Special Topics 160: Exploring Digital Effects for Filmmaking

Professor: Jennifer Steinkamp, js@jsteinkamp.com
home (310) 737 9616
office hours 11:30-12:30 Thursdays in the DMA lab

Teaching Assistant:   Scott Hessels

Student Teachers: Adam Fanton, Darren Guttenberg

Description: Students will consider the process of digital filmmaking and effects from preproduction (concepts, storyboarding), to Production (directing, cinematography), to Post-Production (digital effects, compositing) and finalizing the video. Students will learn about real-world practices in the medium and techniques for achieving their ideas. Each week guest lecturers from the film industry (writers, directors, visual effects artists) will come in and give a lecture during the 6 – 8 p.m. session. First and foremost, ideas, communication and concepts will be discussed. This course will help students explore the art of digital filmmaking and special effects. The end product or video can vary between a short film to an experimental idea.

Class Requirements:
Each student is required to produce one short video throughout the course (in groups or individually).

Course text: The Visual Story, Bruce Block, Focal Press, 2001.

Each student is required to attend the Thursday night lectures, please check the schedule.


Week 1   Concept Development, Types of Narrative or non-narrative, Visual Effects Overview
Monday 4/4 
Assignment: Create 10 Concepts/Ideas for Individual Projects, due 4/6
Kramer vs Kramer, Benton, 1979, The breakfast scene at 11:30
Blowup, Antonioni
, 1966 1:01:50-1:09:40
Blade Runner
, Ridley Scott, 1982, 44:11-46:50
Powers of Ten, Charles and Ray Eames, 1977

Thursday 4/6  Review 10 Concepts for Individual Projects
no speaker

Week 2    Production Design, Storyboarding, Visual Style
Monday 4/11
Assignment: Final Script
Manhattan, Woody Allen, 1979, closing shot from his apartment to her hallway
Citizen Kane
, Orson Welles, 1941, 1:14:32-1:19:21, 1:30:33-1:32:30
Silence of the Lambs, Demme, 1991, Night vision search in Final basement scene
In Cold Blood
, Brooks, 1967, 27:10-33:19
Die Hard, John McTiernan, 1988, Elevator scene,  48:00-52:00
The Red Desert
, Antonioni, 1964, 21:50-25:31 int; 25:31-27:50 ext
The Man Who Wasn't There, Coen, 2001, Shalhoub in jail waiting room 1:17:12-1:23:30
Enterprise, TV show Opening

Thursday 4/13 Review Script
Speaker 6PM: Christopher Tandon, Art Director, Production Designer
Christopher Tandon Is an Art Director and Production designer. He has worked on Films for Touchstone, Dreamworks, Miramax and Warner Brothers; including: The Deep End, The Rules of Attraction, Annapolis, Collateral, and Kill Bill.

Week 3     Producing, Directing
Monday 4/18              
Assignment: Production Breakdown & Storyboards
Optional Assignment: 24-Hour Film Festival
Manhunter, Michael Mann, 1986, detective asks Lector for assistance in pure white clinic
The Silence of the Lambs, Demme, 1991, detective asks Lector for assistance in sub-basement
Mulholland Drive, Lynch, 2001, DVD  1:09:39-1:10:40 and then 1:16:50-1:19:55
Casablanca, Curtiz 1942, two scenes 53:18-56:05 and 58:24-1:00:15

Thursday 4/20      Review Storyboards
Speaker 6PM: Bill Gilman,  VFX Compositor, HD Film Producer
Bill Gilman, the founder of Gambler's Ruin, is a visual effects artist who has worked on films such as The Matrix Revolutions, Hulk, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, The Perfect Storm, and A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Bill Gilman is also currently producing a feature film on HD. Bill will be discussing his experience supervising feature films, as well as his experience with HD vs. Film.

Week 4     Camera, Lighting
Monday 4/25           An Insider's Guide to Making Ultra Low-Budget Features
Breathless, Godard 1960. 22:08-23:44 DVD chapter 7 20:40
Notorious, Hitchcock, 1946, 1:05:21-1:06:00 DVD Chapter 17 01:00:53
Weekend, Godard, 1967, 15:31-22:45
Goodfellas, Scorcese, 1990, 32:40-35:30, 1:41:30 (-3:00) Zoom In, Track Out
Rosemary's Baby, Polanski, 1968, Bedroom, Phone Call on DVD  12, 13
The Hulk, Ang Lee, 2003, DVD Chapters 4, 17

Thursday 4/27           Review Storyboards
During Class:  James Keitel lighting
Speaker 6PM: Andy Jones (Character Animator, DMA Graduate, Oscar Nominee)
Andy Jones is a former Design|Media Arts major at UCLA who has been nominated for an Oscar in 2005 for character animation in I-Robot. His credits include I-Robot (animation director), Godzilla (animation supervisor), Titanic (digital stunt sequence supervisor), and Final Fantasy. Andy is known for his famous animation sequence from Titanic where a crew member falls from the ship and hits a propellar, sending him spinning into the water. Andy has worked at Digital Domain with I-Robot, and is currently working for Imageworks on the movie Superman.

Week 5      Shooting In Class (Blue Screen Setup)
Monday 5/2           

Thursday 5/4    
Speaker 6PM: Bruce Block
Bruce Block is famous for his book, The Visual Story, seeing the structure of Film, TV, and New Media, a must read for directors, writers, cinematographers, production designers and editors. Bruce's credits include What Women Want, The Parent Trap, Father of the Bride I & II, and Baby Boom. He served as creative consultant on As Good As It Gets, Stuart Little, and many other films and television productions. He teaches classes in visual structure at AFI, the UCLA Performing Arts Extension Program, Walt Disney Feature and Television Animation, PIXAR, and other media and advertising companies.

Week 6     Scoring, Titles, Editing
Monday 5/9             
Assignments: Principal Photography
The Sorcerer, Friedkin, Crossing the wooden bridge at 1:17:00 ?
The Untouchables, DePalma 1987, ambush/stroller scene, 1:29:28
Don't Look Now, Roeg, Opening 2:00, ,Sex Scene  28:45
Raging Bull, Scorcese, 1980, Final Fight Scene with Sugar Ray Robinson 1:38:00?

Thursday 5/11                
No Speaker

Week 7     Effects Workshop (Specific Types & Techniques)
Monday 5/16          

Thursday 5/18      JS out of town
No Speaker

Week 8
Monday 5/23           

Thursday 5/25        
Speaker 6PM: Paul Lombardi
Paul Lombardi is the founder of Full Scale Effects. He has been the special effects coordinator for over 50 films including Man of the House, The Last Samurai, K-Pax, We Were Soldiers, X-Files, and Con Air. His company did the special effects for the X-Files TV series. Paul Lombardi works on many TV commercials as well. Paul will be talking about his experience doing practical effects for feature films, the line between digital and on-camera effects, and the importance of special effects in film.

Week 9     Finalizing the Video (Color Correcting, Sound Mix, Picture Lock)
Monday 5/30           Memorial Day
Thursday 6/1     
Speaker 6PM: Gabe Dunn (Motion Theory, DMA Graduate)

Week 10    
Monday  6/6        
Thursday  6/8      
Speaker 6PM: Brad Rushing

Week 11
Thursday  6/15            FINAL SCREENING  1 PM