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Production Values

by Mark Christiansen

Mark Christiansen is the author of After Effects Studio Techniques (Adobe Press). He has created visual effects and animations for feature films including Pirates of the Caribbean 3, The Day After Tomorrow and films by Robert Rodriguez. Past corporate clients include Adobe, Cisco, Sun, Cadence, Seagate, Intel and Medtronic, and broadcast work has appeared on HBO and the History Channel. Mark's roles have included producing, directing, designing and effects supervision, and his solo work has appeared at film festivals including L.A. Shorts Fest....

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MOX and Open-Source Video

Noted developer launches Indiegogo campaign to create a universal video playback format

By Mark Christiansen | October 24, 2014

Earlier this week Brendan Bolles launched an Indiegogo campaign to support a six month development effort that would result in a new open-source video format called MOX. I had the opportunity to interview Brendan about the project, and the full transcript of the interview follows.

MOX... Read More


The VFX Business in 2014: an interview with Scott Ross, Part Two

The VFX Business in 2014: an interview with Scott Ross, Part Two

As the last major VFX studio in Los Angeles leaves town, we look what could change current trends

By Mark Christiansen | June 10, 2014

At the close of last week, Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) announced it would be moving its headquarters from Los Angeles to Vancouver. While inevitable to many visual effects industry observers who understand the role of subsidies in moving VFX work away from California and the U.S., this... Read More


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The VFX Business in 2014: an interview with Scott Ross, Part One

In which we look at where things are headed in the wake of recent events

By Mark Christiansen | May 30, 2014

A little over a year ago we ran an interview with Scott Ross regarding the state of the visual effects business on ProVideoCoalition. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Scott recently for a conversation about what, if anything has changed in the VFX business since then.

What... Read More


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Wait and CC

You know the basic storyline, even if the facts are still emerging. We decided it was time to revisit the topic.

By Mark Christiansen | October 31, 2013

Earlier this year Adobe committed to a customer strategy that can accurately be described as bold.

The Creative Cloud offering rather abruptly shifted the Adobe customer relationship to a subscription model, with access to most Adobe software possible only with payment of a monthly fee. We are now month to month. Depending on who you talk to, it is an incredible deal with vastly improved fexibility or a loathesome burden with handcuffs.

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Cinefex Magazine, the craft of visual effects, and you

A Kickstarter campaign bringing 30 years of effects history to the iPad

By Mark Christiansen | July 22, 2013

Readers of this post fortunate enough to have attended film school had the opportunity to study the masters of crafts from directing and cinematography to lighting and scene design. Look at the most influential work being done today, and you can't help but notice that it's dominated by a newer, but no less major creative force: visual effects. It’s an art which truly began in its current form with the revolution that was Star Wars, and it was in the great wake of that mother of all blockbusters that Cinefex Magazine was founded to cover the revolution in detail, beginning in 1980.

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How the Hackintosh Suddenly Caught Fire

Anarchy amid the abdication of Mac Pro

By Mark Christiansen | April 03, 2013

Yes, it literally caught fire.

This is the story of one man’s experience assembling and running a Hackintosh. For anyone unaware of this illicit, but not yet forbidden alternative to the Mac Pro and alterative systems from Apple, it is a custom-built computer - one which would... Read More


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VFX Workers Next Steps: Pi Day

International Town Hall Meetings (and a sea of green)

By Mark Christiansen | March 13, 2013

After a dramatic few weeks that have seen Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings for VFX Oscar winner Rhythm & Hues, VFX protests at the ceremony, along with a sea of green avatars on Twitter and Facebook, what had been proposed as walk-out for "Pi Day" is now a town hall meeting that will take... Read More


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Lessons from the Southern Wild

How I found myself on the set of a Hollywood phenomenon

By Mark Christiansen | February 19, 2013

The text came in late one evening - who could be in New Orleans immediately for VFX supervision? The call was going around San Francisco, apparently because the film had received SF Film Commission backing which stipulated hiring local artisans, despite shooting along the Gulf of Mexico. The... Read More


