Computer Science Department
School of Engineering
California Polytechnic State University
Date Submitted: June 6, 2000
Advisor: Chris Buckalew
Table of Contents
II. History of the Video
III. A Project Revived
IV. Overview of Movie Making Process
V. Scene-by-Scene Explanation
a. The Intro
b. Getting Neo
c. Talking to Neo
d. Meeting Trinity
e. Traveling in the Program
f. Meeting the People in the Program
g. The Choice is Yours
h. End Credits
A. Questionnaire for CSC Class
This document describes the growing enrollment problem at Cal Poly and how
a recruiting video was created to be sent to admitted students increase enrollment.
The enrollment problem is that Cal Poly accepts many more students than actually
decide to come here. This report proposes that sending a recruiting video to
admitted students would bolster interest in our school. Most of the report describes
the methods used in creating the video, so future students could follow or techniques
in making updates to the video. The report will explain what factors contributed
to the content of the video as well as describe what challenges were faced during
the video's production on a scene-by-scene basis. Finally the report will end
by discussing the option for distribution of the video.
The purpose of this report is to describe process by which Ian Chase and Ben Miskie created a recruiting video for the Computer Science Department of Cal Poly. This video was created to increase the number of students that decided to come to Cal Poly after they have been admitted to this school. The number of students that are admitted to Cal Poly but that decide not to come here has grown steadily in recent years. Sending a video that increases interest in Cal Poly to admitted students would probably reduce of the number of students that decide not to come to our school.
Other people have tried to make this recruiting video in the past, but these attempts were poorly organized and tried to accomplish too much. We managed to finish the video by designing a video which we knew we could complete using known techniques.
With the recruiting video we identified several things which we wanted to accomplish as well as things which we didn't think we needed to include.
Cal Poly already sends quite a lot of information about the school to admitted students as well as a CD-ROM which contains a virtual tour of the campus. There is also a lot of factual information about our school available on our web page, so in designing our recruiting video we wanted to avoid redundantly stating information that could be found elsewhere. Instead, we wanted make a video that sparked interest in the viewer. We wanted our video to make our school and our program unique among all the schools which students apply to.
The video can be distributed via CD-ROM, videotape, or the Web. Factors that
determine which medium is best to use include quality, accessibility, and cost.
Considering our target audience will most likely own a computer, all three of
these options are appropriate and feasible.
Every year, Cal Poly admits many students that end up deciding to go elsewhere. In looking at the Computer Science department we see the difference between the number of admitted students and the number of students that actually enroll at Cal Poly has steadily increased over the past three years. According to Cal Poly's Office of Admissions, in 1997 Cal Poly admitted 246 freshman applicants majoring in Computer Science, but only 75 of them actually enrolled. That's just barely over 30%. That year 171 students chose not to attend Cal Poly. In 1998, there were 185 students that chose not to come to Cal Poly, and in 1999 that number rose to 215.
This gap between the number of students Cal Poly accepts and the number of student who actually come to this school seems to be growing at a steady rate. In determining a course of action to resolve this problem it would be helpful to find out what factors effect students' school selection. In a questionnaire filled out by students in a CSC class here at Cal Poly, many students said they liked the environment of San Luis Obispo. The reputation of Cal Poly in engineering was another main reason students came here. Other factors included accessibility of the teachers to students, small class sizes, and our "learn by doing" hands on approach to learning.
The proposed solution to fix the problem was to create a recruiting video to
bolster interest in the school and major. This report will describe the long
process of making this recruiting video. Specifically it will go into detail
about how two CSC students, Ian Chase and Ben Miskie planned and produced the
video submitted with this report.
The idea of making a recruiting video to encourage enrollment has been considered for a few years now. Work had been started several times by different people to create such a video, but a finished product had never been realized. Ian had been a part of one of these attempts back in 1998. Professor Chris Buckalew had assembled a group of five students whom were interested in computer graphics and video production. The plan back then was to make a typical promotional video that would consist mainly of a series of short talking clips of students and teachers talking with MTV type effects applied to them. Most of the group wanted to make the video exciting and attractive to young people, so they thought imitating the style of MTV would be the way to go, though it turned out they didn't have a good idea of what that actually involved. Planning on using effects that were not known to be feasible, was a major difficulty for the group to overcome.
