Pale Blue Dot

So I’m working on my scifi short which has gone from ‘Invasion London’ to ‘Invasion Earth’!  Once more the front room’s been transformed into a greenscreen studio and I’m doing some shots of the spaceship model.

Here’s a short test video.  One of the main issues so far has been getting smooth panning shots.  My initial attempt at building a platform on wheels and sticking the camera tripod on that met with limited success.  It can possibly be refined but I’m now kind of stuck between seeing if I can do everything hand held and buying a glidetrack for £250!

This shot was done with the tripod supported on my shoulder.  I don’t mind the hand held thing necessarily but if you want shots looking like the ships flying past you probably need something smoother……

Another issue I ran into was pulling a clean matte from the footage.  My greenscreen setup’s OK but I’m always limited by the space I have available (my font room and the length of the greenscreen) and the lighting (some dodgy photography lights I got off ebay).

I’ve attempted to get round this in the past, most recently for Beast of the Air, by shooting outside so that I have natural lighting.  This introduces other problems though, like trying to set up a greenscreen in gale force winds!

Anyway, in this case while I could pull a decent enough matte from the footage I was getting alot of noise in the resulting video.  I guess this was due to a combination of the DSLR video and the chroma key filter (Keylight in this case).  After some experimentation I came up with a way of getting round this.

Keylight allows you to output a ‘screen matte’ which is effectively a black and white representation of the areas of the image that are transparent and opaque.  Normally I’d just use this to see how good my matte was, however this time I’m actually using the screen matte in a different way.

After Effects allows you to use black and white/grayscale images in a number of ways.  One method is to use this as a ‘Luma Matte’ that takes the black and white values from one image and use them to define which areas of another image are transparent and which are opaque.

I was therefore able to use this screen matte:

to remove the background from this image (minus the support pole which I had to mask out manually).  The result is you get all the transparency but none of the image noise.

There are probably some After Effects ninjas out there who will go ‘yeah so what, that’s obvious‘, but hey, screw you ;0)

I’ve also been working on an intro sequence that sees us flying tthrough the solar system and approaching Earth, inspired in no small part by Carl Sagan’s Contact, but in reverse.

I also wanted to include some famous space images so I’ve been working on my ‘Sagan Flare’ to recreate Carl Sagan’s famous ‘Pale Blue Dot‘ image using an optical flare as the Sun passes  out of frame.

Here’s Sagan’s original Pale Blue Dot video, it’s really quite beautiful.

I’ve also got Earth Rise in there as well as taken by Apollo 8.  It is a good idea to show so much from a video you’re working on?  Probably not but it’s not like anyone actually reads this ;0)


I’ve been working on the ‘aliens attack london’ project and the spaceship/drone thing is taking shape.   I’ve recently bought an airbrush so I’ve been painting the model.  I’ve got to say this thing is great!  There’s no way I could’ve painted the model in this way with a regular brush.

Since you can add very fine layers of paint it’s possible to add very subtle shading in around raised areas which gives it a kind of faux shadow effect.

It’s also quite fun to do!  I wanna make more stuff just so I can paint it ;0)

One small problem is you do end up with a very fine mist of paint all over the place.  As I’m using enamel paints and thinning it with white spirit, that means that you end up with a fine mist of white spirit in the air which isn;t great to breath in, so a respirator is a must.

Might try using acrylics instead just so I don;t gas myself.

I’m getting close to finishing the model now too – I want to try and get a metallic sheen to the underside of the model, it’s only black at the moment.  But apart from that most of it’s now built.

Once I’ve finished off the main build and painted it I also need to add electronics to power some LEDs, particularly in the ‘eye’.

Anyway, here are some more pics of the model.

Invasion London

So I recently did a video of the BT Tower exploding:

And I couldn’t help feeling that what it could really use is an alien drone of some sort flying past shooting it as it explodes.  So I set about making one.

This is made out of a variety of bits of junk – there’s a coke can in there, yoghurt pots etc.  The main structure is made from a plastic u-bend kit for fixing a sink.  That’s then overlaid with a shell made from cardboard overlaid with fibreglass.  The ‘eye’ is a halogen bulb and light fitting.  The overall shape is inspired by a news story I saw about some giant shrimp!  It’s also got some elements of the Hunter Killer from Terminator and ‘The Betty’ from Alien 4 (crap film, great miniature work!).

I’ve  just bought an air brush and compressor with which to paint it.

So once this is finished I’ll be shooting it greenscreen and creating a short ‘aliens invade london’ sequence.  Should be fun.

I’ve also been designing some elements to augment the model.  Here’s an energy ball element that I’ll be compositing into it’s ‘eye’.  The background is a picture of the Joint European Torus, a fusion reactor and there’s also a pic of the ATLAS detector from the Large Hadron Collider in CERN ;0)

And finally here’s a gallery of images of the model.