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Old March 30th, 2011, 07:33 AM   #1
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Mobile Phone Style Technique

Hi folks,

I am looking to do some mobile phone style video and need some advice..

There is an advert in the cinema at the moment (can't find it online, might be UK-only) for Orange Mobile Wednesdays / Rio. It's the bird from the film Rio talking to another bird.

I'm trying to replicate something like that. It has some digital drop-out and SORT OF looks like mobile phone footage.

I know I could actually shoot on a mobile, but I want the resolution, colour and depth-of-field of a pro camera and then superimpose the footage onto a mobile phone element and then add some mobile phone type filter to the footage being played. I'm not trying to convince anyone it was shot on the phone, it's more like a stylistic choice (not mine) and I want the initial footage to be good so I can be selective and have more options later (As well as it still looking good regardless).

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Thanks

Mike
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Old March 30th, 2011, 10:49 PM   #2
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Without having watched the ad...
Old/Bad television tricks - search google and you'll find many techniques to make it work. Since you are not trying to convince anyone, you can be creative about it depending on the look you want.

Some quirks of mobile footage:
1. Lagging footage due to slow processor
2. Poor resolution - pixelated (In the Valley of Elah)
3. Washed out highlights and crushed blacks
4. Venetian blinds effect to give it a video look
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Old March 31st, 2011, 03:09 AM   #3
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Hi Sareesh,

Yes, I've been playing about with bad tv - using scan lines and some colour separation etc.

Lagging footage is a good idea. I'm walking a fine line between a good effect and people complaining that there is something wrong with my footage.. but this should work nicely.

I know, I wish I could provide an example of the video (it is actually ultra annoying, there are audible groans when it comes on prior to the feature in the cinema - like all Orange ads).

I don't understand the In The Valley of Elah reference, I've not seen the film (but it does look good and I will endeavor to get it tonight..) but seeing the cast list, it reminded me of some of the footage from 127 Hours (also with Franco)..

I think one of the main elements of the final effect will be like dropped pixels, or corrupt data at random and spaced-out intervals. Maybe square blocks that go 'funny'. I'm trying to work out the best way to do this, with out going in and putting them all in individually in After Effects...
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Old March 31st, 2011, 04:00 AM   #4
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

You can pixelate in AE and photoshop (search for pixelating effects or 80s video game/pac man look) and then blend it together. Don't have to do it one by one.
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Old March 31st, 2011, 05:01 AM   #5
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Ah, thanks again Sareesh; a quick test in After Effects with mosaic effect looks promising.

I think combining pixelisation with some of the other effects we were talking about will give me the sort of effect I am looking for.

I am considering having some lag > pixelisation and then back to clean footage, to make it look as if the stream has been lowered in quality to compensate for a bad connection.

I am wondering if I should include bad artifacts on top of this, and, if so, what the best way to incorporate these would be..

Other things:

1. I was going to shoot it as normal (perhaps chroma-keyed for more choice) and then crop to a horizontal image. I am now wondering if I should leave it horizontal - for an iPhone, turned-on-its-side composition.. Or even if I should stay vertical and shoot with the camera rotated 90 degrees.. but seeing as I don't need HQ full HD, this might just be silly.

2. Speaking of compositing onto a phone.. What copyright issues will I face if I composite onto an iPhone or similar? I can't exactly build my own phone for this purpose and I am just starting out in Cinema4D..

Thanks!
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Old March 31st, 2011, 10:54 AM   #6
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

You must never lose sight of the 'message' or 'action' within your piece. If it enhances the drama, go for it. If it's just a gimmick or effect, try to keep it as subtle as possible. A brilliant rule I read somewhere (very true in my experience), is to always go for 70% of the effect you think is perfect. Artists who spend too much time on something always overdo it. It takes a few months to learn a trick, but it takes years of experience to know when to stop.

I don't know what your target market is, so it's difficult to say what you should shoot on. Shoot on the best format available within your budget. Choose your codec wisely so you have less headaches later. As for horizontal vs vertical, you might want to storyboard and previz your sequence now rather than regret it later.

Regarding your second question: You cannot obviously use the same design (even if you wipe out the name and logo) without permission. However, you can try getting images of cheap Chinese lookalikes and then photoshop them into your own new model. This PSD file can be imported into AE and manipulated in 3D space to a certain extent. If your phone has a lot of 3D movement, then there are two options:

a. Either pay someone to make a simple 3D model, texture and light it.
b. Shoot your iphone. Do the photoshop thing. Then use a motion-tracker program to match the PSD to the iphone so the design is invisible. If you use a high-end camera tracker, nobody will notice the difference. However, you will still spend the same amount of money doing this as in option a, but with lesser hair on your head at the end of it.

