Book trailer post, take two.
A few weeks ago I mentioned I would do a series on book trailer tutorials. I’ve been having a lot of trouble figuring out how best to explain these tutorials because the industry uses so many phrases that don’t really have dumbed-down synonyms in case you’re not familiar with standard lingo. So I’ve decided to start with a glossary of terms you’ll need to know, plus in this post I’m going to go over basic video editing skills and I’ll explain the 12 principles of animation, which might help you get started before I can show how they apply. This way, you can always come back and look at this post if there’s something that confuses you.
But first it would help me if I knew what most people were looking for in a tutorial. I figured I would start with something easy next week, showing how to make a glow sweep across text so it’s more lively than just static text. I can also do a tutorial on different types of transitions and which appear cheesy and which are classy. Or I can show you how to color correct video footage so it looks a lot better on screen than it does when it comes out of your camera. Plus I think I need to do a tutorial on how to mask an object since I use this so often in both photoshop and video effects. And one I’m really excited to show you is how to take still images and make them look like the objects appear in 3D space as the camera pans across them. It’s a simple (but a little tedious) way to liven up stock imagery and quickly impress viewers. But is there anything you want to learn? If not, I’ll start with those and work from there.
What are the Principles of Animation? These were created and defined by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas back in the 1930s when they worked as traditional animators at Disney Studios. Though their principlesmainly refer to character animation, I’ll show you below how you can apply it to almost anything you work with in digital video. I use these principles all the time for text animation, for transitioning between video clips, etc.
The Principles of Animation
–Note, I am not going to overview the ones you won’t need because they pretty much refer to hand-drawn frame by frame animation.
Squash and Stretch – Squash and Stretch gives the illusion of weight to moving objects. If you bend your arm, your muscles will bulge and contract. If you stretch out your arm, the muscles will lengthen. Squash is when an object compresses upon impact with another object. For example, if you press your hand against a window, your hand will appear smushed if you look at it on the other side of the window. The same theory applies to animation. When an object lands after any sort of motion, it will compress a little bit from impact of the landing. For example, if you take a basketball and let it bounce, each time it connects with the floor, the ball will shrink just a little, becoming flatter. Then, as it springs back up again, it will stretch, becoming more oblong. The amount of squash and stretch depends on the objects weight and pliability. A bowling ball will have nearly zero squash and stretch, but a basketball will have a lot. I use this technique of squash and stretch often in text animation to give the illusion of life in the text. It can look cartoonish if done with a lot of squash and stretch (and this is a desired result, not a negative) or it can look fluid and elegant instead of rigid and static if using just a small amount. Below I’ll show an example from my demo reel where squash and stretch is used to make the text animation more
Think about it this way. Sometimes in fiction we have to exaggerate things to better show them to your audience. If they’re too subtle, the audience may miss them. A character can be depressed and keep it completely hidden from the world, but that wouldn’t be very good writing because the reveal of depression might end up feeling unsupported or out of nowhere. Squash and Stretch is the exaggerated action to give the illusion of life, just like we give our readers clues to our characters’ hidden emotions.
Anticipation – This is basically the equivalent to foreshadowing in writing. When you want to show something down the road is going to happen, you put the necessary steps in place to build it up accordingly. Anticipation is the build up to an action. A golf player doesn’t just whack the ball with his club from a standing position, he first brings his club all the way behind him, then swings it forward until he hits the ball. That arc backward is the anticipated movement to his swing. An easy way to remember anticipation is that it’s a backward motion before a forward motion. If I am going to jump, I don’t just lift into the air on command. I have to bend my knees and push off the ground. I’m moving down before moving up. Anticipation. Again, I use this often in text animation. Before I have text zoom off the screen to the right, I might bring it to the left a few frames so it looks like it’s pushing off the screen.
Staging or Composition – This is how you determine the set-up of your shot. Will it be a wide shot or a close-up? How much negative space will you leave up on screen? Will your camera angle be tilted or straight on focus? With staging, you can direct your audience’s attention to a specific part of your screen. This is called your focal point. When critiquing composition in college, our teachers would always ask us where our eye went to first on a project. Staging is the act of directing the eye to a specific part. If you have too many things going on in one frame, the viewer might get confused and miss vital information. Most movie trailers have separate clips for text on a black background because it forces your eye to read the text more than it would if the text appeared over a fast moving video clip. Think of it like scene setting in a book. If you have a quiet scene with very little action but a lot of dialogue, the reader might focus on what’s being said. But if you re-set the same scene in an action packed paint-ball shoot out, the reader might focus on the tension of the paint-ball game instead of the dialogue itself.
Follow Through – Things in life don’t just stop when they reach an obstacle. For every action, there needs to be a reaction. That’s why you have scenes and sequels. A scene is where the action and drama occur. A sequel is the emotional reaction or aftermath. If there was no emotional reaction, the scene might not feel real. The same thing happens with Follow Through. A ball doesn’t bounce and come to a complete stop. It lands, then goes back in the air a little lower this time, the speed decreases, and this happens a few times until the ball bounces only a few centimeters off the ground before the action fades out and it comes to a complete stop. If I am running and I stop abruptly, part of my body will lurch forward. That’s follow through. Or a better way of looking at it. If you are wearing a skirt and have long hair and you spin in place and then stop, your hair and skirt will keep going, wrapping around you after you’ve stopped. It’s because your body acts like a puppet string pulling them along and they don’t necessarily follow the same speed guidelines. Again, I use this for text animation and various visual effects.
