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I’m an atom-splitter, twisted atom-splitter April 14, 2008

Posted by William J. Meyer in Jack's Post-Production.

This past weekend I motion tracked hands, eyeballs, windows, roof shingles, prosthetics, and even a shadow or two.

I also read Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye. For those of you out of the editorial loop, Walter Murch is the Man. Y’know, my first spiritual experience in the cinéma was with a ratty 16mm print of Apocalypse Now on the second floor of the college union at UW-Oshkosh. I was transported into the Heavens. No shit. Walter worked on that. Had much to do with my experience of it, as much as Brando, Sheen, Coppola…

I’ve been a devotee of Murch since listening to his excellent audio commentaries on The Conversation and, several years later in DVD chronology, THX-1138. In fact, one of my first questions upon meeting author Anthony Swofford was the rather fanboyish “What’s Walter Murch really like?”

I picked up Blink this weekend and was pleased to find a validation of something I’ve been thinking for a while now. Probably since The Phantom Menace rocked our worlds (1999). Or at least sometime around the time Murch set it down in his lectures that became the book (2001). I say “validation” because, again, Murch is the man. [If you don’t believe me, read the awesome book Behind the Scene: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple’s Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema–it’s more than a great title.] The following concept also reminded me not to take for granted that I will have written, directed, edited, mixed, and did the visual effects for a short film in the comfort of my own home using off-the-shelf hardware and software. A tremendous responsibility as well as a privilege.

This is how I would put it. We used to think the atom was indivisible. Heck, it’s from the Greek “atomos,” which means indivisible. The common thought in cinéma used to be that the shot–the frame–was the cinematic equivalent of the atom. There are some producers that still believe this is so, and it needlessly limits their conception of what an editor is. But now we know better. Now we see further. Now we have the pixel. As Murch states in his Blink chapter on digital film editing–

Up until now…picture editors have thought almost exclusively in the horizontal direction: The question to be answered was simply, “What’s next?” …there are a tremendous number of options in the construction of a film. In the future, that number is going to become even more cosmic because film editors will have to start thinking vertically as well, which is to say, “What can I edit within the frame?”

For all of this we must thank the Gonkulator. Below are some examples of my vertical editing.

The shot, un-tracked.

The above image is a Jack shot in an After Effects composition. If you look closely, you can see my hand holding the boom pole on the right of the frame. :P

The shot, being tracked.

This is the image being tracked by After Effects’ 2D point tracker (as opposed to using 3D planes).

The shot, VFX added.

And the VFX of the hand elements created in Photoshop tracked onto the moving hand and blended with the prosthetics. Also assigned to the track data: a shadow to cover my hand. ;P

-William, Director



1. drew - April 25, 2008

This looks super interesting. Good job with the after effects. I have yet to touch that program but am always impressed with what can be done using it. When is this film going to be done? Will you post it online somewhere?

[Hey Drew! We’ll be taking the movie on the fest circuit. I’ll shoot you an email when it’s in the Bay area (here’s hopin’). As to when it’ll be done…uh, er…well…I am uncertain. Soon. Ish. -wjm]

2. drew - April 28, 2008

looking forward to it

3. Anita - April 29, 2008

If you break it down even further, “atom” means “uncut,” from a- “not” + tomos “a cutting,” from temnein “to cut.”


Irony with word roots!

4. wayne - May 5, 2008

This film is going to take you forever, no wonder you don’t have time for dating, this film is your girlfriend.

[Wayne, you rascal you! -wjm]

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