THE ACT OF WELDING Using VFX practices to celebrate the link between Science, Math and the Arts | AEL European Summit 2018

Jon Holmes

Educator | VFX Artist | Colourist

A full time lecturer at The University of Lincoln as well as a freelance Colourist and VFX Artist for Short and Feature length independent films

Two ongoing online projects that not only illustrate and explore my practice-based research and methodologies, but also share free training and guides



VFX is Cinematography, Science & Math

Skillset, The VFX Handbook (2015)

Nottingham, 1991

I was average at Maths

I was average at Science

I was average at Art

...and I could see no conceivable link between any of them

I liked to draw

I didn’t like school all that much

I loved to watch my uncles work on cars, machines and metal

My uncles were welders and fabricators in coal mines in North Nottinghamshire

My uncle told me that welding is not simply about good science and maths, but about art

The preparation is scientific; but the application is artistic

This concept seemed to stick with me

A Few years past...

In 1995 I was at college and I was introduced to the notion of layers in Photoshop.

Layers taught me about Hierarchical workflows, pipelines and fault-finding

They introduced the notions of masks, mattes and alpha channels

By manipulating these I became aware of the practical applications of binary, 8 bit calculations

For example, White could mean ON (1); and Black mean OFF (0).

VIDEO CLIP: Simple Year 1 VFX exercise using Photoshop and After Effects

When blending modes arrived, their power to blend one layers value with another, prompted me to enquire

What was the Math that sat behind it? And thus, how would it help me in the future

Screen and Add, allowed me to add fire and light; Multiply and Colour Burn, allowed me to add dirt and grime; Overlay, allowed me to add a little of both

VIDEO CLIP: Simple Year 2 Blending Mode Exercise in After Effects

Math and Art mixed for the first time and allowed me to build simple landscapes based on Mathematical values alone

Which then prompted me to look at notions of Linear and Atmospheric Perspective

VIDEO CLIP: Simple Year 1 Photoshop Exercise

The info palette in After Effects could allow me to observe and evaluate colour and luminance values in an image

This then prompted me to learn about inverse square law, colour temperatures and Kelvin ratings

Inside Adobe Premiere I found Y-Waveforms, Vectorscopes and RGB Parades, that I had only ever seen in high-end, analog edit suites

These allowed me to measure and quantify exactly the distribution of Chroma and Luminance across a screen to ascertain the validity of a the image

These techniques and software continue to inform everything I do in my practice and - most importantly - in my teaching.

They allow me to help students define the level of wear and tear on their 3D modeling work...

...they allow me to help students to calculate the Atmospheric Perspective based on Z-Depth calculations and Photogrammetry...

...they help me to show students how to isolate and correct a protagonists flesh tone separately from the rest of the scene in their film work...

...they also allow me to show students how to reverse engineer lens angles, lens distortion and depth of field to create better VFX composites...

Learning and exploring VFX via the Adobe Suite of applications, taught me to value art and made sense of the physical mathematical world around me...

...If someone had only shown me sooner that these subjects are inclusive rather than exclusive, I am sure I would have seen the value and worth in both...

...VFX is a perfect place to combine the creative with the mathematical/physical worlds...

...and as my uncle would have put it...

...they form the perfect weld.


Created with images by gabrielroma - "weld welding fire" • skeeze - "silhouettes coal mine entrance head lamps researchers" • Russ Ward - "Plasma Cutter"

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