I am in the group of people who believe that a mid range gaming laptop is good enough for VFX Work. This is because gaming laptops have the same features an average vfx artist would need.
The Acer Helios 300 is probably one of the best deals you can get. The laptop’s PCIe SSD storage is one of the fastest in the market today making it a great choice for working locally in nuke.
It does have cons, like having speakers on the bottom then again, most students I know always listen to music with their headphones.
- 10th Generation Intel Core i7-10750H 6-Core Processor (Up to 5.0GHz)
- Overclockable NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM
- 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED-backlit IPS Display with 144Hz Refresh Rate (16:9 aspect ratio, 3ms Overdrive Response Time, 300nit Brightness & 72% NTSC)
- 16GB DDR4 2933MHz Memory & 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD (1 – PCIe M.2 Slot Available & 1 – Available Hard Drive Bay)
- Killer Double Shot Pro Wireless-AX 1650i 802.11ax WiFi 6 featuring 2×2 MU-MIMO technology (Dual-Band 2.4GHz and 5GHz) & Killer Ethernet E2600 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN
Nobody wants to get slap in the face. Asking for critisim especially about the work you created, is asking for a slap in the face. The more brutal the feedback, the more opportunities for you to grow. In the long run, a slap in the face is going to have a lot more mileage than a pat on the back.
If you show your work to others and ask them their opinion, they would most likely say nice things to you.
Next time, ask them what’s wrong with it.
They might not say what you want to hear but the odds are, they are going to go with their gut and tell you how they feel about it.
The truth hurts. But you shouldn’t get your ego get in the way. If it doesn’t look photo-real then it doesn’t.
You now know which parts of your work aren’t reading as photo-real.
Total Amount with Taxes in Canadian Dollars as of August 24 2020
I have been asked by many students over the years what specs they should get for a home workstation PC. I usually answer this question based on their budget.
This is my build for a $3000 budget. I usually invest a little more in things like Monitors, Keyboard, Mouse & Tablet as these things tend to outlive the workstation itself.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core, 16-Thread Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler
Price – $429.99
MSI ProSeries AMD Ryzen 2ND and 3rd Gen AM4 M.2 USB 3 DDR4 D-Sub DVI HDMI Micro-ATX Motherboard (B450M PRO-VDH Max)
Price – $150.55
Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO 32GB (4x8GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 LED Desktop Memory, Black
Price – $257.99
Storage 1 – Nuke Localize
WD Blue 3D NAND 500GB Internal PC SSD – SATA III 6 Gb/s, M.2 2280, Up to 560 MB/s – WDS500G2B0B
Price – $79.99
MSI Gaming GeForce GTX 1650 128-Bit HDMI/DP 4GB GDRR6 HDCP Support DirectX 12 Dual Fan VR Ready OC Graphics Card (GTX 1650 D6 Gaming X)
Price – $144.99
NZXT H510 Compact Atx Mid-Tower PC Gaming Case, Front I/O USB Type-C Port, Tempered Glass Side Panel,Cable Management System
Price – $99.99
Storage 2 – OS / Data Drive
WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB Internal PC SSD – SATA III 6 Gb/s, 2.5″/7mm, Up to 560 MB/s – WDS100T2B0A
Price – $139.99
ARCTIC MX-4 2019 Edition – Thermal Compound Paste – Carbon Based High Performance – Heatsink Paste
Price – $11.81
BenQ 27″ 2560×1440 QHD IPS Designer Monitor (PD2700Q), 100% Rec. 709 and sRGB, CAD/CAM, Animation, Darkroom, Low Blue Light, Flicker-Free , 60Hz refresh rate, Black
Price – $399.99
Das Keyboard 4 Root Soft Tactile Cherry MX Brown Mechanical Keyboard
Price – $209 + $25.08
Import Fees Deposit
Logitech MX Master 3 Advanced Wireless Mouse – Graphite
Price – $123.35
Wacom Intuos Wireless Graphics Drawing Tablet with Bonus Software Included, 10.4″ X 7.8″, Black (CTL6100WLK0)
Price – $279.95
Windows 10 Home
Price – $189
I am going to save you some time, and get straight to the point.
If you are on a Budget – get 16 GB DDR4 RAM
If you are building a home PC for compositing – get 32 GB DDR 4 RaM
If you want to build large 3D scenes, browse the web with 50 tabs open, have nuke open – get 64 GB DDR4 RAM.
There was a time when Ram was obscenly expensive and everyone I knew got the most they could afford. These days, thanks to all the competition, RAM has become fairly affordable. Always buy the newest RAM since they are more likely to be compatible with your new motherboard.
Frankly speaking, the more the better but you don’t want to spend all that money if you don’t need it.
Memory Requirement for Compositing
1080p Composites – 16 GB Minimum
4K Composites – 32 GB Minimum
6K-8K Composites – 64 GB Minimum
Of course, the more plates and elements you read in, the resolution of your plates and elements, the number of layers in your Exr sequences, the bit depth of your plates, elements and renders, and the presence of deep data will dramatically increase the amount of RAM required to process all these data.
And that is why is some studios, comper get like 300 GB of ram.
I got 64 GB of Ram and never looked back. Also my motherboard only supports up to 64GB.
Price – $783.98 (4 x 16 GB) 08 Feb 2017
Le Yang, a former student of mine, who graduated in September 2017, came to speak to our Compositing students about her experiences in the VFX industry in Vancouver, Montreal, and Sydney, Australia early last year.
Le has previously worked at Animal Logic, Atomic Fiction, Stargate Studios, MPC and Method Studios.