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Shotgun production management software deals lower-cost subscription model

Shot/Asset/Schedule tracking software moves to per-seat subscription pricing for suite of all three applications

By Mark Christiansen | February 12, 2013

Chances are that you have no first-hand experience with Shotgun, Tank or Revolver (although if you live in Texas you will no doubt initially claim to be familiar). With 400 customers worldwise, Shotgun may count as a runaway success in the VFX business while hundreds, thousands (even billions)... Read More


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Why is the VFX business failing? Questions for Scott Ross

Digital Domain founder and former ILM boss runs it down in “very simple, real terms.”

By Mark Christiansen | February 07, 2013

Q. Let’s begin with the questions I posed earlier this week. Is what is happening in VFX in 2013 any different than what is happening to any number of industries in western economies as a whole?

One big difference is that visual effects facilities providing shots for Hollywood... Read More


Why is the VFX business failing at its moment of greatest success?

Why is the VFX business failing at its moment of greatest success?

"Visual effects is Art, created in a laboratory, at gunpoint." - Ben Grossmann, VFX Oscar winner, Hugo (2012)

By Mark Christiansen | February 05, 2013

In less than 3 weeks, something like a billion viewers worldwide will look on as Life of Pi wins the award for Best Visual Effects at the 85th edition of the Academy Awards. I don't mean to ruin the surprise for you, but you don't need The Predictanator to tell you this award is a... Read More


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3D HFR and the Immersive Experience

Is Less More, or is More, in fact, More?

By Mark Christiansen | January 04, 2013


There seems little doubt that display technology and the way we experience media today won't necessarily look the same throughout the 21st century, any more than Downton Abbey looks like Enter the Void, or a zoetrope resembles Call of Duty. There are, for example,... Read More


Is After Effects for Editors?

Editors on many Hollywood productions are more valuable with After Effects skills. What's stopping them?

By Mark Christiansen | December 13, 2012

An article published last month on the Adobe Press site has sparked much discussion and a little controversy, so I think it's worth following up, starting with a clarification.

The topic clearly strikes a nerve; the article became the site's most popular for the... Read More


rd: Studio Techniques available free at

After Effects scripts previously available only with copies of After Effects Studio Techniques are now available to all.

By Mark Christiansen | December 07, 2012

This week, Jeff Almasol (redefinery) released the set of After Effects Scripts that were previously available only as part of the content that ships with After Effects Studio Techniques. This was done not only with the author's blessing, but at my explicit suggestion. If theses scripts are... Read More


After Effects CS6 Studio Techniques: latest edition for aspiring and existing VFX professionals

After Effects CS6 Studio Techniques: latest edition for aspiring and existing VFX professionals

The book is now in its fifth (and finest) edition and available in print and as an e-book-downloadable excerpt available.

By Mark Christiansen | November 26, 2012

After Effects Studio Techniques is unique from other books on After Effects in a couple of specific ways.It is a VFX compositing book, designed to teach you the art of making a single shot believable although it is made up of disparate elements. It is also uniquely focused on intermediate and advanced usage; from Chapter 1 it is assumed that you don't need to learn the fundamentals of working in video or in After Effects that are best left to other resources, of which there are many. Professional peers have remarked that they learned useful new information right from the first chapter, and throughout the book. Read More


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Adobe Media Encoder - another hidden gem?

You already own an amazing tool to optimize all kinds of video output and streamline your workflow.

