Hitfilm/VFX Party

Now that I've got myself a new computer, new HitFilm software and a few VFX toys, I found the hole in my wallet crying out for something to show for it. "Don't let me go in vaaain..." my hard earned cash seemed to yell out to me, as if from the other side. After all, historically speaking, my biggest flaw has been being tall on dreaming and short on action. What to do?
Under the clever guise of a birthday party (Do they do those for 25 year olds?) I have gathered a group of my friends who are into video stuff or just into trying fun things. We have plans to assemble this Saturday to film and produce as many action effect shorts as possible. So exciting!
As a warm up, I grabbed my little brother (you may recognize him from the Ring Bearer's Mission video) and shot this video yesterday for the facebook group to try and hype them up about the capabilities. It was rushed, and the exposure is out of whack and I couldn't even finish it, but considering I only was able to spend about 4 hours on this total? It makes me happy to see how quickly you can get results, even when you are still learning.
This is going to be my first big filming with a large group of friends thing, so I'm trying to be as prepared as possible. Here's my current strategy on that:
I'm breaking down all the effect shots down ahead of time so I don't forget something and end up with a mess in post
I'm trying to figure out what props I'll need and secure them ahead of time
My wife has very graciously offered to cook us up a meal and some snacks and if that doesn't work out (She's pregnant; things can change quick!) I'll be ordering pizza to make sure everyone stays happy
Any thing I'm missing? How about you guys; do you have any cool stories (or even cautionary tales!) about filming with a bunch of friends? Let's hear 'em!


  • edited September 2011
    :)) Very good! Loved the light sabre....don't touch it!
  • edited September 2011
    For the explosion in the background, is it possible to make it greyer in colour, so it looks like it is further away (air pollution effect, like when you look out at hills in the distance they are all grey, so somehow reflect that onto your explosion, and on other effects placed in the distance,) but I loved it, cool effects! :))
  • like it :D
    ...good to be alive , Ho noo ! ! -PAN ! :))
  • looks fun, will look forward to seeing the results
  • Hehe, I love the idea of a VFX/HitFilm party. I wish we could make it. ;)
    Although the effects were a little rough around the edges, I really liked the general presentation style and humour. The mix of you as presenter and your little helper worked well. :P
    It sounds like you've got the food sorted, and that's the most important thing on any film shoot. Make sure you have lots of water around, too (and beer, but water is important if you're running around). Have contingency plans if the weather does something random. Check batteries and storage media, make sure that's all sorted.
    Let us know how the party goes!!
  • edited September 2011
    Thanks everyone for your feedback. Yeah, the effects were rushed because I needed to get the video out at the beginning of the week, and this was my first go for most of the effects and techniques.
    @StormyKnight- I actually wasn't sure if I'd do the light saber effect or not, so I'm glad I put that line in. I think it turned out funnier that way, glad you liked it!
    @Froi: That's a great idea! I'll have to try that next time I want an explosion in the distance.
    Stepping through the frames to animate points on say, a hand, may be a bit time consuming, but I found I quickly got into a rhythm and the results are really satisfying. I found masking things to be a similar experience; even though it was far from perfect I love how I can make the trees obscure part of the explosion.
    @Simon: Thanks for the tips. I'll be sure to keep a few pitchers of water around for everyone. I'm working on a weather contingency right now- we've got a 40 percent chance of rain. :/ I can still film some stuff outside (I can protect my gear with umbrellas, plastic bags) but I'm worried about how the lighting will effect the compositing in post, not to mention it will probably make the audio unusable. I learnt that the hard way- for part of my proposal scavenger hunt, my finance had to get past two "gangsters" (played by my sisters) in a back alley. They looked great, but it had been raining that day and they positioned themselves right next to a gutter run off for added effect. Someone had filmed it for me, but the dripping from the spout rendered the audio- ridiculous New Jersey gangster banter that I LOVED writing- a garbled mess. :|
    So...yeah. Working on contingencies now. Even if we have to do everything in doors, it should still be a good time. I'll keep you guys posted in this thread!