Hope this helps.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 01:52 AM   #7
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Option c)

Shoot your iPhone and pay someone to composite the pixelated stuff onto it with their expensive tracking software

Although I think AE can do a reasonable job of this kind of tracking/corner pinning. Something like Mocha should be fine for it as well

Cinema 4D can certainly do pretty much anything and a phone is an easy thing to model but if you want someone waving it around, you need to motion track the waving and this is harder than applying a rectangular file to a phone that someone is waving around.

If you want it to be easy to track and apply, make sure that nothing occludes the phone - ie don't let anything get between the phone (or at least the phone's screen) and the camera. This might be harder with an iPhone because the screen covers the whole face and it will be hard to keep fingers from getting between the screen and the camera. If something gets in the way, you will have to track it as well.

If this is a non-commercial video or demo reel, the cheapest way to get to use great software is to sign up for a term with FXPHD. In addition to some really fine courses, you can use a lot of good software for free courtesy of the FXPHD VPN system. But this is restricted to non commercial use.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 03:17 AM   #8
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Hi Jim, thanks for the response.

It's bordering on non-commercial but I'm not sure I want to risk it.

The phone won't be waving about, it will be almost static. In fact, I am still weighing up whether it should be literally a static image, or just a steadied clip of the camera being held. Compositing the image onto the phone is not a problem.

This is just a stylised technique for a voxpops segment: realism isn't a big concern.

Thanks for your replies guys, I was more looking for discussion of what an interesting mobile phone video style would be and whether I could use an iPhone or similar without getting any flak but your replies have been extensive and informative.

I think that since the mobile phone will be basically a frame for the image, that it could be left out and just have a black frame / reduce the scale of the actual video within the composition and overlay with phone info (network, bars, time etc.).

Thanks again
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Old April 1st, 2011, 04:06 AM   #9
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Hi Mike

If its essentially static, I'd go ahead and make a simple model in Cinema 4D and composite a few fingers on to it (actually on top of it). I think all the tools you need to get the video onto the phone are right there in C4D, so the only hard part in all this is getting the effect you want into the video.

Re putting the image on an iPhone or something, I don't see why this would be a huge problem - I know everybody worries about the legalities, but the reality is that we live in a world where branded products are right out in front of us all day long - there's no way to take a photo in a modern city without branded designs being in the picture.

But what the heck - a C4D model would be easy and sticking fingers in front of it would be easy, so if you have C4D, use it! I have it and really like it.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 05:40 AM   #10
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

It might be a good project to test the water..

Thanks again, Jim.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 02:25 PM   #11
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Re: Mobile Phone Style Technique

Have at it! Good luck.

By the way, the FXPHD site has some really good courses on C4D particularly the motion graphics aspects. The thing that's different about them is that the instructors are online and you can ask questions as you go - I remember asking about a way to track something and the instructor made up an example as part of the class to explain it.

You could also look around on sites like TurboSqui - probably easy to find a model of a cell phone that would cost $10 or $20 or so and could be dropped into C4D. But really, it should be a few minutes work to model one yourself - in fact I think there are some tutorials around where that's exactly what they've done. Hard part would be realistic texturing and lighting but in your case not a problem.

Hmm - if I wanted someone to be holding a cell phone I'd probably take a piece of wood or MDF and make a full sized model and paint it green and have someone hold it and key out the physical model and composite the fingers over the C4D model. That's probably where I'd think of starting anyhow.

Re getting it horizontal to match the video frame better I'd start with it vertical and rotate it while zooming in to the screen - or same thing - rotate the C4D camera as you dolly it in. It would be really easy to have the video start out as a small rectangle sideways on the phone and about halfway through the zoom have it rotate and expand to fill the horizontal screen. Since that effect kind of snaps on the iPhone it would be really simple to keyframe the rotate and expand to take place over a few frames. I'd maybe have the fingers just holding the lower part of the phone and the extreme edge so you can "lose them" as you zoom to the interesting part. So the whole phone thing would just become an establishing shot.

Lots of fooling around to get it right, but why not! I think the easier you make it the more time you have to put into getting the effect you want in your video to work as you want it.

Another silly thought - model the fingers too - Poser models come with posable fingers and there are ways to import Poser models into C4D. Morph the fingers as you go and cover them with werewolf hair - the (crappy) possibilities are endless. As is the amount of time it will take to play around with all this neat software. Wow, you could even have the phone fall into a pool of CGI water and watch the video play through the ripples to make it all abstract and dream-like. Take a look at RealFlow if you want to spend some serious money on software with a learning curve from Hell.

Good luck!
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