In the 3 months since officially becoming a junior animator at Alt.vfx (woo!), I’ve realised that I have also learnt something else: I can now sprechen ze language of advertising.
Now this may not seem like a major thing for some cool whoozits out there, but imagine me in my all noob-ness wading into these kind of doozies: 1. “Hey, we’re having a WIP review at 1pm.” -OR- 2. “Can you just cache out me out an alembic?” – and having no idea what anyone is talking about. It’s like everyone is speaking Klingon while I only speak all things pertaining to cake. So I took note of some of the terms I’ve come to understand while working in post-production and turned them into a Venn Diagram, because let’s face it, WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD OL’ VENN DIAGRAM?
Here are some of the confusing terms I’ve learnt and how they can relate to each other across the animation department, the VFX department and TVC’s in general. Now putting them in Venn formation doesn’t necessarily make them easier to understand, it just shows how terms relate and what arenas they concern most. But never fear! Your translator is here. Prepare for a blabbering list of explanations: TVC = Television Commercial. They’re the things that break up a 90 minute movie and turn it into a four hour marathon. CAD = Commercials Advice. In Australia, they’re the service that classify the ads before the ad is broadcast. Here’s a gem that didn’t pass through CAD according to the video description:
SPOT = Another term for advert. Some campaigns for the same product may have several spots cut to lengths ranging from 15sec to a few minutes. Also, it’s the name of an adorable dog. SUPERS = Text that is superimposed over the main image eg. “The Small Print”. ARCHIVE = When the ad has been broadcast and the files are not currently required, the project files are taken off the server and stored on a tape. The project goes from being “live” to being “archived”. POS = Point of Sale. At Alt.vfx, sometimes we supply images from the ad to be placed in a store near the cash register . V/O = Voice over. FYI: Morgan Freeman voice over is the bees knees.
FRAME HANDLES = Uber important! If a shot is 80 frames long in an edit, the animation and visual effects department may in fact be working with 100 frames (10 extra frames either side of the 80 frames) so that the final edit can be extended or slipped if required. These extra frames are called “frame handles”. GRADE = A nickname for colour-grading the image. When footage is initially retrieved from the camera, the colours look like my hair when wet (“flat”, dull and washed out). It is up to Compositors and Colour Graders to “nourish” and “revitalise” the colours to the correct hues that suit the mood of the ad. WIP = Work in Progress Client Approval = The client could be a director, an advertising agency or the media team of the company being advertised, but either way, they need to give the tick on different elements along the way. Massive Rig/Custom Rig = Alt has done a few ads requiring software called “Massive”. It specialises in creating digital crowds of whatever you need (in Alt’s case, deer and human armies). Any animation/motion-capture animation created for Massive needs to be exported for the simplified Massive rig. However, it is possible to modify the Massive rig to include extra controls. Modifying the rig is known as a Custom Rig. RX, RY, RZ and TX, TY, TZ = Rotate in the axis X,Y,Z and Translate in the axis X,Y,Z. I’ve carried these over from Animation Mentor because it’s so much easier to understand if you want a character to move in TZ space rather than saying: “move him forward” if the character’s “forward” direction actually means it moves left on camera.
LAYOUT = Laying out tracks and 3D elements required for a shot with little to no animation in a 3D scene ready for an animator to animate. TRACK = A 3D representation of the actual scene that was shot with a live camera. A track should include the camera’s movement and any object tracks. Object tracks are tracks created for any moving objects that will need to interact with 3D elements. For example, in the Honda ad, we were given an object track for the hands to attach a 3D wheel to. ALEMBIC FILE = A file type that animation is exported as so that it can be used in other software like Houdini or Soft Image. MEL/PYTHON = Scripting languages. MEL stands for “Maya Embedded Language”. If you speak MEL and Python, you can control more within some softwares and eventually rule the world! CACHE = In computing, a cache is a way of storing and accessing data. Within visual effects, a cache is an exported version of a 3D element that only stores the element’s 3D vertices and doesn’t export any skeletons or rig controls. This is a much lighter and less fussy way of importing animation into programs outside of Maya. COMP = Composite. Each layer within a shot will end up here and when it’s exported out, I like to say it’s Straight Outta Compin’. MATTE = An image element that will be layered with 1 or more other images. ROTO = Rotoscope. Within animation, roto means to trace over footage frame by frame. In VFX, it’s a similar concept, except that they are only concerned with the silhouette. If you have the roto of, say a person, you can use that silhouette as a matte to outline the person, cut them out and place the person on their own layer. This is super useful if you have to layer that person in front of or behind sections of the image. PLATES = Footage. I believe it’s a throwback term to how film was once processed using glass plates, but now in VFX we use the term to describe a background image or a foreground matte. Particularly within animation, you need a background plate of the live footage within your animation scene so that you can see how your animation lines up with the geography of the scene. PHEW! That was a lot of explaining. It may not interest everyone, but for those out there who may be a little confused about studio terms that are thrown around like hot cakes, this might help you out! And speaking of hot cakes, I think I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow.