The Process of a VFX Shot

Continuing from the previous blog post on VFX and its uses, this article will discuss how I used VFX to track a sink hole onto the side of the road, with fire and impacts surrounding.

The Process: –

We were given assets by Jon Holmes, one included was a sink hole with an alpha channel, helping to feather the edges of the sink hole into the road, giving it a smooth finish. This was important otherwise the edges would be too sharp; by feathering it help convince the viewer that the sink-hole is indeed there and tracked onto the surface of the road.


We used the same process as in the last blog post to track the sinkhole onto the road, however there was a slight twist. With the grid that was tracked onto the cardboard box it was all flat and there was no depth within in the graphic or box – so it was necassary to leave it flat. However due to a sink hole having depth due to it going into the ground we need to cut out the middle of the image which should appear lower down than surface; once put into 3D space its easy to scale up, shift down and backwards in space along the Z axis to help achieve a parallax effect.

The laws of parallax tell us that objects further away from us move slower than objects closer to us – this graphic is a clear example of this. The insides of the hole need to move slower than the surface of the hole. Once cut out and tracked, smoke and fire is added to help create that immersion within that univerise. Because what sinkhole is not complete without fire and smoke?!

Level 2 ::: Workshop 2 ::: Simple Matchmove in AE from The Curious Engine on Vimeo.

Tracking Surfaces in 3D Space with a Moving Camera

The next task was to track 4 points on top of the cardboard box, allowing us to create text and place objects within 3D space while we move the camera around, previously the box moved and the camera was fixed. By tracking the edges of the box using match move it allows the camera to move around to the point where certain track points are off camera – helping create the illusion of objects moving off camera and then reappearing in the same place; helping convince viewers that the objects really are there.

In the following video you can see this clearly; take notice of the magazine in the left lower hand corner side, this surface has also been tracked allowing us to change that graphic should we wish to.

Matchmove ::: AE ::: VFX ::: Basics ::: Example Render from The Curious Engine on Vimeo.


Applications in Convergence Task: –

I feel that VFX will be heavily used within my one minute wonder due to it being relevant to what I am interested in, while also being a way to execute these ideas within a film medium. A few ideas I have include tracking my name onto a surface such as a desk or the side of a building or road. I would also use the tracking tools to replace billboards for instance with graphics that I’ve created that could represent thoughts in my head. This for instance could change when I walk past the billboard or if something was said in the narration.

Visual Effects Vs. Special Effects

Visual Effects Vs. Special Effects: –

In the last 50 years Visual Effects and Special Effects have had a very close line according to a large number of the public who don’t work or spend a lot of time indulging films; to the rest of us it’s fairly simple:

  • Visual Effects = computer generated.
  • Special Effects = real life effects.

In a recent workshop with Jon Holmes, we delved into VFX and its uses, when to use it and what VFX can’t do. Myself and the rest of the class looked at applying a texture onto a moving object within 3D space which is one of the basic steps that opens up many doors to you. This sort of knowledge is what can really help the convergence task flourish, the only limit is your imagination.


History of VFX: –

Voyage Dans La Lune, is one of the oldest examples of VFX, it’s incredible that the following video was created nearly over 115 years ago. As dated as the film looks I personally feel that it still really holds up and does’t spoil the film or feel like a cheap gimmick. At the time this would have been something to get exited about, however now-a-days computer generated visual effects seems to be infesting movies; however we will look at why CGI has a negative stigma surrounding it and why it really isn’t that bad.

I won’t lie to you, I am guilty of being swept up by the uneducated public of just spewing all sorts about CGI and why its the worst thing to happen since sliced bread. Wait, that’s not how it goes… Anyway, CGI has this really negative image at the moment that it’s only used to create stupid looking gopher’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or to throw a Transform across a city in the latest Michael Bay blockbuster. I don’t see that the case anymore; after dicussing VFX, creating some of my own and watching behind the scenes of various movies I have seen the true power of CGI and why we went to hate it. Because bad CGI is all we see, where as good CGI you barely notice, which to be fair is doing its job correctly but to the uneducated the word ‘CGI’ just reminds them of all the crappy 3D models we have seen over the years. The following video by Freddie Wong, over at RocketJump explains this in more detail.

