Presentating at the Cinema 4D Roadshow: Miami for Maxon

I am excited to be presenting for Maxon again at the Miami stop of the Cinema 4D Roadshow on October 20th. I have done a couple presentations for them like at NAB a few years back, and I’m always grateful to have the chance to share some C4D experience and knowledge with any audience. Since I have been teaching mograph classes the past 2 years I have gotten better at explaining the program and speaking to a crowd about computer software, which can be tricky if you want to keep people engaged and not lose them in a bunch of jargon and nerd talk.

If you would like to attend you can sign up and get the info here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cinema-4d-roadshow-2016-miami-tickets-27732977081

Hope to see you there.

Learning to Use My New GoPro

So I had a GoPro camera at the top of my wish list for awhile now and I finally pulled the trigger and bought one. I bought the GoPro Hero4 Black, it came bundled with a good set of accessories for free so I finally just clicked the buy button and stopped thinking about it.

It’s an effort to get back to my photo and video roots. Long before I ever animated anything, I was shooting on whatever camera I could get my hands on. I liked the classic one-use disposable camera as a child and I had a old Nikon SLR that I used when learning the forgotten art of using a dark room to develop film, which I was legitametly horrible at. My first prints were simultaneously over AND underexposed, blurry messes and if you saw them back then you’d probably suggest I find a different career path.

The first video camera I ever used was my parents old Sony 8 MM camcorder. I later got a Canon that shot on Mini DV that I hooked up to my snow white bubble iMac via Firewire and started editing in iMovie. It was really exciting to be able to shoot video one minute and then edit it on a computer the next. I made a variety of home movies of varying quality with that setup, but eventually I sought out the graphics world as a way to add titles and effects to my films, and create images that I simply couldn’t film. Now my work consists of like 95% all computer generated imagery and my camera technology quickly became outdated.

But not anymore! My GoPro is new, fresh and growing with an interesting user community shooting footage that is exciting and inventive. I love watching their demo reels, and I remember being mesmerized and wide-eyed by their looping footage playing at their demo booth when I went to NAB.

Embedded here is my first GoPro edit, me and my friend Mark playing golf. He used to be in my home movies back in the day, so our maturity level automatically dropped as soon as we started recording. We tried to overcompensate for filming a underwhemingly exciting subject, us being below average at golf, into something epic and GoPro worthy. It was really fun for me to make something so dumb and pointless again.

My lifestyle doesn’t really align much with what the “action” part of the action cam name suggests, but I can find ways to have fun and be creative with it in my own way. I am going to start doing some simple time lapses and fun photography before I work my way up to base jumping off the glacier I climbed into shark infested waters. Just give me time.

I’m going to post anything that comes out good on my GoPro Vimeo album and maybe short clips on my Instagram.

First Semester Finished

I just finished my first semester teaching as a college professor. I feel like I  skipped to the front of the line, lots of educators that went through lots of training and time to become college professors. But I was hired to take my largely informal, self taught Cinema 4D knowledge and convert it into a 4 month class.20150503_155949

I taught at New World School of the Arts in downtown Miami, and it’s a cool connection because it’s an accredited extension of the University of my Alma Mater, the University of Florida.

It’s been a crazy ride in less than 5 years, from going to unemployed and struggling to find anyone to give me a shot to work for them to  teaching students about what I’m pretty good at. I reflect back to when I was a “freelance” designer (a very fancy word for unemployed) who strongly considered going back to school myself to figure out something entirely different to do with my life that could get me an actual job that pays actual money. Long story short is I worked my way out of a hole, kept learning, trying, and grinding and now get to use that experience to try to give as much  perspective and information I can to anyone in my class who wants to absorb it.

The Cinema 4D community has been a great source of inspiration and information for me. I humbly try to spread the gospel of this creative software, fully aware that I’m not the best at it and never will be. I liked to emphasize to my students that at their current age I hadn’t even opened Cinema 4D yet, so they are ahead of my schedule. I look forward to doing it again, considering I learned a lot myself throughout the entire process.

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New Series: TurbulenceFD Tests

When evaluating a plugin’s usefulness, I like to ask the question “how hard would it be to do what this plugin does if I didn’t have it?” Well in the case of fluid simulation plugin Turbulence FD by Jawset, the answer is “damn near impossible.”

Creating animated fire had always been difficult. The way in which fiery flames move and behave is so organic that attempting to create it purely from software can fall pretty flat. Often times my best bet would use clips of real fire and composite it together in my project, it was as realistic as I could get.