Slow in and Slow out — Not every object has the same velocity. Also, not every object goes from 0 to 60 in a few frames. Sometimes the motion eases into a quick pace and then eases out of it. It’s basically like a fade in or fade out for motion. Putting eases will help the animation look more graceful and realistic.
Arcs – Like a story arc has a beginning, middle, and an end, so do motion paths. Objects move in an arc shape, not linear. If you bounce a ball, it doesn’t go up on the same vertical plane, it will move over and if you drew out it’s motion path, it would look like an arc. When you walk, your body moves up and down, creating an arc path. If you rotate your arm, it moves in an arc.
Timing – This is the most important one you’ll have to deal with. You would be surprised at how quickly a human can register a line of text. There are 30 frames per every second of video. A blink takes approximately five of those frames. That’s 1/6 of a second. An average line of text should remain up on screen for about 3 seconds. Any more and your viewer may get bored and antsy. (I would also highly suggest never leaving the text static, always have something moving whether it’s the camera zooming toward the text so the text grows or if a glow sweeps across it). It’s like pacing in a novel. Too slow and the action drags and your viewers lose interest. Too fast and the reader may be gasping for breath and missing vital info. Timing should neither be too slow or too fast in video. It should be just the right time that the viewer can digest all the info without getting bored. I suggest in order to practice this, you take a look at book trailers and movie trailers and count mississippis after you start to get bored with text appearing on screen too long. That being said, timing is also applied to animation. If I want to move text off the screen, I’ll probably do it in 6-8 frames. 10 frames is too slow. 5 frames is too quick. This is not a hard and fast rule. If I’m spinning text in 3D, I may need more frames to accomplish the task. It’s all about getting a good feel for the timing of the movement.
If you’re interested in the rest of the principles of animation, a simple google search will bring up good results but may be a little difficult to understand if you don’t know basic lingo. That’s where I come in. Below are some key glossary terms I’ll be using throughout my tutorials.
In point – If you have a long video clip, the in point is where you determine where you want that clip to start in your project. Everything before the in point in the clip will not appear in your finished movie.
Out point – Like above, this determines where you want the video clip to stop playing.
Duration – The in and out point of a clip determine how long it will appear on the screen.
Timeline – This is where all the editing happens. The clips appear like blocks of colors. The dark teal is the duration. The light teal is the part of the clip not being used. So the beginning of the dark teal would be the in point. The numbers above refer to the frame number so you can see at a glance how long your clip will appear on screen. This is like outlining and taking a look at your scenes schematically. The red line indicates where in time you are.
Slip/Slide – Moving a clip along the timeline but not changing it’s duration.
Cut or Hard Cut – This is when you abruptly end one clip and immediately start another without weaving between them. Hard cuts are the most classic form of editing. You see it often on TV.
Cross fade – This is when one clip fades to invisibility while a second clip fades from invisibility to full up. The effect makes it look like one clip is fading into the other.
Wipe or Transition – In a video wipe, one shot is progressively replaced by another shot in a geometric pattern. There are many types of wipe, from straight lines to complex shapes.
Razor – You can split a video clip into two so if you want to move one to a different part of the timeline and have it appear later in your movie
Insert – putting a clip between two other clips
Rendering – Taking the digital file and writing it to a quicktime movie (or other type of format). This process gets longer depending on the complexity of your project. I’ve had renders take a few seconds and renders that took overnight on multiple computers.
Video size – The standard definition video size is 720×486. High Definition is 1920×1080. All videos use 72DPI (unlike print which is higher). With the web, you can pretty much use any size, but I highly recommend using 720×486 since it’s standard.
Photoshop – A program made by adobe to allow you to alter and create still images.
After Effects – A program for adobe that’s basically Photoshop for video. Instead of making a change to a single image, you change the entire video.
Layer – A layer is an image stacked on top of one another. Picture a tracing pad where you can see through to all the various sheets of paper. If you make a line on one sheet and a circle on a sheet below that, you can still see both.
click to enlarge
Adjustment Layer – Instead of being an image, this is an effect that gets applied to all the layers beneath it. If you want to change the color of all the layers below to blue, an adjustment layer is an easy way to do it.
Alpha – The transparency of a layer. An alpha is viewed in black and white. The black part is transparent. The white part is opague. Anything gray is a various shade of transparency.
Channel – The RGB + Alpha of an object. Or the red channel, blue channel, and green channel separated so you can view it separately.
Transfer mode – This is when you change how the layers interact with each other. You can create cool effects with transfer modes.
Selection – There are few selection tools in Photoshop, but the one I like best is the polygon tool because you can get more accurate when tracing an object
Rotoscoping – Cutting out an object from its background frame by frame. This is tedious, but it’s how most visual effects are created.
Masking – I’m going to have to do a tutorial on this, but masking is when you take one object and use it to determine the alpha of another object. This is great for revealing an object (like text) slowly. You can mask in a variety of ways. You can create an alpha channel for a layer. You can use the bezier tool to trace an object (and then animate the vertexes). You can use one layer and track matte another layer either by its luminosity (how light or dark it is) or by its alpha. I realize this probably makes no sense so I’ll go into details about it another time.
Saturation – How bright a color is. Desaturation is how dull a color is.
(That’s it for now, but keep coming back because I’m sure I’ll add more to this list as I think of more terms I need to define).
Let me know if any of this is confusing or if you have something you want me to explain for you that’s not on this list!