November Movie: Film Riot Found footage challenge




I decided to attempt to create a monthly short movie, A couple of minutes of something fun and interesting each month that would also act as a preview for the tutorials ( i know i still have some catching up to do with some of the series, i’m working on them ! ) This month being the first i was going to do something simple with rigid bodies, but i figured it was going to be pretty redundent very quickly as a new fracture modifier is due to be released and will most likely be included in the next Blender release.
Fortunately The guys at Triune films, who run the Film Riot youtube channel came out with an interesting challenge. For the few of you that have never heard of Film riot, they give tips and tricks on filming for Indie moviemakers and amateur directors like yours truly, as well as After Effects mini tutorials ( they presume you know After effects, so don’t expect step by step detailed lessons like you get from Andrew Kramer!)
Every few weeks they release a film making challenge, Usually with some useful prizes, like their sound FX packs or filmy gadetery goodness.
This months challenge was to make a “found footage” film.

so I did a little bit of mental plot development and figured most found footage is done with modern cameras, making them look fairly recent, with perhaps a bit of fake analogue noise laid on in after effects which if not done well really looks fake. and I wanted the found aspect to be more actual “Found” as in discovered in an attic/junksale/Gov’t archive and to be as old as I could possibly make it, without being so old that it would need to be done with Cinefilm!  Which gave me the idea to drag this Bad boy out of the garage and fire it up for the first time in about 20 years! 😀


Nice! I then got about to “Dressing my “set” or in laymans terms, hiding the cd/DVD players and replacing them with vhs machines and cassette player!  and just generally hiding anything that would have not been around circa 1986, which in my flat was embarrassingly easy! I then had some thoughts about lighting, eventually deciding that as the film was to look as if someone had just picked up a camera and filmed what was in front of them, the only lighting it should have is the default lighting that is in the flat, no fill lights or hidden back lights, just plain bulbs in domestic sockets! I think it worked in the end, the darkness adds plenty of realism to the shot that would be lost with extra lights and stuff. so any way after getting all the technical stuff out of the way I did some more plot thinking, as the brief for the film was that it could only last for two minutes, I had to work pretty quick and so did a few rehearsals trying to get the story down in under the two minutes and making some changes as I went along to get the story to make sense.

I then fired up the JVC and did a little bit of pre-roll footage. There was three main reasons for this:

1 I wanted to make the film appear that I had just picked up the camera and recorded straight over whatever was on the film  originally. ( my original thought was to record over something sentimental like a wedding or childs birthday etc but bleh, Cliched or what! ) I ended up just recording myself making my Dinner lol.

2, I wanted to test out the DVD-VHS converting software that I had,  as it turns out it was too old to work with windows seven any more and I ordered a new one of E-bay, which as it turns out was a big waste of a fiver and I ended up ordering Honestech’s software from Maplins ( an electronics store in the UK) I am a bit pissed with them though because they sold me verion 5 at full price while I discovered that in the magazine they included in my shopping they were selling version 7 at half the price. I mean, they might have said something in the store rather than letting me discover it myself a week later. Not cool Maplins, Not cool at all. 🙁

and 3, i needed a bit of test footage in order to practice integrating the 3d models that i was going to used, there would be no point continuing with the plan if i couldn’t make the 3D elements look like they were part of the film!

I pretty much got the gist of it, the little cube was looking nice and integrated, yes I know there should be some masking to make it look real but I wasn’t planning on spending a week perfecting a test clip when I had got the look i was aiming for!

ok that shadows look bad in the video but I  realised I hadn’t added the noise layer to the shadow layer which is why it looked wrong, a bit of softness and the noise distortion and bam- 

soft sahdows

Looking good, Ready for filming for real now 😀




Somehow, between doing the test clip and getting ready to film, Something inside the camera broke. One of the internal lenses or something, but whatever there was going to be no filming with that particular camera, well no filming of anything resembling usefulness, so I had to have a re think. the set was dressed and the plot rehearsed, the only thing I could do was to film digitally and make it look like old vhs.

Now i needed to give things some thought, because most digital clips  i have seen just look like digital clips with added noise, and that just looks like crap, so I needed to use something that would record with the correct aspect ratio of  pal 4:3 and look very low quality, My nikon P600 wasn’t going to cut it nor was My Nokia lumia, both giving very nice 720p minimum resolution but still too high quality for what I need. Fortunately I have a little Maginon pocket camera, that also films in poor quality 640p, I was happy to discover that if I removed the microphone from the VHS camera, I could strap the Maginon to the front and still achieve that shoulder mounted look. Genius 😀



Also I figured that if I have the vhs camera running during filming then the pocket camera’s microphone would pick up the mechanical noise just like the VHS camera does and i’d be spared from having to try and recreate the noise in audacity. That totally worked out, double Genius 😛

once filming was done it was just a case of getting everything into blender and recreating the look of vhs

using the test footage as reference I needed to create three distinctive noise patterns in each or the RGB bands and use them to both overlay onto the footage and also distort the footage to break up all the crisp clean digital lines in the footage, i also needed to create some tracking noise and the weird scrolling bands that you get on old VHS, there is also an bit of an issue where the RGB channels donT quite line up and you get a bit of a red or green Halo around everything,  after some messing about i came up with this node tree.

vhs nodes
 Basically i bring in the video clip, then seperate the RGB channels, translate the Red and green channels in opposite directions to each other and slightly blur them. you’ll also notice that i dont re combine the blue channel, but use a value of blue instead, this was because the red was over saturated and using a blue value helped to soften that.

on a seperate branch I created a noise texture for each channel and scaled it along the X axis in order to give it more of that CRT pixel look ( cathode ray tubes didn’t use pixels but some kind of oblong light thing that was illuminated by the ray at different brightnesses for each rgb element which blended visually into the colour of whatever the screen was displaying. i don’t know what they were called but “pixels” is a closely relateable term !) I then added all the noise together and use that to displace the image using a displace node. I then overlaid the coloured noise onto the footage using a soft light blend mode. the noise bands were simple noise textures squashed along the y axis and again stretched on the x to give that banding look and alpha overed onto the main clip with some distortion using the displace node again. pretty much job done 🙂

this is the final result of that little attempt!

so, i’m happy with that, however the facebook community weren’t and offered quite a few additional suggestions, some of which i took on board, some i totally ignored as is my privilege as the director 😛 And ended up animating the bands of noise to scroll down the screen.

All that needed doing now was to add the monster and add some sound fx, but by now the deadline for the contest is looming and there is still much to do. animating the monster was a nightmare as it only came with a basic rig and i had no time to get a full IK/FK switch going or do anything to make it more user friendly, also the damn thing has 4 legs to deal with and no floor constraints so it ended up very fiddly to work with,  but i think i managed to get it looking ok, though it doesn’t scuttle along as i would have liked it to, it is kind of slow! but it’s ok for that. once i had the main film rendered i just had to drop some sound FX in and it would be perfect, however for some reason i wasn’t able to get the mixdown to work properly. when it came into Audacity i discovered that all i had was some crazy high pitched mess as it seems the mixdown did something weird and ran the audio 3 times faster, and well was just a mess and I could not fix it before the deadline. So, oh well, thats the way it goes sometimes! so hope you all enjoyed the film anyway, I’ll be doing a tutorial on the VHS look shortly so don’t miss out on that! ( I should really figure out how to create a mailing list so I can let you know when stuff is happening on the site, in the mean time you can subscribe to my youtube channels to keep up to date on whats happening and i’ll have another monthly movie up  by the end of december. (it may or may not be festive, I haven’t decided yet! 😀 )



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