UWOL 17-The Old Bird Learns A New Trick at DVinfo.net

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Old September 19th, 2010, 02:39 PM   #1
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UWOL 17-The Old Bird Learns A New Trick

I'm the Old Bird, and I'll begin with a disclaimer. This is not an honest entry for UWOL 17. Although I have satisfied the theme, I have broken the contest rules and not shot during the three week period. Instead, I have “renewed” old standard definition footage by applying the special effect of cartooning.

Cartooning converts video into what looks like a moving painting. In this age of high definition, where no one wants to look at standard definition footage any more, it is a way to renew all those old bird tapes sitting on the shelf collecting dust. Cartooning converts boring old SD to something, that although it is not high def, is fun to watch, and is sharper and brighter than the original. Each scene requires a different approach and you don’t know what you will get until it’s done. There is something just a little other worldly about it. Although I am not eligible for judging, I would still appreciate your comments and criticisms.

The cartooning effect can be subtle, and you may not notice it in all the clips. If not, enlarge the screen, and it will be evident. It begins near the end of the waves on the beach and is then consistent through the rest of the piece. If you are still in doubt, compare these two Vimeo clips to see what cartooning does to a video.

I am especially interested in what you would think if you saw a cartooned clip placed in a program consisting mostly of high definition footage. Would it fit? Would an explanation (in the narrative) be necessary? Finally, would you be willing to watch a 20 minute piece consisting completely of cartooned footage, or is it just too much?

Here is the main video, once again on Vimeo:

Steve Siegel
Raven On The Mountain Video
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Old September 22nd, 2010, 09:46 AM   #2
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This is completely amazing. I've only watched the UWOL small version so far, but I will need to venture to the Vimeo version to see how it looks as a larger segment.

First, all the fun stuff. I loved the music, the composition and the birds. You are becoming a specialist in filming birds and your tracking skills while birds are in flight is really perfecting.

Now the cartooning.... I didn't read your thread before watching the clip, so I came to it with a fresh mind not knowing what to expect. I saw every level of it. It looked like a cartoon at the beginning after the waterfront footage, and I really liked it. Then there was footage where the bird subject was bright and sharp, but something was definitely going on in the background which caught my interest. And other footage, I never would have known an effect was applied, or that it was actually SD. So you are on to something here.

Since I hadn't read your thread, I was a bit distracted by the title... anticipating something a bird was going to do and wondering in the back of my mind what the old bird and new trick stood for. But this is beside the point.

I'd keep after this and perfect it. I don't think there is a need to explain anything in your films... keep people guessing!

Nicely done, Steve!

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Old September 22nd, 2010, 12:16 PM   #3
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Hey Steve - I always like to see the participants use the Challenge to try new things, experiment a little. I think your cartooning effect worked really well. There is always a temptation when you find a new toy to go overboard with it, but you used it very subtly here, and it did bring a new visual interest to the old footage.

I have to say, oh my, how much your shooting has improved over the years by taking these Challenges. (I know this is old footy, just thinking back to the beginning....) Great to see that kind of growth and development...

Thanks for playing.
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Old September 22nd, 2010, 07:45 PM   #4
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first I thought the effect farely subtle. I like how you used it.

I really like it when people do new stuff and share it, I find it inspirational. This is something I would like to tinker with. What did you do it with, right off vimeo??

Your bird shots were pretty awesome!!! the one with the long tail was a new species for me to see!!!

thank you so much for sharing this work with us!!
Dale W. Guthormsen
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 06:03 AM   #5
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Steve, Really enjoyed watching the birds and the cartoon effect as you presented it. In a more serious documentary I'm not sure the effect would work. Watching the background as the group of birds were flying by reveals your very fast camera movement. Great job following them!

Maybe I should bring out my old SD footage... oh wait, I'm still shooting SD!
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 06:54 AM   #6
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I really wouldn't call this a cartoon effect. To me it's more like paint on canvas.
I was kind of worried when you first talked about it that it would be too cartoonish. But, I think it's subtle enough that like I said it comes off artistic instead of cheeky.

You really have some awesome shots in this piece.

My only thing was you gave us all the info up front then we had to wait for the visuals. I think if you would interspersed the text it would have had greater impact. For instance, I knew the herons would be coming up at the end of the film so even though it was fantastic footage, I already knew they were coming.

Not sure if I'm explaining my though right but I think you know what I'm trying to say.

Beautiful bird footage. I've tried and I know how hard it is. Good tracking shots are a great indicator of the skill the person behind the camera has. It's probably one of the toughest shots to really pull off.
Great job!
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 09:03 AM   #7
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Hi Steve,

Very nice film you made. And honestly, I didn't notice any "cartoon effect" the first time I watched it. Had to go back and have another look at it after I read your description.
I think you did it well!
Keep up your good work.
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 11:32 AM   #8
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Hi Steve. This is a very interesting piece of work. Like you, I see a great deal of potential with this technique. I experimented with a cartoon filter for VirtualDub a couple of years ago, but my results were never as impressive as yours. Please share your work-flow with us. Since you are thinking about using SD footage in HD productions you have probably already considered PIP. If you use an inset window of 720x480 you can use the SD footage at its native resolution without bruising the pixels. One composition that I think would look good is to use a 720p wide angle habitat shot as background and zoom the inset picture in from a dot to show- this is the habitat and this is what is taking place there. Feathering the matte will help and I guess the key is careful choosing of the two shots as well as the SD footage showing interesting enough behaviour (you never have any problems there!). Just a thought. Speaking of which, please continue to share your thoughts when you are pushing the envelope like this. I think it helps the whole community grow. Thank-you!
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 05:10 PM   #9
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It's a cool effect. I'm afraid to ask what steps are needed to pull it off. I didn't see it at first and then watched again with my reading glasses. So it's already a shallow DOF and the cartoon mostly affects the background? It makes the bird stand out more, but after a while I wanted to see what was in the background also. So to answer your question, for me 20 minutes would be a bit much, but I'm not a big fan of shallow depth of field to begin with. What I really appreciated was the panning technique on the fast moving birds, great camera work there.
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 05:47 PM   #10
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The work flow wasn't hard because I was fortunate enough to have Adobe After Effects CS4, which contains the effect in an easy to use, rapidly rendering format. Just do "fill only" without "lines", and play around with the radius and threshold. A bit of Unsharp Mask and you are there. The effect is very much like the Dry Brush filter in Photoshop, which is exactly what I was looking for.
There are other, more affordable, cartooning softwares on the market, especially Toon-It from Red Giant. The only problem with that one is the long, long rendering times.
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Old September 23rd, 2010, 06:17 PM   #11
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Steve, I love your bird shots. I marvel at the number of species you have there. I like to just sit back and watch the birds. After watching it a number of times I finally think I found the cartooning effect. Having spent some time in Boca, I feel your heat. Bob
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