The group investigated the graphics capabilities we had available to us using the SGI Indy computers and Alias Wavefront. After several meetings throughout the quarter the group had storyboarded out an intro sequence, which they wanted to model and animate on the SGI computers. Video would start with the viewer riding on a roller coaster which started up in the clouds and then descended down to the earth and then the viewer would get off the roller coaster and get onto a motorcycle which would drive into a big city of sky scrapers were the viewer would find a rocket ship which would blast off and take the viewer into space. The rocket would pass a couple planets and end with a shot of the stars spelling out CAL POLY. After this animation sequence the talking heads sequences would begin with short clips of talking heads superimposed on footage of the campus. That was the plan.
Ian's task was to use the CSC department's camera to shoot footage of the campus and special events such as Open House. However, this proved to be an inopportune time to try to capture the beauty of the Cal Poly campus due to the fact that a school wide construction project tore up the streets and placed bright orange fences all over campus, making the school appear more like a war zone than a place of learning.
Modeling in Alias Wavefront proved to be more difficult that originally anticipated,
and extremely time consuming. By the end of the quarter, part of the roller
coaster track had been modeled. The group had a model of motorcycle and part
of a city for the motorcycle to drive through. There were hours of footage
of campus and special student events but most of it didn't look very appealing.
Most of the group graduated that quarter leaving the project unfinished with
no usable finished video that future students could use to finish the project.
The project was put on hold for about a year, until Ian teamed up with Ben Miskie to make the recruiting video for their senior project. These two computer science students had worked together in the past to make videos and they were determined not to leave the project incomplete when they graduated.
Our new team started out with the very general goals. The video should entertain prospect students and introduce them to Cal Poly and the San Luis Obispo area. After reviewing other recruiting videos, it was apparent that all of the video had contained two key elements, which were interviews with faculty and students and shots of the campus and surrounding area. Our team decided it wanted to make its recruiting video different by actually using a story to tie together the elements that all of the recruiting videos seemed to have.
The team decided to model the story off of a popular movie called "The Matrix". In this movie a character known as Morpheus explains to another character named Neo what The Matrix is. We would use this same type of situation, except in our video Morpheus would explain to Neo what The CSC Program at Cal Poly was like. In the "The Matrix" most of the movie takes place in a computer simulation, which allowed for a lot special effects. The recruiting video would do the same thing, which also would make it possible to convey a major idea that the viewers should expand their minds to explore new ideas and new possibilities.
According a questionnaire given a CSC class here at Cal Poly 21 out of 22 students said that they had seen "The Matrix" and liked it. Most students liked the special effects and the interesting plot of the movie. Students also commented on how they like the philosophical issues that the movie addressed and recommended do the same in Cal Poly's recruiting video. They liked the idea that our world may not be as it appears, and that out reality is shaped by our perception of our physical environment. This is a concept which we would try to convey with our video. Some students liked the kung-fu in the movie and others said they found Keanu Reeves' bad acting amusing. The only real complaint students had about the movie were that it was too violent and that the idea of using guns in cyberspace was stupid. So we chose omit any gun action scenes on our video, since violence was not something we wanted to use to represent Cal Poly. Some could argue that the kung-fu is also an form of violence, but we chose to use a martial arts sequence to make a point that things are not always as you expect them to be. Also due to the way we choreographed the fight, we downplayed the actual act of hurting another person and instead focused on the movements themselves and the display of physical abilities similar to what you would observe is a well-choreographed dance sequence.
In planning all of the content for the video, we always were keeping in mind
how we thought each scene or effect could be accomplished. This kept our plans
base more in reality than fantasy. This was a key factor in our completion
of the video.
To maintain the highest level of quality without using film, the video was made using all digital equipment. The actors were shot using digital video cameras. The camera was then hooked up to a computer via a firewire cable. The computer then captures the video clips from the camera and stores them in movie files on the hard drive. These clips are trimmed and arranged using software on the computer to create a new movie file, which is sent back out across the firewire cable back to the digital camera which records it. Once the video is in the camera it can then be shown on TV or recorded on VCR.
