Project Breakdown: BRAAINZZ - Oops.

I thought it might be neat to start a new series where I go in and break down a project I've completed in the past. We can see the final product and then peel back and get a behind the scenes look at what went into making it.

The project we'll be checking out today is a project I did for the LA based band BRAAINZZ and their song oops, which you can check the video out here.

This was all done in After Effects with a combination of found imagery that I worked with digitally as well as found materials that I would scan in at a high resolution.

Each shot was it's own After Effects composition, that I would then bring in and sequence into another main timeline that has my music track in it. That main timeline with the music would be what I would eventually render out as the finished video.

Let's use the shot that I used as the still for this article as one to dive into and dissect how it was put together.

First, obviously, we have the fabric/rug background. I can't remember if this specific one I scanned or found online, I went through a lot of rug stuff. But either way once I got the image for the background I would bring it in and pick where I would imagine my lighting to be as if I was shooting it for real.

To simulate a kind of more harsh lighting and give it a little less of a computer vibe I'd make a black solid and mask out the area where the lighting would be and feather the mask so it became very soft. Then I'd lower it's opacity down a lot, like 10 or 12 percent maybe, and see how it looked in different blend modes.

I'd then make an adjustment layer and put a Brightness/Contrast effect on it and mask the same area I had for the black solid, only the inverse of it so the shadow was on the outside and the Brightness/Contrast was on the inside. I'd feather that mask as well and then turn the Brightness/Contrast up a tiny bit, maybe 3 or 5 degrees.

This gave it a little bit more inconsistent lighting across the entire shot, making it feel more hands on and less digital.

Now that I have the super subtle nobody will notice but me lighting effects I can start adding the elements in. These are all going to live above the background but below the black solid and adjustment layers I've made.

Next I used found footage of the wedding couple dancing but I put a mask onto it to and moved the corners of the mask so the edges of the video weren't perfectly straight, to give it a little bit more of an old photo feel.

To give it a little bit more of a frame by frame vibe, I added the Posterize Time effect to slow down it's frame rate a tad, although I didn't have to do it that much since it was old film. For other video clips in the project I used that effect a lot more strongly.

Next for the sign language hands I found an old chart of sign language and their corresponding letters and cut it up into little individual images in Photoshop. I used the Polygonal Lasso tool so that I wouldn't have a perfect square for each picture, to go with that hand done feel.

Then I brought all the images in and used the technique of dragging them all into the New Composition button to have After Effects sequence them for me automatically.

Finally we get to the motorcycle accident photo. This was by far the most intensive image to work on for this shot. The photo is it's own pre-composition that contains another 12 layers within it.

In it I have the original photo of the accident as the base layer that I have a Curves effect on just to tweak it's color a little bit. On top of that I have 11 layers of the lights. I would find clips on YouTube of police and fire truck light product demonstrations (which I originally had no idea was a thing) and take them into After Effects and cut out each individual light from a sequence that I liked using masking.

I'd then take them and feather out the mask a little bit and place them on top of where they should go in the photo to add the movement to the still lights that were present.

Once I had them all laid out, I would apply a Glow effect to them and make it very soft and very wide, to make the lights look like they were glowing the area around them.

As well as adding a Brightness/Contrast effect where I upped their brightness 20 degrees.

Once that was done I would apply to them different blend modes, although most ended up being Screen or Soft Light, to make them fit into the photo a little bit better.

On top of all of those layers I then applied a separate photograph texture to it and put that on a Soft Light blend mode as well. This did two things for the picture. It helped give the light footage, which was all HD, some texture and dull them down a bit so they would feel more at home in a photograph. It also gave it an overall feel that would be consistent throughout the photo and allow me to make it feel more like a printed out photograph rather than a digital one.

Once all the different components were done I arranged them on screen how I thought looked neat and had to go about adding drop shadows to them so they would feel as though they were sitting on top of the fabric/rug rather than digitally on top of them.

To do this I used the Layer Styles Drop Shadow for one and get it looking nice and how I liked, and then would copy that and apply it to the other images. I'd then have to go in and make sure that all the shadows matched with where my simulated light was. So in this case the simulated light was directly above, so I had to make it so all the shadows fell in a direction that would compliment this idea of where the simulated light was. I'd do that simply by changing their angle.

Once that was all done I'd drop it into the main timeline with the audio and move onto the next shot. It was a slow process but I think it turned out pretty neat in the end. Fun fact also because I don't like planning ahead for every shot in the final video I had about 2 or 3 shots that I would make and ended up cutting out of the video entirely.

All in all the entire project consisted of lots of shots and lots of elements with all very subtle uses of effects and layering on top of each other. Trying to emulate the hand done feel digitally required making the perfect feel of After Effects feel more haphazard and poorly done.

Avoiding perfectly straight lines, making the lighting slightly worse, giving texture where there was none previously, everything on it's own is hardly noticeable but when combined (I hope) creates a more textured real world feel to the video, which is a fun contrast to the surreal-ness of still images with moving components.

Hopefully you liked the video and thought some of this insight behind the scenes was neat! If you want to check out some other projects I've done you can head over to my website www.johnnychew.com and be unimpressed with my work. Maybe one of those projects will show up here on Project Breakdown in the future!