She has worked on Justice League, A Wrinkle in Time, The Happytime Murders, The First, Love Death + Robots: Ice Age, Men in Black: International, and Peter Rabbit 2.
Download as Gizmo
(You need to have an account with Nukepedia to download from the Site)
Download as Group
(Just Copy all the text and paste it into Nuke’s Node Graph)
In this video, Andrew explains the different features of this gizmo and how you can use it to get better luma keys, tracks, and more options for desaturation quickly and easily in Nuke.
One of the first things I bought with my Pocket 4K was this camera cage from Tilta. I will admit, it looked cool and seemed to do everything I wanted from a camera cage. It is completely customizable and I love the fact it has a modular design. One of my favorite things about this cage is the handle; makes it so much easier to hold the camera. Another thing I love is their mounting solution for the SSD.
One caveat is, the cage doesn’t quite fit snuggly on the camera. There are a few areas where there were small gaps between the cage and the camera causing the cage to slide a little. It is not a big concern as the locking mechanism is pretty tight, just wished that the cage was a tighter fit given how expensive this cage is.
Still, I haven’t seen a better and more sexier cage for the Pocket 4k than the one from Tilta.
- Full Camera Cage for BMPCC 4K
- SSD Drive Holder for Samsung T5
- Quick Release Top Handle
- Rubber Side Handle
- 90-Degree USB-C Cable (20cm)
- 15mm LWS Baseplate
- (2) 15x200mm Rods – Black
- Partial Sunhood for BMPCC 4K
Keep in mind, I built my main workstation in 2017. Don’t go out and buy the same components I purchased. This is just a guide as to what you need to be looking for when you are building your own PC.
I have always told everyone, if you are not into computer hardware, buy pre-made high-end gaming pc.
You also don’t need to buy those expensive workstation-grade PCs, which use the same parts you can buy off the shelf for a much lower price. Companies like BOXX, buy those parts, put them into their own cases, customize the hardware, and charge you a premium. These services are for people who don’t want to deal with the internal machinations of a computer. Also, companies like BOXX have a smaller customer base, and if you have a question about your computer and even why software is sluggish on your BOXX workstation, they will answer and help you out. Good Luck getting dell to respond to you.
If you are building your own computer, although you are saving money, unfortunately, you will not be saving time. A few of my friends built their own pcs only to realize that their computer did not boot up and kept crashing every 15mins. If you don’t have a tech bench and spare parts, it is troublesome to figure out what is wrong with your machine. If you brought a pre-made computer, it has a warranty; you bring it in; they fix it up for you. Or you can bring it to a decent computer shop, where they have all the tools to diagnose your computer.
Personally I have fixed all the computer issues I faced at the studio and at home by myself or by getting some help from Mark (owner of Lost Boys). Between the two of us, there is very little we can’t fix. Hence why Lost Boys has never had an IT guy!
On to today’s topic, then. Motherboards. I got the MSI X370 XPOWER Gaming Titanium Motherboard.
I got this one for 4 Reasons.
1. It was an AMD arm Motherboard that supported the Ryzen 7 series from AMD (there is a new firmware update that lets you use Ryzen 9 chips)
2. One of the few motherboards that let you have an Nvidia SLI setup. (you can have two Nvidia graphics cards for GPU Rendering!)
3. Supported 64GB Max Ram
4. Had 2 NVM Express M.2 PCI-E slots
5. Looks super cool.
One thing you might not know about MSI’s premium lineup is that they have the double ESD protection around the motherboard mounting holes. These prevent electrostatic discharge surges (ESD) from damaging the motherboard.
Personally, MSI has always been my go-to brand for motherboards. All the components they use on their boards are of premium quality and have had very little issues with their boards.
Price – $446.88 (21 July 2017)
Do as much as you can. When the day comes to an end, look back at it and marvel at how much you did and then get to bed. If you get to wake up tomorrow, do it all over again
Not every day is going to be great. Most days are going to be ordinary and some days are just plain terrible. But whatever kind of day you have had, end it. Be done with it!
Stop feeling like you didn’t do much and forgive yourself. A little kindness to yourself goes a long way as a creative. That is why instead of having a to-do list, I have an accomplishment list. Every time I finish something, I write it down in Notion. Just before bed, when I look at my Notion Accomplishment List, I feel satisfied that I did all that I could.
If there is something I couldn’t get to, well it wasn’t really a priority. I have learned to let things go.
Ever Onwards I always say. Another day another chance at accomplishing new and exciting things.
The main issue with the pocket 4k is power. It lasts only for 22 minutes.
Cinema cameras are meant to be modular, and the Pocket 4K is no exception. People who shoot cinema need a rig that needs to work in different situations. They need a rig that has to be highly customizable. Therefore, all the cinema cameras you see from Sony, Canon, Red, Arri are modular.
The Pocket 4k has an unfortunate problem of looking too much like a standard DSLR camera which makes it a target for its perceived shortcomings. The Pocket 4k’s battery wasn’t meant to power the camera for shoots. It was meant to power the camera while you are swapping batteries.
And that is exactly why if you are getting a Pocket 4K, you need to find an alternative way to power the camera. I went with a V-Mount Battery solution.
I bought the Comer 95Wh V-Mount Battery & D-Tap Charger Bundle. A Single V-Mount battery can power the Pocket 4K for about 8 hours. Problem solved. Well not quite. Now that I have an expensive battery, the next thing I had to get was a way to mount it.
This is the part where everyone is going to have to find a solution that works for them. Out of the box, you cannot mount the V-Mount Battery to the Pocket 4K. I had to accessorize my camera with cage and V-Mount Battery Plates.
Price – $290.39 + 35.21 Import Tax (May 30, 2019)
One of the common questions I get from my students about computers is, should I get a full workstation (Desktop PC) or a laptop.
I recommend international students to get a laptop. Buy the best one they can afford from global brands like MSI or Dell. For portability and also international warranties.
They will also quickly realize that they need a second monitor. Some of my students go out and buy a cheap monitor and sell it right before they move. But there is a new alternative; Portable Monitors.
I recently purchased an AZMIOR 4K 15.6 Portable Monitor. I was sick of changing the input of my 4K monitor to play my PS4 at my desk. Also, when I change inputs on my monitor, Windows reshuffles some of my program windows to accommodate the change in overall resolution.
Even though I got it for gaming, it is something I am planning to bring along with me once it is safe to travel.
If you are a student or a junior artist, I recommend picking a portable monitor to use as your second screen in your room. And when you have to move, you can just bring it along wherever you go. There several models out there with options like 4K, HD, with Touch Screen, HDR, FreeSync, etc. If you are a stickler for colour accuracy and HDR implantation, you will not find it among portable monitors.
For compositing students, and fresh graduates, these monitors can be used to expand your nuke workspace or to watch a tutorial.
The cool thing about some of these monitors is they have hdmi and usb-c inputs. You can connect your PS4, XBOX, Switch, and even your phones to these monitors.
There is one thing you need to know, even though they are called portable monitors, they do need power. Some of them can draw power from the device they are plugged into thru the USB-C but if you are using hdmi for video, you need to power your portable monitors. Some people have tried to power them through those portable chargers and they do work but you have to figure if those chargers produce enough amp to power your monitors.
Frankly, I am only ever going to use this device if I have a power source nearby. I am also not one of those people who go to a coffee shop to work, occupy an entire table, and hog all the power outlets. These monitors are meant to be used in your own personal space.
I highly recommend looking into one, if you need a second monitor and are planning to move where ever the wind takes you.
It’s time to talk about all the parts I got for my main workstation. This workstation wasn’t necessarily built for compositing. Even though most people know me as a compositing instructor, I do lots of 3D on the side.
Before teaching compositing, I used to teach the Visual Effects program at Lost Boys. This was a generalist program covering every area of Visual Effects. Unfortunately, once we specialized in compositing, we lost the ability to generate high-quality 3D assets from our student population.
And so, that burden fell on me. I had to generate all the necessary 3D assets for my students and also well as for our lighting students.
Let’s start with the case. I got the be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900.
I have had and used my cases before, and the number one thing I hate about cases is sharp corners. I hate getting scratched in the arms whenever I am assembling my computers. The general rule of thumb is, the cheaper the case, the more you will hate it. This case has rounded corners all around. A case made for humans!
The second thing is cable management. The more expensive the case, the better options you will have for cable management. This matters a lot when you have a tempered glass side panel letting everyone see the guts of your pc.
The third was the size. I needed to put an ATX motherboard in there, two 120mm CPU cooler fans, and it to be big enough to fit two full-sized GPUs.
The fourth thing is raised legs. The entire case is raised off the ground, which makes it easier to move it as you can reach under the case, without needing to lift the case and squashing your hands.
The fifth thing is, there is a charging bay right on top of the case. I love this feature as I don’t want my phone distracting me when it is on my table. So I leave my phone on the charging bay while I work.
The last thing is, well, it is quiet. It lives up to its namesake.
You probably won’t be able to get this case anymore as be Quiet! has a newer revised model. I recommend getting that. It is superior in every way!
Price – $347.19 (July 21, 2017)
Too Long; Didn’t Watch.
In this series of recorded demos, I am going to go in great detail in explaining the little things in Nuke. So much so, that you will probably skip to the end of the video.
Let’s talk about the relationship between multiplication and stops of light.
No one is paying you to be perfect. Close enough is, good enough. If perfection is demanded, then charge them for it. You will see how many clients suddenly become okay with close enough.
Too many artist spend too much time trying to perfect a piece of their work before they actually finish it.
Quit prefection, run with what you’ve got and fix it as you go
When I was in the Singapore Poly in 2001, I remembered after my first modeling exercise in 3dsmax 4 with Ahmad Al-Mahir At SP, I went home and cried. I felt all the hardwork I had done at Secondary School didn’t prepare me for this. I saw my friend Darius Chen breezing thru the exercise.
I on the other hand was totally lost. I didn’t know what I was doing and felt so stupid. I felt like I was back in Tamil class where my various Tamil teachers used to humilate me for my atrocious spelling and for not being able to enunciate words correctly.
Then I saw the Lord of the Rings later that same year with my best friend Mathivanan. I become curious as to how they did everything in that movie esp that balrog ( Sean Lewkiw ). I vowed to get better and maybe someday I too, could work on shows like this.I went to every library in Singapore, borrowed all the books, ripped every tutorial I can find on those topics and found Gnomon DVDs.
These guys were the best. Their tutorials so advanced and provided wicked insights. Being a noob, I used to watch them in 0.25x speed and studied which icons they clicked. To me, Gnomon was the benchmark. The School to beat. The best there was, the best there is.
For the past 5 years, despite everything Lost Boys did, we would lose out Gnomon in the Rookies. Always by a few points.
Then today, we beat them! We beat the MIT of VFX! Damn it! It feels so good!
We did it with programs that were half as long as theirs to boot too! Yes, I know these school rankings are superflous and gratuitous but it was always been my goal to have Lost Boys talked about the same reverence as Gnomon.
And I think they do now!
An outtake of our digital gore project I shot for my Class 27.
Shot on my Pocket 4k and using the Pansonic Lumix 12-35mm F.2 lens.
