2nd Year VFX

So it's been a while since I've posted on any online forums and that's simply because I've lacked the time due the shear amount of work I've had to do for my 2nd year Visual Effects course at university. 
I first joined FXhome in 2006 and when I did I knew Visual Effects was what I wanted to do, I'm so happy that it's now something I'm studying and that I get to work with such amazing people. 
Today I finally finished what has been the most stressful and the most fun year of my life so far. and it's a huge relief knowing I have all of Summer to do nothing but have BBQs and drink beer!
So you're probably wondering what sort of things I've had to produce for my 2nd year.
One of our first assignments was to work in groups - there's only 9 people on my course so it had to be small groups! We had to produce a short film that uses the same themes as Alice In Wonderland and we had to shoot most of it on greenscreen. The main aim of this module was to teach us about keying and also lighting. 
As well as this we also had individual projects, the brief was to simply combine live action footage with something computer generated. What I did was far more than what was required but I set out to create a sequence similar to Prometheus - when the ship enters the atmosphere just before it lands on the alien planet. 
This took about 4 months from start to finish, and rendering was about 1 hour per frame - I was stressed beyond belief. Whilst I was working on this I had the opportunity to meet a guy from Double Negative, who was the VFX supervisor on Skyfall. I sent him my final piece and he was kind enough to offer me some constructive criticism.
The next assignment was easy in comparison, My elective module was Sound Design which wasn't very well taught in my opinion. Anyway for the first project we were given a range of different clips to use, I chose Wall-E and had to do all the sounds for 1 minute of the film. 
Project two was to do 2-3 minutes of anything we wanted, I decided to the sound for a student film myself and some of my colleagues had made the year before. I did some ADR but not as much as I'd planned as the main actor was also rushing to get work finished before deadlines, so I had to make do with some of the original audio. So everything but the audio from the lead actor was re recorded.
The next big module was Digital Compositing, A month 3 month module with a new project every 4 weeks. So the idea was to only spend 4 weeks on each project. This was a huge challenge and I learnt a lot about time management. the first project was to create a title sequence for The Fifth Element. Not a lot to say on this other than I wish I'd spent more time on the textures! 
Next we had to make a short music video to a piece of music that we were given, for this we had to use NUKE - which is like After Effects on steroids! it's brilliant. For this I decided to just shoot a few dancers on a greenscreen and do something funky with particles. I work as a photographer in a nightclub so I made good connections with the dancers there and they were happy to help me out free of charge. I used ReflecMedia for this which is great but doesn't come close to competing with a proper greenscreen. I did have an issue with it not being big enough to cover their legs so I had a lot of roto to do! and when I say I lot I mean 2 dancers shot separately, at 50FPS for about 45 seconds. It was soul destroying. But I'm happy enough with the end result.
With all the roto from the last assignment taking so long, I fell quite far behind, what should have only taken me 4 weeks actually took me 8. and with only 1 week left to do a whole project - which was simple enough, just a short video using some camera tracking to place a CG object into the scene, I began to stress again. This is when I came down with pneumonia and was granted a 2 week extension, so whilst I was incredibly ill I was very much relieved.
This meant I now had 2 extra weeks to produce a short video with some simple camera tracking, did I keep it simple? No. I figured I had an extra 2 weeks to produce something a little more ambitious and something I can be proud of. So this last piece was shot and edited in 2 weeks - which is without a doubt the fastest turnaround I've ever done. 
So I've had a very busy year, and if you've sat and watched all of those, thank you.
I no doubt suspect my 3rd and 4th year will be even more hectic and, if it's possible, more stressful! But until then I'd like to be a little more frequent on here and be apart of an online community again. I've learnt so much over the last 2 years and I feel I'm in a position now where I can give good advice. 


  • B3NB4IL
    B3NB4IL Posts: 74
    Just sat and watched every video above, really fantastic work!
    I myself found FXhome back in 2004 or 2005 when I was becoming interested in film making, I then went to college for 5 years to study the art behind it all and lost my online community presence. It's fantastic to see how much you've done in two years! Sadly my course focused on TV production and live music performances so any VFX or film productions I had to do in my spare time.
    I really liked all the videos, and the skills certainly showed improvement as I ventured through each video. "Addicted" was a pretty cool dance video, liked the use of particles for that one. Was that rotoscoped or motion tracked in regards to the particles?
    Fantastic work though, and I hope you keep on practising and perfecting your art outside off University!
  • Phil
    Phil Posts: 40
    Thank you, I figured I'm only going to be here once and so I'm going to push myself to do the best I possibly can. I've found that Visual Effects is a hard thing to teach because technology advances quickly and a lot of what we learn now will be redundant by the time we leave. We have to heavily rely on teaching ourselves, so in the case of most of my assignments I'll come up with the idea then I'll have to learn how to do it through trial and error. 
    For the particles in "Addicted", all I did was track a sphere to move with the dancer's hands, This was just keyframed in X,Y and Z then linked that to a particle emitter. NUKEs 3D particle system is pretty cool, everything was positioned in 3D space so the particles went in front and behind of the dancers. 
    I'd like to do more film making but it's not part of the course and I don't really find much time outside of university to take on big projects.