Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

After Effects Workshop 1

The following are additional materials and further reading for my After Effects introduction workshop.

Green screen tutorial

Removing a green background and compositing with other images to create an animated flying carpet scene.

Keyframes and motion

The following video is a good demonstration of what can be achieved using keyframes for motion in After Effects, including Easy Ease, Hold Keyframes, the Speed Graph and 3D positioning.

Keylight Manual

The above tutorials only cover the basics of using Keylight, but this manual provides a guide to all of the features of this popular plugin.

Keylight Manual for After Effects (pdf)

Manuals and practice videos


Pedagoo Review of 2012

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Pedagoo logoThe full details of this post are published on the Pedagoo website.

The blogpost explains some of the work experience and real-life projects I’ve been doing with my students over the past year. There have been projects involving film and animation, photography, murals, internships, and there are some students who’ve been given jobs as a result.

Qualifications are one thing, but experience is another, and it’s experience that is the differentiator when employers look at job candidates.

One thing I’ve noticed is the type of student who volunteers for work experience. They tend to be older (20+), they tend to be the hardest working students, and the ones who do consistently good work. In a way this is good, as it means that better students are working on the real-life projects, so the project is more likely to be successful. However, it also means that there’s a category of student missing out on opportunities to improve – maybe it’s time to look at Carol Dweck’s fixed and growth mindsets…

Adobe Flash Animation Lessons

December 4, 2012 2 comments

Getting Flash to work in WordPress

January 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been wanting to share Flash-based content for a while on my blog, but never managed to do it. I have now found a way to do it. Simply find the URL of the swf file and add the following line, changing the url and height and width attributes.

Categories: Adobe, Animation

Aladdin Case Study

December 23, 2011 1 comment

This post describes the production of the special effects videos that staff and students from Carnegie College produced for the Aladdin pantomime that ran in December 2011 at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline.

Initial contact

In October Bill Fletcher, owner of the Alhambra Theatre, approached Carnegie College to see if students could produce some animation sequences for the Aladdin pantomime scheduled later in the year. Bill was introduced to Colin Maxwell, Digital Media tutor, who was then put in touch with Lawrie McNicol, the show’s director.


Lawrie e-mailed a copy of the script and an explanation of  ideas for the pantomime:

I would be so grateful if you could do this for us as it would add magic to the whole panto.
There are two points in the panto that Bill thought you might help us with.
One would be the top of act one when the spirit of the mirror speaks to Abanaza it would perhaps be played by Jim Leashman as the spirit. I imagined an old fashioned flickering TV sort of affair projected on the front cloth as a mirror, maybe black and white I will e-mail you the script. The second and more complicated bit is page 45 when the gene says “kindly step onto this magic carpet we’ll be off” at that point I thought we could go to black out on stage and start the projection of Aladdin flying on the carpet out of the Alhambra theatre over dunfermline if possible.
My thoughts were Aladdin flying past birds rockets aeroplanes etc anything up in the sky (Whatever your students imagination can come up with) eventually arriving back at the theatre smashing through the windows, like back to the future, “End of act one” Maybe only 3 minutes long.


A meeting was held on 2nd November to talk through Lawrie’s ideas. At this stage the students had already made some suggestions for the flying carpet scene and Lawrie was keen to take many of these on board. Lawrie had many different ideas, including a lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Aladdin.  At this meeting it was decided that  the actors would be filmed against a green screen so that the film could be composited with backgrounds and special effects.


At Carnegie College the students practised some of the scenes by setting up the green screen and staging a lightsaber duel. They filmed the sequences and used a variety of software applications to add the special effects. The students experimented with Adobe Premiere, Adobe Flash, LS maker and Particle Illusion to achieve the effects for the scenes.


The students also storyboarded the sequences to ensure there was a clear plan for the green-screen filming session.

<insert storyboards>


The next stage was the filming of the actors against a green background. Craig Chalmers (Aladdin), Jill Nadin (Genie) and Lawrie McNicol (Director, Magic Mirror) attended the photography studio at Carnegie College. Students collaborated in the shooting of the green-screen video. One of the students, Keiran, played the role of Darth Vader for the lightsaber duel. Abbie worked behind the scenes, ensuring the quality of the video and backing up the video files. Ailinn assisted in the studio and worked on the production of the Magic Mirror scene.

