Tuesday, April 24, 2018

After Effects can be User-Friendly with the Right Co-Pilot


I've been putting storyboard reels and cinematic together since I had my first taste of iMovie years ago on the Mac. It was easy scanning art and dropping each frame into the timeline, adjust the duration of each frame, adding animation like zoom in or out, and previewing clips. 

It wasn't long when I jury rigged an analog video camera to behave like an overhead shooter similar to the one we used to shoot rough tests at Disney. My set-up was far less sophisticated and used an analog converter to digitize the files. The quality was far from high def, the lighting was OK, not perfect - even though I used discarded Disney studio light fixtures. Once the audio track and and sound FX were added, making storyboard reels at home became a labor of love. 

Fast forward a few years into Electronic Arts, where as Art Director I had access to only one editing program  - After Effects.  I started experimenting as much as possible, making cinematic reels and sizzle videos for whatever game I was Art Directing. Cinematic reels were something unprecedented at the Tiburon studio and they were well received for the most part. Cool camera angles and dramatic lighting told a story, captured the flavor of the game, and offered excitement to a previously non-cinematic sports franchises. Used primarily as a cinematic editing tool, the basic features of AE were all I needed to create a "Wow" factor. Working with great animators, modelers and game capture footage gave me a film-making experience I will never forget. 


Years later I would teach a film editing class at the College of Westchester, NY - not with After Effects but with another editing software I had used in my freelance assignments. Final Cut Pro is much easier when compositing frames and clips, while After Effects gets more bandwidth with effects. I've often used a two step pipeline when designing videos. First, I finalize the edits and timing in Final Cut, then applying SPFX in After Effects. 

I was able to add different animations to my Tony Santo Creative Logo, which I used to bookend each of my ten second reels which I call "Tony's Ten." 

Starting out simple, I learned more sophisticated techniques later. My logo animations include a laser blasting away at a concrete surface to reveal my logo etched in stone, displacement maps of smoke and lens ripples, digital glitches, back-lit spotlights, glows and other enhancements.

I owe a big thanks to Andrew Kramer at Video Copilot.net for his outstanding tutorials in After Effects. His concise explanations are peppered with a small dose of humor which makes him a rare breed in the tutorial landscape. http://www.videocopilot.net/


Andrew, you know what I am thinking. You are "funny AND good-looking!"

It's been a blast breathing new life into my logo design, bringing enthusiasm to each new ten second reel. Integrating them in my promo reels, mailers, and social media posts has brought a renewed zeal to my promo efforts. 

If you haven't seen the animations, you can find them all at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkd4LjboU99ql7mezvdBHkA or page turn back to my October Media Hygiene 2017 post to start from the beginning.

Meanwhile, if you want to brighten up your day with some After Effects tutorials, visit Andrew Kramer on video copilot.net.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tony's Ten #10: China Broadway Concept Set Designs



All it takes is Ten Seconds to see my latest storyboards in a series of reels I call "Tony's Ten."

This week, I'm sharing set designs I did for several theater performances to appear on stage in China. These interactive sets would immerse the audience by allowing them to inhabit each set as the story unfolds, essentially making them part of the story. The beautiful landscapes of the Chinese mountains were part of my inspiration, as was traditional Chinese architecture.

I designed the logo animation in After Effects, using displacements maps, glows, and other effects. 

Music is the B-52's "Song for a Future Generation" off the "Whammy" album.

Ten Reels, Ten Weeks, Ten Seconds.

Friday, March 2, 2018

X-Files Season 11: The Truth is Under Our Noses

May I take your order? 
For a series whose moniker has been “The Truth is Out There” the X-files has never delivered clear answers to the alien and government conspiracies that silently undermine our freedom. Viewers are ultimately inspired to question what truths are real, what are an illusion and what consequence those mysteries portend.

This week’s Season 11 episode 7 titled “Rm9sbG93ZXJz”, queries the role we play in the automated digital landscape. The result is one of the most entertaining stand-alone X-Files episodes to emerge in the last two seasons. It is as stylish as it is ironic, and queries our complicity in the pervasive world of pop-culture/socio-economic techno-conformity.

Mulder and Scully are a long way from the Automat

"Nyaah, see, that's right, it's coitans for you Rocky, see?"

As Mulder and Scully sit alone at the counter of an automated sushi restaurant, they play on their cell phones - no dialogue spoken - and order sushi meals off the counter’s touch pad. Conveyer belts deliver their meals while the agents receive notifications on their cell phones. They are as irritating to Scully as they are in real life to me. She repeatedly dismisses each notice with a finger swipe. Mulder decides his meal of blob fish, which looks like Bugs Bunny’s Edward G. Robinson design, is unpalatable and unsuccessfully tries to send it back to the kitchen. Unimpressed by the robo-dining experience, he declines a credit card tip.  That’s when things get really fishy.

