The Skull Parade

A couple of weeks ago I shot some video for a good friend of mine Ryan Darling of Darling3D. Ryan is a 3D illustrator, animator and educator. He is currently teaching classes on the history of medical illustration and ZBrush. Ryan has been working exceptionally hard at making these classes as immersive and informative as possible. Towards that goal, we shot a bunch of footage of various medical related objects, some macro shots and an assortment of other odds and ends.

When Ryan arrived, he was excited about the assortment of skulls my wife and I have on display throughout our house. I'm not sure how she and I got into a the habit of picking up various skulls wherever we may find them. Now, these aren't REAL skulls, mind you. Most of these have some sort of interesting idiosyncrasies which set them apart from the other. From the seat that I'm writing this from, I can count 7 skulls and that is just a small portion spread out throughout the house. It's not that we're THAT morbid (although we are a little morbid), it's just that we're.... okay, I guess we are that morbid. 

Anyway, Ryan wanted to get some shots of the skulls. So we did. The results were pretty nice. Here are a couple of stills from that shoot:

A few days later, I had some free time to mess around in After Effects and Premier. With the intent of bashing out a quick little project in just a few hours, I grabbed some of the skull footage we shot and started just messing around.

You can see the results at the top of this post.  

For this short video, I used a combination of the built in effects in After Effects and a couple of additional plug ins. To get the distinct color effect, I used Colorama, a very under-appreciated effect that comes built in to After Effects. It allows you to reassign the color values of an image to a completely different set of values. The results can be very subtle or quite striking. I went with something dramatic, as I knew I was going for a quick, high impact video.

For some of the "glitch" visuals I used Time Displacement. This has become one of my favorite effects, it's easy to set up and very versatile, although -since it is messing around with time- it can get a little heavy on the render side. By using a black and white matte, created using random animated noise, Time Displacement swaps out portions of the video based on the grey scale values of the noise in the matte.

For the color tearing and additional glitches, I used Twitch, from Video Copilot. It's quick, simple and doesn't take a ton of render power. There are a bunch of built in presets which makes messing up your footage a breeze. It's not endlessly customizable, but it's a good start and fun to mess around with.

The geometric designs overlaying the skulls were accomplished using Rowbyte's Plexus plug in. This is a relatively new addition to my arsenal and I'm really loving it. It's not something that I can use for every project, but with a little work it does create some great, unique and fun imagery. Definitely something that I will be experimenting with further in the future.

After setting up a handful of shots, with various combinations of these effects, I exported them all and began cutting them together in Premier Pro. The sounds come from the opening of a song I wrote a couple months ago, which will eventually see the light of day somewhere, somehow.

For a quick and dirty project, I'm pretty happy with the results. It's always good to experiment whenever possible, even if it's not for a client project.