Of late I’ve been playing around with Adobe After Effects, which would seem an odd sort of thing to get involved with for a documentary filmmaker, but as all filmmakers trade in visual information, I’m eager to explore the fancier side of visual storytelling. And as I have slowly increased my mastery of Final Cut in the last year, I have also had a parallel increase in frustration over some of the more lacklustre design effects packaged with the software. How many times have I gone into the video filters control panel to manipulate colour, speed, framing, or size, and said ‘why oh why don’t they marry Final Cut and PhotoShop?’
Unbeknownst to me until recently, they apparently have. After Effects allows complex layered manipulation of images, video, and sound files on a timeline. One can prepare images in Photoshop, port them to After Effects, animate them by introducing the fourth dimension, and then seamlessly fuse them with filmed footage in Final Cut, which is exactly how I made my first attempt at using the software, a little film called ‘Soup’.
With the help of online tutorials, Google maps, and NASA satellite images, I constructed a sequence in After Effects that began with a bird’s-eye shot of a single house in East London, then zoomed out dramatically from London to the earth, moving through space and beyond. I then fused this sequence in Final Cut with footage of my housemate Scarlet enjoying a nice bowl of soup. The result is a quite unintentionally funny homage to the theory that the matter of the universe is infinitely contained within itself, like an endless collection of petrushka dolls, revealed through a zoom travelling along a continuously looping timeline. Or, perhaps more realistically, the limits of the universe are reached, digested in the belly of the cosmos along with the rest of lunch.
Click to watch the experiment (you’ll need QuickTime):