A Golden Girl



Art Design


This piece is more or less an exercise in color and tightly composed effects. It opens with a black frame, which zooms out and is revealed to be the pupil of an eye. A woman beautiful woman is revealed in black and white, except her brilliantly bright green eyes and red lips. The camera continues to zoom away from her until her head is floating alone against the black background. Using something like a double exposure effect, her face will “fill up” with golden white wine or champagne until she has gone from a somber black and white to an elegant, still bubbling, gold. Her face continues to ease backward into the blackness, all happening very slowly, and then begins to twist and spiral until the blacks, golds, reds, and greens have spun themselves into a floating sphere of blended color. Rising from the bottom of the frame is a splash of water and ripples, which meets the spinning orb at the droplets zenith, turning what was once her face into a ball of water. The water falls back into the black and white site of impact, dispersing its colors into the water until it is a deep liquid gold. From there we watch the water calm and the colors disperse, replaced by tiny black and white ripples. The water stills and we are back again at a fully black frame, which can be looped back to the beginning of the sequence to make a pretty neat loop should one desire. A continuous drop of gold in an eye, the direct stare, combinations of moving color, a dark space, and liquid flowing are hard to ignore or look away from, this piece combines all of this to try and really capture peoples’ attention.

There is not much meaningful purpose behind this piece other than an appreciation of color and a disposition towards pretty women. The woman from the mood board is Ava in Sin City, which I recently watched and loved the use of accented black and white throughout. Commanding focus and attention absolutely with just a few blots of color on a black and white image is an example of the power editing and color hold over film audiences, which is why this effect was selected and expanded upon. The ending is an overwhelming flush of bright colors and reflections in an otherwise slow and dim piece, calling further attention to her eyes, gaze, and lips in each successive play-through of the loop. That’s all this is really, playing with power and attention drawing editing can command when done in interesting ways. Her face is a post production powerhouse literally staring audiences in the face, forcing them to acknowledge if not appreciate the countless hours editors spend getting their perfected work to them.

Now, as a novice editor, the above description of the piece has not yet been completed. What I had assumed would be a simple stringing together of effects and masks turned out to actually be quite difficult for someone with my skill-set. Even had I spent five times as many hours on this piece I do not think I would have been able to recreate the image I’ve kept stored in my head, which is unfortunate because I really wanted to show that image to people instead of this admittedly lesser version. It would have been far wiser to create something with clearer purpose and simpler sets of problems, learn how to create it online, and then produce a video using those simple skills at a masterful level so that I could repeat them efficiently in future work. Making this video had me learning masking, color correction, level control, scaling, and so many huge topics all at once making it quite overwhelming at times. However, despite being an utter pain and the final result nowhere near as interesting or dynamic as my imagination, creating this piece lead to hours upon hours of reading and watching tutorials, which has given me a vast albeit shallow understanding of many new features in After Effects I am eager to delve into more deeply. So, even though I spent most of my time trying to learn a double exposure effect that I never even got into the video, I will remember this project fondly and definitely come back to it once I know my way around Adobe, and photography in general, a bit better. Improving at After Effects skills is a great feeling and I can do so much more than when I began this project, and still there are innumerable features that I am yet to even try yet alone learn how they interact. It’s both daunting and excited, because once you get something down you don’t easily forget it. Even so, I hate knowing there is a way to do something in After Effects and just not knowing how to do it the proper way, many of my effects were done very inefficiently using tons of layers and masks when they could have probably been done with only one of each. It will be awesome when I can finally look back at the long hours I spent on this project, laugh at how I struggled to complete it, and recreate the same piece in a single afternoon and at a higher quality.

Another challenge I faced lie in finding footage to use. The smart thing to do would have been to shoot my own footage on a greenscreen and work from there, that way I could be in complete control of what assets I had available. Instead I learned a valuable lesson about assuming a particular type of shot exists online without a double or triple digit licensing fee. I had planned to use five different video files, a woman looking seductively into the camera as the subject, a glass of white wine or champagne being filled in slow motion for the double exposure effect, a smoky haze to create a backdrop indicative of an old fashioned nightclub, a droplet of water shot in slow motion from a profile angle, and a can of gold, red, and green paint/ink being mixed to color the water once the drop of colored water falls into it. Clearly, these are exceptionally specific shots, and while I was able to find similar every single one of them online, I could not get to them without paying extremely high prices for licensing. If one is going to make what they imagine, they must get the footage themselves and do it using the proper method, and if that option is not available then the only feasible choice is to gather footage and alter your vision to fit what you can afford. My mistake started to become evident when I was learning how to create a double exposure and every single tutorial included green screen footage, and I was quite disappointed when I finally felt the need to give up on that effect.

The sound for this is an excerpt from the soundtrack for Sin City called Old Town Girls, which references the all female band of feisty prostitutes, strippers, thieves, drug dealers, and weapon smugglers who operate their own quarter of Sin City free of cops. They’re very inspiring figures, and I wanted to give this piece some undertones of their menace. The video was originally in color, but I made it black and white then recolored the eyes and lips each with their own masks and motion tracking. During this my perfectionist nature got the best of me and I personally adjusted nearly every frame to keep her lipstick mask from sliding onto her chin and the whites of her eyes white, so I’d say those masking effects are the strongest part of the piece. There is a vignette around this video so there were no harsh edges while her frame shrinks. I then scaled her back into the darkness until she was the size of the water drop I found, spun her colors together by using distortion effects and making her eye and lip coloring masks ten times larger so the colors became pronounced enough to create a full sphere, and matched the sphere up with the path of a falling drop of water. The color explosions are far from professional level, but they get the basic idea across. For them I used a different mask and layer for every single ripple and expanded the masks a few frames after one another. As to what this work could be used for, I would say above all else a learning experience as I doubt anyone will experience the wow factor I envisioned. There is an easy way and a hard way for After Effects projects and production in general, and the hard way works, but why in the hell would anyone want to do it that hard way? This was a lot of fun to create, and I can’t wait to get to work on another, more coherent project using what I learned with this one.


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