LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Delivering Content for TV's Top Shows

COW Library : Adobe After Effects : Adobe : Delivering Content for TV's Top Shows
CreativeCOW presents Delivering Content for TV's Top Shows -- Adobe After Effects Editorial

Stargate Studios was founded in 1989 by Sam Nicholson, a distinguished cinematographer and visual effects supervisor with 30 years of expertise in film, television, and visual effects. The now international production company provides concept development, advanced production services, and state-of-the-art postproduction services.

In an industry that requires ever-more impressive productions to be created with the same or even smaller budgets than in years past, Stargate has developed a winning strategy. We had a chance to sit down with Sam Nicholson, CEO and founder, and Adam Ealovega, vice president of technology for Stargate Studios to learn more about their strategy and success.


Stargate Studios

Adobe: What do you think differentiates Stargate from other studios?

Nicholson: Over the years, Stargate has adopted the latest cameras, visual effects, editing, and other tools and pushed them to their limits. We have always stayed at the forefront of technology with developments such as our Virtual Backlot (VB), VB Library of virtual environments and stock locations, and VB Live process of real time compositing. We've also developed and refined a diverse array of proprietary production tools. And our people are the best of the best, with advanced skills in live action film, HD production, CGI, digital compositing, matte painting, and on-line HD editing.

We are working really hard toward streamlining the difficult process of visual effects. Most people think of VFX like an all-day root canal. They're expensive. They're slow. They're painful. We're working hard to change that. For instance, on The Walking Dead, we're showing how creating zombies digitally can be faster and less expensive than physically producing them using prosthetics--although the award-winning prosthetics on The Walking Dead are impressive and deserving of the accolades they receive.


The Walking Dead Season 2 Visual Effects Reel


Adobe: What does being at the forefront of technology mean from practical and business standpoints?

Nicholson: We've been able to grow a company based in Los Angeles to a company where we now have facilities in Los Angeles, Toronto, Berlin, Vancouver, Malta, Atlanta, Dubai, and soon Cairo. And what's amazing is that we can go into countries like Germany or places in the Middle East and win the business, where their cost of business and labor is much lower. We're not just involved in doing blockbuster features with unlimited budgets. Instead, we're doing a lot of international TV shows and blockbusters where budgets are very, very low--but at the same time, we refuse to sacrifice quality and creativity. One major benefit is our use of Adobe Creative Cloud. The software is well integrated and easily attainable via Creative Cloud. Everyone is on the same version and it's easy to update when our team members are working all over the world.

Adobe: How is it possible for Stargate to expand when other companies may be having difficulties?

Ealovega: We face a wide range of both creative and financial challenges and are always looking for flexibility and economy. We're long time After Effects users – we began using it even before Adobe acquired the software from CoSA – and it is the lynchpin of our operations. We use Adobe Photoshop for all of our matte paintings. We're not an editing house per se, but Adobe Premiere Pro is our tool for ingesting everything, in pretty much any format. We're also starting to use Adobe Prelude for reviewing and Adobe SpeedGrade for color grading VFX. With Creative Cloud, we can work with artists from all over the world and streamline our creative and production processes so we can pass the savings and creative options along to our clients.


The Walking Dead Season 2 Visual Effects Reel


Adobe: How does your process work?

Ealovega: We essentially started working in the cloud before Adobe Creative Cloud was a reality. Our clients present us with the rough edit on a show online. Then we gather the source EDL files and match them to the original camera source to be sure we're on target.

We match up what we're finding in Premiere Pro with what we're seeing in After Effects and ingest it into our Stargate system that is capable of sharing files with each of our facilities. We transfer all the information into our VFX system and the assets then get transferred to the local digital asset management system on the site that's designated to working on the project. Keep in mind that this is all transparent to the VFX and editorial departments. So essentially, any artist, staff, or supervisor in any of our global facilities can review material in real time, create proxies, and send a project to a render farm in the background.

Using our proprietary software, we can review a VFX spot, make assignments, and build projects in After Effects. The composited assets automatically land in the final facility, in the right color space specified by the client. The artist doesn't even have to know what color space is needed. It's applied automatically.

Adobe: Why is Creative Cloud central to your workflow?

Nicholson: We work on productions shot all over the world at different frame rates and on multiple cameras. I think we work with, literally, almost every camera format ever invented. We have to be able to ingest material from every camera manufacturer in the world at everything from 6K to PAL and NTSC resolution. Truly, we can't use anything but Premiere Pro. It's the only system that will handle the different formats we're shooting and throwing on the timeline.

Ealovega: I have to add that Creative Cloud, and After Effects in particular, is an open framework. We can add functionality to the software through open source tools. This has allowed us to write our own virtual operating system ("VOS") to assist us in integrating all of our facilities. It's one thing to say that you've got one big facility with an integrated pipeline. It's an entirely different thing to say you have seven or eight facilities and to be able to span each of these facilities with render data and have artists flowing their work back and forth to one another. Our artists can literally click a flag of the country on their screens and it sends an automated delivery to that render farm and ensures it is rendered correctly and delivered to the right destination. We also have incorporated other tools into Creative Cloud so that we can view dailies very quickly, without spending a lot of per-seat licensing for codecs that would otherwise be required.

Stargate Studios

Adobe: What do you see as the vision for the future?

Nicholson: Frankly, we hope we are inventing it. We create about 10,000 shots a year – that's 40 to 50 shots per day from simple driving comps to 3D interfaces involving our virtual backlot. Using our workflow, we're really proud of the quality. We are shooting four to five cameras at 4K resolution simultaneously. So we're talking about a 16K to 20K background, and every frame must be processed. We break the frames up on the back end to be as light as possible. Then we use After Effects as a front-end tool to proxy the footage, and stitch it all back together.

