Daniel Dercksen shares a few thoughts with Anton Kleynscheldt, who will present an exclusive workshop on basic Graphic Design, Motion Graphics and VFX at the Indie Karoo Film Festival
The three workshop by SAE Creative Media Institute, Cape Town, will take place at the Showroom Theatre in Prince Albert: there’s an introduction to Adobe After Effects on 20 June from 2 to 5pm, Advance Adobe After Effects on 1 July from 10am – 1pm, and Lighting and using a green screen on 3 July from 1:30am – 4:30pm. Visit the website for the agenda and registration details.
Tell me about the workshop? What does it deal with?
At SAE Cape Town we have a unique set of modules in our film courses about the values and meaning of graphics when included in film productions, and the modules also have a practical part where we get students started on basic Graphic Design, Motion Graphics and VFX. For these we use the Adobe suite of applications, since they’re good for the job and extremely accessible.
What we’ll be presenting at IKFF is a set of three workshops that more or less follow on each other, starting with an introduction to the principals involved in working with VFX, as well as an introduction to Adobe’s After Effects, which is a great all round tool for working with 2D graphics.
The second workshop will then look at the specialised tools and techniques that you can use in After Effects to do VFX work, and the final session will be an introduction to shooting on a green screen and working with that footage in post. Green screen filming is a core technique when producing VFX sequences, and it’s surprisingly accessible to all of us because of the tools available. This workshop intends to make it clear that it is something that everybody could do if they knew what to look out for, and spent some time practicing.
All information that will be supplied is based on course material at SAE Cape Town, and we will make sure the people attending the workshops will be able to continue afterwards growing in the application as well as being able to teach themselves more about VFX, should they wish to do so.
We will also make it clear that there is a lot more that we can offer at SAE Cape Town as far as these topics are concerned, and we’ll be running a tough short course on Motion Graphics at SAE Cape Town as twice weekly evening classes from July this year. Studying at SAE also gives students access to a great green screen studio, and the overall courses help explain how to integrate Motion Graphics and VFX into film productions.
Who will benefit from the workshop?
Anyone either interested in getting into this line of work, who is in the industry and would like to know more about these topics or would simply like to have some fun with the equipment and tools that we will be using during the workshops are welcome.
The information will be core information, stripped down in order to fit into the time slots, and none of the workshops will be overly technical or theoretical. As much as those things are necessary to be able to do these things well, we want to make these workshops fun. They will all be introductory, in other words, so people experienced in any of the the topics might not find the workshops particularly interesting.
Can anyone attend?
Literally anyone can attend, because the workshops will be so introductory in nature. They are really designed to be entertaining while being informative for beginners. Since slots for these workshops are limited, only people with a lot of experience in VFX should maybe rather make sure someone else who could benefit more should get a chance instead.
Tell me more about the Introduction to Adobe After Effects? This is for first timers?
Mostly, yes. It is an extremely powerful application that is very daunting to get started in, so you really need some guidance in getting started. None of the things that we will do in the applications will be particularly difficult to do, and I’ve got a lot of experience in helping people get into this application, so for the first workshop no prior knowledge or experience in the application is necessary.
The application is tough to master, though, and the second workshop will make use of tools and techniques that will be interesting even to people who’ve worked in the application before, but have not been doing VFX work. We will not present this workshop in such a way that first timers will be lost, but at the same time people with experience in the application will be able to push the tools and techniques a bit further so that they can also have fun.
Only the final workshop (about green screen production) will be very light on After Effects, with the steps necessary to achieve the effects being simple. I will clearly explain them all though, because even simple steps could be tough for first timers.
And the advanced session?
For the “advanced” session having attended the first workshop will be extremely advantageous, but information will be provided to those missed the first session in order to make the second session worthwhile to them. Some might struggle with the second session if they missed the first, but I’ll be there to help them through the initial steps once the other attendees are all on their way with the exercises we will do as a group.
Tell me more about Lighting and using a green screen?
Lighting a green screen is not difficult, if you know what you have to do and will become second nature if you do it often enough. Having said that, the lighting of the entire scene and the way you set up and use the camera are all that is tricky about producing green screen sequences. It’s about getting the desired lighting on the subject, while getting a very evenly lit, relatively bright green screen in the background. There are many things to take into account with either the lighting or camera use, but none that we cannot deal with easily during the workshop.
Who is the workshop aimed at?
At SAE Cape Town I lecture most of the graphics modules for film students because I’ve got a great passion for Motion Graphics, and VFX is often simply a more advanced application of the same tools and techniques. I want people to know that these things are all accessible to all of us, that there’s not magic involved in getting this work down, and that you don’t necessarily need large budgets to be able to produce this work. Graphic Designers are increasingly realising that they can produce the simple Motion Graphics required by many clients instead of giving away this work to the kind of studios and agencies that used to do this kind of work. Likewise, VFX is not only for not only for Hollywood and big studios elsewhere, but we can all include it in our productions. The people I “need” to attend are all of those who might want to go into these industries, so that they can see that it is something that they can really do, if they set their minds to it. The word needs to spread that these industries will continue to grow, particularly in Cape Town with its hub of creatives and multitude of film production studios, and will likely become very big there, especially Motion Graphics.
Where does you interest in 3D Design and Animation come from?
My background is in film, but I got disillusioned and bored with the limited amount of expression available to you, when compared to animation, whether 2D or 3D, as pure productions or included in film productions. I started teaching myself design and Motion Graphics in order to be able to produce these things myself, and only started getting into 3D when we started our studio and it became clear that there was a need for affordable 3D animation, and that it was something that we could do. It eventually became our speciality. I love how powerful 3D is, with literally limitless amounts of creation, replication and expression being possible, but my real passion is still for clean 2D motion graphics. I love the purity, and that elements designed as beautifully as the best designers in world are capable of producing, can get life and additional levels of communication and expression once motion is added to them.
Visual effects are vital in the filmmaking process, but can be costly? Your views on this.
Filmmakers have been making use of effects from the very beginning, and all the techniques and tools we use to today can be directly traced back to what people did a long time ago. In order to make most of these things possible, new technologies had to be invented, and were of course very costly. In the digital age, most of the tools you need to do the work is available to anyone with a decent computer and access to the software. On simple VFX sequences the most costly thing is the time that the artist needs to spend doing the work. What the filmmaker decides is necessary in order to tell the story, and how he or she wants to go about doing it can still make it costly, and there will always be really expensive film shoots with high budget VFX. If you decide to blow up a building for your production, some filmmakers will still rather build an actual building and blow it up. Increasingly these kinds of VFX productions will be the sole domain of feature film and TV series productions, and even then you can now get away with great looking VFX sequences for affordable expenditures, if you have the software and skills to use them. Deadpool is a great example of a movie with very striking effects that were made possible because of the powerful 3D animation tools available today, and movies such as The Social Network have shown that on productions that don’t seem to be VFX heavy, important effects necessary for story telling could be achieved using the same techniques and software that we will be demonstrating during the workshops at IKFF.
Is there a follow-up workshop or course after the one at the fest?
We have modules on Digital Imaging (a module introducing visual literacy and graphic design principles to students), Motion Graphics and VFX in both our Higher Certificate and BA programmes, and we will be running Motion Graphics short courses (available to non-SAE students) from July. We do not currently have a short course on VFX, but the Motion Graphics short course will feature the same VFX introduction, as well as possibly introducing students to 3D animation (using Cinema 4D) and the 2D/3D workflow (After Effects and Cinema 4D have great transport plugins and exporting to each other), which is more advanced that we get to do with the Higher Certificate students. Further or more specific training could also possibly be available on request.