Researching on what lens to buy can be daunting. Especially when you have never used a micro four-thirds system before. The main problem is compatibility. Micro four-thirds lenses are cheaper but those same lenses won’t mount anywhere else.
If you own Canon, Nikon, or Sigma lens, there are adaptors and speed boosters out there that will adapt those lenses to your micro four-thirds cameras. But not the other way around, as the small form factor has its optical limitations.
Since this is my first foray into cinema-style filmmaking, I just wanted a simple no-fuss lens to shoot videos. After reading blogs, and watching a bunch of YouTube reviews, I went with the Panasonic LUMIX G X Vario II Professional Lens, 12-35mm. Which is in fact 24-70mm because of the pocket’s crop factor.
It is a pretty good focal range. I did however have two situations recently I wished I had a wider lens like 18mm and a telephoto lens like a 65mm or 85mm.
I have 20 lenses on my shortlist and have been quietly saving my money to get some of these. I am always going back and forth with the lenses I want to get. I do like parfocal zoom lenses the most since they allow you to change focal lengths on the fly. The ones I really want are from Fujinon and a set of those will set you back at least $13000 here in Canada.
Overall, the Panasonic LUMIX 12-35mm is a good all-round starter lens. There is a drawback though. It could be a major one for some of you out there. For me, it’s not a big deal as I don’t like rack focus shots in general. When you are pulling focus on this lens, you cannot get to the same distance if you pull at different speeds. For example, if you go from infinity to 3ft, slowly, and then try to go from infinity to 3ft quickly, you won’t get the same focus distance.
Price – $1048.85 ( May 21, 2019 )
On Christmas of 2019, my wife got me the Peak Design Tech Pouch as a gift.
I have to say; I love it. This is one of the best tech pouches out there. It’s made of durable material, carries a lifetime warranty, and fits all of your tech accessories and gadgets.
I first used it on my trip to Montreal in January. The thing I loved most this pouch was I am able to keep every charging cable I need in one bag. This is especially useful on a flight. I kept this pouch under my seat and whenever I needed a cable, I just reached for my pouch.
And when I checked into my Airbnb, all I had to do was place the bag on the side table near my bed and everything become an arm’s reach away.
Here’s what I had in my Tech Pouch
- Permanent Resident Card
- All receipts (useful if you are on a business trip)
- Charging Cable for Switch
- Charging Cable for Galaxy Tab
- Charging Cable for Surface Pro Go
- Universal Travel Adaptor
- Pen (always bring a pen on a flight!)
- Microfiber Cloth
- USB Power Adaptor
- Emergency Pair of Contacts
It’s pricy, but then again, I don’t think I will ever need another one.
Comes in two colours – Black and Sage
Shot by : Tiago Aguiler
Music : Of Monsters And Men – Yellow Light (Cillo Remix)
A rare moment in Lost Boys history, where I managed to get a one of my students, Tiago, to help me shoot the entire graduation ceremony of my compers (LBS-026) and FXTDs (FXTD-013).
Now you know how much we at Lost Boys look forward to this day with every class.
A few years ago, I had developed a heel spur. My left heel grew a tiny bone that hurt when I put pressure on it. Whenever I woke up, I couldn’t put any pressure on that heel. The bone was poking into my plantar fasciitis. Once my feet warmed up, I felt better. Running was fine, but as soon as I stood on a spot for maybe 5 mins, the pain returned.
After seeing an orthopedic, I was told to get special insoles to correct my feet posture. I have been wearing these insoles for 3 years now, and the pain slowly but surely went away.
It was then that I decided that I did not want to go through this kind of pain and ordeal again and would invest in getting proper footwear.
If I was going to stand and work, I might as well get the best standing desk mat. My criteria for a standing desk mat was simple, I wanted to move my feet, stretch out my calves and feet arches. After doing some research, I discovered the Ergodriven Topo mat.
As soon as I got this mat, I tried standing on it. It was odd at first but in 5 mins, I found myself moving side to side and stretching my feet arches. My feet were having fun standing on the raised edges of the mat.
The only thing that many people will find bothersome is its size. It is big ( Ergodriven also has a smaller size now). I had to get the big one because of my height. I am about 6ft tall and the site recommended to get this size. Now because of its size, I usually have to move it to the side, if I wanted to use my office chair (which I will replace later this week)
I have only used two desk mat. One from Antrodesk (I got one free for all the inconvenience they caused) and Ergodriven Topo Mat I purchased from Amazon.
There is no doubt that when you look at the two and compare them, the Topo mat is in a league of its own.
I don’t think there is another mat on the market with Topo’s durability, supportive firmness, and sensible design.
This product comes with my highest recommendation.
Price – $149
Too Long; Didn’t Watch.
In this series of recorded demos, I am going to go in great detail in explaining the little things in Nuke. So much so, that you will probably skip to the end of the video.
Let’s talk about the F-Stop and how it relates to photography
As long as you set a goal, and work towards them constantly and relentlessly, you will find wild success!
Most of what you learn in school is facts. Facts that are known. Facts that, in today’s modern world, be called up in an instant.
You spend all your time and energy in school accumulating and remembering facts. The fact is, the more you remembered, the better you did in exams.
Those of us who failed at school are simply not interested in facts. And many of us do not possess a great capacity to retain a frivolous amount of information.
Now, this doesn’t mean that these people are stupid. What it means is, their school has failed to fire up their imagination.
Students graduate and get jobs based on their qualifications and herein lies the problem, they are not getting these jobs based on their desire to succeed.
And they quickly lose out to those who continually strive to be better than their yester selves.
As long as you set a goal, and work towards them constantly and relentlessly, you will find wild success.
And that is a fact worth remembering!
