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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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apple mac quicktime video

Tip: Play Anything - YouTube included - in QuickTime Mac with Perian

Open-source tool makes QuickTime playback nearly universal - but only on a Mac.

By Mark Christiansen | April 25, 2009

The QuickTime file format can be the cause of trouble in a production pipeline, with its moving-target gamma and all-or-nothing file integrity (if there's one corrupted frame in an .mov, forget about opening it and recovering the rest). QuickTime Player Pro, however, has many great features missing from other standalone players (including the fantastic VLC); it just requires that anything it opens be readable as a QuickTime movie. Although it seems at times to support other formats, they will often tend to open blank. Wouldn't it be great to just be able to double click any moving image file and open it in QuickTime? Read More


compositing foundry nuke

NAB 2009 - The Foundry Demos 3 Upcoming Versions of Nuke

Compositing software will soon have many new features.

By Mark Christiansen | April 24, 2009

At a private demo on Wednesday, Matt Plec demonstrated several of the major new features that will be in Nuke 5.2 and 6, as well as the new NukeX. Here's what I learned. Read More


after effects book effects vfx

Tip: Preview a Chapter of After Effects Studio Techniques, Gratis

A taste test of my book is available online.

By Mark Christiansen | April 24, 2009

After Effects CS4 Visual Effects & Compositing Studio Techniques is quite a mouthful for a book title, which may explain why I often use the shorthand above. The book stands out for a couple of reasons: one is that it deals explicitly with visual effects compositing, the process of fooling the eye into thinking disparate elements were shot together. Also, there is very little in the way of beginner information in this book; it is aimed at professionals who either have used After Effects and want to improve their compositing, or compositors who want to learn to use After Effects. But is it for you? Read More


editing hardware mac software test video

Tip: Measure Drive Performance for Video on a Mac with HD Speed Test

A real-world test of external drive performance for video playback is beta freeware.

By Mark Christiansen | April 23, 2009

If you've ever searched for downloadable tools to benchmark drive performance on your Mac, you have probably ended up downloading free applications from Aja and Blackmagic. You may have realized that these applications don't offer an accurate portrait of how your drive will perform with your editing software, but until now they were the only tools publicly available for this purpose. Now there is a freeware alternative that, while still in beta, may offer a much more accurate glimpse of what is going on. Read More


after effects

Tip: The Feature Most Missing Until After Effects CS4

Tap shift for Miniflow

By Mark Christiansen | April 22, 2009

Here's a tip that won't be news to any hardcore After Effects CS4 users, but lately I've encountered artists working in CS4 who don't know about it, and to me it's like not knowing that you can switch apps on a Mac with command + tab, just like alt + tab on Windows. It's possible someone out there even just received a bonus tip. Read More


avid edit editing final cut pro footage mac premiere red

Tip: Monkey Extract Painlessly Converts R3D to QuickTime or Sequences

An alternative to Crimson Workflow for the less geeky.

By Mark Christiansen | April 21, 2009

I have advocated that - in most cases - when working with R3D files you should convert them to another format instead of attempting to preserve the R3D as long as possible. How exactly to optimally adjust footage in REDAlert and output it is the subject for a longer article that will have to wait until later, but the practical question of how to take, say, a rough cut in Final Cut Pro and convert it from R3D to QuickTimes or TIFF or DPX sequences is much more easily solved with a shareware tool called Monkey Extract. Read More



Tip: Shift Habits, Control Energy Use, Eject Waste

Get in the habit of one shortcut and save a lot of energy.

By Mark Christiansen | April 20, 2009

It's unfortunate for those of us doing the processor-intensive work of video and computer graphics that we typically disable Energy Saver settings because they can thwart renders. You'd think that the system could tell the difference between an After Effects or Maya render that requires several minutes per frame and all the little pings of low level network activity, but it seems to be a hard problem to solve. It only takes one crucial failed render to make you set "Put the Computer to Sleep" to "Never." Your displays, however, don't present this level of difficulty. Read More


after effects script

Tip: Track a Mask in After Effects with TrackerViz

Average bad tracks instead of retrying for perfect ones, attach them to mask points

By Mark Christiansen | April 19, 2009


It's Script Sunday, and today's script is so useful it made the cut and was included in the latest edition of After Effects Studio Techniques. TrackerViz was written by Charles Bordenave, the guy behind NABscripts (no apparent relation to the conference beginning this weekend), based on requests and ideas from artist Sean Kennedy. Here's an excerpt in which I describe it. Read More


quicktime time

Tip: Display Timecode or Frames in QuickTime Pro

Sometimes essential features hide right below your nose.

By Mark Christiansen | April 18, 2009

What if QuickTime Player Pro gave you other options than that counter in seconds? Think of the options - you could specify a particular frame for feedback instead of saying "it's between 1:52 and 1:53." Search source timecode of footage to look for logged clips right there instead of firing up Final Cut. Refer to frame count numbers instead of minutes and seconds. Read More


after effects nab plugins software

Tip: Warped Friday

A special tip just for today, with a surprise at the bottom.

By Mark Christiansen | April 17, 2009

You may have seen a couple of video tips to show a couple of ninja tricks with RG Corner Pin, one of the three plug-ins that makes up Red Giant's Warp plug-in set. If you encountered that post without knowing what Warp even does, today I present the top 5 ways this set beats the built-in tools, and a special deal just for today (and, well, for the tardy, tomorrow). Read More


after effects fcp

Tip: CS4 Update Actually Gets You All the Way from FCP to After Effects

It's implied by the new FCP > Premiere Pro feature; now I'm stating it.