Once I saw what TurbulenceFD could do inside Cinema 4D, I was amazed. Getting great looking fire looked so easy, with lots of flexibility inside of my own 3D project. But once I started using the plugin I was a little lost initially. Then I got sidetracked for over a year with other material and forgot just about everything I learned initially.

So once I got back to square one, I did things differently this time. I feel like there’s not a whole lot of great material available for learning TurbulenceFD online. Many tutorials tend to just plug in numbers in different parameters and skip out on explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing with the plugin. So as I tried learning the ins and outs of the plugin, I decided to renderer out some tests to visually understand how the parameters change the fluid simulation. My process was to just change  one parameter at a time, then compare and contrast the results side by side to see how the change affected the simulation. And I figured as long as I was learning the plugin,  I figured maybe I could help other out a little too by posting and explaining the comparisons.

All these test videos can be found here, and on my Vimeo album if you want to sort through them that way. Here’s a sample file which I used as the starting point for all these sims. I’m still learning the plugin and getting better at it, so I’ll keep posting videos as I go along.

Designing Live Performance Content

A few years ago I started designing graphics for a medium that I never had any experience with: live events. All my experience was with straight up broadcast design, so it was a new discipline to learn and now I feel like I can understand it enough to write a little bit about it. I now approach these designs completely different than my standard broadcast work, and I particularly enjoy seeing how my animation comes out when presented across a big stage for a large audience.

Most of this experience I have gained relates to content for musical performances at award shows. It presents all sorts of new challenges when you are designing for complex stages with screens scattered throughout big venues. My content is usually just a small piece of the whole puzzle, and the folks at home really have no idea how much prep goes into these shows that they check out while channel surfing. Television may seem saturated with an alphabet soup of awards shows that are constantly coming out giving kudos to the same artists over and over again, but I’m always checking them out just to see what the show amounts to. My behind the scenes experience gives me a better perspective and appreciation for the end result. The number of people involved with preparing the music, dances, costumes, the set design, securing the props, finding a way to ship and transport huge pieces of the set around the country, preparing the venue for broadcast, etc. is simply staggering. I’ve seen some of it first hand and when everyone works together you can put on a great event, and the viewer at home has no chance of realizing how much work goes into it all and how many people are involved with every little detail.

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The main difference you experience when designing a live stage performance is that your animation work is no longer the main focus of the broadcast. You have to think of it as content within content. Usually I would just design a TV commercial or some sort of animation that takes up the entire TV screen and is solely what the viewer absorbs and focuses on. With a live performance the viewer is mostly focusing on the performer, and absorbing your content kind of in their periphery. So I try to find a way to come up with ideas that are new and fresh but end up being pretty simple.

Simplicity is the key, your content can’t be too complex for a number of reasons:

  1. It will clash with everything else

  2. Sometimes a live performance can have everything going on stage, featuring an artist (or artists), a band, dancers, props, pyro, cryo, lasers, lights, smoke, etc. You can create some really sophisticated animation and have it get totally lost on stage. It could end up being totally obscured very easily. I’ve had this happen to me before.

  3. You have no control over how people will see it

  4. The performance is being filmed through cameras at every angle, and the director of the show is going to be switching around constantly. Some nice wide shots will show off your animation, but closeups on the artist will make you feel fortunate if you can see a handful of pixels. Also the pace in which the cameras switch may be pretty fast, so you’ll be lucky if you can a nice clean glimpse of the work for more than a couple seconds.

  5. It’s not a music video

  6. This was hard for me to fully grasp at first, but now I get it. You are not creating a music video. You’re not making something the sole focus as to why people are watching the artist perform. They want to see the artist sing (or at least pretend as if they are singing) and enjoy the show, but there not watching your work with a critical eye like they would with a straight up music video.

  7. Time constraints

  8. Most times for the music awards shows I’ve done, I’ve juggled multiple acts for a couple weeks. Sometimes the artists are not confirmed until the last minute, they can’t decided what song to do, or they kick around a bunch of different concepts for what the performance should be like. On top of formatting your content to fit a custom stage, rendering, transferring files in time for rehearsals in the days before the show, you tend to have a very small window to work with. Sometimes simple animation is by design, but it can be out of necessity just so you can meet your deadline.

    I think it’s harder to showcase these kinds of animation examples because without any context it may not seem overly impressive. So I’ll be trying to post my examples periodically and explain the process behind the production.I use a boatload of plugins for Cinema 4D and After effects, like MoGraph, X Particles, the Trapcode Suite and more. ALl of my live performance content will be chronicled under this location on my site.