All shooting was done using Sony Digital Camcorders which recorded to mini DV tape. We shot everything multiple times not only so the actors could get their lines right, but so they we could cut to different angles. These angles usually included one or two wide shots and close-ups on each of the actors.
Once footage has been shot, we hook up the digital camera to a Sony VAIO Digital
Studio computer. Using the Sony DV MotionGate software on the computer we digitize
the video onto the hard drive so we can edit it using Adobe Premiere. We used
Adobe After FX to create visual effects and a program called Sound Forge for
creating sound effects. All of the files are collected in Premeire into movie
files, which are outputted using DV MotionGate back to the digital camera.
When making this video we wanted the video to stand out and be different than any other Computer Science recruitment video ever made. And from the beginning it is definitely different.
The majority of the population is not excited about computer science. What people are excited about is how they can use computer science. With this intro, we wanted people to get a taste of how important computer science is and how it fits into our history and into our future. The voice-over is meant to be open ended, confusing, and yet spark thinking, ideas and discussion.
In the beginning of the intro the viewers will immediately realize that this is no ordinary recruitment video. Instead of opening titles flashing on the screen, the words fade in and come at the viewers. Then the words change color from green to white with a quick light burst then to blue and finish with two blurs: one horizontal and one vertical.
After two titles come at the audience, the audience is expecting a third. But the audience is surprised because the next and final title comes from behind the screen and moves further away from the screen till it can no longer be seen.
After the titles, the audience finds itself in space and the world comes into view. The camera then flies towards the computer-generated world and goes through the clouds towards the sea. Ben was able to borrow the world graphic from the government agency called NASA. Because it is public domain, there are no copyright rules. After the camera gets through the clouds, a cross fade occurs to live video of the sea panning down to two people looking out towards the sea. The camera cuts in for a close up of the two people that are half submerged in water. Then the camera resumes its original position and pans up. As it pans up, a sailboat appears. The Voice over says, "Our world started out flat and small, then became big and round" This coincides with the boat suggesting that before the boat explorers, our world was thought by many to be flat. But after the boat expeditions we learned that our world is round. After we see the boat the camera continues to pan up into the clouds. The clouds are not really in the picture, but were added in postproduction to help with the next shot which is a fade into an aerial view of the clouds. The camera pulls back reveals the world from space. This still picture of the world is taken from the NASA web site making it public domain as well. The scene with the world looks like it was taken from live video, but it was not. To create the moving camera effect, the picture of the world that was imported into the scene had to be a very high-resolution photo. After the high-resolution photo was imported, positional key frames are set at different times to create the movement on the world. But simply setting key frames is not enough. If only key frames were set, the movement would appear choppy. So adjustments have to be made to manually adjust the velocity and acceleration so that the velocity follows a spline curve from one key frame to the next. This ensures that the movement will float more naturally.
After the world moves away, a collage composition fades in with increasingly complex drawing of inventions created by Leonardo Da Vinci. The scene highlights the invention titled "Codex Madrid." The significance of this invention being that the Codex Madrid is considered the first mechanical adding machine.
After the Leonardo Da Vinci scene fades away, a fighter jet flies at the audience. The fighter jet is actually a still picture that was taken from the US Air Force website. The still picture was then given an alpha channel so that the plane would show up without its original background. The picture was then animated with key frames on scale and position to give it the illusion of a jet flying towards the audience.
The next scene shows a bunch of zeros and ones on the screen. This scene was very CPU and memory consuming because each individual zero or one required an individual effect. 20 simple effects is no problem for today's PC's. However, having hundreds of simple effects is extremely CPU intensive. Then add a 3D effect, and the scene becomes super CPU intensive. The scene alone required 7 hours for the complete render.
The next scene shows the camera fading through a personal Palm Pilot. This scene combines both a computer generated zoom by scaling frozen and moving images, along with a real life optical zoom. The scene is then slammed against a computer-generated image of the world zooming away from the camera. Having the live video and the computer generated effect moving in the same direction gives the illusion that is was one continuous shot originating from the close up on the Palm Pilot.
The next title graphics are simply scaling effects with key frames.
The final Cal Poly graphic is a complex array of layers of colored light bursts in the background. The word Cal Poly changes color to match the sound to give a more dramatic effect as it slowly crawls toward the camera.