  • Yes, sound is generally difficult. :)
    For a lot of what I shoot I completely ignore sound. The recent Cyberpunk and Superhero-themed videos we shout, for example, did not record sound at all except for reference - in action/VFX stuff, so much ends up being sound design in post that the on-set recorded audio is largely irrelevant.
    Obviously this isn't the case if you're shooting dialogue sequences, though, which is a whole other challenge. :)
  • My first Hifilm/VFX Party is over and I declare it to be a (qualified) success. Qualified because it could have gone better; people didn't all show up at the right times, one dropped, and other things happened that resulted in us shooting only 4 out of the 8 to 12 effects scenes that I wanted to do. Success in that everyone present had a good time, nothing went so badly that the day was lost, the food was very good and new people got a chance to play with HifFilm. :)
    Because of last minute planning/buying/running around, doing this party is basically why I missed this Hitfilm competition. I am pretty bummed about that, but considering the fun we all had and the experience that I gained, I’ve decided to take the optimists path and be happy with it what I did accomplish.
    One thing that I didn’t expect that played havoc on most of our shooting was the lighting. I wasn’t expecting this because we were shooting outside and when we started it was a gray sky. I figured “Hey, even light- perfect!” But then the sky started to thin out and became patchy bits and clear bits so that we were constantly changing our camera settings to keep up. Also, I guess I haven’t done a lot of video shooting outside because we were consistently amazed at how much we had to dial the aperture and ISO down when it got bright. I think for future high-noon shooting, an ND filter will be in order.
    I will post videos here as I finish them and go into what I learned/would do differently with each one.
    Until then, here are some teaser pics. Points to anyone who can guess where I’m going with these:
    IMG_2284 by FablehouseStudios, on Flickr
    What is going on here by FablehouseStudios, on Flickr
    IMG_2302 by FablehouseStudios, on Flickr
    IMG_2331 by FablehouseStudios, on Flickr
  • This looked a lot of fun and an amazing concept- the pictures so far look very interesting and i love the video in your first post- it was funny and the effects were well done for the time you did them in. Looking forward to see everything once it's finished.
  • Great idea and it sounds like a good way for people new to effects to learn the basics. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
  • edited September 2011
    Thanks @MericanFilm and @Daniel G Wood for the kind words! Here's the first one. Not very flashy, but I had to see if I could do it:
    How it was done:
    For this one, I wanted to see if I could do a stunt with out actually doing a stunt. I have a green screen sheet I got from the folks over at Tupetape.net and I draped that over a pile of things I had erected to almost exactly my friend's height. After we acted out the scene and I broke the plates (2 plates; take 1 and 2) I took the contraption down and shot my friend just standing there, texting for awhile and then feigning a terrific concussion. Time the clips and mask them, and there you have it! Sort of.
    What I learned:
    1. If the light is super bright on the top of your green screen, your eyes might not notice it on the view finder but your software sure as heck will. This required a bunch of additional awkward masking to try and get the top out as well as leave room for the falling debris and it gave it basically all the problems it has.
    2. Well, almost all the problems. Be sure to get and use a very STILL clean plate. There was the slightest vibration (someone walking by?) and that gave me that bit of wiggle at the end.
    I'm sure I could have fixed that eventually- went through and got some stills, restarted the masking and did it cleaner... but I've made a conscious effort to pull away from this and just get it out there instead of tweaking it until its perfect. The point of this whole thing (besides having fun) was to try new things and get better at hitfilm. I'll learn from this, and the next batch should be better.
    Let me know what you guys think of this one- hopefully the next ones should be up sooner!
  • Hehe, very entertaining. A simple but very clever effect, executed nicely. I've seen stands used for cloning purposes before (handing an object from one clone to another, for example), but I've not seen it used in this particular context before.
    VFX and digital comping is great for stunt work, or enhancing stunts. What's great about this shot is that a) the plate smashing is entirely real and B-) the fall is real, which largely makes the VFX invisible. This seems to be Chris Nolan's general approach as well - don't use CG to generate actual elements, but use it to enhance real elements, or to hide safety devices etc.
    Also: I really like your presentation style. It's entertaining and engaging - you should see if you can put these little comedy/VFX sketches out regularly, you'd probably build up quite a following.
