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University of Advancing Technology is an elite, private college that serves its student body by fostering knowledge creation and academic excellence in an environment that embraces the young technophiles of the world. With three centers of research and a suite of technology-centered undergraduate and graduate degrees, the University is a recognized leader in technology education.
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.
As part of UAT’s ongoing relationship with Valley Leadership, Digital Video student Andrew Aguirre recently headed up a team of DV students to produce a short documentary about one of VL’s community outreach projects, “Experiences of a Lifetime.” The project was a collaboration between Valley Leadership and the Foundation for Senior Living and was designed to grant wishes to senior citizens, ranging from makeovers to outdoor adventures.
Aguirre and his team from DVA323 DV Production Studio class shot the documentary on location at CityScape in Phoenix, using Canon 5D Mark II and 7D digital SLR cameras, Tascam and Zoom audio recorders, and Arri lighting. Aguirre and his co-editor Patrick Kebert turned the project around quickly in postproduction as part of their work in DVA371 Advanced DV Editing class. Avid Media Composer was used as the primary postproduction software, with Adobe Audition and Adobe Photoshop being used to supplement Avid’s capabilities. The project was completed and screened at the Valley Leadership Class 37 Graduation Ceremony on June 4th, 2016, and after the screening the VL team revealed the results of Sandy’s makeover which is discussed in the documentary.
We are so proud of our DV students for contributing to such a meaningful and heartfelt project!
Every Summer since 2012, UAT Digital Video faculty and students have made a road trip to San Diego to film w00tstock, “a night of geeks + music” hosted by Mythbuster Adam Savage, geek icon Wil Wheaton, and comedy music duo Paul and Storm. Our coverage of w00tstock every year is the best on the web, and we’ve been on hand to capture amazing moments like George R.R. Martin smashing a guitar, LeVar Burton leading the audience in the “Reading Rainbow” song, Adam Savage singing “I Will Survive” as Gollum, and veteran voice actor Rob Paulsen singing “Yakko’s World” from memory – among many, many others.
This year UATDV needs some assistance getting to San Diego, and they’ve started an Indiegogo campaign to raise just $1,000 for the trip. Please visit https://igg.me/at/w00tuatdv/x/271251 to pledge your support!