Archive for October, 2008

Constantine (Digital Visual Effects)

October 22, 2008

Constantine is a perfect example of the important role digital visual effects play in creating a great movie. Visual effects were used in practically every scene in this movie, covering every single 3D process. One of the most outstanding visual effects was the process of creating the demons from Hell and bringing them to live onscreen. This character was computer-generated (CG) but in order to make it seem more realistic in terms of movements and actions, motion capture was most probably used. In this case, a person was put into a costume with reflective markers or lights at the joints so that their motions could be detected and used to control the movements of the CG demons.


The demons were only one example of the many CG characters in this movie. Another CG character which played a crucial role in the movie was the vermin-man demon. The director Francis Lawrence admitted the creation of this character to be costly. There were a lot of steps involved to bring this creature to live onscreen. As the vermin-man was also computer-generated, this meant that Keanu’s character, Constantine, has be shot alone, fighting and struggling against an unseen demon. Then, the CG demon as well as the bugs and snakes had to be added into the scene. A lot of work had to be done to make the bugs appear as alive and moving on the vermin-man’s body. Compositing was done to add all those elements together to create the final scene of the fight. In addition to the vermin-man, the cars speeding past on the road as Constantine dashed across was also computer-generated to ensure the actor’s safety.

Another outstanding visual effect in the movie was the portrayal of Hell. Practically every single element in the Hell scenes was computer-generated as well. The 2D painting process was also used, in which a picture was taken of a particular location, and then the picture was processed to make it appear more dramatic. Most of the time, this painting process was also used to paint out the wires and harness attached to the actors during the filming so that they do not appear in the movie. Then all the CG elements will be created, such as the fire, and the dust and debris in the air. The cars that Constantine was walking past will also be processed to add in the effect of the rust and corrosion. During the scene in which Constantine was in Hell, the actor Keanu will most probably be filmed in a studio with a greenscreen. The surroundings as seen in the movie were created digitally. Then, compositing was done to put all those elements together to create the complete scene. Again, the demons seen in the Hell scene were all computer-generated.

Portrayal of Hell



Other CG characters seen in the movie include the flying demons on the street; in the beginning just after Angela seek out Constantine for some answers. That scene involved quite a number of camera tricks as well. As usual, the demons had to be created digitally. Therefore, Constantine had to be filmed fighting against nothing again. Then, the burst of light from his hand has to be created separately. All of these elements are again put together to create the final scene. Another nicely done CG character was the Child of Satan, which was seen in the movie approaching Angela when she was pulled down to Hell. For this character, motion picture was probably needed to capture a more realistic sense of movement, and then added to the 3D character.

One particular feature which I found interesting was the beautiful creation of the half breed’s wings. These would most likely have to be computer-generated as well, and motions and movements of the wings will be added digitally to make it appear life-like.



Another obvious example of visual effects used was in the scene where Angela got sucked through the walls of the building. As before, the debris and dust was computer-generated. The actress playing Angela was filmed separately in a greenscreen studio, with wires lifting her up into the air to make it seem as if she was being pulled back. In a separate shot, the walls were filmed being torn apart, with unseen wires attached to it. These separate shots are then put together to create the scene we see in the movie.


Compositing plays a crucial part in the visual effects of the movie. In many scenes, the actors which appeared in the same scene together were shot individually, then put together to make them seem as if they were communicating with each other.

These were only some of the examples of visual effects used in Constantine. As I mentioned earlier, mostly every single scene of this movie contained some sort of visual effects. With realistic and interesting portrayal of demons, Hell, angels, and all sorts of never before seen creatures, Constantine is a great example of how digital visual effects, if done well, can make a truly awesome movie.


Extra Feature of Constantine DVD












Jarhead (Editing)

October 18, 2008

Generally, the editor has done a good enough job as I did not notice any jumpcuts in the movie Jarhead. However, I managed to identify a few editing techniques used in the movie. The first technique I spotted was in the starting scene when Swoff was telling the audience about the past events in his life and how he ended up in the marines. I identify this to be the cutaway and motivation technique as some short clips were added into the main scene to show the audience Swoff’s family background, his college life and his girlfriend. At the same time, these clips were also flashbacks on his life, therefore, explaining to the audience why Swoff chose to enter the marines.

