At play with After Effects

Pitch 23 Aug 2011 Comments

Words by Jenny Waldron

At the end of each component in the visual effects course, students are challenged to use the skills that they have learned on a sophisticated piece of work. This project is called a 'summative' and mimics the rigors of an industry brief. This most recent summative task involved designing a logo and loopable menu for 'Mash Up,' a hypothetical DVD for Cartoon Network. When the summatives are assessed, innovation is one of the biggest factors that is taken into account. During this summative there were two very different but stand out pieces from Holly Shin and Lance McMinn.


Holly Shin's summative project

Both took inspiration from completely separate sources. While Holly was watching the movie 'Almost Famous' she was inspired by the scene where the plane starts to plummet. She decided to use this core idea and twist it into a fun narrative that fitted the cartoon theme.

“I used this opportunity to incorporate lots of techniques that I'd learned in class, especially in the part where the plane is crashing and the cartoon characters are all freaking out."

Lance McMinn's summative project

Lance's idea was more abstract and came from early 1990s arcade crossover fighting games like Street Fighter vs. X-Men. His concept was to create a simple, bold, almost hypnotic design. He spent a lot of time researching the aesthetics he was after, and worked with pen and paper before jumping straight onto the computer. Once he had reached a solid plan for his work, he built on it with subsequent ideas but made sure not to waiver from the original concept.


One of Lance's drawings for his design. One of Lance's drawings for his design.

“I enjoyed working on trying to make the animation and transitions as fluid as possible. The score ranking card at the end is one that I feels works really well in capturing the aesthetic I was emulating. A few have said they really like the characters moving in the background – it's simple and effective.”

Time is often the biggest pitfall for students during their summative. Although there were many challenging aspects for the students, the amount of time that had to be given to rotoring is a common theme. Holly claims that the rotoring work alone took up nearly half of her project time, and Lance similarly felt under pressure to meet the deadline.

“There were times when I thought that I would run short on time. Through inexperience I misjudged the amount of movement there was in the clips that I used and it took longer than I had anticipated. But through carefully managing my files and workflow I was able to have enough time to do some fine tuning on most of the elements.”

Lance's work room Lance's work room

Visual Effects tutors Damon Kahi and Steve Donner were always on hand to offer the class assistance or encouragement on the summative projects. The class atmosphere was very supportive throughout the two weeks of summative, with students talking to each other, sharing ideas, and helping one another out.