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This typographic animation of a sketch from The Gamegrumps was created by student Charlotte Foley for DVA254 Motion Graphics class using Adobe After Effects.
A recreation of Saul Bass’ iconic intro sequence to Otto Preminger’s ANATOMY OF A MURDER, created by student Zach Pfluger for DVA254 Motion Graphics class. Created with Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Two teams of UAT Digital Video Students competed against five teams of students from Grand Canyon University in the Spring 2017 Inter-College 48 Hour Film Challenge. This latest installment of the epic crosstown rivalry that has erupted every Fall and Spring since 2011 was a winner for the UATDV family as one of the 2 teams brought home awards for Best Technical and Best Film.
The rules of the competition, like all 48 hour challenges, dictated that the team incorporate a specific prop and a specific line of dialogue into their script. In this case the prop was a mirror and the line was “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Given the choice of two genres – Western or Fantasy – the winning team lead by director Alex Fillicetti and cinematographer Killian Davies chose to spin a Western noir tale about a downtrodden gambler who encounters Death himself and challenges him to “A Friendly Game.”
At stake in the competition, as always, were the bragging rights to besting our crosstown rivals. GCU and UAT have swapped wins over and over to the point that this clash has become legendary enough to scare off the other film schools here in the Valley. To challenge GCU and UAT at this point would be a bit like coming between King Kong and Godzilla.
Pictured above are Alex Fillicetti, Robert San Pedro, Killian Davies, Tony Bonano, Alex Beaver, and Chase Harper with the trophies for Best Technical and Best Film. By virtue of winning Best Film, the team brought home the coveted POV Cup (in Fillicetti’s hand) and returned it to its rightful place in the awards case outside our Greenscreen Studio. There it will reside until Fall 2017 and the next chapter of this epic clash of the film school titans!
Meanwhile the team will be polishing up some of the rough edges on “A Friendly Game” and we’ll release it on YouTube later this Summer. Stay tuned.
A from-scratch recreation of the opening title sequence to the FX animated series ARCHER, created for DVA254 Motion Graphics class by student Harmony Summer Jones. Created with Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Last summer a team of UAT Digital Video students lead by Killian Davies competed in the IFP Phoenix “Beat the Clock” 48 Hour Film Challenge and won Best Picture for their effort titled “Limelight.” As in every 48-hour challenge, there were some parameters given by IFP to ensure that the films were actually completed in the allotted time, and not filmed beforehand. Two possible lines of dialogue and two possible props were given; the UATDV team chose “That gives me a tingly feeling” as the line and a plant as the prop – and starting from that inspiration they created a 5-minute short about a jaded actor and his best friend discussing the meaning of life as an artist.
By virtue of winning the Best Picture award, “Limelight” was automatically selected for the 2017 Phoenix Film Festival, where it screened as part of the Arizona Shorts program. And now it’s available for viewing over on the UATDV YouTube channel!
As in past years, UAT’s Digital Video Program will have a significant presence at the 2017 Phoenix Film Festival, including screening 2 short films as well as participating in numerous festival events.
First up is “Toppled,” directed by Digital Video Program Champion Paul DeNigris. Written by and starring regular UAT collaborator Ayman Samman, the film was shot last year as part of DeNigris’ Production Studio class and also stars veteran actor Tony Amendola in the role of an ousted Middle Eastern dictator.
“Toppled” screens as part of Live Action Shorts B on Friday 4/7, Sunday 4/9, and Wednesday 4/12, and is the first UAT-produced film to screen outside of the Arizona Shorts program, putting it in competition with films from all over the country.
Next is “Limelight,” the winner of Best Film at last Summer’s IFP “Beat the Clock” 48-Hour Film Challenge, directed by student Killian Davies. As a result of winning the 48-hour challenge the film was selected to be part of this year’s Arizona Shorts A program, which screens on Saturday 4/8 and Sunday 4/9. Watch the trailer for “Limelight” here.
Digital Video students and faculty will also be participating in several key events. Look for a UATDV booth at IFP’s Industry Night on Friday evening (4/7) where Program Champion Paul DeNigris will be on hand to answer questions about the Program and show clips from various past DV films. Paul will also be on a panel discussion on Sunday 4/9 at 5:30 pm on Comic Book Films.
UATDV faculty and students will be running a number of stations during the Saturday (4/8) Kids’ Day program, including editing, sound, cinematography, and greenscreen activities for kids of all ages. And finally, UATDV will be running several classes during the Middle / High School Workshops on Wednesday 4/12 and Thursday 4/13.
All in all it’s set to be a busy week for UAT Digital Video at Arizona’s premiere film event of the year!
Following up on our post from March 1st, a team of Digital Video students (and some alumni) have completed work on an action-packed epic short film starring Hollywood actors: “Mitch Rapp: Off Book.” The full film can be watched on a custom micro-site built specially for the project: https://mitchrappfanfilm.com/
As usual, DV has also produced some great behind-the-scenes materials, including this documentary on the making of the film, “Rogue Mission: The Making of Mitch Rapp: Off Book.”
And as is pretty standard for a UAT DV project, there are a lot of visual effects in this one – over 100 visual effects shots in fact, ranging from the simple (replacing English text in the basement location with Russian) to the incredibly complex (a completely digital Blackhawk helicopter). Check out a sample of the VFX work here:
Professor Paul DeNigris, Program Champion for Digital Video at University of Advancing Technology, was recently recruited by Hollywood actor and fitness model Andy McDermott (Hawaii 5-0, Sons of Anarchy) to produce a short film based on Vince Flynn’s bestselling novels about All-American counterterrorism agent Mitch Rapp. McDermott, a long-time fan of the 15-book (and growing) series, was disappointed to learn that CBS Films had cast teen heartthrob Dylan O’Brien as the hardboiled hero for their upcoming feature film adaptation of American Assassin, and he wanted to put his own stamp on what he described as his “dream role” before O’Brien’s version hit the big screen.
McDermott had previously worked on DeNigris’ Iraq War film “Parallax” before moving to Los Angeles, and knew what the veteran filmmaker and his crew of students at UAT could produce on a limited budget. DeNigris called on his writing and producing partner Steve Briscoe and the two of them wrote a 15-page original script inspired by Flynn’s work but not taking specific scenes from any of the books. In the film Rapp butts heads with a bureaucrat (a staple of the novels) over a mission to rescue one of Rapp’s Orion Team members whose infiltration of a Russian terrorist organization in league with ISIL has gone south.
But the story is just an excuse for a rollercoaster ride of action as Rapp and his injured teammate battle waves of bad guys from the basement to the roof of the terrorists’ lair. DeNigris, a self-professed Marvel fan, took dead aim at Daredevil for inspiration in the action. For maximum impact they recruited martial artist, law enforcement trainer, and stunt choreographer Richard O. Ryan to design the action beats.
Joining the production as Rapp’s tortured teammate was Ayman Samman, who had a notable turn as a terrorist sympathizer in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper and had previously worked with DeNigris and the UAT students on “Parallax,” “Red Sand,” and “Toppled.” The production team also brought on board iconic actor James Morrison of 24 and Space: Above and Beyond to portray Charles Neimier, the antagonistic bureaucrat with whom Rapp butts heads.
UAT Digital Video students comprised virtually the entirety of the crew, from seniors who took top creative positions to freshman filling production assistant roles in their first time on set. Even alumni who graduated long ago contributed to the effort to make the film, with Hollywood VFX pros Rick Ravenell and William Reges lending a hand in postproduction.
“Mitch Rapp: Off Book” premieres on YouTube on March 6, 2017 at 10 am PST.
Here’s the trailer!