By Mark Christiansen | December 13, 2011

Suppose you wanted a perfectly useful workhorse of a video application to slip in completely under the radar and be as underutilized as possible. What would you do to kill its chances of being discovered? For starters, you would introduce an early version - the debut perhaps - that wasn't quite ready and was therefore unreliable, in terms of features and stability, in order to scare off the early adapters. You could then, if you were clever, make sure that any succeeding versions were not directly integrated with any popular applications sitting right next to it in the installation. You could make it look like it was designed primarily to create Flash videos. Finally, if you made it so fully featured that it was, in fact, challenging to easily understand - bingo, that tool would be almost forgotten!Adobe Media Encoder made an inauspicious debut with Adobe Production Premium CS4, only to be radically improved in terms of reliability, for CS5 and then radically improved again, including support for GPU acceleration and 64 bit memory handling, with its CS5.5 update. Read More


After Effects Script of the Week: Add Parented Null to Each Selected Layer

A simple script to do a simple thing, simply, and a good learner script to set your own variables.

By Mark Christiansen | October 31, 2011

Past (and future) scripts of the week involve custom UI's and detailed feature sets. We're a few months into this series and there are some huge ones I haven't even covered yet, because I also want to give weight to the ones that simply convert half a dozen steps into one.This week's SotW is a two-fer: Add Parented Null to Each Selected Layer, and Add Parented Null to Selected Layers. The former adds a null at the center of the comp to each layer that you select prior to running it directly from File > Scripts. The latter differs only in that it creates a single null for all selected layers. Read More


after effects dynamic link mercury premiere pro warp stabilizer

Use Dynamic Link to bring Warp Stabilizer to Premiere Pro CS5.5

Editors can take advantage of advanced stabilization in Premiere Pro CS5.5

By Mark Christiansen | October 30, 2011

The Dynamic Link process to stabilize a Pr clip in AE begins in the Pr timeline.

Warp Stabilizer was arguably the biggest addition to After Effects CS5.5. Once you understand how to use it, it's a tool that can change the way you shoot; if you find yourself without a tripod or any kind of stabilization with a camera as notoriously unsteady as a DSLR, even on a moving shot, you can end up with footage that can look as if a dolly or SteadiCam were used to take it.For editors and shooters who work more in Premiere Pro than in AE, this is clearly a case where Dynamic Link, the technology bridge between the two apps, is useful. Warp Stabilizer isn't part of Pr, and it is relatively straightforward for basic usage even for the casual AE user. This article not only walks you through how to achieve shot stabilization on clips in a Pr edit, but it opens the door to how to use Dynamic Link generally, for those who've wished they had a better handle on it. Read More


adobe after effects scripts

After Effects Script of the Week: Tracker2Mask

You can track a mask in After Effects.

By Mark Christiansen | October 21, 2011

Into every After Effects artist's life a little roto must fall. Although I was told there would be no roto when (name-drop alert!) I worked on Avatar, there came a point right at the end where I had to jump in on a several-hundred frame tracking shot in which foreground and background had to be separated. Tracker2Mask allowed me to leverage the tracker itself to complete this task.Tools to track a mask point are integral to compositing applications such as Discreet Flame, and the standard impression has been that no equivalent feature set exists in After Effects, despite the addition of the Shape effect that allows usage of a mask tracked in mocha for After Effects, albeit in a completely non-standard way. If the desire is simply to track a point or set of points on a mask, Shape is not the answer. Read More


After Effects Script of the Week: rd_MergeProjects

Solves a simple organizational problem when dealing with multiple projects and a consistent folder structure

By Mark Christiansen | October 15, 2011

Wow, where did the week go? Before it's too late, I have a little gem to share, a script that I myself requested and Jeff Almasol built.If you do the right thing in After Effects of creating a folder structure in the Project panel to organize assets, you will find that you have a minimum of 3, and often more than a dozen individual folders. These might be as simple as Source, Solids and Pre-comps, or they might be further divided down to have folders specifying what kind of source, and in what order/priority of pre-comp.If you're keeping this structure specific, there's a situation that will come up that MergeProjects solves: namely, what to do if you ever need to incorporate another project into your existing one. When you import a new project, all of its duplicate (redundant) folders are nested into its own source Project panel folder. Read More