cool stuff and things

Alien Invasion!

July 17, 2016

A while back I shot some 4k raw footage of the New York skyline with my Blackmagic camera. I wanted to get some footage which I could use to do some color grading tests in Resolve with. And it was also when I shot my first time lapse using the Blackmagic camera. I got a lot of really great shots, and thought it would be fun to composite in some effects. What can you do with city footage. Hmmm. Alien invasion!

I decided to create the effect in After Effects using Elment 3D. I didn't really have any good alien ship models to use, but I do have the Motion Design 2 pack. I took a bunch of cool looking models and just started combining them in "space shippy" ways. 

Some still frames from my initial pass.

I eventually got something that looked kinda like some kind of alien craft. I realized I wasn't crazy about the design, but I went with it anyway. Let's just hit the render button and see what we get. This was a 4k project, and took for EVER to render. Ultimately, I should have listened to my gut about the concerns I had for the design of the ship, because when the 14 hour render was finished, I wasn't very happy with it. It felt very fake and kind of cartoony to me. Maybe it was the textures. Maybe it was the overall design. I'm not sure. This blog is about the creative process and the jouney, and failures are part of that. So I'm going to include the render here, even though I'm not really happy with it. I wouldn't call it a complete failure, but it definitely could have used a lot more work. I took the render and did what anyone would do with a bad fx shot...I applied all kinds of aged/damaged film filters to it! (The video I uploaded has the grunge version, and then the clean version as well.)

So, I didn't want to give up on the idea, because it had been fun to work on and I really felt like I could make something much better with a bit more time.

I decided maybe I should grab another piece of NY skyline footage, maybe something with a less stylized color treatment. That caused a bit of a problem while compositing. I thought a more neutral plate, with a color grading pass added after, would have probably yielded better results. So, I decided to give that a shot. I also spent a bit more time designing a new ship.

I decided to go with more of a saucer design. I found a technique that made this fairly simple. So, once again, using Element 3D I took a bunch of tech looking models and started slapping them together. Very much as I had done before. This time, using the replicator feature, I'd make multiple copies of the single element and arrange them in a ring. This produced many cool, intricate looking shapes and designs.

A single "spoke" element which would be replicated 12x and arranged in a ring to create the saucer.

That led me to the design below. It had that classic 50's flying saucer feel, and I was kinda diggin it.  It felt like it could maybe be some kind of real craft, yet also felt a bit alien. I threw in a little alien death ray too. Because...come on...when do aliens ever come in peace?

Getting better...

I kept going and decided to continue to add more complexity to the ship, but stayed with the saucer design. I came up with something I liked a bit better, but felt like I could have kept tweaking it forever. So eventually I just called it done. I composited together this still, with some more beam effects and this time an explosion. Cause explosions make everything more awesome. I might try to go back and finish this as an animated shot, but I have other things to move on to, so this might be as far as I take it.

More death rays! And explosions!

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