semester 2, year 3
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II. special effects

summary

This SFX module introduces you to the concepts and practice of Special Effects.
During the module you will plan and create a range of Special Effects, using digital video and professional level software. The module will cover a range of techniques, categorised as Digital Painting, Restoration, Matte Creation, Animated Rotosplines and Motion Tracking. Within this module, you will work in groups, although you will work individually on written evaluative tasks.

module leader

monday 1.30pm – 5.00pm
andy bossom
room 106/108

aims and outcomes

aims

  • To introduce you to the main techniques and tools available for computer based Special Effects.
  • To facilitate an understanding of the terminology of Special Effects in the production and postproduction industries.
  • To facilitate an understanding of the aesthetics of ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ Special Effects.
  • To facilitate the development of a socio-historical framework within which the student can discuss the nature of Special Effects.
  • To give experience in applying these concepts to the stages of the Special Effects process.

outcomes

On successful completion of the module you will have:

  1. Planned and produced a Special Effects shot created from a detailed storyboard and notes, using digital video and professional software
  2. Demonstrated an understanding of the technical requirements of the production of a fully realised Special Effects project.
  3. Demonstrated the technical vocabulary of Special Effects through a presentation.
  4. Have an understanding of the basic software tools and be able to use editing and digital video post-production software at an appropriate level

module content

In lectures we will be looking at a wide range of Special Effects topics. There will be extensive examples of both historical and modern special effects.
Exploration of professional-standard software and individual experimentation will be encouraged and supported in the workshops. There will also be one to one tutorials.

learning Sessions

(subject to change – here as indication)
Session 1
Topic – Introduction to the module
Key Concepts/Issues – Module content and requirements.
The SFX team
Workshop: Editing and preparing movie clips.
Teaching/Learning
The roles of the SFX team. Group work, its benefits and pitfalls.
File formats, resolutions and file sizes.
Mini DV.
Importing, preparing and viewing digital video clips.
Relevance to Assignments
Organisation of the groups for assignments 1 and 2.
Gathering the raw materials for the special effect.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc. Note down any special effects you see in movies/TV – can you work out how they might be done? Start generating ideas for your own project.

Session 2
Topic – A brief history of SFX
Key Concepts/Issues – background of SFX over the last century.
To familiarise students with the interface and characteristics of Adobe After Effects’.
Teaching/Learning
After Effects – the basics
Relevance to Assignments
Acquiring software skills.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue brainstorming ideas individually.

Session 3
Topic – Sound and Pirate Jenny
Exploring the addition of music and sound to add emotion and enhance the message of an animation. A special presentation
Artist, musician, writer and original Renaissance man Nick Ellis will present his multimedia musical production Pirate Jenny, with special emphasis on the technical difficulties of synchronising sound, and discussing possible solutions.
Key Concepts/Issues
Creating masks.
Teaching/Learning
Step-by-step demonstration of software.
Relevance to Assignments
Further acquisition of software skills.
‘The storyboard’ handout
A blank storyboard for your rough ideas
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Prepare a storyboard and plan your work.

Session 4
Topic – Invisible and visible special effects
Key Concepts/Issues – Tutorial session
Teaching/Learning
Each student must bring a storyboard for a short SFX shot, based on an idea discussed at a group meeting.
Relevance to Assignments
Idea generation and planning of special effect.
Session Preparation: Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with software experimentation.
Start to research how you are going to achieve the special effects necessary to complete your SFX piece.

Session 5
Topic – ‘Industrial Light and Magic’ Part 1
Key Concepts/Issues – Colour effects
Teaching/Learning – Adding tints, changing colours on clips.
Grading colours to add atmosphere and effect.
Grading multiple movie clips for compositing.
Relevance to Assignments
Further acquisition of software skills
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with development of SFX piece.
Make sure you communicate with the other group members – remember, communication is the key to success in group projects.

Session 6
Topic – Motion capture and motion tracking
Key Concepts/Issues – To discuss uses of motion tracking on movie clips.Teaching/Learning
Motion tracking to correct camera shake.
Relevance to Assignments
Individual guidance for assignment 1.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Each group should now compromise their ideas from the tutorial on week 4 and have created a final storyboard. The final storyboard should be brought along to the next tutorial session. The producer should also have created a weekly work schedule, and should bring it to the tutorial.
Study the ‘SFX glossary’ handout and make sure you know the technical terms for each of the techniques you plan to use.

Session 7
Topic – ‘Industrial Light and Magic’ part 2
Key Concepts/Issues
To discuss the progress of ideas for the group project.
Teaching/Learning
Presentation by groups.
Relevance to Assignments
Submission of assignment 1.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with work on assignment.

