VFX project: Planning and filming

I spent today planning for my VFX project. I made my plans and risk assessments, and then set off with my friends and started filming on location at Hylton Castle, because most of the group wanted to film there. I then started to panic that my footage couldn’t be filmed there, so I filmed some backup footage incase I couldn’t get around to my originally intended project.

I originally planned to for my project to be based on Silent Hill, and my plan was to film a pan shot of a room and then edit the room slowly turning dark and make the walls cover in darkness and change like the walls in Silent Hill, because I like horror games and the idea of making  environmental changes appeals to me most. I made a basic risk assessment and plan for this project

Environment project plan

Then, when we were filming at Hylton Castle, I got worried that I didn’t have any footage, so I filmed a short clip based on a cutscene in Persona 3 where the protagonist shoots themself in the head to unlock their persona. I am interested in playing the Persona games, so I figured this was relevant, however this is currently a backup plan, because it doesn’t feel wise to have footage in my portfolio of me shooting myself in the head, and I am not 100% sure on how to go about this, however here is some planning and a risk assessment, incase I decide to go ahead with this project.

Persona project plan.PNG

Eventually, I will make some storyboards for whichever of these projects I decide to go ahead with, however I will probably include this in an update to the post.


Making magic happen with After Effects

Today I worked on making and animating some magic effects for Yoda. I got some footage of Yoda, and started to make a mandala effect (similar to the ones from Doctor Strange because I like the style) which I will eventually couple with a particle effect.

I made this magical effect by first typing some lines of random letters. I then duplicated and resized so that they would look a bit different (even though this didn’t really work out as I anticipated because they all look the same size). I then added in some solid lines, duplicated, and resized those too, and fitted them between the lines. Then, I precomposed them, and added them into a new composition so that I could make it separately from the footage.

I then added the effect ‘Polar Coordinates’ to this, which made it into a circle shape. I then moved onto making the middle thing. I made a new shape layer and made some shapes into a cool pattern. I then added a repeater to this, and played around with the settings to make it look vortex like in the centre.


I then animated the words to spin around, and brought this effect into the yoda footage. I then positioned it so that it would appear from his hand, and then added fractal noise and broken edges, and then a blue glow effect. After this, I made a new solid and drew some area around the mandala pattern. I then added a mask, feathered the edges and brought down the opacity to make it transparent. Then, for some added flair, I brought in a particle effect of some smoke, and set the mode to colour dodge.

VFX Storyboarding

Today I started to put together a storyboard for the VFX shoot we have coming up. I spent best part of today’s lesson making moodboards, and visualising and planning what I would like to do.

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I then spent some time planning and thinking out what I am going to do. My plan is to make environmental changes to a room or area, rather than using effects to make things that look like magical attacks or lightsabers like everyone else. My idea is heavily inspired by Silent Hill, and by Resident Evil 7, because both of these games make huge environmental changes over the course of the games, and I would like to make a similar level of destruction to a room as these games. I want to take the black, mossy biohazard effect from RE7, because I like the spooky deteriorated look it gives the environment, and I also want to take a small amount of inspiration from Silent Hill, because I want it to look a little bit like when the sirens go off in the game, and things start to look twisted and different. I’m thinking my plan so far is to maybe walk into the room, and everything could look normal, but then maybe look around the room and a similar thing to the SH sirens could happen, and all of a sudden the room changes entirely and becomes this destroyed, ruined version of the room.

So far, I haven’t actually made a storyboard yet, and so I will update this post when I have sketched out a storyboard for this shoot.

Skin replacement with After Effects

Today I learned how to use mocha tracker to trace a path and make an effect that looks like there is a glow moving around underneath a person’s skin. The first thing I did was use Mocha tracker to track the motion path of the lady’s left cheek, and pasted it into a layer  in After Effects. I then made the effect using different layer transparencies and blur effects on the veins that I added in to make it look like they are underneath her skin. I used a solid layer to make a mask where I wanted the effect to be (her left cheek) and feathered it so that it looks like it is fading into normal skin around the edges. I used an effect called ‘Fractal Noise’ to make the cloudyness for that green part that is underneath the big vein layers, and masked it in using a feather mask so that it looks sort of natural (at the time it wasn’t bright green). I then attached the motion path data to my effect so that it moved with her left cheek in time and looked (slightly) realistic. The last thing I did was add the colour correction effect ‘curves’ to the glow edit underneath so that I could make it look how I wanted, and I also added a small amount of colour correction to the overall footage to give everything more complementary colours and slightly more definitive shadows, and finally I duplicated the darker shadow’s layer so that they were more dark and stood out more.