One thing that causes anxiety when you first start using a tripod setup is the tripod head. You put your $10,000 camera setup on it, start shooting and then you realize that you have to go get something from your bag. Just as you walk away, your camera because of all its weight and lopsided assembly tips forward. You see it happening in slow motion, and you rush towards it. Sometimes you get there quick enough to catch it before it falls. Other times you hear that dreadful sound of your lens hitting the side of your tripod, causing you to have a mini heart attack.
And that is why I got this, Manfrotto Nitrotech N8 Fluid Video Head. It uses nitrogen pistons to counterbalance the weight of your camera. If setup up correctly, your camera will stay in the position you left it.
I trust this feature so much that I often leave my entire camera on this tripod head overnight and over weekends at Lost Boys. And when I come into the studio, the next day or at the start of the week, it is exactly in the position I left it.
Having the ability to use a VCT Plate on the Manfrotto N8 definitely added to the versatility of my setup. My camera setup allows me to go from tripod to shoulder mount to a handheld.
Did I mention it is super smooth and sturdy? Well, it is. One of the most overlooked features on a video head is resistance. The push back you get when you pan and tilt. It doesn’t fight you but provide enough resistance to get a natural-looking camera move. On cheaper video head, this is often mistaken for tightening. The other feature I love is how big the mechanism is for tightening and loosening all the controls. These control knobs are huge and are easy to grab and use.
I own exactly one video head and I don’t see myself needing another one. It does everything it was designed to do it.
Price – $559.99
It’s not sexy I know that, but who am I to argue with them. They work. Damn it, they always work! Routines are an excellent way of not going insane.
There are going to be good days, bad days, and days you don’t feel like doing anything. Sometimes these days will start to pile up and you begin to feel like a worthless piece of shit.
To avoid the above-mentioned situation and all the emotions that come with it, I recommend creating what we professionals call a routine.
Routine will get you through the day and make you feel like you made the most out of your day.
When you are not sure what you should be doing, the routine tells you.
When you don’t have much time, the routine guides you to make the most out of the precious little time you have.
Like all advice given, it only works if you make a conscious effort to practice it daily.
So start tomorrow morning. Wake up a little earlier and just write down what you want to do for the rest of the day. And try doing them.
Now there is no need to be too hard on yourself. If you can’t finish or start an item on your list. Well, it wasn’t all that important or else you would have done it and guess what; the world didn’t end.
So make a list and try working that list. Eventually, this becomes your routine.
The footage you see above is from our digital gore project. I was on B-Camera when I shot this plate for our students to use in a future digital make-up project. Shot on my pocket 4k. This isn’t the final grade but the temp grade I made for preview purposes.
The heart of any camera rig is well the camera.
I chose the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. It is a mouthful, so from here on out I will call it the pocket 4k.
After spending almost 1 year researching which camera to buy, I decided I would get the Sony FS7. The deciding factor came when I watched the gold standard of camera Reviews. Philip Bloom made what I considered the best damn camera review I had ever seen on YouTube and the footage by the gods, it was beautiful.
And then out of nowhere, the pocket 4k showed up. After looking at what it can do and finally seeing the price, it blew me away. An $1800 camera that can shoot 12 Bit Colour!
To me, the most important thing was having that color depth. As long as you have that data, you can do some amazing things with the footage so long as you expose it to the right. Even if I didn’t, I can sure as hell fix it in post. You know because that is what I do.
Yes, the battery life sucks, no NDs, no image body stabilization, storage media sucks, magenta shift, audio is not great, no articulating screen, no EVF, the list can go on.
But in the coming weeks, I will show you how I solved the issues I had with the pocket 4k without breaking the bank.
Remember the goal here is not to buy the best camera gear (the Sony FS7 cost around $9,500) but instead I was looking for the best bang for your buck kind of gear and when it comes to that, no one is going to beat Blackmagic.
Price – $1836.45 (06 April 2019)
When I bought this camera, it was sold out and back-ordered throughout Canada. In fact, I got my hands on my camera 2 months after I had made my purchase.
Sometimes when I look around, I see people doing too many things at once. In Singapore, we have a word for it, kiasu. In the west it is called the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO for short. People don’t want to lose out on any experience in life. Some students can’t bring themselves to work without their favorite music or have their favorite tv shows playing on their second monitor while they work. They spend a good deal of time preparing to work, then working. And even when they work, they get distracted by social media and the news. Things that they have absolutely no control over and things that will be forgotten in about 20 mins.
Behind every successful person is their ability to focus on their one thing. If you can somehow manage to not be distracted and give all your attention to the task at hand, you will see extraordinary results.
This book, the One Thing, shows you how you can take control of your distractions and bring the much-needed focus into your life.
Even if you don’t read this book in its entirety, I recommend watching this video.
Too Long; Didn’t Watch.
In this series of recorded demos, I am going to go in great detail in explaining the little things in Nuke. So much so, that you will probably skip to the end of the video.
Let’s talk about the F-Stop Scale in Nuke and how we can change it.
I purchased a Fujifilm X-T4 in April 2020 for my Wife. These videos did a great job in comparing Fujifilm film simulations and the second video covers how you can edit photos in Fujifilm X Raw Studio
The moment I saw the IKEA Karlby Countertop four years ago, I fell in love with it.
Here are some things I like about this desk
1. The dark walnut colour is beautiful especially since it complements all the dark computer peripherals on my desk.
2. The mosaic design that adds to its character. Just looking at this desk makes you want to use it.
3. The length, I got the largest one, 249 cm (The length of my room)
4. The depth, it is only 65 cm deep
5. The price!
Now, this desk is built from a 1/8″ Walnut Veneer on top of a particleboard so it will not be as strong as a more expensive desk. But it is plenty strong; I once had 6 monitors on this Desk.
