Professional VFX Compositing With Adobe After Effects
Taught by Aaron Muszalski
This class is currently officially unscheduled (having not yet been formally presented to, or voted on by, the NoiseBridge membership). The proposed schedule is 7-10pm every Thursdays. Class duration is also undetermined, but will likely be between 5 and 15 weeks, depending on participant interest and my availability.
After Effects CS3 Professional Studio Techniques by Mark Christiansen
Written by my friend and former LucasArts co-worker, Mark Christiansen, this is the single best guide to professional VFX techniques in After Effects, and the required textbook for my VFX2 class at the Academy of Art. Highly recommended, especially for anyone whose interest in AE is in the areas of photo-realistic VFX compositing, greenscreen compositing, and HDR workflow (the latter being increasingly standard in film VFX). If you're only able to purchase one book related to my class, this is the one.
The compositor's bible. In every professional VFX artist's library, and more often, on their desk. Do look closely though, as many copies hardly have their spines cracked, their owners having quickly been scared off by the preponderance of math and technical content. Of course, the same properties that makes this book a tough read for the artistically-oriented effects artist makes it ideal for those coming to VFX from scientific or engineering backgrounds. Not recommended as an entry-level text, but a must-own for anyone who aspires to truly grok the art and science of digital compositing.
Compositing for Film and Video, Second Edition by Steve Wright
Steve Wright's "Digital Compositing For FIlm And Video" is by far my favorite application-agnostic VFX textbook. Incremental, accessible, and eminently practical, it's packed to bursting with strategies for triumphing over real production challenges. Although written primarily for node-based compositing systems (eg. Nuke and Shake) most of the examples can be easily adapted for use in layer-based systems such as Photoshop and After Effects. Still, this is perhaps not the best text for an aspiring After Effects artist (I'd start instead with Mark Christiansen's book, above). But once you've become comfortable with the basics in your chosen application and are looking to gain a real understanding of the hows and whys (and cheats and hacks) of professional digital compositing, this is the book I'd turn to next.
Visual Effects: Essentials for the Aspiring Artist by Steve Wright
Wright's most recent book, this is an excellent introductory VFX textbook. Highly recommended for any beginner interested in gaining an overview of the entire contemporary VFX pipeline and the processes that comprise it. From terminology to practice, Wright applies his unparalled experience and trademark clarity to making the complex comprehensible. If you have little or no prior VFX experience, this would be an excellent companion to Mark Christiansen's After Effects book. If you are more experienced, consider selecting "Digital Compositing For FIlm And Video" (above) instead. Motivated, aspiring professional? Get both.
Not strictly a VFX text - or rather, not solely a VFX text - this book from my former ILM co-worker (and subsequent Orphanage co-founder) Stu Maschwitz is a manifesto for no excuses filmmaking, in which the clever use of VFX is but one part. Still, what VFX advice is there is vital, and infused with Stu's irrepressible passion for film and filmmaking. Like Robert Rodriguez (see "Rebel Without A Crew", below) Stu WANTS YOU TO STOP COMPLAINING and MAKE YOUR MOVIE and the DV Rebel's Guide is a guerilla training manual to help you accomplish that. (And do overlook the now rather outdated title; the book's techniques are just as applicable to cheap HD filmmaking.)
Not a VFX text, but included here for its potential utility as a guide to hacking your way into a career in filmmaking. Armed with only $7,000 (much of that earned by repeatedly checking himself into the hospital as a test subject for drug trials) aspiring director Robert Rodriguez produced his first feature-length film "El Mariachi" at the age of twenty-three. Originally intended to be sold to the Spanish-language direct-to-video market, the film was eventually picked up by Sony, who polished the audio and gave the film a theatrical release, thus launching Rodriguez' (From Dusk 'Til Dawn, Sin City, Spy Kids) Hollywood directorial career. An honest and thoroughly entertaining book, you'll learn how his "edgy editing style" was a workaround necessitated by his inability to record sync sound (his camera was too loud), how he lit his scenes using color-balanced bulbs in whatever standard light fixtures were available on location, and how he used a borrowed hospital wheelchair for all his "dolly shots". Pure genius, brash and inspirational.
Recommended VFX Resources Online
Interested Parties & Designated Codenames
Stella "Deadeye" Worley
Star "&" St.Germain
Nicole "Coelacanth" Aptekar
William "Hopalong" Heath
Vlad "Racer X" Spears
Reed "Montana Jack" Kennedy