I have decent Photoshop skills but I’m not an artist. I have an understanding of After Effects but I’m not a motion graphics designer. I know what’s involved when it comes to visual effects but I don’t have the skills to pull it off. But that doesn’t mean these subjects don’t interest me greatly. Thanks to Andrew Kramer’s VideoCopilot.net, I’ve created things I never knew I could pull off.
I’ve written about Video Copilot several times on this blog before. I’m writing about the site again because there has been a ton of phenomenal content over there lately. Let me first say that I am not an affiliate of the site. Andrew Kramer has no idea who I am. I’m writing this because I’d be lost in the world of After Effects without VC.
Truthfully, I really have no use for these skills at the present moment. I just think it’s fun to mess around with motion graphics from time to time. I’d say my skills are nicely situated on the line between beginner and advanced. In short, I don’t suck but I’m far from impressive. Here is my latest creation:
The effects in that video were made possible by Action Essentials 2. A collection of pre-matted elements you can buy on Video Copilot. Check out the trailer:
Recently they released a new plugin for After Effects called Element 3D which lets you manipulate 3D objects inside of After Effects without the use of another program. Now… I’ve never ventured into the 3D world of graphics but the effects you can create with the plugin are pretty fantastic. Check out these videos:
Seem complicated? I agree but these videos are almost immediately followed up by a tutorial like this.
A quick search on YouTube reveals thousands of videos featuring effects inspired by hundreds of Video Copilot tutorials. Better still, check out all the amazing work people post in the Video Copilot Forums. Basically, if you haven’t visited yet, you really should. That’s all I’m saying.
I decided to include a couple videos I found on YouTube:
These videos are nuts! I can’t do that… Some day I might but currently I do not possess those skills.
SOMETIMES… I SPEND A COUPLE HOURS ANIMATING THINGS… I’M NOT THAT GOOD AT IT BUT IT’S FUN!
When I took a break from blogging over the summer, one of the ideas I wanted to implement was animated logos. I’ve been working in television for nearly 7 years now and I’m heavily influenced by graphics, promos and marketing I see on a regular basis. There’s something amazing about a well designed score bug during an event that makes me smile.
First, I created a new logo for this site and then animated it. The result was this:
I’m a big fan of the logo but I think I have a lot to learn about animation. I had fun creating it though and it’s not hideous… Right?
Recently, I found myself with a little spare time so I decided to take on another animation project. I created the screenwriting banner above a long time ago and I’ve always wondered what it would look like in motion. I took a shot and I think I came pretty close.
These types of animations always depend on the little details. For example: My ‘S’ flames don’t give off any light. I don’t know how to do that. To create the animation I used Adobe After Effects and relied on products I purchased from Video Copilot. Specifically Action Essentials 2 which is rammed with tons of pre matted effects. Honestly, all I really did was drag a few elements on top of my font and tinkered a bit with timing and sound effects.
Last week, I introduced The Athletic Nerd’s brand new logo. It’s a small change but an important step when it comes to branding my movie blog.
Towards the end of the week, I found myself with a free morning so I decided to dust off my copy of After Effects and animate it. I was instantly reminded how intricate but fun the software can be.
It took me a while to remember all the shortcuts I once knew but before long, I was building my animation.
It’s not the most complicated thing in the world but I’m a fan. I thinking about creating animations for all of the images I use to brand each post. There really isn’t an end game to this work but I definitely had fun putting this little animation together.
I’m an editor. When it comes to making a living, I do it editing live television events for a major sports network. In my spare time, I enjoy editing short films and pretty much all of them are films produced by 17 West. Post production is expensive so it’s always nice to keep costs down and do things on your own. This approach can lead to satisfying results but it’s also frustrating at times. I’m learning this now while completing the sound design for The Climb.
I can balance audio and remove unwanted noise and such but I’m not an expert in the world of sound. Thankfully, I know enough to finish The Climb without hiring on a sound guy.
One thing I am NOT is a motion graphics artist. I have decent Photoshop skills and they translate well into the world of After Effects but I’m a beginner. However, I refused to simply put a white title card with ‘The Climb’ at the end of the new trailer. I also refused to create a static logo in Photoshop and simply fade in and out. I wanted the title to have some movement. It had to be better than just a still image.
So I turned to After Effects and the skills I learned visiting Video Copilot on a daily basis.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Video Copilot, it’s a site full of amazing tutorials and resources created by Andrew Kramer. The popular site is home to hundreds of in depth (and free) tutorials that covers everything from motion tracking to lightsabre battles. It’s also a great place to learn Motion Graphics design as most of the effects he produces are visually stunning.
I’ve also purchased several of his products and they’ve been a massive help over the years.
[NOTE: I am not affiliated with Video Copilot. I'm just a huge fan of the site.]