Pros / Cons: –


  • Inexpensive
  • Allows more control
  • Allows creation of sets & characters that otherwise would be impossible


  • Too much noticeable CGI can resort in audience feels a lack of authenticity
  • Time consuming
  • Can risk alienating your audience


Creating VFX: –

The first thing you are taught when it comes to VFX is motion tracking as its a fundemental skill that is needed to progress – it’s like trying to run without learning how to walk. It’s common knowledge to use a high shutter speed when filming your shots that will include visual effects, this is due to it allowing you to remove motion blur from fast movements helping keep tracking points visible for After Effects. Motion blur can then be re-added through the program where as removing blur from these fast movements is a lot harder to do. The following example shows the high shutter speed in action:

2D Motion Tracking Test ::: After Effects CC ::: The Grid on the Box from The Curious Engine on Vimeo.


I explored further with this method of working and began tracking a notification on an Android device, a new composition was created where I created a ‘WARNING’ graphic that would be displayed on the device. The same 4 point pin tracking process was used, helping show its expanding uses.



Tracking can also be used to stick images to other images, for example the following video by Jon Holmes, showcases a sky image that was replaced and then tracked onto a building near the horizon – another processes is used to help the houses and trees not be removed but instead be cut out and allow the sky to be placed behind creating the illusion of the sky being fully replaced.

Workshop1 ::: 2D Tracking ::: Sky Replace from The Curious Engine on Vimeo.

 Uses in the Convergence Task: –

I feel that VFX will be used a lot within the future of my one minute wonder short film, I will discuss this in the next VFX blog post.

An Idiot’s Guide to Projection Mapping

What is it?

Projection Mapping, is one of those things that everyone has seen at one point in their life and may not realise the extent of its applications or remember its name. Projection Mapping is best described as using a projector to produce a graphic that interacts with our real life surroundings – whether that be as a ‘spread’ graphic that plasters an entire wall, ceiling or floor or is used accurately to pinpoint animated graphics onto objects to create a ‘show’. I was taught projection mapping’s principles, advantages and uses in a recent workshop for Digital Media with Clive McCarthy. This was especially interesting as Lincoln, has the upcoming Frequency Festival that heavily relies on projection mapping.

The effect is achieved by using a projector to project images created on the fly with apps such as Dynamapper on the iPad, or software on the Mac/PC called HeavyM, a recent spatial augmented reality piece of kit that allows you to change shapes, images and videos with point precision in real time allowing to achieve immersive experiences. HeavyM, is one of the best that I’ve seen for editing graphics, especially with their special effects that can be animated and triggered on sounds – a great use for a show that includes sound. The apps and programs will be discussed later in this article.


Examples of Projection Mapping : –

As previously mentioned projection mapping is one of those things that we see all throughout our lives but never really pay attention to it and fully acknowledge it until its pointed out or notice it and then all of a sudden we start remembering various instances as to where we have seen it. I had the same thing happen to me when discussing projection mapping within the workshop – I remembered that in the summer I witnessed projection mapping on the castle within DisneyLand Paris but never connected the dots until I began thinking where I had seen it applied.


I also remembered what I think is one of the most advanced and impressive examples of projection mapping – a short film that introduces a moving projector and how it interacts with a box.



I booked out a projector from media stores at the university and began playing about with different graphics and exposure’s through an FS100 camera. I created a grid graphic within Photoshop as I believed it would help show edges and curves, especially on someone’s face.



I also created a pixelated graphic that moved slightly – I found that this would be extremely creative in the use of a background for when interviewing a subject.





Apps & Programs Used: –

Projection mapping can be achieved in several ways, however the most easiest is probably through an app called Dynamapper, which is as simple as plugging your iPad or iPhone into the projector and you’re off! Dragging and dropping various points on the surface of the tablet is incredibly easy and fast to achieve. These shapes can be switched into various moving graphics, or stills which can be used in whatever way you want. Your creative drive is the limit! A more advacned piece of software can be used – HeavyM is a recent tool-kit that allows you to change shapes, images and videos with point precision in real time allowing to achieve immersive experiences. HeavyM, is one of the best that I’ve seen for editing graphics, especially with their special effects that can be animated and triggered through sounds – a great use for a show that includes sound.



Applications in Convergence Task: –

The Convergence Task could use projection mapping in a variety of ways to present data, enhance a visual aesthetic or push the narrative into unknown territories. At this current moment in time I have a few ideas as to what I could do with the equipment and ideas I have been taught with in the workshop – although nothing is set in stone. Most of the ideas I have are based around projecting onto the subject of the film, which would be myself as its a self reflective film; I don’t believe I would use it heavily within the short video as its not something that I currently engaging with – I’d rather focus on the many, many other digital and personal hobbies and applications that I work with on a day to day basis.

I find that I am someone who is constantly looking towards the future, always trying to experience new opportunities; I have my fingers in many pies so to speak – and projection mapping is something that I am now interested in, so it could be an effective way of putting that message across in the film.