The Intro to the Computer Science Video is both open ended and circular. The intro maximizes the use of sound to enhance the graphics and energize the mood. It is fun to watch and allows the main body of the video to have much more creative freedom than the average Computer Science recruitment video.
The story of the video begins with our programmer, Neo, at work late one night,
debugging some code. He refers to books and manuals trying to find the answers
to his problems, but with everything he does the problem gets worse and worse.
Eventually Neo's frustrations motivate him to physically attack his computer.
Morpheus observes this from a remote location and sends someone to get him.
In this sequence there were several computer effects. Neo was supposed to be programming and then see various error messages. However, when a camera records video of a computer monitor it flickers because the refresh rate of the monitor is different that the rate the camera is recording at. So we knew we would have to create an artificial display somehow. Ian wrote a simple C program that would output error messages regardless of what Neo typed. A TV output card was used to record the output so it could be digitized and then digital zooms and pans were applied to the output so it appeared that a camera was panning to different parts of the computer monitor.
Figure 1: Adding More Falling Papers
The next special effect came when Neo tossing a bunch of papers in the air and screams up at the ceiling as papers fall on him. In the live footage, the papers that were tossed on Neo fell in one big clump and did not convey the idea of the world caving in on Neo. So to create more papers we used Adobe After FX to create a particle system of flat rectangles that were blurred and texture mapped to look like papers. This animation was overlaid on top of the existing footage to create the illusion of Neo being showered with falling papers.
Figure 2: Hologram of Neo
For the Morpheus to watch Neo, a holographic image of Neo had to be projected
in front of him. Again Adobe After FX was used to transform the footage of
Neo into a hologram. The video was scaled and cropped down to an ellipse and
tinted green and with a green glow outlining the video. Depending on the camera
angle, the hologram video of Neo was rotated to face Morpheus.
Neo awakes to find him sitting in front of Morpheus. Morpheus begins to explain to Neo what the program is and how it can help him. To better explain this, he activates the "loaders" which are the teachers in the program which "load" students with information. These teachers appear as holograms in front of Neo, and as they talk to Neo, additional holograms appear showing off classes of the CSC program and projects that students work on.
This scene was also most challenging part of the movie. Because the six minute scene, contained numerous hologram projections, the scene took roughly ten hours for the computer to render. This made it extremely time consuming when mistakes were made and numerous renders were needed. For example sometimes a hologram would appear too soon or stay up too long.
Figure 3: Multiple Holograms
The sequence involved extensive sound dubbing because the many CPU fans that
were in the room made the any spoken dialog impossible to hear. Because the
actors spoke their lines at different speeds when they dubbed in their voices
the lips often did not match the sounds they should have been making, but at
least the words were understandable.
Figure 4: Fighting Stances
In order to show Neo, that he needs to expand his mind and think beyond his preconceived limitations, Morpheus has Trinity show Neo that girls can fight just as well as any guy (perhaps even better). Neither of the actors that played Neo nor Trinity had any martial arts experience, so the fight scene needed to be carefully choreographed and practiced to avoid injuries. The key to making the fight realistic was selecting camera angles, which hid the space between the punch or kick and the person getting hit.
Figure 5: Camera Angle Hiding Space
The whole sequence was shot in the old gym on campus. We only lit the center of the floor so the viewer would appear that Neo and Trinity were standing on a mat in the middle of empty space, however, this lighting arrangement presented problems as well. First of all, the camera operator had to constantly be careful not to get his shadow in the shot, which was sometimes impossible. The other problem was that when the fight moved away from the center of the floor it suddenly was extremely dark making it hard to see the fighters. This was corrected somewhat using key frame brightness adjustment in After FX. In addition, After FX was also used to do speed adjustments to make the fight more exciting. For most of the punch and kick exchange the speed was increased to 120% making the actions seem faster without looking too fake.
Figure 6: Trinity Surprises Neo
Another key element that makes the fight seem more realistic is the sound effects
that were added. We digitized a collection of punching and kicking sound effects
from The Matrix and inserted them in our fight scene to help convince the audience
that there was strong physical contact being made when in fact there really
After the fight, Morpheus takes Neo to the Talley Vineyards, to show Neo that there learning can place in different places than Neo expected. The special effects of this sequence can be found in the transitions. First when Neo moves from the gym to the middle of the grape vine field, a Zoom Trails transition was used in Adobe Premiere. The effect maintains the idea that Neo was moving around inside a computer simulation as was done in The Matrix.
