Worldizing: a sound design concept – by Walter Murch

Manipulating sound until it seemed to be something that existed in real space. This refers to playing back existing recordings through a speaker or speakers in real-world acoustic situations, and recording that playback with microphones so that the new recording takes on the acoustic characteristics of the place it was “re-recorded.”

Oscar-winning Saul Bass short: “Why Man Creates”

Why Man Creates is a 1968 animated short documentary film which discusses the nature of creativity. It was written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon, and directed by Saul and Elaine Bass.

The movie won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. An abbreviated version of it ran on the first-ever broadcast of CBS’ 60 Minutes, on September 24, 1968.

Why Man Creates focuses on the creative process and the different approaches taken to that process. It is divided into eight sections: The Edifice, Fooling Around, The Process, Judgment, A Parable, Digression, The Search, and The Mark.

In 2002, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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DSLR Cinema- The new dawn of filmmaking?

HD Digital SLR cameras have revolutionized the independent filmmaking world. With their relatively low cost, shallow depth of field, low light capabilities and professional quality resolution, filmmakers and photographers have embraced this new technology with open arms. But with all of the successes of these cameras, there are also notable drawbacks and backlash in certain communities. Well-known HD DSLR masters Philip Bloom and Vincent Laforet discuss and debate the current state of HD DSLR cinema, the strengths and weaknesses of this technology, and the future of HD DSLR filmmaking as they see it. This conversation is moderated by filmmaker and camera expert, David Leitner.

Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro v5 – REVIEW

Fans of the of the plugin Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro for After Effects have been waiting patiently for a 64bit compatible version of the plugin that will work with the latest iteration of After Effects: CS5.  Roughly 8 months after Adobe CS5’s launch, Zaxwerks released 3D Invigorator Pro 5 and now  motion graphics artists from around the world can finally our 3d freak on in AfterEffects. And the best part: they’ve made it a lot better.

For the uninitiated, Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro is a plugin that, once applied to a layer in After Effects, turns that layer into a window on a 3d scene complete with it’s own internal camera and lights (both of which can be switched to After Effects’ built in camera and lights). Invigorator’s core function is to create 3d visualizations of graphic elements and logos for slick and polished motion graphics. And did it ever! Zaxwerks ushered in an era of great looking 3d without having to leave the comfortable setting of AfterEffects.

Sample Logo animation experimenting with glass tube textures (background from Digital Juice background)

Drop in a Vectorized Logo and instant 3d object!

The new version Invigorator still allows you to create 3d objects from illustrator vector files or through a type-in text editor, as well as creating 3d primitives (spheres, planes, cubes, toruses, cylinder, cone, and pyramids). Although the interface features 6 new preset workspaces everything will be pretty familiar to the veteran user and new users shouldn’t have too much difficulty navigating around.

A new workspace: the family 4 pane view with my name in a blocky font.

But the biggest and most exciting addition to Zaxwerks Invigorator is the ability to draw curves directly inside the plugin. These curves can be used as the basis for 3d shape extrusions, lathes (which we’ll discuss later) and, most importantly, as edge shapes.

A custom drawn easel right inside Invigorator

The ability to design custom edges directly in Invigorator opens up a huge world of creative possibilities: from fine tuning basic bevels to creating fantastic and bizarre edges with floating tubes and complex curves.

In fact, it looks like Zaxwerk’s goal is to incorporate many of the tasks that you previously had to do in an outside program right inside the plug-in itself. A huge time saver and an integral part of making the micro-massaging of your 3d object that much more fun.

The Easel from above with a custom edge including a free floating gold tube (See below image for the sample edge used)

An early version of the edge demonstration from above (note: the geometry is different)

If all this seems overwhelming, fear not: Invigorator Pro ships with a huge assortment of pre-made materials (from pearls, golds, chromes, chocolates and even camouflage) and object styles (which are custom edges with matching materials) that will deliver great results right out of the box. And all pre-made materials and styles can be fully customizable so you’ll find yourself starting with a basic style you like and changing the materials and colors to get exactly what you want.

Zaxwerks Invigorator Pro also boasts a robust materials editor which includes controls to fine tune image maps for color, specular, bump, transparency and reflectivity. Still included are are number of shading options that include the perennial favorites like Cartoon and Wireframe and also something called Fresnel which gives an object a different color depending on it’s relation to the camera.

One color for faces that are seen straight on and another color for faces seen at an angle

Inside the material editor are new built-in gradient and noise generators that can add some randomness to your visual design. To set your materials, Invigorator comes with several mapping options including UV mapping for precise placement of your color maps.

