1 City Records


Create a motion graphic splash that can be used as an intro/outro in company media.
Logo should be a part of the animation and also inspire the movement.


Having grown up in New York City, I got used to some beautiful parallax effects in the real world. From the Manhattan skyline being revealed in grand fashion as I’d be driving on the BQE to wonderful passing tunnel art seen from subway windows; there is a beauty in the world passing by. Seeing as how winter is coming (I’m not a GOT fan at all, but winter is most definitely coming) I started to channel memories of some cold, cold morning commutes. I love the snow and the stillness of winter.

When setting up this animation, I had to keep in mind that adding depth to two dimensional animation requires a conscious effort. The closer layers of the city will be darker while the further buildings will be lighter in color and a bit out of focus. The snow, while flat, is on multiple 3D layers dispersed on the Z-axis. The closer snow is set to spherical and the snow in the distance is set to a line type. There are some very popular particle generators out there, but this was done using Adobe’s native “CC Particle Systems 2”. All of the distortion was developed using Twitch. There are a few good distortion plug-ins for After Effects, but Twitch is my favorite — I’m a big Video Copilot fan. Lastly, there is a light layer used to expose all the tunnel concrete backgrounds as it passes by. Light layers offer so many great strategies for exposing 3D active layers.




Diameter Collective | Motion Graphics


Create a motion graphic splash that can be used as an intro/outro in company media.
Logo should be a part of the animation and also inspire the movement.


As we all know, the diameter is a straight line that travels through the center of the circle, connecting two points on the circumference. I couldn’t help but remember my high school math teacher explaining it as a line that chops a circle in half. The idea of chopping stuck in my mind and started to develop into a concept.

The trickiest part of this whole piece was developing the swing and fall after the circle is divided. With some intricate keyframing and speed graphing (and many trials & errors), I finally got it to where I was happy.


Little intricacies are what truly make an animation feel complete. For example, most subjects travel in arcs — the faster a subject is moving, the flatter the arc can become. Nonetheless, things don’t usually move in absolute straight lines. Similarly, things don’t fall straight down — they tilt or flip or drift as they descend. Also, multiple related subjects — when prompted to move — don’t all initiate movement at the same time. Think about being at a traffic light when it turns green; the cars don’t all start going at the exact same moment. This staggering of movement is something that is natural to the human eye/mind. While animating, I always try to get a sense of how things travel and function in the real world — a lot of the same principles can make an artificial conceptual animation feel grounded and organic. It’s important to keep these natural behaviors in mind. Like how things that are not self propelled disperse from a single point of force. Usually, the smaller fragments will travel faster and further than the larger items. Or think about projectiles and the sizing difference between entry and exit points on a target. Details. Always consider the details.


Finally, no animation is complete without sound design and nothing brings more life to the party than an engaging audio track. The sounds I use for my work are from a wonderful library of clips developed by Andrew Kramer at Video Copilot. It’s an immense collection and has been wonderful to use. Be sure to check it out. It’s usually a toss between Premiere and Audition when I’m developing the sound design. I found audio files that fit well without heavy editing, so I decided to lay it all out in Premiere after importing the After Effects comp via Adobe Dynamic Link.


Teamwork and Tools

As a filmmaker, there are two elements that are not only the foundation of your projects, but determine how far you will go in the long run. When it comes down to it, your tools and your team are all that you have at your disposal. Find tools that augment your style and fit within your shooting plan. Build a team that supports your vision with integrity, but also challenges you to look beyond your vision and grow.

This blog post features images from a project we completed for DRM Motorworx. Our subject was a modded BMW M5 and we needed to decide how we were going to shoot the driving shots — vehicle mounted cameras, from the back window of another car, etc. In the end, we decided to go a step further. One of our favorite tools is the Kesslercrane Pocket Jib, so we set it up on the back of a Ford F150. This was a two man job — Sameer operated the crane as Sahid analyzed footage (framing, exposure, focus, etc).