Overall I am very happy with how this turned out. I like that it follows the path correctly and I like the way it looks. The only thing that I don’t really like is that the feathering on the mask layer makes the veins go slightly off the edge of her face, and I couldn’t make it look good without losing most of the feathering, and the feathering is much more important than that minor detail so it isn’t too big a deal, the easy way to fix that would be to draw a new mask, but I don’t know how to do that without having to restart, so it is a problem I can deal with. If I could improve this, I would firstly, fix that minor detail, and secondly, work out how to make the green effect move to make it look like it is alive and dangerous, I think that would be cool but I didn’t manage to work it  out during lesson time.

Matte painting with After Effects

Today I learned about matte painting and bringing things into After Effects to alter an image. I first made some mood boards to get some ideas together for my basis. I made a moodboard for ruined buildings taken over by greenery and nature admittedly mostly based on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild), and I made another one based on a ruined Tokyo landscape.

I then went into After Effects to make something. First I got a baronland landscape, then brought in a picture of some streets in Tokyo. Using the pen tool, I cut out what I wanted, added a feather mask, and did some colour correction on the picture to make it fit into the scene better. I then added a  Gaussian blur to it, to blur the lights and make it look distant. I also brought in a picture of some corrosion, upped the transparency, and made a mask around it and put that picture over the streets, to make them look like there is a dust cloud around them. I then added in the birds using the ‘Multiply’ effect on the bird layer itself to remove the white background. And I then used the same feather mask tool to add in the rock that is in the foreground. The last thing I did was add colour correction curves to the desert layer and the rock to bring out the reds a little bit and pull back the blues a little bit.


I think this worked out really well for my first time matte painting. Admittedly I got a lot of help making this, because at the start I didn’t have a clue what to do. I really like how it turned out, I think it looks really cool and I like that it looks somewhat realistic. I think my only nitpick is that I didn’t mask the rock so well because there is a small rock, but it’s a super minor detail so I’m not beating myself up over it. I think if I could improve, I would just add more things into it, maybe add more streets into the city, or more rocks around in the sand.


Sky replacement

Today we learned how to replace the sky on some footage with After Effects. The first way of doing it was to use linear colour key. I imported I used linear wipe on the sky I wanted to add, changed the angle to 0, and the transition to 30, then feathered it as much as seemed fitting. Then, I added linear colour key to the top picture and used the drop tool to chose the blue colour of the sky. Then, played with the softness and tolerance to make it look natural.

Blue sky.png

I first tested a blue sky, then decided to make an evening sky to test my skill. For the evening sky, I made a new solid and parented it to the top layer, then chose a colour for it from the sunset, and added the “hue” mode to it, so that it added an orangey glow to the trees and grass


I then learned a new approach to replacing the sky, the colorama effect. Duplicate the image 3 times, then change the trkMat for the second image to Luma inverted Matte. Then pre-compose the top image, and use using the colorama effect to greyscale the picture, and adjust the blacks and whites. Then make a black solid, tick the eye, then use the pen tool to cover any white spots. Then tick the eye and go back.


Put the new sky inbetween the second and last image. Then pre-compose the top two images, and add a matte choker to it, to take away the white lines around the buildings. Then I added the curves effect to play with the colour channels, and I made the ground darker and brought out the blue.

Night colorama replacement.png

I had some problems with the colorama effect. For some reason my screen kept shrinking, and the first time I tried, my whole first picture went entirely red, so I  started over and that didn’t happen again.

Studio research: Square Enix

Square Enix was founded on the 22nd of September, 1975 in Shinjuku, Japan. Square Enix was created in a merger between the two companies, Squaresoft and Enix, and has partnerships with companies such as Marvel, Disney, Nintendo, and smaller companies such as Machine Zone (a mobile game company), and is also the parent company of Eidos, creators of the Tomb Raider franchise. Some of Square Enix’s most popular games are the Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Tomb Raider, Hitman, and Life is Strange. In the UK, most of the available jobs are community management and PR jobs, however digging deeper into job searching I was able to find animation jobs and CG movie programmers and renderers (with Visual Works, the company that makes the cutscenes). I would love to apply for a character animation role (however most of these jobs are in Japan so it seems unrealistic for now).

For 3D character animation, the site I found specifies that you need experience in creating animation with 3D tools, with preferred qualifications being understanding how to use Maya and Motionbuilder, and having an understanding of real-time graphics technology and understanding rigging. Once I have finished this course, I will be able to offer experience with Maya, and hopefully I’ll be much better at animation, although once I finish this course I am hoping to go on to university to learn more about animation. Square Enix created one of my favourite game franchises, Kingdom Hearts, and I also loved Life is Strange, although another of my other favourite game companies is Nintendo (mostly for the Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing). Square Enix don’t tend to market themselves with TV adverts much, their biggest form of advertisement is usually through ads on Youtube or pop up adds on related websites, and also with interviews.