As in years past, the Digital Video Program at University of Advancing Technology has partnered with One Community to produce their annual “Change Agent” honoree video. This year, the video showcases Dennis and Janine Skinner who are the parents of three children, one who is a lesbian and one who is a transgender man. As people of faith and as active allies in their community, they have worked to educate and raise awareness of gay and transgender issues in their community.
The video was shot by students Andrew Aguirre, Patrick Kebert, and Brandon Scott, and was edited by Aguirre. Professor Paul DeNigris provided faculty guidance. UAT is very, very proud of these students and their contribution to our community!
Daniel Sontag, a Digital Video Alumnus who attended UAT from 2005-2009, won his first Emmy in the Lone Star Regional Emmy’s for the Promotion/ Program Award category on October 15, 2016.
Daniel works as a Manager of Brand Marketing at NBC 5 Dallas/Fort Worth, which is the fifth largest market in the United States, which means their viewership is very saturated and has a loyal audience.
NBC 5 DFW’s veteran Chief Meteorologist David Frinfrock has been with the station for 40 years, but has plans to retire in a few years. To welcome new meteorologist Rick Mitchell to the team, and build trust with generations of viewers, Daniel created this promo as a fun introduction as to how they selected Rick as David’s replacement.
Daniel wrote and co-directed The Voice Meteorologist Edition, a 1-minute promotional spot combining NBC5′s Weather team in a parody of NBC’s biggest show The Voice where perspective weather talent pitched the weather forecast to experts.
Daniel said because NBC 5 DFW is owned by Comcast Universal, it’s possible to cross promote with other network shows, such as The Voice. It gives the audience a sense of familiarity and builds trust within the community. That was Daniel’s strategy behind this promotional piece.
After hearing the news that he won an Emmy, Daniel immediately sent a group text message to UAT Professors’ Sharon Bolman and Paul DeNigris to thank them.
Professor Sharon Bolman fondly remembers when Daniel was a student at UAT.
Sharon said, “Daniel epitomizes the life long learner. He is eternally curious and never assumes that he knows it all. He came to UAT with impressive acting and makeup skills, but still took classes in these subjects with a genuine enthusiasm and an open mind. He could always be counted on to ask questions and take criticism which catapulted his projects to the next level. Also, he is a wonderful human being. We are very proud of Daniel!”
Daniel’s industry work experience:
See some highlights of Daniel’s work:
This past weekend, DV Program Champion Paul DeNigris traveled to New York City to present the award for Best Visual Effects at the 2016 All-American High School Film Festival. Just as it did last year, this award comes with a full tuition scholarship for the UAT DV Program (an $84,000 value) for the lucky and talented filmmaker.
This year’s winner is Jason Carman of Vacaville, CA, for his sci-fi action flick “Vacuum Wars,” seen here:
We look forward to Jason joining us in Fall 2017!
It’s a Digital Video flashback this week! Take a not so big step in the wayback machine to the summer of 2008 when Professor Paul DeNigris and an all-star crew of DV students and alumni got to work with not one but TWO Hollywood stars: Blue Collar Comedy staple Bill Engvall and Machete himself Danny Trejo! Together they made the Western comedy “Cowboy Dreams,” one of DV’s most memorable movies. (Slightly NSFW, by the way.)
The film was penned by frequent UATDV collaborator Steve Briscoe (seen in Ouroboros, Borderlands: Change of Hart, and CrossRealm to name but a few), who also happens to be Prof. DeNigris’ writing and producing partner and half of Paul’s company Locked Horns Productions. During Briscoe’s previous career as a standup comedian, he became friends with many of today’s top comics, including Engvall. When Briscoe and DeNigris decided to make “Cowboy Dreams,” Engvall was their first, last, and only choice for the film’s star.
Another juicy role was written specifically with action movie icon Danny Trejo in mind. Trejo had previously met Prof. DeNigris on the set of a film shot in southern Arizona called Curse of the Seven Mummies on which UATDV alum Jenny Pond-Muckerman worked as Script Supervisor.