Think of it as real-time compositing on green screen. It reminds me of sound mixing. You wouldn't mix one or two cuts like you do two or three scenes in a movie. Adobe products and our own innovation are leading us into a visual mixing arena where we are talking about time rather than an individual cut. It's all about the automation and efficiency of the tools, so that artists can focus on the genuinely complex shots. We can increase our creative capabilities and quality at the same time. The world has changed so that feature-film quality is being achieved on television series, and that efficiency has reached new heights. Creative Cloud and our virtual operating system let us accomplish two times the shots most companies can achieve – all at half the budget. We think it's a model that will succeed in a world where automation is vital yet the human, creative touch is essential.






The Walking Dead Season 3 Visual Effects Reel from Stargate Studios on Vimeo.




Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud

Download a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud




Related Articles / Tutorials:
Adobe After Effects
Imagineer mocha Pro 5 Plug-In for Adobe: An In Depth Review

Imagineer mocha Pro 5 Plug-In for Adobe: An In Depth Review

Imagineer mocha Pro 5 Plug-in for Adobe brings all the amazing features of the professional version of the mocha Planar Tracker directly into After Effects and Premiere Pro in the form of a plugin. In this in-depth review, After Effects tutorial guru Tobias Gleissenberger of Surfaced Studio will show you what you can do with this new plug-in, and discuss what he likes and doesn't like about the new update.

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
After Effects 2015.3 - My Favorite Features

After Effects 2015.3 - My Favorite Features

Learn why you should upgrade to After Effects CC 2015.3 - 13.8.1 - a close and detailed look at the latest release of After Effects (August 2016). Roei Tzoref will be focusing on his favorite features that set this release apart from previous versions: Performance, Queue in AME, Lumetri Color new features, and more.

Tutorial
Roei Tzoref
Adobe After Effects
Advanced Masking in Adobe After Effects

Advanced Masking in Adobe After Effects

Some of the coolest stuff you can do inside of Adobe After Effects is only possible once you unlock the power of masks. Join After Effects whiz Tobias Gleissenberger of Surfaced Studio to learn about mask animation and interpolation, using the variable width feathering tool, managing mask modes and ordering, and more.

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
Fixing Common After Effects Problems and Mistakes

Fixing Common After Effects Problems and Mistakes

Got problems using Adobe After Effects? Exported files too large, Expressions not working, mixing shapes and makes, modes/switches, selecting previews for layers vs. comps - Surfaced Studio's Tobias Gleissenberger shows you fast fixes for these and more!

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
mocha AE Planar Tracker for Absolute Beginners

mocha AE Planar Tracker for Absolute Beginners

Want to learn how to create advanced visual effects? Learn how to use mocha AE to track your shot and add advanced visual effects to live action footage inside Adobe After Effects. mocha can help you track shots that would be hard to track using traditional 2D point or feature trackers because it is a PLANAR TRACKER. A planar tracker uses planes and textures to track as opposed to points or groups of pixels. This allows the tracker to stay on track even if your shot contains motion blur or a very shallow depth of field. mocha AE comes included with Adobe After Effects and is available since CS3 and there is no reason for you not to use this awesome tool to make it easier for you to track your shot, replace screens or rotoscope!

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
How to Make After Effects Faster with Proxies

How to Make After Effects Faster with Proxies

Learn how to make Adobe After Effects faster by using PROXIES! A proxy is a placeholder that stands in place for a very large video file or image sequence in your project. You can easily create proxies for the large source files that you are using and After Effects will automatically link them to the item in your project panel.

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
Stabilize & Smooth: mocha 5 Plug-in for Adobe & Avid

Stabilize & Smooth: mocha 5 Plug-in for Adobe & Avid

Imagineer Systems and Boris FX product specialist Mary Poplin shows you how to stabilize with the new mocha Pro 5 plug-in inside of Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. This tutorial covers artistic stabilization, such as smoothing out camera movements or stabilizing around moving objects, completely locking down shots, and automatically replacing edge fill on planar backgrounds.

Tutorial
Mary Poplin
Adobe After Effects
Adobe After Effects Puppet Tool

Adobe After Effects Puppet Tool

Become a puppet master by learning how to use the Puppet Tool in Adobe After Effects! This intermediate-level tutorial from After Effects guru Tobias will show you how the Puppet Tool allows you to add joints and animations to bring life to any static image!

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
How to Spawn A Clone in Adobe After Effects

How to Spawn A Clone in Adobe After Effects

Want to learn how to create a cool clone spawn effect in Adobe After Effects? Follow along with After Effects whiz Tobias from Surfaced Studio in this exciting new visual effects tutorial that combines green screen using Keylight, CC Vector Blur, the Liquefy Effect, CC Particle World, and much more, delivered in Tobias' inimitable style!

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
Adobe After Effects
Creating A Flame on Your Finger with After Effects

Creating A Flame on Your Finger with After Effects

It is easy to do some motion tracking and attach a basic stock footage element of fire onto your hands, but there is a little bit of work involved if you actually want to make it look good. In this intermediate tutorial by After Effects expert Tobias, you'll see how to use a fire stock footage element to set your thumb on fire! There are lots of useful tricks for null objects, expressions, and more in this tutorial that will help you create all sorts of other cool visual effects -- or set even more things on fire!

Tutorial
Tobias Gleissenberger
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]