Sunday, August 12, 2007

Visual Effects

Ok, more than just a little off-topic from character animation but I have to say, this just looks too good to be true. Supposedly video taped in Haiti on August 6, 2007 this clip popped up on You Tube and has gotten a lot of attention.

Approaching this as a creative project there is some nice work with color correction, lighting, and things going out of focus and then back in again. I like the design of the craft, very atypical for this kind of thing. The original camera work provides a good foundation. Camera shake is a great way to sell this kind of effect because with proper tracking it locks elements together in the frame while making the footage seem gritty and real. Trace this back to You Tube and you will find a lot of mediocre to poor attempts at faking unidentified flying objects. This clip and the one embedded below stand out from the bunch.

Not only is the image quality great but the sound is almost perfect. And that's just it. This is the key element that makes me suspicious as to the authenticity of this video is (well, ok other than the subject, but really) the sound. What every film maker should know is that sound can absolutely sell the reality/believability of animation and film. The fly-over has a wonderfully subtle Doppler effect. The sound of a woman gasping in the beginning creates a lot of value towards its authenticity. But where is the rattle and scuffle of that comes from a microphone that is embedded in or connected to the camera. There is a little of this but it just seems too clean to me.

Or, is someone going to tell me that the image and sound quality is about right for consumer hand-held digital video equipment?

Whoever is responsible for this did a nice job with the concept. For instance, I like the orchestrated pattern of craft at the very end... as if the flight pattern and arrangement is some kind of visual message to us earthlings. It reminds me of the pattern in a swimming pool waves make after they bounce off the sides and meet in the middle. Creatively, its a very nice touch.

It would seem that someone in the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic had the same equipment for capturing this kind of event, apparently on the same date, at the same time of day, on the same kind of shore-line, and facing the same compass direction as the first example. Here is the same craft as "seen" with others, supposedly on the same date in a different location.

Strange coincidence, ay? Beautiful visual effects.

Then again, you never know.



Anonymous said...

I just found the power cable for my camcorder this weekend and after looking at a lot of tape, this sound seems fairly accurate. You hear a lot of clothes rustling, nylon zip-zip, etc. I suspect that they used the camcorder footage (sound included) as a base and then added in the doppler effect.

It's neat that you mention how subtle the craft sound is. I didn't even notice it until you mentioned it and I went back to listen again.

Erik Westlund said...

hello 'anonymous',

Perhaps you are right about the sound. I'm tending to err on the side of caution and suspicion regarding this clip since I can't determine where real ends and fabrication begins. I just know where it ends up as a whole.

I've done a little sound design myself in the past. That's why I notice such details in the audio on the clip could be a complete replacement. Contemporary sound design tools can create every element in the audio track. The physics of sound is correct to my ears.

The second example at the bottom of the post has an interesting choice of ambiance by including a radio playing in the background, and I think I hear a dog barking at the very last moment, as if in reaction to what is flying around. But then again, I could be from the original footage. It just seems too well placed.

Another item that works for me in the second clip is the way the light bends around the edges of the triangular object. Great job matching real world lighting.

Ultimately, for a visual effects piece to work, in order for it to sell itself as real, it has be a complete and unified sensory experience. That is what I find so remarkable with these two clips.

blauereiter said...

That looks like the work of some pretty talent artists. Very nicely done. I am particularly impressed by the camera tracking, which is usually the first thing that gives a badly done composited shot away.

Erik Westlund said...

Yes blauereiter, the motion tracking is spot on. I can't see any differences between the flying objects and the surrounding environment.

The first clip has a complete 180 of the camera view so there isn't anything at the end of the shot that corresponds to the beginning. Motion tracking software, at least the kind with which I am familiar, uses a visual reference point (or several) that remains in the shot for the software to track against.

Without reference points that remain in the shot and a complete 180 degree change in point of view how did the artist create a composite to match the original?

Motion tracking is part of that 'complete and unified sensory experience'.