Once Trejo signed on, DeNigris approached his pals at Ronalds Brothers Productions to help out with producing tasks. DeNigris and his students had contributed crew and VFX help to the Ronalds’ feature film Netherbeast Incorporated and the brothers Dean and Brian lent their skills to make sure the “Cowboy Dreams” shoot went off without a hitch. Brian Ronalds has even taught at UAT from time to time, much like Steadicam operator Webb Pickersgill who contributed to the film’s cinematic look.
An all-star team of UATDV students and alumni jumped in to help make “Cowboy Dreams” and they can be seen in action in 5 short documentaries about the making of the film (shot by alum Clint Comer and edited by then-current Advanced DV Editing students). Check them out and relive the adventure of making this fun little short.
UATDV’s entry into the 2016 IFP Phoenix “Beat the Clock” 48-Hour Film Challenge took home THREE awards at the screening on August 4th at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theaters! The film “Limelight” took home awards for Best Poster Design, Best Editing (student Andrew Aguirre was the editor) and Best Picture (student Killian Davies directed).
By virtue of winning Best Picture at the challenge, “Limelight” becomes the first Official Selection of the 2017 Phoenix Film Festival, next April! And it will be eligible for more awards there!
You can read more about the making of the film and watch a trailer HERE.
For the fifth year in a row, UAT Digital Video was on hand to record the Comic-Con adjacent geek cabaret “w00tstock” at San Diego’s Balboa Theater. Created by Mythbuster Adam Savage, geek icon Wil Wheaton, and comedy music duo Paul and Storm, w00tstock is a little bit of spoken word, a little bit of music, and a lot of nerdiness. This year’s theme was “TEDtalks” and there are a bunch of ridiculous spoof talks that at times are indistinguishable from the real thing. And there’s plenty of music from Paul and Storm and guests like Marian Call and Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino!
Check out the full playlist here!
Students in Professor DeNigris’ DVA254 Motion Graphics class are tasked with re-creating an existing title sequence from a film or TV show as one of their semester projects. The exercise is meant to stretch the students by asking them to look at work done by professional title designers, and figure out how to meet the high bar they set. It’s a hands-on way of forcing students to expand their thought processes and also to better learn their software (in this case Adobe After Effects).
Here’s a selection of this semester’s best title sequence re-creations, including Fringe, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Wayward Pines, Parks and Recreation, and the first James Bond film Dr. No.
Having completed its film festival run, the DV Program’s animated/live action film “The Composer” is now available publicly on YouTube. Written and directed by the student duo of Gwyneth Christoffel and Darien Marion, the film tells the story of an emotionally troubled composer who has lost his motivation to write music until he is transported to a magical realm between the pages of his composition book where a friendly 8th note takes him on an adventure to get his motivation back. You can watch the full film here, or in the embed below. The film combines live action scenes (including some shot at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale AZ), stop-motion elements of actor Emmanuel Beniamine shot in the UAT Greenscreen Studio, and animated elements created using Adobe tools like Photoshop and After Effects.
“The Composer” served as Student Innovation Project (SIP) for Christoffel, Marion, and other members of the team. Christoffel prepared this excellent video that summarized the project for the SIP Fair and delves into the production process in some detail. You can watch here, or in the embed below. Films like “The Composer” that are off the beaten path of the types of projects produced by the Digital Video Program (we’ve never done one like it before) are where the real collaborative innovation happens. A disparate group of students found a way to combine their various talents to make something unique, and leveraged DV tech to make it all come together. And technology was integral to the way the story would be told, starting all the way back in the preproduction phase. This is what we call “post-centric production,” where the techniques that will be used in post-production actually inform decisions made at every stage of a project’s life. With “The Composer,” this student team put all the tools at their disposal to great use!
