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Aetuts+ Weekend Workshop #6 - "Genuine 100% Fake World War II Footage"


We've recently started a new weekly community project where we'll be posting a video created by one of our wonderful readers, then ask you all to offer constructive feedback on the work. It’s a great way to learn more about video, express your viewpoint, and have your own content critiqued! Submit your own videos at the bottom.

Quick Ground Rules

  1. Play nice! We’ve deliberately chosen videos that aren’t perfect, so please be constructive with any criticism.
  2. Feel free to offer any type of advice – movement, lighting, color, pacing, etc.
  3. You can also link to videos that you feel offer a great example of this type of content done exceptionally well.

Without further ado, here is this week’s candidate for critique!

"Genuine 100% Fake World War II Footage"

Story Behind the Project

I was recently kicking around a project with a friend of mine and it turned out one thing we would need would be footage of some B-17 bombers dropping some objects from their bomb bays. One way to go about it, of course, would be to get some old stock footage of some bombers flying and composite in what we needed to be dropped. Then, I got to thinking how cool it would be to make my own World War II footage from the ground up.

I've just started learning Vue, and thought it could give me some great landscapes to fly over, as well as a realistic cloud cover near the bombers. So, I decided to do a little test project to see how feasible it would be.

I opened up Vue and went to work. I set up a simple Standard Terrain and used a material that gave me grassy fields at lower elevations and rocky mountains at higher elevations. I wasn't really too worried about the resolution as it would be far below and I knew I would be somewhat destroying any sharpness later on in After Effects to give it the old time look. Next I set up a low layer of clouds at about 1000 meters. I should mention I tried to keep everything real world scale in this project. Finally I set up another layer of clouds just over 5000 meters. These clouds would be pretty much the same elevation as the bomber squadron. I saved the scene and opened Cinema 4D.

In Cinema 4D I opened the Vue file and the atmosphere and terrain loaded up. I had previously downloaded a free 3D model of a B-17 bomber, so I imported that in, scaled it real world size, and did a couple simple modifications. The wheels were deleted, and I cut out some bomb bay doors from the underbelly of the plane. Shifted the axis points so I could animate the doors opening. Next I animated the propellers. Did a couple quick previews to get a camera position I liked and was almost ready to do my first shot. The only remaining thing to do was to duplicate the bomber 12 times and make a squadron. After looking up online how a 12 plane "combat box" of B-17's was aligned, I did the alignment, then grouped them all under a null object and animated the null moving forward at an altitude of 5000 meters. I preferred duplicating and grouping the planes rather than using a Cloner Object with a Grid Array in this case. Just personal preference on that. I set up a little camera movement across and ahead of the formation and rendered it out at 480x270.

Brought the animation into AE and set up a 1920x1080 comp. Upscaled the animation and got some nice softness to the footage. Applied some ReelSmart motion blur, a tiny amount of Fast Blur, and then went to Hue/Saturation and desaturated it. On top of that layer I added an Adjustment Layer and added BCC Film Damage. Lowered the opacity of the Adjustment Layer to about 20% and things were looking pretty good, but still a little too "clean".

One thing I had noticed when looking over old WWII footage of bombers in flight was that a lot of times the sky was so bright, they had to dial down the iris so everything but the planes wasn't blown out. This usually resulted in the planes being a little darker. I dragged the comp i had just made into another comp and applied Brightness/Contrast to it, leaving the brightness about the same but upping the contrast to about 50%. Next I made an Adjustment Layer and applied a small bit of grain to it. It was now just about how I wanted it, but the animation was still a little too smooth to look real. At that point I went back to the comp and applied a Wiggle expression to get a little vibration going. After fiddling with the settings for a bit, it looked good. I enabled motion blur to the comp and checked on for the footage comp.

I love World War II movies and documentaries, so this was a really fun thing to do as well as a great learning experience for integrating Vue into my workflow.

After that I just basically did the same thing for all the other shots, just changing camera positions in Cinema 4D and rendering out the animations. In some of the later test shots near the end I rendered a Depth Pass out of Cinema and brought it into AE and used the Lens Blur effect to get a little depth of field on the shots. Also, I bumped up the output to 960x540 for the closer bomber shots. For the bombs falling I modeled a simple bomb in Cinema, applied a Rigid Body tag to it, duplicated it about 30 times and set keyframes for them to enable and fall out the bomb bay doors. I originally tried them in a Cloner Object but they all fell out at once, looking like a huge brick of bombs falling. After some unsuccessful attempts to change this behavior I just went for the individual bombs falling and it worked out very well.

Overall I considered the experiment a success. There's some small errors in there, especially in the first couple shots, but since this was a test I didn't really feel any need to go back and correct them. I love World War II movies and documentaries, so this was a really fun thing to do as well as a great learning experience for integrating Vue into my workflow. Cheers!

Please let us know what you think in the comments – how would you have approached this project or done things differently?

Interested in submitting your own video? You can do so here!

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