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Graphic designer tackles contentious topic in new short film

  • Published on January 14, 2014
Graphic designer tackles contentious topic in new short film

The startling revelations about the NSA's widespread domestic surveillance programs continue to make headlines months after former consultant Edward Snowden first leaked stolen documents to the press last year. However, the intricacies of privacy law and the often labyrinthine terms and conditions pages you'll encounter on most websites don't make for terribly interesting reading. In his latest short film, 3D artist and graphic designer Mike Winkelmann tackles the thorny topic of privacy in the digital age through the use of stunning 3D visuals and post-production work in Adobe After Effects.

Two sides of the coin
Winkelmann, who works under the alias "Beeple," did not originally set out to create a film about the NSA's alleged intrusions or their implication for today's digital society. He was working on another project when the Snowden leaks first hit the headlines, and decided that the concepts of privacy and oversharing via social media would be an interesting topic on which to focus. The end result is a remarkable short film titled "Transparent Machines," which made extensive use of not only 3D modeling and rendering software, but also Adobe After Effects.

During the project, which Winkelmann claims took around 150 days to complete, he realized through trial and error that some of the advanced render settings he was using were substantially delaying his progress, and so he took a different approach.

"When I first started out trying to render the glass look, I had a regular lighting setup with all the usual settings and global illumination and ambient occlusion turned on," Winkelmann told the Computer Graphics Society. "When I saw that this made the render time insanely high, I started peeling off some of these settings and saw that they made little to no difference in the final output. This taught me a valuable lesson that has stuck with me since then."

Building virtual worlds
The sleek, polished look of the final film would not have been possible without Adobe After Effects, but to the uninitiated, this powerful software package can be a little intimidating. If Winkelmann's film has inspired you to create your own visuals or explore the world of post-production, After Effects training through the American Graphics Institute is an excellent way to get started.

Once you've mastered the fundamentals of this versatile program, you'll be ready to learn complementary skills such as offline editing in Final Cut Pro and other skills that will push your video work to a whole new level.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.