Wow, its been a few months now since I last wrote a post. Life has certainly taken me places over the last 10 months. Khumba was succesfully wrapped up on the 28th of Feb 2013 and from there I have been on quite the journey. It started with a few weeks back in Joburg to celebrate my fathers 70th birthday and my uncles 80th, before returning to the Cape to work as photographer/videographer on the Absa Cape Epic. The 8 days of the cape epic where spent entirely shooting (mostly in the mornings) and putting together a 1-2min video clip (mostly the afternoons) highlighting each day of the event. It was great to have finally escaped the ‘desk job’ style of work I had been doing for the last 7 years and to be on the road, camera in hand. The cape epic wrapped up just toward the end of March and so I hit the road, my car full of stuff from my life in Cape Town and headed for the Tsitsikamma/Garden Route where I spent the next four weeks being an absolute beach bum with not a care in the world, except for reading a few Lonely Planet guides about South East Asia. You see in mid Feb I had booked a flight to Bangkok for mid May and that date was quickly approaching. I had allowed just a couple of weeks back in Joburg to sort out my final arrangements for my trip, things such as visa’s and foriegn currency etc.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting in a Hostel in Bangkok with a Chang in my hand and not a care in the world, with the realisation that the next 6 months where going to be spent entirely here in South East Asia… I had no plans to work, no plans at all actually, I could do anything and go anywhere the wind blew me. Turns out, that is exactly how I spent those months, ending up in 8 countries, thailand, vietnam, cambodia, laos, myanmar, singapore, malaysia and india before finally catching a flight out of Chennai and heading all the way back to the bottom tip of Africa. They say travel changes you, and well it does! I have come back a very different person, with very different goals, and very different outlooks on the world. The materialism of this modern consumerism driven world we live in grosses me out. I firmly believe that even though South Africa is classed a 3rd world country, a healthy portion of our people live a very ’1st world’ life style. Until you’ve seen the simplisity (in our eyes ‘poverty’) of a life lived in a truely 3rd world nation, sometimes a socialist nation, its very hard to understand how ridiculous our lives appear in comparison. On a side note, I visit a local shopping mall now as we approach Christmas and cannot believe the number of numb, empty lives (zombies) I see walking/rushing through the shops. I never see a smiling face, people mindlessly spending money on clothes which they hope will make them feel better about themselves. Oh dear!
Suffice it to say I am now back in South Africa, 3 weeks after returning I have already found work in the animation world again and have moved to yet another new city! I love it, it feels as though I am still traveling, still exploring new places… sadly it has a down side, I am back at that ‘desk job’ it does however allow me to begin saving towards my next trip. My newly optimised life, with regards to money, allows me to pump money into the travel fund and hopefully I will be on the road before I can snap my fingers. South America is calling me! In the meantime, this is my opportunity for some ‘high intensity learning’, time to learn a new language (spanish), learn a new skill set for work (as I am now working in Flash, a refreshing change from 3D animation) along with beer brewering, get my motorcycle lisence, continue to further my photography and who know what else.
I have certainly realised that work does not define who you are, you create who you are by the experiences you have… work is just a means to an end (money) and money is a game! You just need to leverage personal strengths to win the game (and right now that strength is animation).
It is extremely exciting to see that Adventures in Zambezia has become the highest grossing South African film in more than 30 years, taking more than $18 million through several key territories.* It was such an honour to be a part of the amazing team that Triggerfish Animation Studios pulled together to produce Zambezia. The focus in the studio of late however has very much been the production and completion of their second feature film, namely Khumba, which is set for release later this year I believe.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Triggerfish Animation Studios… its been an exciting 3 years, filled with ups and downs but we made it! Two feature films is no small task I was lucky enough to work with some of the best people that South African Animation has to offer. I wish them all the best of luck and hopefully we see you all back on the farm for the 3rd film.
The completion of Khumba however has allowed me to follow a dream of mine. Travel! I have a ticket booked to Bangkok as of the 18th of May 2013 and hope to spend roughly 5 months travelling, exploring and relaxing in South East Asia. Over the past year my passion for photography & videography has grown out of control and so I hope to publish a photo journal of my time in Asia. Its an Exciting New Chapter of my life, during which I hope travel changes me and allows me to grow into an even newer and more exciting future. I am going to be spending a lot of time writing, reading & learning (maybe even a new language) during my travels and who knows where we will go from here!
In the meantime, keep checking out my Twitter Feed. I will be spending the next 2 weeks filming & photographing at the Absa Cape Epic and will be sure to post images up to twitter.
* 12 March, 2013 | By Mark Adams, Chief Film Critic - http://www.screendaily.com
The song ‘Get Up’ has been nominated for a 2013 Annie Award, to celebrate this nomination Triggerfish Animation Studio decided to shoot a music video. I was asked to head down to Digital Forest Studio on the day of the shoot and get some background photographs and video. This is the result!
Composer: Bruce Retief
Vocals: Zolani Mahola
DOP: Chris Cunnington
18-55mm Kit Lens
50mm f1.4 Lens
Shot on location at Digital Forest Studio in Constantia, Cape Town
Final Music Video
A few months ago I wrote a post about Stereoscopic Depth Compression, the fact that our binocular vision and ability to judge depth reduces over distance. This phenomenon happens in real life too, and is not restricted to 3D Cinema, although in cinema it can often be exaggerated by using smaller interaxial settings. Due to this effect our three dimensional brain is forced to switch to the classic monoscopic depth cues to gather depth information from the frame. I have heard it said that 90% of a 3D films depth is actually based on the classic 2D depth cues. Cinematographers have had years to develop their methods to portray depth within a 2D cinema frame and as stereographers we should use that as our springboard to adding more depth.
