How I Blew Up A Planet

Ok, I’m not actually an “Evil Galactic Overlord” who makes it a point to destroy the home planets of those who dare oppose me. What I’m talking about is a cool visual effect that I achieved using Blender, a video editor (in my case, Sony Vegas Pro 8), and my imagination.

This effect has a little bit of a history to it. It all started when I found a tutorial on BlenderGuru.com called Create a Shattered Glass Title Animation by Andrew Price that showed how to take some simple text and make it shatter into hundreds of pieces and thousands of tiny shards. Then when this animation was complete it was reversed in a video editor and a reversed sound of glass breaking added.

The result was a very cool effect that you can see in this video:

Shattered Glass Text Intro from Andrew Price on Vimeo.

Before going further I should note that this will require the latest version of Blender which you can get free at blender.org. He was using version 2.53 which was the current version at the time he made the tutorial. As of this writing Blender 2.56 Beta is current. The old version 2.49b just isn’t going to cut it for this project.

Having seen that video I just had to learn how to do that effect so I took the time to watch the tutorial with Blender running, pausing it frequently to apply what he was showing to my project.

After about two hours of this and some tinkering with settings and materials to suit my own version of the project and another two hours or so to render a video file from it, I ended up with something that looked pretty cool, especially for a first time effort.

I used it in the beginning of this video:

A day or two later I was browsing Blender tutorials on youtube and ran across one called “Easy planet tutorial for blender” that made creating a planet really easy. I found a good planet texture image on the Blender Open Material Repository which is loaded with all sorts of free material textures that you can use in Blender.

With the texture applied I had a very good looking planet. I set my project to 900 frames long and set two keyframes. One at frame 1 and then at frame 900 I rotated the planet on the Z axis 360 degrees and set another keyframe.

Setting the background to show stars the animation that resulted was a planet in space.

Then I got to thinking, “What if I want to blow up the planet?”. Not in reality of course but I’m always looking for cool visual effects that I can use in videos and I just couldn’t pass up this idea.

It turned out to be really easy.

Referring to the shattered glass animation I added an explode modifier and a particle system to the planet object. I set it to start emitting particles at frame 901 and end at frame 905 with a lifetime of 500. I made sure that the particles themselves would not be seen and applied settings very similar to those that were used for the particle settings in the glass project. I also changed the end frame from 900 to 1100.

After a total of about ten or fifteen minutes work, starting with a copy of the planet animation project, and several hours to render the final animation I had an exploding planet. I took this into my video editor and added a bright red flash at the frame the explosion starts and also found a good explosion sound effect and it was ready.

I used it as a key part of the story in the third chapter of a Phat Trek episode that I’ve been making. (This looks particularly good in full screen mode)

I should also point out that BlenderGuru.com is a wealth of tutorials, tips & tricks for doing some exceedingly cool stuff with Blender. I plan to be spending a lot of time on that site for the foreseeable future.

By the way, If you haven’t seen Phat Trek, Here are links to the first two chapters in this story.

Chapter 1 ‘Vendetta’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkFf7Z9Gvjk

Chapter 2 ‘Grudge’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_q20594PQw

I plan to be making at least one of these chapters per week. More if I have time and inspiration enough.

[tags]blender, animation, tutorial, explode, planet, visual effect, phat trek[/tags]

More Plans

In recent videos there’s been something of a story beginning to start. It’s completely unplanned and is being pretty much made up as I go along. It started the other day when, at the end of an otherwise normal video, the lights were switched off and the sound of several gunshots were heard.

In the next video it was revealed that one of the characters that appears in my videos regularly, Sir Gorf, is missing. From there the story is very much under development and it looks like it’s going to get very interesting.

One of the things I think I’m going to need is to be able to show a “Shooter’s eye view” of somebody using something like one of those cool Nikon rifle scopes to take out a target. The trick is that, because I really would like it to look realistic, I don’t want to just make up a scope overlay in a graphics editor. What I’d really like to do is get a picture that is taken through one, preferably while looking at a well lit bright green color that I can chroma key out to give the appearance that the scope is looking at a target just before the shot is fired.