The second editing technique I spotted in the film was during the soldiers’ training session. Some of the shots were cut and edited into three separate parts, which made them appear as if they were done on different days. I would identify this to be the continuity editing technique. This technique made it seem as if the soldiers had to undergo many days of gruelling training to prepare themselves for the war.

This next technique is used frequently during the movie, which is the eyeline editing. In several scenes of the movie, Swoff was shown taking careful aim at a target using his sniper rifle, and the audience is shown the telescopic sight from the rifle. This shows that the audience were shown the point of view through Swoff’s eyes. This exact same technique will be used again several times throughout the movie. Another scene in which the eyeline technique was used was during the scene when the soldiers were ordered to demonstrate how the gas masks work by putting them while playing a game of soccer. The audience was once again seeing through Swoff’s eyes from inside the mask. This technique was also again used later in the movie.


Several scenes were also edited to impart to the audience that several passed without much happening in the camp. Short scenes of the soldiers going about their normal routines, shadows of the sun setting seen on the desert grounds, and the sunrise all comes to tell the audience that nothing exciting or important was happening, and all those ordinary routines were skipped.

Acceleration editing was used in the scene when the reporter was interviewing the soldiers. The reporter asked them a few of the same questions, and each of their interview session was edited to show each of them reacting differently to the same questions. It showed how different their characters were, and also added a touch of humour to the scene. It would be far more boring if this scene were not edited, and the soldiers were shown being interviewed each in turn.

In many other scenes, continuity editing was also used to exclude all the uninteresting parts. For example, when Swoff was riding on the army truck with his sniper partner Troy, to another camp, the ride was cut short. They were both seen sitting at the back of the truck with a few other soldiers for a few seconds, then the next scene showed them arriving at the camp. Another edited scene was towards the end of the movie, when Swoff and Troy were taking the long trek in the desert back to their campsite. It would be time-consuming to film them walking all the way back to the camp. Therefore, continuity editing was used to make the journey short.

Parallel editing was used again in the Christmas Eve scene. While Swoff and his other comrades were busy celebrating inside the tent, Fergus had to take over Swoff’s watch shift outside. Both sides were shown simultaneously.


Experiences and Comments

October 1, 2008

Before I entered Griffith, I spent two years completing my diploma in Journalism. Truthfully, I never had any intentions of venturing into digital video, even though I have always had a passion for movie-watching. When I discovered that I had to pick two majors in order to complete my Bachelor of Communication, naturally, I chose digital video. Besides writing, I could not think of anything else I love doing more than watching movies. However, I was a little worried that I would encounter problems keeping up with the lessons as I had no previous studies and no knowledge whatsoever of digital video. As it turns out, Digital Video Foundation proved to be surprisingly fun and not as tough as I initially feared. Seriously, what other courses would allow students to watch movies, some awesome, some not so, every week during lecture.


Through this course, I have come to learn a great deal about the different elements found in movies. Before this, a good movie, to me, was just a good movie. As long as the movie was able to make me laugh or cry or stir up some kind of emotion within me, I would consider it a good one. But now that I have learnt more about this field, I realize that there are many other elements that help make the storyline good and believable. These are what distinguish a good movie from a bad one. I begin to notice the tiny intricate details carefully added into a scene to perfect it. Things that the audience will normally miss out on, but are vital to the scene anyway. Such as how a certain lighting are created to give a certain sense of feeling to the scene, or the way a location or a subject is shot may alter how the audience feel about it. I truly begin to appreciate a good movie for what it is worth, and take into consideration the amount of time and effort put into each scene. 


Overall, I would say that I am extremely satisfied with the way the classes have been conducted, and also all the knowledge that I have gained from this course. As an added bonus, we are not even required to give oral presentations. Honestly, students hate having to give presentations. We usually consider to be the worst kind of embarrassment that can be bestowed upon us. Besides the constant technical problems encountered practically every week, I can think of no complaints and I would not recommend the classes to be conducted in any other way. I am sure that the future students will enjoy it as much as I have.