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Hokey VFX

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Patrick ReaganHokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 6:18:01 am

I've always noticed something when I'm trying to composite and do effects and whatnot. I know there's probably numerous steps and techniques I'm missing, but I can never really seem to get any particle- and streak-based effects to ever look fully integrated into my shots. They always look hokey and plastered in regardless of how I play with the elements. Take this for example:

Shot with neutral settings on Rebel T3i w/ kit lens. The footage has not been altered (no color correction or grading, etc.) Three instances of Trapcode Form pieced together to create the vortex effect


That's my girlfriend's brother. I was playing around with an effect I was wanting to do when he hits the ball. The vortex follows the ball, and the effect I'm wanting to achieve is similar to this screenshot from the video game Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour:



Now that's all fine and good, but take a look at a supreme example of CorridorDigital's seamless, realistic integration of awesome Particular and Form effects:

Should start at the 1:54 mark that I have timestamped in there. If you can't view it, I have a screenshot.








Keep in mind, I'm aware that there are a lot more environmental effects going on in Corridor's screenshot there. What I'm getting at is that, regardless of the atmosphere or any other things I try to add into a lot of my VFX shots, they still come out looking like that very top shot. Just.. unprofessional and slapped on like someone just figured out how to composite with Windows Movie Maker. I can't seem to figure out the processes that lead to such a high quality integration of effects. If those guys can create those superb quality VFX with just the Trapcode suite, I should be able to be in the same ballpark as far as that (considering I have the same suite).

Anyone got anything or know where I'm coming from?


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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Hokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 2:19:10 pm

I can tell you the main reason that effects which are meant to look lit from inside fail to look real. They are done on a light background. Think about why fireworks displays aren't set off in the daytime; they'd have absolutely no punch. They look best against a black sky.

Any time you're doing effects which rely on brightness for their impact - flame, fairy dust, sparkles, etc. - the best way to achieve a sense of reality is to create your effect on a black layer, and then composite that layer in Additive mode. This adds the value of the pixels to the layer below, enhancing the illusion that they're in the scene. The lighter the scene, the weaker the effect. Notice that even the flame VFX you use as an example have the talent in the shadow of the car - and it appears to be dusk. Light effects work their magic over darker backgrounds.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Patrick ReaganRe: Hokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 2:26:40 pm

Good points. The scene from corridordigital was shot during the day. The light and particles envelop the whole scene making it look like dusk.


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Todd KoprivaRe: Hokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 2:42:57 pm

In addition to what Joe said, a very important part of light effects is remembering to have them light the rest of the scene---meaning casting shadows and reflecting off of and brightening objects near the light effect.

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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Patrick ReaganRe: Hokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 3:13:49 pm

Yes. That's what I was having some difficulty imagining since the scene is so bright and flat.

Joe, when you say to do light stuff on a black layer, are you referring to precomping it then setting it to Add when you composite it? If I remember correctly, I did that with muzzle flares with great success sometime back, but I don't remember if I precomped it or not before I set it to Add.

EDIT: I'm an idiot, Joe. I just asked a question that you just explained above haha. Sorry, I'm running and gunning on my smartphone right now.


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Joseph W. BourkeRe: Hokey VFX
by on Aug 8, 2013 at 4:06:05 pm

No problem, Patrick -

That's it -

Create new Solid Layer (CTRL-Y)

Create particle effect on Solid Layer

Composite solid layer over BGD shot in Additive Mode

And what Todd said is very valuable toward selling the shot. Think about what the lighting effect would do in the scene if it were real.

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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