It was raining and there was — due to going highway speeds — a brutally cold wind chill. The resistance from the wind also posed a danger. Under such circumstances, you need a team that flows well and tools that are built to perform.


The resulting imagery speaks for itself…


Coming from a photography background, I was used to handling the creative process from start to finish. However, the first thing I learned about filmmaking was that it takes a village. You have to be able to share ideas, take critique, and adapt to other styles. Often times, your team will have insights to framing, lighting design, and creative direction on set — things that may not have been thought of during pre-production. It’s best to have an open mind and incorporate great “on the spot” ideas if time permits. Strong communication leads to the development of wonderfully crafted work. Below, Sameer and I work together on creating a lighting look for the “glamour shots” of the film.


The fruits of good teamwork…


Color Grading

Every filmmaker starts off with a vision that is used to determine the overall look of the final product. This vision can address a multitude of variables — the equipment used on set; the angles captured by the camera; the way the sequences of the story flow; how the actors are directed to perform, etc. In the indie market, one of the issues rarely addressed properly and often times simply overlooked is finding a good colorist for grading the imagery. After all the frames are captured and all the footage is cut, the single biggest thing that can augment or hinder the mood and depth of the film is the color grade. Some treat it as “merely” icing on the cake, but what’s cake without good icing?

Here at Grand Theory, we use various different grading options depending on the project parameters, turn around requirements, and footage type. Below are a few test grades of a couple of frames from a recently shot project. These were graded in Adobe Speed Grade CC — a tool we’re starting to appreciate more and more everyday.


On Set: “WILL”

When shooting our spot based on the will of a fighter and his struggle to train for competition, one of the first things we had to do was develop a “look” that we wanted to pursue. We finalized a treatment consisting of two very distinct images – the training and making way to the competition being dark, tense, and isolating. Contrasting this is the pre-fight “meditative period” being naturally lit and taking place during the day.

A lot of the spot was filmed in an abandoned basement of an old church, which also happened to not have any power. The lighting we chose was the Kino Flo Select system – a 4’x1 and 4’x2 setup. Some of the advantages to this line of fluorescent lighting are that the Selects put out a good amount of light, yet are very power efficient. This was good because the electrical system of the building was ancient and wouldn’t have played nicely with high powered tungsten. Another issue that we avoided by using florescent was ambient heat buildup as the basement had no air conditioning or ventilation. Lastly, the Kino Flo Selects are extremely light and very easy to grip to structures of any kind.

Our lens choices consisted of a Rokinon Cine 14mm and a Nikon 50mm. The 14mm has a way of putting the viewer right inside the action. It emphasizes movement and maximizes impact. The 50mm comes in particularly handy when you need to deal with venue obstructions. The background compression it provides along with the ability to melt everything away with buttery bokeh make this lens our go-to tool when eliminating distractions.

One of the aspects of cinematography that we always try to focus on is to build our frames in layers. The most important thing in a frame is depth; be it by placement of lighting, props, or camera. Depth of frame allows the viewer to mentally “reach into” the film as it provides a three dimensional feel to a two dimensional image. Layering builds a sense of distance as well as a sense of mood.

Some other pieces of equipment that were crucial to our production for adding production value and speed were Kessler Crane’s Pocket Jib, SmallHD DP6 field monitor, (the now famous) Manfrotto monopod, and the Cinevate Atlas FLT. The selection of these items was based around size, portability, and efficiency. The Pocket Jib is a small versatile crane that (when balanced properly) allows for instant re-positioning of the camera. It also requires no cable attachments and quickly extends to different sizes. Along with the monopod, the camera can easily be positioned in whatever way we need without the hassle of dealing with traditional tripod setups. The Atlas FLT is a small and light slider that is perfect for getting those dolly shots on dense shooting sets.

We had the pleasure of having some great hands on set that made the video a success. A big thanks goes out to all the crew and support we received during this production.