Audi R8 – Part III (Cutting-Up)

All, right!  The moment you’ve all been waiting for:  The Editing Process.  This was by far the most ambitious part of this project, and I’m going to take you through the details of how we achieved some of the aesthetics that we’re going for with this video.  We edited this project in Final Cut Pro 7.

 

First, let’s talk about the stop-motion work.  We recorded a lot of images.  Part of our strategy was to record both Canon Raw and Small JPEGs so that we could use the low-resolution image sequences as a kind of proxy to mess around with until we got the look we wanted.  Then it was just a matter of swapping the JPEGs out for the Raw images and we were good to go.  On a side note, FCP 7 won’t take Canon’s Raw format, so we used the Canon Digital Photo Professional Batch Process application to convert the Raw images to High Resolution JPEGs.

 

Once they were converted, we went into FCP 7 and made sure that the Preferences were set so that the still/freeze frame duration was only 1 frame.  I cannot underestimate the importance of this step.  If we hadn’t done it, we would be manually changing the length of the images from 10 seconds (I think that’s the default), and like I said:  we recorded a lot of images.

 

So, once the images are all lined up, one frame at a time on the timeline, I created a new sequence, and nested the sequence with the single frames inside of the new one.  The advantage to using this setup was that we could easily change the length of all the frames in the sequence by doing a speed change to the nested sequence.  It was a little render-heavy, but much more convenient.

 

The look we finally settled on was to do a speed change and triple the length of the clip (33.33%), and added frame blending.  That gave us a pretty look with a kind of liquid, dreamy quality to the sequences.

 

However, doing such long exposures (I think the shortest one was about 1″) left us with an issue:  although the rigs were as secure as they could possibly be, this car as a very tight suspension and rides very low to the ground.  We were unable to avoid some camera shake.  So, it was left to the post production crew to tighten up these sequences in which the shake occurred and make them look solid.  I don’t have a “before” version available right now, but I’ll tell you what I did to get the final look.  The following steps refer to this video.

 

We settled on a system involving four layers of interactive matte-ing.  Basically, we removed the “V10″ logo from the side of the car, and reconstructed it on top.  The bottom layer (V1) was our background.  This was composed of one of those nested sequences I mentioned earlier in the post:  The original time-lapse images of the car moving through space, slowed down to 33.33% and frame-blended.  Then, I opened up Adobe Photoshop.  I went through the sequence, and frame by frame marked the ones in which there was insurmountable camera shake.  Once inside, I used the Clone Stamp tool to totally remove the “V10″ logo from the side of the car in those selected frames.

 

The layer directly above this (V2) was the skeleton, or “edge” layer.  This is the first step in reconstructing the  “V10″ logo.  This step used Adobe Photoshop as well.  I looked back into the images sequence and selected 5-7 images when the “V10″ logo was lit from different angles.  I compiled these images into an HDR image, and then cut it out.  Then I took it back into FCP, laid it on top of the background, bumped the contrast and applied an extraction matte to the image.  I messed around until I got something I liked, and then turned down the opacity so that the structure was ever so slightly noticeable.

 

Above this was the meat.  V3 and V4 kind of act together to form the “meat” that goes inside the edges established by V2.  What I wanted to see was a clean, sharp “V10,” that still allowed the light effects of the environment to play across it.  So, V4 is a duplicate of the sequence on V1, the original, time-lapse sequence without any of the camera shake frames removed.  We need the light in those frames, so they have to be there.  Then, I changed the composite mode of this layer to Travel Matte – Alpha.  This means that whatever is on V4 will show through the matte that I build on V3.  It sounds counterintuitive, because it is, but that’s just the way FCP 7 does business.  On V3 I duplicated the HDR that I used on V2, but the extraction matte I applied was governed by luminance, so that only when the light was strong enough on V4 would it pop through the HDR on V3.  I think the effect is very successful!  How about you?

 

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Audi R8 – Part II (Time-Lapse Photography)

After the first day of RED One footage, we took a couple of days and worked exclusively on time-lapse photography using the Canon 5D Mark II. Our Key Rigging Grip, Richard Howell, and Michael Stevenson did an unbelievable job of creating these car mounts the we were able to attach the camera to without maligning the body of the vehicle. They did this by taking one of the manufacturer’s screws that are used to attach the belly panels of the car and matching them. With the new screws, they cut them down to custom lengths and actually replaced the manufacturer’s screws on the bottom of the car on the day. Effectively, what was happening was that the car mounts were screwing right into the body of the car itself! I took a peek under the car (which rides pretty low to begin with), and the mounting points were practically invisible! The steel rigging seemed to extend out from the body of the car itself! It was very organic.

Counter-clockwise from Top: Chris Alvarez, Richard Howell, Andrew Howell, Michael Stevenson

To these mounts we attached one of our two 5Ds. We had our kit lenses that we were using, the EF 24-70mm and the EF 70-200mm, but we also ordered in some specialty lenses to really amp up the fantasy of the images:  the Canon 14mm f/2.8L II, Canon 17-40mm f/4L, and Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L. The Tilt/Shift was a fun one! I can’t get enough of the disclaimer: “If you aren’t sure what this is, you don’t want it.”

Well, the results are beautiful as you will see below. In the next post I’ll tell you how we cut them all together!

Some action on the stick shift (Interior)

V10 Emblem (Passenger Side Exterior)

Audi R8 Gascap (Passenger Side Exterior)

 

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Audi R8 – Part I (Principle Photography)

I’ve been a little delinquent in getting a blog post up about this project we’ve been working on, but I figure now is as good a time as any, right? We recently endeavored on a little passion project featuring one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen, the Audi R8. Some of you may recognize it from its flashy cameos in Transformers 2 and Iron Man 2. In the words of our on-set driver, “It looks like a spaceship.” Whattacar!

Initially, like any exciting project, we began with a serious brainstorming session to really get a grasp on the concept. We decided on a visual theme where we integrate live footage of the car that was shot on RED One MX with a more phantasmagoric world that we would create through time-lapse sequences that we shot on a couple of Canon 5D Mark IIs. But first, let’s get a look at this beauty!

The Audi R8

Here is our star vehicle (we only had the one) sitting in the bay of the production studio, waiting to be prepped for a run.

So, the first day of principle photography, we took the car out and shot some of the live running shots on the RED camera. In order to get a dramatic, fun look, we used a specialty lens ordered from a friend in Nashville, Brian Murie. He had for us a 2.8 400mm that he sent with a true doubler! As the 1st AC, you can imagine that as we started heading into nighttime I really had my work cut out for me!

In fact, here’s a photo of me, the DP, Andrew Paul Howell, and the producer, Jon Shepard, as we’re getting ready to shoot some of those RED shots:

From left to right: Jon Shepard, Adam Rothstein (me!) and Andrew Paul Howell

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Welcome to AndrewPaulHowell.com

Greetings, Internet! We’re going to be doing a little overhaul on the branding and web footprint of andrewpaulhowell.com over the next few weeks, and I welcome you to accompany us on this journey. As you can see by taking a quick tour around the site, Andrew Howell is a very talented cinematographer.

I hope that as he continues to do more and more spectacular work, the development of the site is able to keep up with him. Thanks for coming! Look around, and feel free to tell your friends.

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