FXPHD – AFX301 – A Guerrilla Filmmakers Guide to After Effects

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One of the most popular articles in recent months over at fxguide was our story about Gareth Edward’s work on Atilla the Hun. Edwards was one of the first traditional film students to combine live-action drama with digital effects. After graduating, he went on to work at many of the UK’s leading post-production facilities as a freelance visual effects artist. Eventually becoming frustrated with the “factory approach” to every project, he soon branched out on his own creating many high-end computer graphics for television clients including BBC and Discovery, all of which were completed entirely on own “from his bedroom”. Some of his work went on to win various accolades, including a British Academy Award and Emmy nomination.
He has since returned to his filmmaking roots directing the BBC drama “Attila the Hun”, which contained over 250 HD visual effects shots, all of which were created by himself in less than five months. The post used After Effects, Premiere, Photoshop, Mocha, and 3dsMax — all easily accessible tools for visual effects artists. Needless to say, we thought this whole experience would make a great “real-world” fxphd course and are excited to be adding this new course to the mix at the site. The course will cover a ton of techniques and approaches Edwards uses on the job, focusing on the art, the artist’s eye, and the craft. If you’re a compositor who doesn’t use After Effects you’ll still pick up a ton of useful information from the course.

Edward’s course will begin by breaking down shots, techniques, and workflow used in the actual production of Atilla the Hun. This in-depth coverage of the real world project will then shift gears into producing a complex visual effects shot with footage shot specifically for the course. Members will recreate the techniques used in one of the signature shots of the project — that of 30,000 Huns storming across an open field in an aerial shot.

Class 1: An introduction to the course workflow, using the Adobe suite, Premiere and Excel. Initial set up for an effects shot in After Effects. Tracking in AE using nulls for multiple track points and exporting a time-remapped frame for a clean background plate in Photoshop. Illustrating the power of the Adobe suite in creating a quick proof of concept.

Class 2: Creating a matte painting. Follows a breakdown from initial sketch to importation of photographic elements and eventual rendering into a completed matte. Multiple examples using pre-rendered 3D and ways to add realistic details with photos and video to nest them further into a realistic matte.

Class 3: Tricks within After Effects focused on crowd duplication recycling elements to create variation. Tips for rotoscoping quickly, and using other programs such as Mocha and Boujou. Faking 3D space with a 2D image in After Effects using created or imported layers.

Class 4: Issues with parallax when creating drag and drop armies. Keying tips. Using a plug-in for 3DSmax to export camera data directly into After Effects.

Class 5: The “poor man’s” Massive shot. Detailed example into using particle systems to animate huge crowds using avatar loops and tracking with multiple layers in both 3D and After Effects.

Class 6: Creation of another massive crowd charge, but using primarily After Effects instead of 3D particle clouds. 3D tracking in Boujou to provide tracking for a helicopter pass. Step by step process of constructing a proof of concept trial for the scene with provided footage.

Class 7: Making changes to the previs shot before committing to a finalized look. Randomizing the group of tourists further with additional avatars.

Class 8: A trick for grouping layers to simplify randomizing of avatars. Preparation of individual avatar passes for final composite.

Class 9: Additional passes are added to the composition to add further effects and grounding, including dust, bush intersection, color correction, light grading and glints.

Class 10: Reconsidering aspects of the shot for possible correction or tweaks. Correcting shadows and motion blur. Further example of a “poor man’s” Massive with a different background plate, and class conclusion.




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