The value you get for $100 is remarkable. Hundreds of pre-keyed elements including smoke, glass, fire, explosions and more. It’s difficult to see because I wanted it to be subtle but I included one of the dust elements in the background to give the logo some life. Combining elements with certain techniques I learned on his blog made this logo possible. For example, the background isn’t just a solid color it’s a dark texture that’s been masked and feathered to highlight the text.
Speaking of which, I created the font in Photoshop and used a similar texture to match the overall style. Once I was finished, I brought it into After Effects. Again, I made the effect subtle so it doesn’t jump out at you but the logo is also animated and moves forward very slowly.
Finally, I added some particle elements to it using free files provided by Video Copilot. What I love about VC is how he doesn’t just upload a couple files, he includes a tutorial as well so you can learn how to apply them to your work.
I’m just an independent filmmaker addicted to learning new skills and techniques. I’m fully aware that I’ll never be an expert in the art of Motion Graphics but websites like Video Copilot have made it possible for me to produce better quality videos. You don’t have to settle for static logos and simple fonts. All you need is a little creativity and some great tutorials and resources. Video Copilot is one of the best because you gain access to the elements you’re looking for and the tutorials to help you achieve the look you want.
No budget. No visual effects. Just house hold items and an imagination.
I was flipping through the channels recently and came across the final 30 minutes of Air Force One starring Harrison Ford. Awesome action movie. A few friends of mine were watching with me as the plane went down at the end. The first thing I thought of was how far visual effects has come since 1997.
It sparked a memory of making movies when I was much younger. Back then, we were always trying to figure out how to create ‘cool’ effects. I still remember discovering that a program like After Effects existed. The thought of creating my own light saber battles kept me up at night thinking about the possibilities. I even built my own blue double light saber. (No big deal)
Note: There is a synopsis for our Star Wars movie on my hard drive somewhere…
Many ideas we had were pretty ambitious and rarely worked out as we hoped they would. But watching our footage and screaming “That looks amazing!” was a normal occurrence.
Kids Making Action Movies
As I watched Harrison Ford save the day, I thought about a story I wrote long ago called Extreme Security and a failed attempt at our own ‘big finish’.
Extreme Security was about a well trained security guard who has to stop a group of terrorists from taking over a government facility. The group, Venom, intended to take over the world using the secret intelligence files and chemical weapons within the facility.
The movie had characters with names like Spear and there was going to be fights and gun battles at every possible opportunity. We even managed to shoot a few scenes. We went out and bought toy guns and spray painted them black and everyone wore cool sunglasses to get into character. It was going to be an amazing action movie inspired by Jean Claude, Steven Segal and many more legends of the action genre.
The Big Finish
The movie was supposed to end with a missile destroying the facility before Venom’s plan is carried out. We got to work…
First we built a pretty sweet building made of cardboard. Of course, it didn’t look like a building so we spray painted it with stone textured paint. Our first miniature. We taped plastic wrap to the back of the windows to make them look real and used spare parts from toys for turrets on the roof.
Once our building was complete, we had to figure out a way to blow it up. Our plan was to cut a hole in the roof and put a paper cup full of gasoline inside. We tied a string to the bottom of the cup and a toy rocket to the other end. Our brilliant plan was to light a match attached to the rocket. This way we could let the rocket, which would look real because of the fire coming from the match, fall directly into the cup of gas and the whole structure would catch on fire.
Obviously, we were smart enough to know that it wouldn’t actually explode but we figured we could film it and speed the footage up. It was our only realistic plan at the time because we weren’t allowed to use super heated (and extremely flammable) aerosol cans.
During our first and only test run, the rocket landed and the flames took a while to really get going. The plastic wrap windows slowly melted away which disappointed us because we didn’t think about how to simulate glass shattering.
In the end, it was basically a complete disaster and we eventually lost interest in the movie. Extreme Security will probably never see the light of day.
That doesn’t change the fact that it was a blast (no pun intended) to plan. Back then, there wasn’t anywhere near the amount of digital tools available to indie filmmakers today.
We now have access to sites like VideoCopilot where effects guru Andrew Kramer shares the secrets of After Effects. Check out his product Action Essentials 2 for about a million different pre keyed elements like fire, explosions, dust, glass shattering and much more.
Disclaimer: This is just a genuine recommendation. No affiliation whatsoever. I bought the package long ago and it’s awesome. Go check it out immediately and watch hundreds of FREE tutorials.
Air Force One is an example of doing the best you can with what you have at the time. I’d love to see the same effect created today but when you don’t have access to the technology, you have to solve problems and challenges creatively.
Our movie may not have been practical but it was still practice. It was a great way to learn about how to think like filmmakers.
How to be creative with limitations.
We finished a lot of movies back then. Each of them taught me something new and all of them made me love making movies even more. My life long passion for film began on those awesome summer days spent trying to figure out problems like destroying secret cardboard government facilities.
It’s just too bad about the building. That stone textured spray paint looked sweet.