Straight to Video 2: Video Harder

Straight to Video 2: Video Harder

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Glamour Shots, Other Geeks, Software, Video

I am currently suffering from long weekend withdrawal, as I enjoyed the normal weekend, a successful cookout on Memorial Day (despite the rain), and an additional “clean-up/mental health day” off on Tuesday. While I did get to spend some of my Tuesday cleaning up after the festivities on the previous day, I would have felt the day had been wasted if I wasn’t able to get some quality basement time.

Per my previous post on the subject, I have spent a good amount of time watching instructional videos on Udemy and am now at the point where I cannot simply sit by and do nothing but watch someone else do cool stuff. I upgraded my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to the buffet plan, and over the weekend I installed After Effects. While I am positive that I haven’t yet gotten anywhere near knowing how to do all the best, most useful stuff according to the video series I’m watching, I have learned enough to get started.

My first stab was to animate “my logo” which I had created in a fit of inspiration, a discussion of which I’ll save for another day. Here’s the original logo:

My thought this time around was to have the runes around the edge rotate slowly, while the internal “Scopique” would sear itself into mid-air like some kind of magical script. Overall, things weren’t too difficult: the rotation of the runes was easy enough, and although the searing of the letters didn’t quite pan out, I delved into the pit of “special effects” and found a light-beam application that I added to the lettering.

The major roadblock I experienced with this was that After Effects is not Photoshop. Compare the original design (which I like) to the recreated version in the video (which is tolerable for a freshman effort) and you’ll notice the difference. The video version doesn’t have the same…I don’t know…visual complexity that the still does, and the static blue-and-red fire (which I really like) look kind of stupid as static imagery in a video. At any rate, I tried to recreate the logo exactly in After Effects, but wasn’t able to, so this is where it stands. I don’t know that I’ll use this video anywhere, but it was a good first try.

The original purpose of learning After Effects, as you might recall had you read the first post in this series, was to create the background crawl for any videos that I might decide to create when I’m sick with a debilitating fever and can’t make rational decisions. This was actually more difficult (for me) than one might think.

Originally I’d tried working with individual words in After Effects, lining them up, duplicating the line several times, and applying animation to each line such that they move in different directions at different speeds. Speed in animation is my mortal enemy, as is math in game development. Make the timeline too long and things move slowly; make it to short and things move way too fast, all compliments of the “frames per second” concept coupled with the rate at which you want the video to run (etc etc etc). I wanted this animation to loop so I didn’t have to worry about how long it’ll run, which meant that I needed it to be long enough to loop, but not so long that it takes 15 minutes for one rotation. And it had to loop back so it appeared seamless.

In the end, I made a line of text in Photoshop and saved it as an image and animated that because I thought it would keep the moving parts to a minimum. I also had to apply a “time warp” effect to each line to control the speed, since my timeline manipulation had proven rather fruitless and frustrating. Like my “Scopique” logo, the results are just barely north of acceptable.

Just a sample posted on as a test.

Finally, I wanted to create a “splash” screen for streaming. These are what people see on the stream channel before the stream goes live to show people that the stream is actually active and that they have time to hit the bathroom/pantry before the show starts.

For this project, I wanted to follow a “cybernetic” theme, so I looked up “cybernetic UI” on Google Images and found one that I kind of liked. For some reason, the motif of concentric, misshapen circles is a cybernetic trope, so I went with that. At first, I started working the design in Photoshop, but then pulled up short: Illustrator would be a lot better for this kind of thing, really, because I was noticing jaggies on some of my circles that Illustrator would nuke. I spent about 10 minutes with Illustrator before I realized I have absolutely no skill with Illustrator, so I forced myself to work with what I had in PS. I figured out how to import PS layers into After Effects, and after a few hours of cleaning up my design, got the circles into AE, centered, and animated. I then needed to create a sufficiently cyberpunk-esque background and managed to gin up something that would probably get a solid B- in an “Intro to Cyberpunk Art” class (I grade on a curve).

I threw in “LOADING…” and “Stream will be starting shortly” text in the final version (not represented here), and…that was all. I was hesitant to add too much to this video because the rotating circles are moving a bit faster than I’d like, and felt that additional animation on the screen would be like making conversation in a silent room simply because the silence was too much to bear.

Overall, I am moderately accepting of my initial efforts. While I managed to get real close to what I wanted to accomplish with each, none of the efforts are what I’d put into a portfolio if I were hell-bent on getting a job as a graphics animator some day. I still have about 200+ videos in my lecture series to watch, at which point I will have to re-watch the whole things and take notes on technique along with ideas on how it could be used beyond the specific tutorial examples being presented.

What do you think?