Last weekend, a team of Digital Video students competed in the IFP Phoenix “Beat the Clock” 48-Hour Film Challenge – something DV students have done every summer since 2005. Two days is all they get to produce a 5-minute film from concept to completion. As in every 48-hour challenge, there were some parameters given by IFP to ensure that the films were actually completed in the allotted time, and not filmed beforehand. Two possible lines of dialogue and two possible props were given; the UATDV team chose “That gives me a tingly feeling” as the line and a plant as the prop – and starting from that inspiration they crafted the film “Limelight.” The trailer can be seen above, or click here.
The synopsis: A jaded actor speaks with his best friend about what it means to be an artist. As their sporadic conversation progresses, things seem to spiral out of control and the truth is soon revealed.
The team was lead by student Killian Davies as director, and he worked with fellow students Jordan Wippell and Brandon Scott and with DV Program Chamion Professor Paul DeNigris to craft the story and to conceive of the film’s visual approach.
In addition to the line and prop, two other bits of inspiration factored into the story. One, the film challenge this year was co-sponsored by Sun Studios of Arizona, a new production facility that has sprung up from the ashes of the former Collins College. Sun Studios offered competing teams the use of their facilities for free, which the DV students took full advantage of. The Sun Studios theater and its adjacent backstage dressing room area provided the spark to make the film about an actor, and to some extent about what drives any artist to do what they do.
A second inspiration came from a film that Professor DeNigris shows his students in DVA274 DV Editing class, a little-known gem from Steven Soderbergh’s filmography called The Limey. The film is edited in a very offbeat and nontraditional style, where conversations can start in one location, travel to another location, be interrupted by a flash forward, and then return to the original location. Actors are often seen reacting to their own dialogue, played as voiceover. It’s delightfully obtuse and compellingly crafted, and is one of the foundational films that becomes part of the shared lexicon of film techniques for each cohort of DV students. The editor on “Limelight” (even its title is an homage to Soderbergh’s film), student Andrew Aguirre, is a huge fan of The Limey and so Professor DeNigris urged him and director Davies to embrace that style for this film.
As a result, a very loose script emerged. The dialogue was written by Wippell and Scott, but there was very little in terms of what would traditionally go into a script, like locations and action. Davies and his cinematographer student Brett Chapman essentially “played improv” as they put their two actors into different locations and had them run the dialogue again and again. Actors Vincent Alonzo Jamal (recently cast in Wippell and Scott’s “Help Falls”) and Cavin Gray (a veteran of UATDV projects such as “Parallax,” “Red Sand,” and “Covet” and who will soon be seen in Chapman’s “Loyalty Lies with the Dead”) were cast to their individual strengths and were given latitude to play off each other and to embrace the material.
The film can be seen in its entirety alongside the other competing teams’ films on Thursday, August 4th, 2016, at 7 pm at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theaters. Tickets can be purchase HERE and we urge the entire UAT family to come on out and support the film!
Directed by Killian Davies
Produced by Brandon Scott
Executive Producers Paul DeNigris and Dr. David Bolman
Screenplay by Brandon Scott & Jordan Wippell
Story by Paul DeNigris, Brandon Scott, Jordan Wippell
Director of Photography Brett Chapman
Assistant Director Alex Fillicetti
Edited by Andrew Aguirre
Assistant Camera Patrick Kebert
Sound by Robert San Pedro and Alex Beaver
Grips Tony Bonano, Paul Lopez, and Ryan Moore
In April, UAT Digital Video student Jordan Wippell flew to Potsdam, Germany to attend the SEHSÜCHTE 45th International Student Film Festival. Jordan had an amazing opportunity to showcase a music video called “Erase” that he produced for the band They Might Be Giants.
The music video was originally a submission to a Facebook contest - the band selected Jordan’s as their favorite and used it as their official music video. What a cool beginning for a young filmmaker! Jordan has entered “Erase” in many film festivals around the world and decided to enter the SEHSÜCHTE International Student Film Festival, as well.