By Mark Christiansen | April 16, 2009

Last week Matthew Jeppsen posted an article to this Adobe TV video entitled "Import FCP Projects into Adobe Premiere CS4" - today's tip is that the title could just as easily have said "Import FCP Projects into Adobe After Effects CS4" - keep watching, and the whole workflow is there. Read More


Incredible: Carousel

Philips Promotion Most Ambitious Frozen Time Shot Ever

By Mark Christiansen | April 16, 2009

You will wonder how they did this. Read More


after effects quality

Tip: Render the Impossible via Proxies in After Effects

A tax day tip, because squandering machine time is definitely taxing.

By Mark Christiansen | April 15, 2009

True story: I was animating a design that involved multiple "filmstrips" of HD video: 6 or 8 of them with a couple dozen HD clips each. I worked on it until past midnight for an early morning deadline only to realize it would never render in time; it wanted over 2 days to process all that 1080 footage. Then I remembered that I could set up a series of proxies and render those in a giant cascade. When I awoke the following morning everything was fine. Here's how. Read More


mac red

Tip: Double-click to Open R3D in REDAlert with RedPortal

Handy, free, hard-to-find utility

By Mark Christiansen | April 14, 2009

A while back (late 2007 to be exact) Anders Holck posted a Mac helper app that lets you double click an R3D file to open it in REDAlert. The link was only ever posted on reduser and disappeared at some point after it was posted. Read More


mac software video

Tip: Add “Missing” Finder Tools

Clipboard Sharing and Teleport sit in the menu bar to work between systems, while Pathfinder revolutionizes file browsing itself

By Mark Christiansen | April 13, 2009

Today's tip features two freeware and one shareware application that I've found super-helpful in a multi-Mac studio environment. Read More


after effects script

Tip: Split a Layer into a Grid in After Effects

Take your pick of a couple of free scripts to solve a tedious problem

By Mark Christiansen | April 12, 2009

Whenever you're confronted by a tedious task in After Effects - such as splitting a single layer into a grid of smaller images - I highly recommend checking whether there is already a script that can help you. In this particular case there are two. Read More


mac quality quicktime video

Tip: Get QuickTime Looking Right Without Re-Rendering

Maximize quality, de-interlace, reset aspect and more

By Mark Christiansen | April 12, 2009

I have in the past been critical of QuickTime as the standard for professional review of digital video; nonetheless, that is its status, and since you and I will be posting QuickTime movies for peers, clients and potential employers to view for the foreseeable future, we might as well get them right. Read More


after effects color gamma video

Tip: Linear Blending at Any Color Depth in After Effects

By Mark Christiansen | April 10, 2009

This tip is on the high-end of the scale for After Effects artists. If you like working in linear floating point 32-bit HDR because of the "linear" part - where images do not have a video gamma applied before being composited, so that, for example, Add mode actually works properly - you can have it without being in 32-bit. Read More


copyright stock

Tip: Make use of 21st Century Copyright Laws to Secure Elements

Creative Commons has opened the door to better sharing - but play by the rules!

By Mark Christiansen | April 09, 2009

A few years ago I found myself in need of images for an earlier edition of my book that I did not have on hand, or have any way of shooting. I needed a winter scene but was 250 miles and 2 months away from one. I needed strongly lit footage to demonstrate color matching with extreme lighting; this I could have shot, but more than just images, I needed inspiration.We've come a long way in the past decade with image sharing. Thanks to increased bandwidth the growth of the web, and fantastic photo sharing sites like flickr, you no longer have to find, stage and shoot everything yourself.Or do you? It's illegal, and uncool, to use imagery against the wishes of the user. Standard copyright law plans for this by assuming that the creator wants to retain all rights, and requires big bucks for usage. This law may be in place whether or not a work specifically states it is under copyright. Is there a better way? Absolutely. Read More


aftra digital cinema film sag television

Has the Demise of Film Been Hastened by the Impending Actors’ Strike?

That's the assertion of DP Rodney Charters, and his explanation is intriguing.

By Mark Christiansen | April 09, 2009

Episode 29 of the excellent Red Centre Podcast consists of an interview with L.A. based director of photography Rodney Charters, who makes the assertion that entertainment industry strikes have hastened the demise of film as a shooting medium."Out of 100 pilots this year," reports Charters, "only 3 are being shot on film." This is a dramatic decline from years past, a much faster rate than one would expect in the natural evolution to high-end digital shooting in the 21st century. Why?As you are probably aware, SAG has for some time been threatening to strike, having failed to come to an agreement with MPAA in 2008; after the writer's strike which cost the California economy some $2.1 billion, this has caused a good deal of consternation on the part of producers. It also apparently led to a split with AFTRA, the sister union to SAG which traditionally is the "television" unit where SAG is feature film.AFTRA's contract stipulates that shows featuring its members be shot electronically (the television link) and therefore, in order to avoid the unexpected, producers have apparently been demanding AFTRA agreements. Thus, the vast majority of new television projects, including dramatic series that would traditionally have been filmed, have been shot with cameras like Panavision Genesis, Sony F35 and RED.Whereby, according to Charters, "the actors have single-handedly killed film." Read More