Over the years, I found that having a narrower desk was a much better use of space. Most of the time, the space behind monitors is underutilized and also not very accessible. By having a narrower desk, it makes your room seem bigger as the footprint of the desk is small.
When I bought this desk, IKEA made an error on their invoice and sold it to me at $98. Almost a third of its original price! At this price, the value I was getting for my money was incredible.
It’s a heavy desk and I recommend ordering it online and have it delivered. Invite a friend over to help you set it up too. Before I converted my desk into a standing desk, I recycled 4 Gerton standing legs I got from my wife’s old standing desk. While my old desk setup could be converted to a standing desk, you can’t switch from standing to sitting position. Once the legs were set to the height you want, that was it.
Too much of anything is bad for you. Too much sitting, too much standing, so the solution you should be looking at is to build a desk that would do both.
One thing I quite enjoy about my new desk setup is to be able to walk away from the computer. As a visual effects artist, we tend to sit in one place for long periods of time. This affects our posture, thus the slouching I mentioned in an earlier post. Giving yourself the option to stand while you work is definitely the way to go.
Also, since the lockdown and the whole work from home thing, I set up a pull-up bar in the stairwell. Whenever I give my students a break from my demos, I just walk away from my desk to the stairwell, do a set of pull-ups, return to my desk and continue with my demos.
I never had a standing desk setup before, and now I can’t imagine working without one.
If you don’t spend the time to get better, who is going to do it for you? You need time to get better and there is no better way to get more time then to wake up before everyone else.
Do yourself a favour and wake up earlier.
Try waking up 90 minutes before anyone else at your home wakes up.
You will be amazed at how much you can get done for yourself. Yes, for yourself.
Usually, I get up, exercise a little, shower, have my breakfast and start watching tutorials or work on my side projects.
Some days I get up at 4:30 am and this gives me 5 hours to myself before I have to leave for work.
It’s hard, but then again, anything worth doing is.
In this series of posts, I am going to share with you how I set up my camera rig and the reasons behind my purchases. Let’s start with the Tripod.
12 Bit cinema footage for $12,000, that was my goal. I wanted a new camera rig to shoot more VFX plates for my students and also to help shoot from a different angle whenever Mark shoots plates for students.
After some extensive research, I set a budget of $12,000 for my camera rig. I wasn’t looking for the best in class equipment or gear; I was looking for well-reviewed, universally praised, fairly priced gear that suited my needs.
In this series of posts, I am going to share with you how I set up my camera rig and the reasons behind my purchases.
Let’s start with the Tripod. An essential piece of gear for any photographer and videographer.
Like everyone who starts out in photography, I purchased a cheap tripod because why pay any money at all for what essentially is a glorified stand. That is where I quickly learned my first lesson in photography. If the equipment you are using is frustrating to use, you will be frustrated during your shoot. There were nights I would hike up to take some shots on a hill near my home in Singapore, only to find myself wanting to break the tripod in half and toss it over the hill. It was terrible to use; I constantly had my skin caught in the clamps of the tripod and it was awkward to move out of the way. I realized then, that cheap is almost always not good.
There are camera companies, and there are companies that copy camera companies. As I got older, I decided not to waste my time and money on products made by companies that are out to make a quick buck. I started to trust named brands that professionals use.
That brings us to the Manfrotto 755XB. I didn’t buy this tripod for this camera rig. In fact, I bought this tripod in 2013 when I was learning how to take 360° HDRIs. After 7 years of use and abuse, I am still surprised that all the clamps are as tight as the day I bought this tripod. If ever this tripod breaks, I will buy the same one again! Or buy the newer iteration of this model.
Here are some of the things I like about this tripod
1. Lightweight (2.38 kg)
2. Made of Aluminium
3. Legs Flip Lock
4. Max Height is 1.65 cm
5. Leg Angles 23°, 45°, 65°, 88°
6. Centre column with a built-in levelling ball and bubble spirit level
This book, It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s how Good You Want to Be, is in my top 10 all-time favorite books to read.
Self-help books are filled with filler materials. Like how Mary did this or that and suddenly saw incredible changes to her life or how researchers studied this one anomaly in a person who had an accident and found an odd behavioral pattern and by hacking this pattern, we too can achieve incredible results.
The problem with these books is, they are like 200-300 pages to read, with maybe 3 to 4 useful things to say and even less to implement in our daily lives. It also puts the burden on you to make your own notes about those topics and the exercises the author suggests you to perform loses its appeal or practicality after a week or two of trying. It is almost certain you will never read that book again because of its length or the tedious nature of its exercises.
This is precisely why I love this book. It is funny and straight to the point. Every page is fun to read. Simple to read. And also extremely short to read. You can read this book in 10-15 minutes. This means you are more likely to read it again and again and also you will remember each page more clearly because each page is accompanied by a unique and fun image.
And I have said this to so many students now, that it can now safely be called my catchphrase, “Change your words and it will change your life”.
What you say to yourself before you start something, and while you are doing it and how you talk about it after you finished it, determines your life.
This book is one of those books that will help change the voice in your head. Trust me, if you truly understand what this book is trying to say, this could be the best $10 investment you could have made for yourself.
If you moved your Nuke project data and then were to open your Nuke script, all of your read nodes will error out.
To fix this and to fix any future file path change, you have to set all your Nuke file paths from an absolute path to a relative one.
In this video, I will show you how.
I always recommend my students to buy and read two books. This is one of them; The VES Handbook of Visual Effects.