When it comes to animation the latest version of Invigorator streamlines the process. Objects can be placed into one of eight sets which can be animated in terms of position, rotation and scale or parented to another 3d layer you create in After Effects. In previous versions, knowing which set an object belonged to was a bit of chore, but the addition of a visual set manager makes it extremely intuitive.

Once those objects are organized into groups, a new warp feature allows you to bend and twist those objects. Creating a wrap-around text, a pain staking chore in previous versions, is now a simple operation.

A Lawn Light? Lathed around a slightly mis-shapened circle (prior to my Lathe epiphany)

A new and fascinating addition is the Lathe tool which works much like it’s real world counterpart. Design a profile and the program sweeps it along a circular path. That’s great for creating vases and piano legs, but the options explode infinitely when you realize you don’t have to just sweep along a circular path!!

Stars, gears, polygons – the lathe path options are unlimited.

Trippy Organic Lathe object rendered as a wireframe.

Lights can be added either inside the plugin or by using After Effect’s 3d lights and telling the plug-in to “use comp lights”. The shadows created by the plug-in lights do leave a little to be desired when viewed up close.

As advanced as the new materials editor is, those looking for advanced shaders and raytracing capabilities will be disappointed. Real raytraced reflections and shadow maps do add a touch of realism but this feature may simply be too much to ask in a plug-in that is designed to help meet the tight broadcast deadlines.

Speed wise, with everything turned up to the highest quality, even my powerful desktop PC has trouble keeping up when editing a full 1920×1080 HD project. Fortunately there is a draft mode which disables the high quality texture rendering and allows the editor to quickly make minute changes. Another good time saver is to utilize the layer tracking feature (described earlier) which allows you to perfect your animation using flat 2d layers in After Effects 3d space as stand ins and then translate those animations to Zaxwerks 3d objects when your ready to finalize.

The Render Preview button is a nice way to see the high rez version of your work right in the plugin.

Zaxwerks Pro Invigorator has been a staple my After Effects plug-in folder for nearly a decade now. Though motion graphics styles have changed over time currently favoring more clean flat imagery, there will always be a need for a simple yet stunning 3d graphic work. Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro brings that capability back to Adobe After Effects CS5 and adds a bundle of new functional features to help streamline the design process. If your work involves designing graphic elements with After Effects, Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro is one of those plug-ins that’s simply a MUST-HAVE.

Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator Pro V5 website
price: $449 new
upgrade: from $199
All Prices at Publication

Dead Celebs: A Living For The Dead

Who is the biggest dead celebrity money maker in the world? If you said Elbert Einstein you would be right. Another interesting fact reported by Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes is (according to the IRS) there are currently over 84,000 people listing Elvis Impersonator as their primary profession. Somehow those two facts make the World seem right.

The Visions of Stanley Kubrick – “The Shining”

A concise look at some of the more bizarre visual aspects of The Shining. Through interviews with collaborators, current filmmakers and authors, we’ll examine how Kubrick used his unique brand of visual storytelling to convey madness, evil, and the power of the supernatural without relying on dialog or conventional exposition. As much as any film he ever made, The Shining illustrates Kubrick’s talent for using the language of pure cinema to tell his stories.

Top 7 Movies with Men Singing Together

Cowboys, frat-boys, soldiers, fishermen and prisoners; what do they have in common? No, they are not Sarah Palin supporters. Each of these icon character types is represented in our list of the Top 7 non-musicals with men singing together. As to why Gene Wilder stars in three of these films, I can’t answer that.

#7: Blazing Saddles

#6: Stripes

#5: Stir Crazy

#4: Jaws

#3: Young Frankenstein

#2: Animal House

#1: Rio Bravo

Extra Credit: Fight Club

While it never made it into the final film, I think it belongs on the list. ;)

“My Best Friend’s Birthday” Quentin Tarantino’s First Film

It’s Mickey’s Birthday and his girlfriend just left him, so that’s when his friend Clarence shows him a birthday he’ll never forget. The film was completed, but the final reel was destroyed in a lab fire that broke out during editing. The surviving part of the film was shown in part to a small crowd in early 1987. It Later became the basis for True Romance.

Jeff Bridges Taking a Tour of The Little Lebowski Shop in NYC

In this clip from “Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides” airing this month on PBS (check local listings), Bridges visits the shop in New York’s Greenwich Village called The Little Lebowski dedicated to collector items for The Big Lebowski and explains how he first got involved acting for the Coen Brothers.

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