UFO HOAX! An After Effects Tutorial

One of the things I've always loved about visual effects - especially old optical effects - is the illusion of space and movement. In particular, I've been fascinated by the ability to fool the eye with very primitive techniques.

These older techniques are still employed but there seems to be a general preference by contemporary directors to want to constantly be flying through 3D space. I think a lot of that has to do with the excitement of playing with a new, fully immersive toy that full 3D environments offer. And the fact the filmmakers feel like they need to compete with the immersive environments sophisticated video games are offering. Not to mention the compositional flexibility that comes with a fully immersive environment. But here's the rub: That flexibility is often misused. Either because the director doesn't really have a vision and hopes he or she will "find it" in the 3D environment. Or they're in love with the toys and impulsively play with and change the shots over and over because they can.

I have to say, I'm guilty of this, too. But nothing ever replaces a solidly conceived idea or vision before a shot is ever begun. That's not to say that the shot can't change or be refined. But often the initial vision is the best. It's the purest because it was conceived in the context of the overall story and not in the isolated tank that can occur when one becomes more enamored with the toys than the story they're being employed to help tell the story.

Back in the day, directors had to find clever ways of fooling the eye. They often employed simple parallax tricks. One director in particular comes to mind who used this trick brilliantly: Stanley Kubrick in "2001" A Space Odyssey". And actually, due credit should probably go to visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull for these exceptional shots. The most astonishing thing about these images? All 2D images (like in our "UFO HOAX!" tutorial) and this was before we'd actually seen photographs of earth from space.

The "bone spaceship" from "2001: A Space Odyssey"

To be clear... "2001: A Space Odyssey" employed many 3D physical models, too. And some very sophisticated full-scale sets and some very clever optical tricks. But several memorable moments are, at their core, incrediblY simple constructions.

So, in the spirit of those simple, elegant tricks, we offer our's: "UFO HOAX! An After Effects Project." We hope you enjoy it!

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