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Re: what this button does?

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Steve Bentley
Re: what this button does?
on Mar 28, 2019 at 9:40:53 pm

I don't have any quick fix tutorials at my finger tips (others might). I've been doing this so long I've learned the hard way - embarrassment!

But you could do worse than subscribe to CineFx magazine. The current volumes are fun and, in a way, informative but these days the articles are mostly about the special plug-in the number crunchers custom programmed for this-or-that particle effect, or describing software that you can neither afford, nor get your hands on even if you had the money... and the budgets.... good lord, the budgets!. So fun, for sure, but helpful?....not so much.
BUT, with a subscription you get access to all the back issues (except one if memory serves). Seeing how we used to make movies can inform in ways you can't imagine. (and at a time when the articles showed the full monty, warts and all). The work was hard and we were proud that it was hard so even the mistakes were cause for celebration and photo-ops. And seeing all of us struggle at the beginnings of the digital crossover will give you insights into what we wanted the tools to do and what problems they finally solved (that we couldn't back then).
The best analogy I can give is: watch someone trying to put a lawn mower together from a array of parts. Watch them fail repeatedly and then succeed. Now that you've seen that, when the lawn mower won't start you'll have a better idea what to do. You don't have to be the engineer who designed it, but it gives you a glimpse under the hood, an appreciation of what makes it go and how the parts mesh together. Software today is all under the hood, under lock and key. But it wasn't back then.

The best lessons are the mistakes others have made, (and yours of course). Bad shots in spite of good efforts also inform in immeasurable ways. Watch the movies the article is about, then read the article, then watch the movie again with new insight.

Physics hasn't changed (except that crazy dark-matter thing) so the concepts we used back in the film/miniature/optical-printer days are the same concepts we use now. The only difference is the tools can sit on your desk now and you get to see results instantly. Back when, you had to know much more about composition, lenses, colorimitry and physics because you couldn't see the results as you made things, and budgets wouldn't let you try too many times to get it right. It had to be right the first or second time. These skills are still needed but can be fudged due to the trial and error aspect of instant feedback. (and the FX supervisor over your shoulder saying "no the gravity point is over there" - he'll hire you more often if he doesn't have to do that all the time - I'm... er... he's a busy guy!)

Other than that, it depends on what interests you.
Animation? Study nature and classic animators. Look at things frame by frame. Take an acting class; as an animator you are the actor. And even if you are a digital animator, draw draw draw. For all things, use a pencil before computer. The computer will constrain your creativity. Get as close to the end product as you can.

Compositor: Get a camera and shoot shoot shoot. Then get your hands dirty. Seeing what makes a good green screen requires you to work with a few bad ones (that you thought were ok). Give yourself really hard stuff to do - water, smoke, blondes on greenscreen, fast moving blurry stuff - you don't have to solve these perfectly, but you will invent all sorts of tricks to get around the problems: arrows in your quiver that will probably create a great composite when you are handed half decent footage. They'll think you a wizard!

FX artist? Play! Every one is following tutorials these days so when a new "effect" comes out, it shows up everywhere. We call it "plug-in-itus". ("Can we have the Matrix falling green rain effect?" "Sure, get in that long line over there with everyone else who wants it.")
Design first and then collect the tools (or invent them) that you need to see your vision through - otherwise it's just copying. The guy who gets to work on the big box or Inferno or Saber is the guy who every one stands around watching and murmuring to themselves, "Jeez I would never have thought of that" or " how is he making that look... OMG that's so simple but look at it!" He's probably not any better than you, but I'll bet he's played more.

Finally, and after dragging you through what really should be the basics these days - but never is - here are a few shortcuts. I think the guys at Grayscale Gorilla and Andrew Kramer over at VideoCopilot go above and beyond in their videos - not only what button to push, but why. How the science behind the button and the world works.
Its never never never about the buttons you push. Its about art, and science and the world and the emotion in the shot.

I'll stop now, my soapbox has collapsed due to bad workmanship.



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