Green screen filming for Aladdin

Post Production

The first stage of post-production was to remove the backgrounds from the films shot in the studio. This was done using Adobe After Effects. This proved quite tricky due to Aladdin’s costume being a similar colour to the background, however a combination of chroma-key filtering and masking achieved the desired results. The magic carpet was created from a photograph and adjusted in Adobe Photoshop. The image was then composited with the green-screen footage in After Effects and a ripple effect added to make it look like the carpet was moving.

The final video clips were then imported into either Adobe Flash or Adobe Premiere Pro and composited with backgrounds and animated objects.

Particle Illusion was used to create a number of effects, including the space warp, lightsabers, fire, explosion and atmosphere re-entry effects.

The final video segments were combined in Adobe Premiere Pro and additional sound effects were added.

During the post-production stage videos posted to Youtube to allow the Alhambra team to see the progress of video effects sequences.


Some of the cast and production team attended Carnegie College on Thursday 8th December to see the final video sequence. Unfortunately, due to the stormy weather, all of the students had gone home for the day, but Tutor Colin Maxwell was able to show the team a near-complete version of the flying carpet scene. A few last minute changes were suggested (football fan Craig really wanted the football-heading scene added) and the next day the videos were handed over for a technical runthrough at the theatre.


The Alhambra technical crew solved a few technical issues with the projection of the video, but managed to get it projected the full width of the stage using Qlab and Keynote. The production team were very impressed by the quality of the video.

The Show

On Wednesday 21st December staff and students from Carnegie College were invited to the theatre to see the show. For many this was the first time they had seen the entire special effects sequences. Everyone was very impressed by the show and pleased when the college and students were mentioned during the performance and compared with Steven Spielberg!


Working on the special effects sequences for Aladdin was a very enjoyable experience for the students. It was a lot of work but the students (and staff) learned a lot from it. Looking forward to working on the next one…

Here’s what the press had to say…–oh-yes-it-is/

Here’s what the students had to say…

Graeme – “Just wanted to say, great afternoon with Colin , Abbie , Michael , Aaron, Ailinn and Joshua. Great bit of experience with the filming, planning etc. Thought we all worked well as a team and nice to see all the Flash work on the big screen…..”

Keiran –  “It has been such a great experience to work on this project. I’ve enjoyed being on this course much more than the whole time l spent at school”

Aladdin star Craig Chalmers commented –

Hi colin, please pass a final thank you to you and all the students.  What a wonderful final projection!  I have added your case study to my facebook if thats ok with you so all my friends, fans and followers can be made aware of your work.

hope you and the students have a merry christmas and happy new year

And here’s the final word from the Director –

Just a note to thank you and your students for all your hard work.
As you can see for yourself the result was amazing as I knew it would be.
The audiences loved the film scene at the end of act one and also the mirror in act one.
Thank you so much for bringing my dream to a reality.
Kind regards
and a Merry Christmas from me to you and your students

Lawrie McNicol

Categories: Adobe, Animation, teaching

Video special effects

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I did any video special effects with my students, but a project which came up recently has prompted me to get back into it.

My students are making some animated / video scenes for the upcoming production of Aladdin at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline.

We’ve storyboarded the scenes and have been experimenting with some of the special effects and animation techniques we will need for the final production. We’ve been using a variety of tools including Flash, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, LS maker and Particle Illusion to make effects.

Here’s a little taste of what we’ve been doing…

2D Animation – the importance of planning

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Today’s class started with a short introduction to planning. I explained that planning was ALWAYS necessary, and even if a plan isn’t committed to paper, the plan is still carried around in someone’s head.

Planning becomes more important when working in a team. It makes it easier to divide labour and keep everyone on track. When making an animation the script and storyboard are essential parts of the planning process.

Creative Commons Licence image by 3:19 on

Another good reason for planning is financial. If a client is spending a lot of money on a project, they want results and want to be able to track the progress of the project – a clear plan will help with this. Generally speaking, the more costly a project is, the more detailed the plan.

So, this week’s animation project was to tell a joke using animation. The students had to pick a simple joke such as a ‘knock knock’ joke and animate the person telling it and the listener. Before animation commenced the students had to draw a storyboard and write a short script. These were  swapped with classmates and each student then animated someone else’s work. This emphasised the need for clear planning. Many of the students couldn’t understand their colleague’s plans, so had to ask lots of questions before they could start animating.

If you are doing any animation yourself or with students I recommend the following sites for ideas, resources and information.

Categories: Animation, teaching