I own both the 1st and 2nd editions. The 3rd edition is set to be released in Canada on July 17. I preordered my copy as soon as it became available on amazon.
To simply put it, this is the most complete guide to visual effects techniques and practices ever written.
Just buy it and read it!
I recommend picking up the Paperback version and leave it on your desk. Whenever you are waiting for a render, pick up the book and read a page or two.
Some pics I took before and after I assembled my standing desk
My wife noticed that I had started to slouch. She said I wasn’t using my core enough. True enough, since the quarantine, I have been sitting in my chair all day doing live demos, reviewing students’ shots, organizing data, and uploading those recorded demos to our online learning portal.
Even though I started to train for my pull-ups, I wasn’t doing enough for my posture. She suggested I get a standing desk. So after a day of research, I settled on the “L-Desk Standing Desk with Programmable Adjustable Height Controls”.
There are a lot of standing desks out there, I went with Antrodesk because they are in Canada. That means no extra shipping cost and duties. Also, warranty is major concern for me.
And so I ordered one, eagerly waiting for it to show until Antrodesk informed me that it got damaged when they were packing it for shipment. It was also the only one of that size they had in their warehouse.
Now the only reason I went with this frame was I thought and verified this with their service rep that I needed to get this frame to support my massive 248cm by 65cm (98″ x 25.5″) kitchen countertop.
Turns out I didn’t. After some back and forth with the customer service reps, whom I will say were great, I bought the “Programmable Dual Motor Electric Standing Desk” for $699.
If you are getting this frame get a friend to help. Even the postman had to use a heavy-duty dolly to deliver the frame to my doorstep.
Mounting a 38 kg kitchen countertop on a 35 kg desk frame by yourself is not recommended. I wanted to impress my wife; she was impressed. But it was also foolhardy esp when I had not cleared enough space for this new desk setup.
If you want a more in-depth review of my standing desk frame, I recommend watching these videos below.
Everthing can be a bit better!
In 2019, I decided instead of having a New Year’s resolution, I would have a New Year’s motto. After all, mottos have led me out of my darkest and hardest moments in life. In the spirit of positivity, I said to myself, “Everything can be a bit better”.
I wasn’t looking to make something twice as better or three times as better, but instead I wanted to make everything I did about 10% better. Give a little more effort in presentation of my demos to my students, spend a little more time observing nature and things, be a little more mindful of others, pet my cats more, etc.
It was just my way of wanting to focus a little more on the task at hand. So far, it was worked wonders for me. Instead of feeling that I have to repeat the same demos to each new class, I am looking forward to teach the next class with more information and with better execution.
So whenever you finish a project or task, just ask yourself, can this be better? If the answer is yes, then do it. No one will pay extra for it, but you get the satisfaction of knowing that it was done to the quality or standard you had set for yourself.
Don’t worry, people will notice. Every little thing adds up.
My Compositing Program
Lost Boys Studios
Direction & Cinematography
A behind the scenes look at our Digital Gore Project at Lost Boys.
In this project, students are going to animate, shade, light, render and composite a CG sword stabbing our puffer fish friend.
A frame from our shoot! (temp colour grade)
Cable Ties, I hate them. We all hate them.
You know the ones I am talking about, those cheap multi-colored/black/white/transparent ties that once you fasten them, the only way to unfasten them is to cut them open. Those single-use, sharp cable ties that are a pain to work with.
Yes, get a hundred! That way you won’t run out of cable ties and you will enjoy cable managing your entire home.
I own 400 hundred of them. I bought 4 packs in the last 3 years and have used them at the studio, in my office, on my home theater system, on all my spare cables, given it to my friends to cable manage their home computer setups and I still have over 200 ties left.
Not having to cut to open these ties means you can keep reusing them indefinitely as they don’t seem to lose their gripyness.
When I add or remove monitors, USB hubs, tablets, charging stations, keyboards, mice, from my home PC setup, all I have to do is unfasten, add or remove cables and wrap the tie around my cables and onto itself again for a secure hold.
I have been using computers since the late 1980s and let me tell you, this is one of the best things to have ever happened to cables.
There is one branch of philosophy I follow more than others, that is Stoicism. It was designed for those of us who live our lives in the real world. It does not push any lofty ideals on you but instead teaches you how to navigate what is in front of you.
Stoicism has been a common way of thinking among some great leaders throughout history. Kings, Presidents, Artist, and Writers practiced it. For a more modern example, we can attribute its success to Entrepreneurs, Football Coaches, and Doctors.
I first chanced upon Stoicism when I was researching about Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
To fully comprehend the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius and what separated him from most of the past and present world leaders, we have to look at what he left behind. Today we know his legacy to us through a book called Meditations; the private thoughts of the most powerful man in the world, admonishing himself on how to be more virtuous, more just, more immune to temptation and wiser.
Trying to read Meditations in its original form however can be quite a challenge, for the style of writing is not what most of us are accustomed to.
So how does one learn about Stoicism? I suggest picking up this book – Unshakable Freedom : Ancient Stoic Secrets Applied to Modern Life by Dr. Chuck Chakrapani
It comes highly recommended as this book captures the basic spirit of Stoicism and how those same ancient teachings can be translated and applied to our modern existence.
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Take a peek under the hood to see how computers draw cubic Bézier curves, as used in design and motion graphics programs.
This video is part of the article Mastering the Bezier Curve in Sketch.
Today is Monday. Mondays are for sharing my home office setup.
If you are planning to learn to composite or even do a little freelance compositing, you need a proper space to do so. By creating a space somewhere in your home for a computer, you are telling yourself that you will sit there and figure things out.