My meal is good, Mulder.  How is your's?
Mulder’s snub propels a hive-minded network of digital intelligence to threaten he and Scully at every turn.

The result is one of the most entertaining stand-alone X-Files episodes to emerge in the last two seasons. It is as stylish as it is ironic, and queries our complicity in the pervasive world of pop-culture/socio-economic techno-conformity.

In case you change your mind you have 3.5 hours to leave a tip.
Uber-ish robot cars, automated personal voice assistants, security systems, surveillance drones, data collecting Roomba vacuums, GPS trackers and web commerce aggregators all threaten Mulder and Scully’s sense of control. To add insult to injury, the agents can’t even listen to their music selections or access a financial representative on the phone.

“The Truth is Out There,” all right. In fact, it’s right under our noses.  


Whipz is reminiscent of the johny-cab in "Total Recall"
In our myopia we don’t see that we unwittingly give up part of our humanity, the way we relate to one another, in favor of automation, convenience, amusement, narcissism, and an all-enveloping compulsion to be part of the established digital “collective.” We all “need” Facebook accounts for personal or business reasons, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, et al.

We willingly give our information to these sites, and the users that frequent them. But in doing so we don’t clearly realize we are giving away what we control.

Dana Scully's security password? Don't call her Ishmael.
We are traceable everywhere we drive, everywhere we use our credit cards, every web site we visit. We are told how much tax we owe, how much we must pay for health care, and what medicines are allowed.  We respond to the latest software updates, without which our GPS can’t compute directions or measure how far we have jogged this morning.

The X-files has reminded us that the truth is indeed out there. It’s under our noses and all around us.  We have bought into a smorgasbord of technology and allowed the entrees to enslave us, all the while perpetuating the illusion that we are in control of the menu.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tony's Ten #9: Pen and Ink/Watercolor Illustrations for History Channel's "SIX."



These pen and ink/watercolor illustrations were designed for the History Channel show "Six" last year, as a tribute to WW1 Veterans. The rigors of extended combat are stressful and taxing regardless of when or where they occur.

It's great to break out traditional art supplies for an assignment, as a break from digital media. Although I love digital painting and drawing, switching to traditional tools is a great motivator for me to keep developing my skills.

The Bob Dylan's song "Not Dark Yet" is used for the music track. 

All it takes is Ten Seconds to see my latest storyboards in a series of reels I call "Tony's Ten."


Ten Reels, Ten Weeks, Ten Seconds.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tony's Ten #8 - Alien Surveilance



In this latest in my series of "Tony's Ten" Story Reels, I've shared a sequence from a movie pitch I designed for a well-established commercial director. The frames were designed loose on purpose, crafted quickly with Storyboard Pro to describe the mood of the story.

The Moody Blues "Veteran Cosmic Rocker" provides the audio, which I think speaks to the grandeur of the overall character arc (I'm sure you'd agree if I could read you the script).

Tony's Ten:
All it takes is Ten Seconds to see my latest storyboards in a series of reels I call "Tony's Ten."

Ten Reels, Ten Weeks, Ten Seconds.

Check out my storyboard site at www.tonysanto.com

Friday, January 19, 2018

Tony's Ten Reel # 7: Car Action Chase



This week's storyboard reel is the seventh in a series I call "Tony's Ten."

It's a bit longer than 10 Seconds, however.

I had so much fun compositing the frames from a movie pitch I did with Tony Kaye, (especially with the inclusion of the irresistible theme song by Barry Gray from the television series "UFO") that I decided to bend the rules. I hope you will be glad I did.

All boards were designed in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and composited with Final Cut Pro. My Logo and iterations of it were animated in After Effects. The Tony Santo Logo was designed by Tom Lynch (he hates the change I made to the "O"), and constructed in Adobe Illustrator.

Tony's Ten:
All it takes is Ten Seconds to see my latest storyboards.

Ten Reels, Ten Weeks, Ten Seconds.

Check out my storyboard site at www.tonysanto.com

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tony's Ten #6 - Favorite Cable Shows and Ads

In this, the Sixth in a series of Storyboard Reels I call "Tony's Ten," I share my tribute to some of my favorite Cable shows.



The Batman themed frame was designed for a trade show performance. Outlander and Houdini were advertising comps and storyboards. The Planet of the Apes design I made for a self-promotional tee shirt release simultaneously with the newer POTA films.

I used The Clash's "Death or Glory" tune for the audio. It's anthem-like quality compliments how I feel about my favorite shows.

All it takes is Ten Seconds to see my latest storyboards in "Tony's Ten."

Ten Reels, Ten Weeks, Ten Seconds.

Check out my storyboard site at www.tonysanto.com