Session 8
Topic – Blue screen technique
Key Concepts/Issues – Blue screen – why is it used and how does it work?
Practical issues.
Teaching/Learning
Colour-keying.
Relevance to Assignments
Acquisition of software skills
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue working on your special effect.

Session 9
Topic – Compositing techniques
Key Concepts/Issues
Assembling the full special effect.
Teaching/Learning
Using mattes
Compositing techniques
Relevance to Assignments
Acquisition of software skills
Session Preparation Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with work on assignment.

Session 10
Topic – Behind the scenes: Creating a new reality
Key Concepts/Issues
More compositing techniques.
Teaching/Learning
Tutor support for progress of assignment.
Relevance to Assignments
Development of assignment 2.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with work on assignment.

Session 11
Topic – How were they done? An exploration of special effects in TV advertising
Key Concepts/Issues
Assembling the full special effect
Teaching/Learning
Tutor support for progress of assignment.
Relevance to Assignments
Acquisition of software skills
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with work on assignment.

Session 12
Topic – Animatronics and synthetic actors
Key Concepts/Issues
Assembling the full special effect
Teaching/Learning
Tutor support for Assignment 2..
Relevance to Assignments
Continue production of Assignment 2.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Continue with work on assignment.

Session 13
Topic – Further compositing, and troubleshooting
Key Concepts/Issues
Some final techniques.
Teaching/Learning
Tutorial support for work on assignment 2, with an emphasis on problem-solving.
Relevance to Assignments
Individual guidance for Assignment 2.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc.
Finalise production of assignment 2.
By the beginning of next week you should have a complete special effect to present in lecture and workshop sessions.

Session 14
Topic – Student presentations
Key Concepts/Issues
Presenting the completed special effects.
Teaching/Learning
Presentation.
Relevance to Assignments
Submission of Assignment 2.
Session Preparation; Independent Learning Activities; pre-reading, post-reading etc
Finalise Assignment 2.

learning resources

Books:
COTTA VAZ M and DUIGNAN P – Industrial Light and Magic – Into the Digital Realm, Virgin, 1996
Expensive, but a fantastic insight into the work of ILM, with pages of colour plates.

Magazines:
CINEFEX. Published quarterly at PO BOX 20027, Riverside, California 92516.
Available from Forbidden Planet, New Oxford Street
CINEFANTASTIQUE. Published monthly at 7240 W Roosevelt Rd, Forest Park, IL 60130.
Available from Forbidden Planet, New Oxford Street
SFX. Published monthly by Future Publishing, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath, BA1 2BW.
Available from Forbidden Planet, New Oxford Street and most Newsagents.
POST UPDATE. Published monthly by MDI, 3 St Peters Street, Islington Green, London, N1 8JD

journals, databases, Websites
http://www.duboi.com/htmengl/e_base.htm
http://www.cinesite.com/
http://www.cinefex.com/home.html
http://user.cs.tu-berlin.de/~rtgtu/SPECIAL.HTM
http://www.framestore.com/

learning activities

In the SFX module, the learner will encounter a variety of learning activities: Lectures, practical workshops, demonstrations and periods of self study (we recommend 12 hrs per week). Thus we encourage a variety of learning styles.

Lectures will serve to disseminate ideas and information, demonstrations, step by step exercises and one to one tutorials help to develop the learner’s practical and conceptual skills in the workshops. The specific advice and guidance given in the tutorials is often the starting point for further research in the self study time. The module is supported by appropriate LSDS sessions

assignment 1

Presentation and completed storyboard
Briefing date: Week 1
Due date: Week 7 – 21th march 2011 – presentations begin at 1.30pm
Weighting 30%

In your production groups you are required to do a 10 minute presentation of your SFX project. The presentation should give a clear and final indication on how your special effects shot (assignment 2) will look.
In communicating your ideas and intentions (using storyboards, sketches, rushes, tryouts, etc,) you are expected to use and demonstrate clearly an understanding of the of relevant terminology related to production and special effects post production techniques.

How are you expected to prepare and complete this assignment?
You will need to explore the software early in the module, in your own time (we suggest ten hours a week). Keep in close contact with your group and tackle problems as soon as possible.
Archiving: make sure that each group member has a full copy of the most recent version of the work. Projects can be seriously jeopardised when one group member holds the only copy of a key piece of work and they fail to turn up to the session.