New and Useful Design Trends That Will Create An Engaging Brand

Domestic Animal Behaviour Centre Branding

As part of our Convergence journey, we have continued our progress with logos and branding, this blog entry focuses on how myself and my team responded to a brief set by James Field.

The brief was a simple one in that we were to design a logo for a new domestic animal behaviour centre that would “appear on a range of different marketing outputs and business documentation.” They wanted to be branded specifically close to dogs and their owners with other animals such as cats and rabbits being a secondary demographic. I felt that a logo that can be recognised as a professional, educational and qualified would positively reinforce the company’s values to potential customers & partners.

Initial Ideas:

The group and myself said that we would focus on our own ideas and build upon then before later meeting to discuss our findings.

In the last blog post I looked at logos and their vast imaginative urges to reform and experiment and what the current contemporary trends were – I came to the conclusion that flat design is currently at its midpoint and that a mix between flat and skeuomorphism would be the trend in the next 3-7 years. One of the ideas I had was to incorporate a mix between the two but lean more towards the flat design as I feel it’s friendlier and would give an aesthetically pleasing look while also appearing professional, respectful and playful which is the clients wanted. The decision to have this mix was to give the logo a longer life period. I too thought that pastel colours would work well with the flat look as pastel colours tend to give off a very minimalistic stylization that could potentially be eye pleasing.

The dog was the main emphasis in all of my logos with secondary animals such as cats, rabbits and birds being in the background of the logos or not of as significance – a point in the design brief that the client clearly wants addressed. Silhouettes happened to be quite frequent in my research of other animal logos, mainly with the smaller animal being encapsulated within the larger; in my first few logos I addressed this by using silhouettes in a different, unconventional way.


Concept Logo Development:

The group and I discussed that the animal behaviour centre’s initials stood for ABC and considering that they clients wanted an educational approach we thought that this might be a clever way of doing it. I began adding new elements over the first 3 logos before finally settling on one I liked and would develop further.

Logo 1

Logo 2









Logo 3

The third logo is very similar to the logos seen in shops such as ‘PetsAtHome’ and other animal related business. I took this and developed the colours as after speaking to members in the group we came to the conclusion that the logos colours gave off a very scary and doom impending corporation which you wouldn’t really want to leave your dog with to attain better behaviour.

Logo 4

Logo 5









Logo test 2


A colour wheel was used to produce the colours for the fourth logo, these fit very well and don’t clash, although the basic shape elements of the logo are still in the over used animal inside of another animals silhouette. This is why in the 5th and 6th logo a Ying and Yang effect was brought into effect with colours that represents them as opposites. This was done as it gives the impression that one is good and one that is bad – this links into the animal behaviour centre in what they do to help train and calm down unobedient pets.

Logo test

Logo 6









Triangle - Pick 2

Fine tuning was used on the colours of the logos to produce this final look – I found that when creating these logos that there is a triangle with 3 points focusing on different matters, and that you can only pick 2 without harming the third point. The logos above I feel have a professional and aesthetically pleasing look but don’t look fun. This brings me onto my next logo which I designed to be more fun.

Logo 7


The mix between skeuomorphic and flat design was used here to create a cartoon dog that was detailed with shadows, gradients and additional features. The French Bull Dog has a very fun and friendly vibe to it which in retrospect feels like it would be more suited for getting children to engage with a particular subject revolving around dogs. This logo doesn’t focus on tackling the domestic animal behaviour centres role in society; it doesn’t show what the organisation does other than the text obviously stating it. In regards to the triangle it fits a fun and aesthetically pleasing specification that the brief mentions but lacks any professionalism and would make the brand as a whole suffer.

From this point on I think that if I could find a midpoint between these two logos detailed above I would find a logo that would be very equal within the triangle and produce a brand image that would give off the right amount of fun and friendliness while still showing how engaged and professional the company is.

Team Effort:

The team and I used Google Drive/Docs to work simultaneously and communicate on each others progress as it happened allowing for us to work effectively and efficiently – we responded to the brief together with different colours representing each member of the group, before mentioning research and uploading our logo progress. Toby. created several logos that I thought used negative space really well however the colours seemed too clinical and didn’t give off a warm feeling.

Design 4Design 3











The second logo was created into a vector through Adobe Illustrator so that the domestic animal behaviour centre could potentially scale up and down the logo to work on a business card or leaflet to a billboard advertisement with no loss of quality. I will focus heavily on the practices and knowledge learned in the last two workshops when designing my very own brand in conjunction with the ‘One Minute Wonder’ project we have been tasked with.