My Full Sail Presentation

I’ll be presenting for Maxon at Full Sail University on Friday, May 24th. I’ll be discussing some projects of mine as a Broadcast Designer, I’ll talk about how useful a tool Cinema 4D is in my field. I’ll try to hit on some topics like:

  • What exactly is broadcast design
  • Cineware integration with After Effects
  • Advantages for students
  • How Cinema 4D helps me in my various projects

I’m excited to be demoing some of my projects recent for live performances and I’ll try to shed a little light on what exactly a career as a broadcast designer entails. Here’s a still from a recent project I did, I’ll show the 3D behind it:

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NAB Rundown

I’m presenting for Maxon at NAB today in Las Vegas. I’ll be demonstrating how to use XPresso to enhance you Cinema 4D Projects. This post contains everything you need to follow along with my presentation on C4D Live:

I’m on Twitter @bigmikedesign

Here are the sample projects to follow along during my presentation.

Here is my reel.

Here is a link to the C4D Games Projects if you wish to check them out and download them all.

Here is link to my donationwareCinema 4D Twitter project with a sample video showing you all the controls in action.

Thanks, if you wish to contact me after the presentation with comments/questions you can email me at mike@bigmikedesign.com

I’m Presenting at NAB Next Week

Maxon asked me to be a presenter for their software demonstration at NAB in Las Vegas this year. Naturally I accepted; it’s a pretty cool honor to have them notice your work. And of all the people in the world using and creating great stuff with Cinema 4D, I won’t ask too many questions why they chose me and instead just enjoy them bringing me out to Vegas.

Three to four years ago I was down on my luck after walking away from the glamorous lifestyle of mass producing local car commercials. I couldn’t get a design job anywhere. In September 2009 I didn’t make it past the first round of interviews for a part time job designing animated advertisements for a flat screen TV inside and Indian grocery store in Iselin, NJ. Yes apparently there were a second set of interviews for this position. That all sounds funny now that I see it typed out. Since then I got my foot in the door somewhere, I eventually got hired, I wrote a book, and enough people think I am smart and qualified enough to give me these opportunities. Honestly it’s a cool position to be in; I’m only 27 and I keep improving my knowledge and creative capabilities every year. Hopefully my presentation will share something cool and insightful about Cinema 4D. It will lean heavy on XPresso.

Check out C4D Live on Wednesday and Thursday for my presentation.

This is the first thing I ever made in After Effects

Behold this greatness. I started using After Effects in summer of 2005. Prior to that I was mostly just a Final Cut Pro guy, editing short videos and home movies. I knew Photoshop to an extent, and eventually I got to the point where there were things I wanted to do with video that I could do with photos in Photoshop.

That led me to After Effects. The date on these files is marked as 6/8/2005, so they are almost 7 years old. I guess this could be considered my entire demo reel in 2005. I worked at an ad agency that made car commercials by the bushel, and they were fast and cheap designs. Well, maybe not designs as much as they were car salesman screaming this sketchy and misleading deal RIGHT NOW before it’s too late.

The footage of the Mustang is from Ford. They rotate the camera and car around and give you the clip and a matte to work with in case you want to composite. And composite I did!

In the first clip, I placed the car behind a stylish premade background from Digital Juice. Then I designed a speedometer in Photoshop and angled it in a 3D layer. I shrewdly separated the needle from the rest of the speedometer so I could do that sweet rotation move as the car’s speed revved up, despite it not driving anywhere. And somehow the whole speedometer starts getting all shaky and crazy but the needle stays perfectly still. You were supposed to feel the raw power of the car with all that shaking but now it just looks weird to me. I give myself an A for effort!

In the second clip, I merely took a dark sky stock footage and placed the car in front of it. I must have had the car filled with a black layer or used the matte to cut out the shape of the car from a solid, then I faded it out and brought the car to light.

MY work has gotten better since then (I hope), through nothing but absorbing tutorials and building project after project. You force yourself to get better by learning how to do things correctly or by creating projects that are based on an effect that people consider quality work. I think it’s important to remember what’s not on your reel and why, and it’s worthwhile to go back and look at work that really isn’t THAT old and see how far you’ve come.

New Tutorial with Motionworks: Collision Deformer

Hey head over to John Dickinson’s site Motionworks and check out this tutorial I made using the new Collision Deformer in Cinema 4D. In my book I go over this new tool in release 13, and this is a new example I developed where we create a figure object who is completely bulletproof; we animate bullets the bounce off of our hero and fall to the ground. All we need is the Collision Deformer and some dynamics.

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