These are the criteria that you will be assessed upon:
• a successful presentation which clearly communicates the intended special effect
• a storyboard demonstrating that the project has been adequately planned
• evidence that the group works effectively together as a team
• a concept that is both exciting and innovative
• the appropriate use of special effects terminology

grading criteria 1

This is how standards/grades will be determined:
Fail 0 – 19
Fails to communicate a message.
The research is irrelevant and a concept non-existent.
Shows crucial omissions in content.
The product displays little evidence that the team have made contact.
20 – 39
Fails almost entirely to communicate a message, usually through a mixture of lack of effort, poor organisation and inattention to detail.
There is no evidence of co-operation between team members.
Pass 40 – 49
The presentation will be poorly structured and often confused.
The storyboard will be scrappy and poorly executed.
The group give a basic insight into individual roles but are unable to work within them.
The basic concept is conventional and shows lack of real effort
A very basic understanding and confused use of special effects terminology
50 – 59
Overall a fairly successful presentation.
The storyboard will be of adequate standard but there may be problems with structure or design which leads to confusion in parts.
The group give some insight into individual roles and generally present as a team.
The concept will be conventional in nature and demonstrate adequate research.
A general understanding and less- appropriate use of special effects terminology
60 – 69
Overall a successful presentation.
The storyboard will be of adequate standard, and will communicate the finished movie.
The group are able to define individual roles and present as a team.
The concept will be good, perhaps lacking the excitement of a first.
A good understanding and appropriate use of special effects terminology
70 – 79
This will be a very successful presentation.
The storyboard will be of good standard, and will communicate the finished movie.
The group are able to clearly define individual roles and present as a team.
The concept will be both exciting and innovative.
An excellent understanding and appropriate use of special effects terminology
80 – 100
This will be an exceptional presentation.
The group are able to clearly define individual roles and present as a team.
The storyboard will be of professional standard, and very clearly communicate the finished movie.
The concept will be very exciting and totally original.
An excellent understanding and appropriate use of special effects terminology

assignment 2

The Presentation
Briefing date: Week 1
Due date: Week 14 Monday 23rd May 2011 – 1.30pm
Weighting 70%

As part of a group, you will produce a QuickTime Movie, which will demonstrate your Special Effects shot.
It should be a maximum length of 750 frames (30 seconds). The presentation size is 1280 x 720.

The movie MUST be developed from a proposal discussed at the tutorial on week 4 and formal presentation in week 7
The final group Special Effect proposal will be in the form of a DETAILED storyboard, including written notes describing any music, voice-overs, sound effects and colour effects.
Students may be asked to demonstrate their Special Effects shots on a computer / video and individually answer questions on its development.

Checklist of assignment 2 items for submission:
1. Your team SFX Movie, on DVD. [50%] 2. A completed peer assessment form [10%] 3. A 500 word essay clearly stating your role in the finished movie. [20%] 4. An electronic workbook demonstrating your individual experimentation. [20%]

These are the criteria that you will be assessed upon:
• A detailed storyboard supporting the development of the movie
• Evidence that the group works effectively together as a team
• The work is technically competent
• The work achieves the aim and is complete
• The concept is both exciting and innovative
• The finished product is seamless and believable.

How are you expected to prepare and complete this assignment?
As for Assignment One, continued communication between team members is vital.
This is a complex project and devising a clear archiving/file naming system early is vital for success..

grading criteria 2

This is how standards/grades will be determined:
Fail 0 – 19
Fails to communicate a message.
The research is irrelevant and a concept non-existent.
Shows crucial omissions in content.
The product displays little evidence that the team have made contact.
20 – 39
Fails almost entirely to communicate a message, usually through a mixture of lack of effort, poor organisation and inattention to detail.
There is no evidence of co-operation between team members.
Pass 40 – 49
The storyboard supports the development and completion of your movie
The group are able to define individual roles but are unable to work within them
The work is poorly structured and technically flawed
The work does achieve its aim, but only partially
The concept is uninspiring, unimaginitive and conventional
50 – 59
The storyboard supports the devlopment and completion of your movie
The group were able to work together at a superficial level
The work is technically competent
The work is successful in meeting its aim but there are problems with structure
The concept of the piece is clear and its development clearly documented
The finished piece is believable but clearly made from separate elements
60 – 69
The storyboard supports the development and completion of your movie
The group were able to define individual roles and work as a team
The work is technically competent
The work achieves its aim, and with clarity
The concept of the piece is good and its development clearly documented
The finished piece is seamless and believable
70 – 79
All of the above, plus:
The team members were able to utilise their strengths to great advantage
80 – 100
All of the above, plus:
The concept of the piece is totally original – a special effect never attempted before.

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