Workflow – Effects


This is the rain for the opening scene. I wanted a fairly heavy fall to help emphasise the character’s mood. It is a visual trope in films that if the weather turns cold and wet and there’s rain on the window or the character is caught out in a shower, things are usually turning gloomy. It has become a cliche but viewers are attuned to its message and it is a simple shorthand way of communicating mood.


I followed the above tutorial and used CC Rain.
I increased the amount of rain by adjusting the number and size of the drops as well as their opacity. To slant the drops slightly across the screen, I increased the wind to ‘150’.


I have used this effect  as part of the electricity shooting around in low opacity as part of the background inside the brain.  The brain needs to be busy in terms of action to reflect the character’s state of mind but not so busy that the focus of the sequence is lost.


Working off the above tutorial, I used Fractal Noise to create the base material and then placed ellipse masks on a layer over the base material; added Turbulent Displace (with an expression); placed an adjustment layer on top and used Fast Blur, Vector Blur and Color Balance to give the portal its final touches.


These are the mouths that represent the voices of his intrusive thoughts. I removed the iPhones for the final project as the mouths now represent inner voices rather than people talking loudly into their cellphones in public. Using Time Remap and an Expression, I looped the movement of the mouths to represent a demanding tone but not so fast that the action is blurred.


Working from the above tutorial, I duplicated each face onto a new layer and, using the pen tool, masked out the mouth/jaw area on the top layer. Then I placed a black solid layer below this layer and resized the solid to only be seen when the jaw dropped as I adjusted its position.


To create the visual metaphor of tinnitus to match the sound, I placed repeated images of the grasshopper and cricket in a composition and animated them using position key frames along a Pen Tool path.


This is the spray that he pumps out of the umbrella tip. Following feedback, I have spun him left and right as he sprays. This works well as the action now looks more natural and purposeful. The colour of the spray and the opacity has been chosen to give the impression of a rather poisonous light green/yellow.


Working from the above tutorial, I created a black solid which I then manipulated using Particle Playground and Gaussian Blur to create the initial spray that will issue from the umbrella tip. I then added a second black solid layer on top and used CC Particle World to create the beginnings of the widespread spray and a third layer using CC Particle World to create the spray that spreads across the screen. I changed the birth and death colours to variations of yellow/green


This is the emoji rain that falls inside his brain representing binary thinking (like/dislike). Following feedback, I set two emojis falling first as a teaser. I like the change, it gives a cheeky feeling to the opening as though they are two younger and disobedient emojis who couldn’t wait for the order to begin and are having a good time in doing so. After further feedback, I decreased the volume of falling emojis to start the main downpour.


Working from the above tutorial I used CC Particle World, altered the Particle Type to Textured Square and the Texture Layer to the emoji image. To have the images accumulate at the bottom of the screen I selected Floor Action to Bounce. I then adjusted Hue/Saturation to pull back on the brightness of the emojis so they looked less cartoonish and to match the colour style in his brain.


This effect is the result of him shooting the last and ever-expanding emoji that appears after the rain of emojis. I increased the dimensions of the shatter pieces to give the suggestion of an inner body and I think it adds to the shatter effect.


Working from the above tutorial, I placed the image on a layer and applied the Shatter Effect. I then used the following settings: Pattern-Glass; Repetitions 40 to increase the number of pieces; increased the Extrusion Depth to .40 to give the pieces added thickness; altered Gravity to 1.00 and Viscosity to 0.4 to give a better fall. I then placed a sourced file of an explosion on the bottom layer and used Brightness & Contrast and Gamma/Pedestal/Gain to lighten and heighten the explosion effect.

Explosion source
This is the explosion clip sourced from I chose this one as having a nice full-bodied and rounded shape emanating from the centre.


Assessment feedback suggested I consider using extra camera moves and I have taken up that suggestion.

I have used the technique of controlling the camera using a parented Null Object Layer as outlined in this video.

This video (below) suggested the idea to use a crane down shot at the start to indicate that we were dropping into Reign Man’s life.

The next video is the result:

 I had originally thought to use two jump cuts in the sequence where we see Reign Man become aware of the emoji rain. This was meant to indicate the jumpiness of his mind but simply looked like bad editing. I therefore used a pan and zoom to move in on him and away again. I am pleased with the result (see next video) as there is still a feeling of rushing in on him to register his response.

I added Gaussian blur to the background as the camera moves in to give a bokeh effect and therefore ensure the focus of attention is on Reign Man’s face.


 I had considered zooming in on him to conclude the video but decided against it. The intention in the last scene is to see him as part of his environment rather than dominating it.



In the journey of Reign Man from his brain/mind to sitting and reading at the conclusion, I had first attempted to make the transition as smooth as though the medium was film. It never looked right. I realised I was denying the medium I was working in: stop motion. Once I accepted that and worked the final sequence as stop motion, the transition had an interesting character of its own: it represented his return as not facile and smooth but as a bumpy re-entry which looks more realistic. A space capsule returning to earth is usually shown as having a very bumpy journey before splashdown and this is what I now see in Reign Man’s return as shown in the excerpt below.



Starting VFX work with the rain effect was encouraging as it is a relatively simple operation which gave me confidence to get into the more complicated effects.
In acknowledging that I was working in stop motion in the final scene is a lesson: in accepting the medium of stop motion rather than trying to pretend it was film, the ending to the video gained a lot more energy.
Each effect I have created is accompanied by the main tutorial I accessed for each test. Other tutorials used to help me in creating these tests included work on garbage mattes, replacing footage on a layer, green screening (especially, looping pre-comps, explosions, brain cell animation, shadow effect, raster to vector conversion, and audio manipulation. The internet is an excellent source of extra training and as a source of information to solve the large and small challenges that arise in doing this work.

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