With this challenge I went from TV show intros to feature film. This is part of a plan to see if I can emulate some of my personal role-model, Andrew Kramer’s work in a limited amount of time. Eventually I intend to tackle his Fringe intro. But for now, I decided to go with something easier… or so I thought.

The opening sequence to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek film looks simple enough, and I thought to myself that I can do this in 2 hours. In reality, it ended up taking almost the full 4 hours just to get something that resembled it.

The first issue I ran into is the soundtrack. Up to now, for these challenges, I have simply used audio extracted from the show. However, as I own the soundtrack to the film, I though I would use this instead to give it that extra bit of quality. I quickly discovered that the track used in the opening had been altered, and I had to do a bit of mixing in After Effects to get the same result. As anyone who has ever tried doing sound in AE will tell you, this is not easy. After Effects is not built for handling audio, and the tools to do even a simple cross-fade are very clunky.

Once I had laid down the soundtrack, rigging the 3D assets was fairly easy. Using a combination of Cinema 4D and the Element 3D plugin I was able to turn a graphic of the Star Trek logo, as well as the text, into 3D objects that I could light and animate within my scene.


The graphic I used for the 3D model. 

And this is where the real problems started. Lighting the shot was simple enough, but getting the light to move in a way that revealed the logo before revealing the text on a musical cue was a lot harder than I had anticipated. Getting the lighting animation to a point where I was happy with it took the better part of 2 hours!

However, I am pleased with the result and now I have worked out how the animation works, I can use it again in future projects that require a similar effect without spending so much time on it. This is part of the reason I do these challenges, to figure out various techniques (and time saving workarounds) to create certain effects. Following tutorials is a great way to learn the software, but the only way to really hone your skills in this field is by practice.

Overall, I am very pleased with the result, the only thing bothering me being the colour grade. I suspect it has somethign to do with the lighting, but I was not able to make the shot look quite like the original (some parts too dark, some parts too bright and the overall tone feeling slightly off.) As I was nearing the 4 hour deadline at the time when I started grading, I wasn’t able to perfect this to my satisfaction, but I think that the result is close enough. You can compare them for yourself below:

The Original:


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