Short of finding somebody that has one and is willing to take such a shot, this is going to mean spending a crapload of time on Google looking for it.

[tags]filmmaking, video effects, visual effects, sniper, sniper scope, rifle scope[/tags]

My Remastering Project

Just a couple of weeks shy of a year ago I started making a video series that I called “Talking to my many selves” (links to the playlist on youtube) in which I explored what it might be like if somebody were to encounter various parts of his personality “in person”.

While I still think that it was a great idea and in fact will be making more in that series beginning later this month. I also have to be the first to admit that certain aspects of the production quality in those originals left a LOT to be desired.

The sound sucked incredibly bad in all of them due to a constant hiss and the sound of my computer fans (and sometimes the furnace) running in the background. They were all rendered at “preview” quality and a very low bitrate of 500kbps. In several cases the chroma key effect I used failed pretty badly. Finally, they were not stand alone videos. Instead they were each part of a regular daily vlog.

Because in the year since they were made I’ve learned a lot of ways to improve them and have a MUCH better computer to render them with. I have decided to re-open those original project files and apply all I’ve learned to them.

First up is to make them stand alone videos, removing the parts of them that were just daily vlogs. I’m adding opening titles, end credits and background music. I am also exporting all of the audio tracks one at a time and using Audacity to remove the background noise that made some of the dialog hard to understand.

All of the chroma key settings are being re-worked as well, and parts of the video where I used Bezier masking are getting fine tuned also. After that, I’m going through all video clips used and applying color correction.

Finally, instead of the 500kbps “preview quality” .WMV that they were originally rendered as, I’m rendering them as .MP4 files with quality set to “best” and the bitrate is 4mbps.

I’m not quite finished with the project because I’ve decided that there are a few scenes that need to be re-shot from scratch but when it’s done you’ll be able to look at the remastered versions and see (and hear!) a huge difference from the originals. Once all of the remastered versions are uploaded to youtube it will be time to start making new episodes in that series.

Here’s the embeded version of the original version playlist. I think you’ll agree with me that while a good idea, the implementation came out really bad.

[tags]video, remaster, remake, quality, video quality, sound quality, noise removal, chroma key, bitrate[/tags]

Buy.com Has A Camera I Want

I was looking around on buy.com today and I spotted a camera on the weekly deals page that I want.

It’s the Canon EOS 60D Digital SLR. It’s a sweetheart of a camera that not only has all the bells and whistles for doing fantastic still photography, it’s also a VERY good video camera as well.

I’ve seen some reviews of this camera from the point of view of using it primarily as a video camera and it’s pretty good given it’s $1200 price range. It’s actually on par with some much more expensive cameras.

Now all I need to do is convince that currently unknown wealthy relative to get me one for Christmas!!

[tags]camera, video camera, cannon, digital slr, wishlist[/tags]

WBV Finds Another Winner!

Watching Bad Videos (so you don’t have to), a web video series based on youtube that is focused on trying to find the comparatively few Good videos in the ocean of crap that is the 35 hours worth of video uploaded to youtube every minute these days and feature them so that others won’t have such a hard time finding those deserving videos has found another true gem in the midst of all that false glitter.

In the fifth episode of WBV, one of the videos featured was ‘New Halloween Movie Trailer‘ by a creative but relatively unknown youtube personality, HamEntertainment.

This is a movie trailer style video that previews a horror movie about a serial killer that’s light years ahead of Michael Myers or Jason. In spite of the fact that it’s made by a guy that is working with little more than a camcorder and some friends & family, it’s got every bit as much potential as the latest Rob Zombie hit.

HamEntertainment has also said that if enough people like his movie trailer that he would go ahead with making the full movie. I would like to suggest that you take a look at the video below and if you like it, click here to subscribe to HamEntertainment and show your support for his making the full movie.

[tags]Halloween, Movie, Trailer, Rob, Zombie, michael myers, horror movie, trailer, paranormal, thriller, horror, sneak peak, review[/tags]