  • edited September 2011
    Zed- Everyone I've shown this to (at work) has just been floored. We ALL thought it was a real hit with a prop type plate until I read the post and found out what you really did. Awesome stuff! You have inspired me to think in a whole new direction regarding vfx and for that I can not thank you enough! Keep up the great work! B-) I loved the chuckle at the end too. Made me laugh more.
  • So, it's been about a week longer then I wanted, but the 2nd VFX party video is finally up. It's called Land Pines. Don't ask, just watch:
    In the previous video, I was flattered by people mentioning how subtle the effect was and one person on my channel even asking "wait...what was the effect?" On this one, well... I don't think many people will be asking that.
    How it was done:
    Shooting was easy enough, if poorly planned. We went out and got the opening shot and the wide shot (the lighting changed between the two, of course). Then we had my friend jump around on a trampoline while my other friend held a green screen up behind him (lucky for us, our other friend is tall). Again, different lighting. Curse you sky! His arm also went outside the greenscreen a bit, but it couldn't be helped and hey, he's going to be flying through the air anyway (still, I did roto it a bit just for good measure). I edited the bulk of the footage together (along with the land mine shot, which I had to get another day because I forgot :wacko: ) in Vegas 9 and imported in to HF for effects. The blinking light was an LED flare with a smoothed out flicker effect that I hand tracked onto a point on my toy Tron disc. The explosion shot was... to big to go into, lol. I think I have something like 7 particle effects in there alone, one of them with 3 emitters. I went through a bunch of explosions but ended up with just two- a grenade dirt hit I color adjusted to match and a "t-pipe explosion", whatever the heck that is.
    What I learned:
    1. RodyPolis is the MAN. His importer/exporter was super useful when starting the particle effect on my work computer- I was able to export it and easily send it to my home PC to finish. I also was able to save a bit of time by starting with his excellent dust dust preset for my dirt hits. Major shout out to you my man!
    2. Deflectors are your friends, but they are those kind of picky, difficult to work with friends- at least when you're trying to match them up to the real world.
    3. 12AM is no time to learn how to use The GIMP. All the same, it's a super valuable tool. I used it to create custom textures for the glass shards that break in the window. Pity it's so small in the final product, because it came out pretty decent.
    4. At 2 AM your brain isn't always working at it's highest levels. Those char marks on the side of the house? Those are particle effects. Wouldn't it have been easier to just use a still image? Yes. Did I mention it was 2 AM?
    5. Camera moment makes things cooler. I could be wrong on this, but at the last minute I decided to add a very small shake effect to all my locked off shots to convey a more handheld effect. This could be the late night edits talking, but I think it made it look better.
    Agh, I'll stop there. To long already, again...
    So what did you guys think? Suggestions, criticisms, death threats? Let me hear it!
  • Nice work Zed, good to see another one up!
    I enjoyed the short, and the effect was carried out well. Top marks on the dirt hits, the debris was also pretty impressive, The explosion was maybe a little small, I'm not sure having avoided stepping on landmines myself, but the timing nice.
    Things that made the effect less believable:
    [*]the fire - colour seems wrong, as does the spread and feel. Since the mine mostly threw up dirt/non-flaming debris, I'm not sure the fire would spread like that, those flames are more petrol-like.
    [*]the environment - the guy gets blown up, but those raised planting beds are unaffected? Nearby objects don't seem affected either, if there are light objects I'd expect those to move/tilt away from the explosion I think.
    [*]damage to the house - a good start, but again I'd think more damage if the explosion is enough to remove the guy.
    I'll follow that up by saying I have no idea how to do any of that in the software, so you've already done a lot better than I could do!
    Also, is that a wilhelm scream I hear? Nice touch.
  • Hehe, nice work there Zed! Enjoyed your two clips. Escpecially the first one, was very well done! It's cool to see you have little story line , and a funny one too, to go along with the effects.
    Looking forward to see more shots.
  • Hehe, good stuff. I like the mud splats hitting the house. Would have been nice to see the guy flying through the air a bit more, though. :P

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