This is a remarkable first step; announcing to the world that you are serious about this career. To help you, I will share with you how I set my space, starting with power bars.
Yes, a crucial office equipment that most people do not give a second thought about and use the ones they find lying around their house or buy the cheapest one at their local grocery store and to top it all off, string them together like some kind of unnatural centipede.
Why do you ask? The power strip has 12 power outlets that are space further apart than most regular power bars. Enough space for you to plug in those awful external hard drive power plugs. I have 3 of them in my office, yes that is 36 power outlets! (I have 58 power outlets, more on that later) and also another power strip in my living room which powers my home theater.
The thing I like most about this power bar, in particular, is, well, it’s rectangular and because of its shape, its seats flushed to the wall. Looks neat under the desk, too. I am not one for having one of those sexy YouTube dream desk setups. I suspect anyone who has a clean desk devoid of any work-related material! My setup is entirely functional.
Download Nuke Non Commerical
Nuke User Interface &
Intro to Comp Bundle
If you are interested in compositing, there is no better program out there than Nuke. Unfortunately, it is a little intimidating to figure out just which version of Nuke you should download and use.
Hence, I made a video explaining the major differences between the different free versions of Nuke and my personal recommendation to someone who is just starting out.
Also, if you are interested in learning Nuke, I recommend you save yourself a ton of headaches and get my Nuke UI (currently the world most in-depth Nuke UI Tutorial) & Intro to Comp Bundle.
Use the coupon code : gomakeawesome to save a further 25% on the bundle
In 2013, I made a short timelaspe video showing how Nuke was used to composite one of our projects at Lost Boys.
8 Years later, not a lot has changed.
Download as Gizmo
(You need to have an account with Nukepedia to download any Gizmo their Site)
Download as Group
(Just Copy all the text and paste it into Nuke’s Node Graph)
If you are looking for a gizmo or group to check your mattes, look no further than the “AndrewsRotoCheck v1.3”.
He has added 10 unique ways in which you can see your mattes. He added the ability to invert your alpha, composite over a background plate, and my favorite feature; show/hide rough splines shapes which can help you detect holes in your mattes.
And the best part is, it’s free!
To be a great compositor, you will need to know how light works and how it can be manipulated to create realistic composites.
Throughout my years of teaching, I often come across students whom seemed to struggle with understanding how light works in the physical world. Everything we do in the computer is but a crude approximation of the physical world. If you don’t know how light works in the physical world, how are you supposed to create photo real composites.
Yes, you might have had some classes in physics class about the angle of reflection and refractive indices, but how many of you understand why things look like the way they do.
The book, Light for Visual Artists, aims to guide artists about the fundamentals properties of natural and artificial light. If you are wondering if this book is one of those dry physics textbooks, rest assured, the author has written in a manner that won’t put you to sleep.
This book is divided into 3 Sections:
Section 1 : The fundamentals of light are explained with a focus on taking the underlying scientific concepts and explaining them in an artist-friendly manner.
Section 2 : Those concepts are then deployed on common subject matter, and the book details how to light people and environments in depth.
Section 3 : The creative application of light are explained and concepts such as staging, mood, and symbolism are demonstrated in great detail.
I highly recommend this book because it covers everything from the technical to the creative and is the most thorough, and scientific book on lighting available for compositors.
Stop being a weasel. If you made a mistake, just say, yeah that was me. People might get pissed with you but they know they can trust you to be forthright with them
If something went wrong and it was your mistake, never blame others.
Take the blame. Own it.
Accept total responsibility for that mistake.
If you accept that mistake, you can do something about it.
You make it; you own it.
In June 2020, I started a blog called The Master Comp (https://themastercomp.com/) during the pandemic as a way to share my thoughts and recommendations to my students.
On Thursday, August 28 2021, the web host that I am with, WHC.ca had a major server outage. The reason they gave was that someone with admin privileges re-imaged all their servers essentially wiping all the data. It has been 5 days since the incident and my website hasn’t been restored.
Moments like this shows how lax these companies are with your data and had no protocol to protect such things from happening. While I am sure they will eventually restore what they can and make sure this doesn’t happen again, I decided that they are more trouble than they are worth.
While I lost months of work, I considered myself lucky. Losing an entire website with no guarantee for recovery for a small business can spell doom especially in this economy.
Right now I am hoping to get my site recovered, export all the data and cancel my account. Hopefully I can get a refund for the months left over.
I am tired of these kinds of companies cutting corners and their made up policies to protect themselves from their own incompetence.
P.S I will be redirecting https://themastercomp.com/ to this address in a few days.
This is the first VFX class I taught and Graduated way back in 2011 – 2012!
Students Graduated (Left to Right)
Back Row : Pedro Colmenares, Vikas Singh, Andre Rios, Shane Kao, Rajavel Loganathan, Weverton Alves, Krishna Ram
Front Row : Karthik Kesiraju, Gil Valencia
Not Present : Yongmin Kim
Go to Lost Boys. There I’ve said it and I wholeheartedly stand by this.
You are free to look around, but I doubt you will find a better or more intense program out there. I was the first and I am the best at what I do. I have made bartenders, lawyers, dentist, Uniqlo sales people, military personals, etc into compositors.
Need Proof, check this out.
You could work in the Visual Effects industry a year from now or spend the next year trying to do hundreds of crappy online tutorials and wonder why no one wants to hire you.
And good luck trying to find a school that will give a damn after you graduate. Let alone, teach you how to manage your shots, ace interviews, negotiate salary, and know about job openings before they become public knowledge.
Want to know more, go here – https://lostboys-studios.com/advanced-visual-effects-compositing/
If you want to apply, go here – https://lostboys-studios.com/admissions/