At SEHSÜCHTE, They Might Be Giant’s “Erase” music video was featured alongside other amazing student films, giving each filmmaker the chance to answer questions and connect with the audience. Jordan also spent some time exploring Germany with a friend who knew the area getting a feel for German culture.
Take a glimpse into Jordan’s incredible trip! He compiled a video montage showing off his experience. Enjoy!
Currently Jordan is working on the next chapter of interactive horror film “Help Falls” among other projects such as “Rubicon” and “Toppled.”
Keep up with all of Jordan’s film projects on his website.
Abraham Stopani (class of 2004) has hit the Young Adult fantasy literature scene today with his debut novel Terra Soul, under his pen name S.J. Abraham. The book focuses on Ayla, a gawky, photophobic comic book geek who abruptly discovers that the reason she doesn’t fit in on Earth is because she’s not from here. She gets transported to her homeworld of Karanik through a fold in space and she soon discovers that she’s meant to be the heir to a noble house that is embroiled in a war with an alien force and in intrigue with the other noble houses of Karanik. Magic, technology, and swashbuckling adventure fuse to make a ripping yarn that is equal parts Dune, Harry Potter, and Stargate.
Stopani graduated from UAT with a BA in Multimedia, focusing on Digital Video, long before the current iteration of the DV Program came about. Abe put his DV skills to good use in creating this trailer for the book:
Abe was one of DV Program Champion Paul DeNigris’ first students back when he started teaching at the University in 2002. Here’s what Paul has to to say about Abe:
Abe was always a fantastic student who went above and beyond on all his assignments. His work was leaps and bounds above what an undergrad student could be expected to produce. Before the DV Program as we know it with its emphasis on visual effects and genre movies came to be, Abe was the one who was pushing to do Star Wars fan films and to use the greenscreen regularly. His imagination exceeded the confines of his coursework, so it’s no surprise he’s taken that to the next level with Terra Soul. I’m about a third of the way through a pre-release copy Abe sent me and it’s a fun, fast, entertaining read. Can’t wait to see where this story goes – and I hope Abe is already writing the sequel!
To say that we’re proud of
Abe S.J. Abraham is an understatement! We wish him the best of luck with the launch of Terra Soul, which just hit Amazon today. Check it out here:
Back in February the UAT Tech Blog reported that the Digital Video Program had cast veteran film and TV actor Tony Amendola in their latest short film “Toppled.” While the film is still being tweaked in post-production and is awaiting its film festival debut, some behind the scenes videos have been released showcasing different aspects of the production.
The video above gives the student perspective on the experience of working on the film, which was UAT’s first to be shot on our brand new Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K camera.
Working at the “Ultra HD” resolution of 3840 pixels by 2160 pixels has presented some challenges in post-production, and the DV team has had to master a different post workflow than on previous films. While the post-production process has generally centered around the editing software Avid Media Composer as the hub for all footage management, “Toppled” is the first DV project to use Blackmagic’s powerful color grading software DaVinci Resolve in that role. Footage for “Toppled” was ingested into Resolve at 4K, and Resolve was used to generate 1080p HD proxies for editing in Avid. Student editor Chase Harper built the film in Avid working with these proxy files, and when the edit was locked the Avid timeline was ported back to Resolve so it could be rebuilt in 4K. Cinematographer Jordan Wippell then used Resolve to color grade the film, dialing up the warmth in the images to convey the desert heat, while dialing down the greens of the Arizona vegetation to create a more arid feel. Visual effects plates were bounced out of Resolve as DPX frames for use in The Foundry’s Nuke software, where Professor Paul DeNigris and DV alumni Alex Dinh and Nick Francia painted out Chevy logos, stabilized crane shots, and even erased the chemtrails in the sky to further help with the illusion that the film is not set in the United States. Completed VFX shots were rendered back out of Nuke and imported back into Resolve as DPX’s for integration into the final film. The end result is that “Toppled” will be completely mastered in 4K resolution and will be ready to show at optimal quality on even the biggest cinema screens.