So what are some of monoscopic depth cues? Well, many are based on the effects of perspective which I will not include in this list. So imagine all this was happening on a 2D orthographic level.
We as humans have developed a set of size expectations. A matchbox is small, a human is average and a building is big! So if we see a man standing next to a building, and his head is inline with the top of the building, our first assumption is that the man must be closer to the camera! Obviously our second option is to assume that he is a giant, but first we assume a physical reality exists.
If we have a repetitive texture created by objects, or scene elements (bushy landscape, etc) as those objects get further from the camera they will appear smaller, effectively following perspective. If the objects are similar in shape, your brain will assume they are further away.
Hue - Warmer colours advance & cooler colours recede.
Saturation - As you reduce the saturation of a colour it will appear to recede in your scene.
Its a big word, but its pretty simple. Basically if you see a bush in front of a house, it is occluding your vision of the house, then clearly it is in front of the house. If we were to move the bush so that it is occluded by the house, then your brain tells you it must be behind the house.
Two forms of motion allow our brains to see or assume depth. The first is based on our Point of View. Imagine you are sitting on a train looking out the window, near objects will be moving faster, or have a greater horizontal parallax, than those on the horizon. This illusion is used a lot in 2D side scrolling animations or games to this day. The second method is based on the objects speed. If we remove the movement from the viewer or camera, as in the first example, and use a static camera we are able to judge distance & scale based on the speed of an object. For example, an airplane in the distance appears to be moving very slowly, vs a airplane that fly’s directly over our head.
Depth of Field
Objects will often soften as they advance or recede with in the focus of a shot. This classic use of camera lensing has become a standard in the language of film, and viewers fully understand the depth cues created by depth of field.
Finally able to show some the of amazing work being produced here at Triggerfish on our second feature film ‘Khumba’. The images were released on the Kunjanimation website earlier this month and now its time to share the love!
The film is currently still in production, yet these images sure give you a glimpse into the amazing world the Triggerfish team has created! Be sure to find Khumba on facebook to keep in the loop regarding production and its release dates!
This post was originally planned to be about the setup and use of Multi Stereo Camera Rigs, but as I began to type I realised I needed to fully explain Stereo Depth Compression. The reason we resort to MultiRigs in the first place! The fundamental nature of human stereo vision only allows us in real life to determine stereoscopic depth up to roughly 6 meters away from us. Most optometrists will test your long distance vision by projecting patterns on the wall roughly 6 meters in front of you. Beyond the 6 meter mark begins a process I like to call ‘depth compression’, effectively an exponential fall off of perceivable depth recognition. It finally ends at a point where we cannot determine depth based purely on stereo vision but instead we switch to using methods such as distance haze, scale of objects, and object occlusion (an object behind another or not). Our brains are pretty impressive when it comes to tricking us into thinking we can perceive depth when we actually cannot.
Now because I work in a digital environment where everyone talks in pixels 1920 or 2048, etc… I also measure my stereoscopic depth in pixels. Many stereographers talk about a percentage deviation, I work on a pixel deviation or separation. This separation measurement is the difference between two matching pixels on opposite left & right frames. See my post ‘Mechanics & Mathematics of Stereoscopy‘ regarding this calculation. So what, does 1px represent 1 meter in the real world? Not quite, as you saw in my original post we have a limited number of pixels (14px) to represent the entire depth of the shot. Many stereographers including Phil McNally of Dreamworks, myself included go well beyond 14px deviation… in fact we often reach values as high as 32px and possibly beyond for some unique shots! In my two examples in this post I kept it simple and only went up to 6px just to make the graphics simpler.
Depth compression increases visibly as you move your zero parallax closer and closer towards the camera, ultimately reaching a point where your entire scene flattens out. It will eventually reach the point where you may as well be filming in 2D. For example a regular head shot often has the subject placed close to camera filling most of the frame, meaning your zero parallax has more than likely been pulled forward too. If I were to examine the background of this shot it would more than likely appear incredibly flat.
So, as I move the zero parallax closer to camera the more the background will flatten out. This occurs because you slowly move all the usable depth pixels forward leaving possibly 1px to capture a few hundred meters in ‘virtual’ or 3D depth. This, like a low resolution camera, is simply not enough resolution because all that depth is then captured in barely visible sub-pixels!
Depth compression is good & a bad thing. Its a fact of reality and thus if your shots are setup carefully they can feel very natural and just like real life…. but often we need to trick the system, fake the depth just to suit the need of the shot or to enhance the depth of a shot. This is where the Multi Stereo Camera Rig comes into play which I will cover in a future post.
Note: Lensing plays an important roll in stereography too, many old school cinematographers continue to shoot using long lenses, 70mm and above, these lenses effectively flatten the image in 2D, and thus have a huge impact on stereography, resulting in ‘cardboard cut out depth’. The recommended lensing for stereography range between 20-40mm with the optimum roughly 30mm. Yes! That is a very wide angle lens but its pretty close to the true FOV of the cinema goer sitting in the middle of an average cinema.