all the way down to the explosion.

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Let’s finish things up by adding one more flare for the fire. Same thing using the ‘glow’ object flare, change the color to match, line it up over the explosion, and change the BLENDING MODE to ADD. The only difference is this time you can parent the glow to the null object so it follows the same motion as your explosion.

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This Iron Man hand blaster effect was used in another Indie Machines ‘5 word film’ challenge, this time called “Different Colors Give Different Powers,” and can be seen here:

Until next time this is Garrett Fallin with AudioMicro telling you that no matter what life throws at you, you can always ‘fix it in post.’