Figure 7: Zoom Trails Transition
Next Morpheus takes Neo out to the Pismo Beach Sand Dunes. For this transition we zoomed up close on Neo while he was talking, angling the camera so that only blue sky showed behind him. Then a shot of Morpheus is shown, telling Neo to "look again". Finally we cut to shot taken out at the sand dunes which was also angled upward at Neo, showing only blue sky behind him. The audience believes it is the same blue sky they saw earlier, but when the pans back and around Neo the audience sees that Neo is no longer standing in the middle of a field of grape vines, but rather on the top of a sandy dune by the beach.
A popular special effect used in movies and television right now is ability to slow time and pan around the subject using multiple cameras and having a computer interpolate the movement from one camera to another. This effect is called "bullet-time" where an object looks like it's moving in dream-like slow motion. The idea behind this effect is that, instead of using a single moving video camera, it uses several still cameras, all of which take pictures simultaneously. Then you take those pictures, and show them in sequence, from left to right, as if they were the individual frames of a movie, it creates the illusion of "virtual camera movement" - as if your viewpoint was physically moving around the object.
Due to the costs of setting up the equipment for this kind of shot we decided to simulate the effect by having the camera operator slowly walk around the subject, and then speeding up the footage using After FX. The end result was a fairly smooth pan around the subject, but it should be noted that it is extremely difficult to hold a camera steady while walking on sand, which sinks up to six inches with every step you take.
Figure 8: "Bullet-time" Cameras Used in "The Matrix"
Morpheus next shows Neo some of the people of Cal Poly at job fair held in Chumash Auditorium. Morpheus explains that people in The Program are trained so they will be better prepared when they encounter "agents" which are recruiters sent out from companies. As in The Matrix we have a beautiful girl catch Neo's eye while Morpheus talks to him. Then as Morpheus reacquires Neo's attention an "agent" takes the girl's place and quickly approaches Neo with a company portfolio. Neo, shocked by the recruiter's sudden appearance ducks down and Morpheus looks up and speaks the command, "Freeze it." At this point all of the people at the job fair freeze, leaving only Morpheus and Neo to walk freely. Morpheus continues to explain how The Program of Cal Poly can help Neo with his future.
Figure 9: Green Screen
This freezing effect took the most planning and execution time of all the effects in the movie. The effect was accomplished by shooting Morpheus and Neo walking in front of a green screen and then digitally removing the green background and replacing it with video taken at the job fair of our "agent" walking up and holding out a company portfolio. This task present several challenges. The first difficulty came in removing the green from behind the actors. Due to inconsistent lighting there were a wide range of greens that had to be selected and removed.
Figure 10: Lights Used
In particular, near the actors' feet, the green shadows that needed to be removed closely matched the dark clothes that the actors were wearing. So if the dark green shadows were removed base on their color values, pieces of the actors also were removed. So a mask needed to be drawn around each actor cutting out only the desired sections. This mask also needed to be animated to follow the movements of the actors as they walked around.
Isolated Image of the "Agent"
To add to the realism of the effect, Morpheus first behind the recruiter and then in front of him to make it seem that the frozen environment was not just a static background. To do this, a frozen frame was taken into Adobe Photoshop and the recruiter was isolated by erasing all of the background around him. This image of the recruiter was then taken back into After FX and overlaid on top of the green screen footage, so the recruiter appeared in front of Morpheus as he walked behind him. Then Morpheus turns and walks in front of him. At this point we removed the added layer with the isolated recruiter leaving only the frozen video background, which Morpheus is already walking in front of. The effect didn't work at first because we didn't plan for enough space to have Morpheus walk completely around the agent. So instead we had to have Morpheus walk through recruiter. When he did this a noise filter is applied to the layer with the isolated recruiter, so it appears that the computer simulation generating the recruiter glitches for a moment as Morpheus passes through him.
Figure 12: Morpheus Walks Around and Through the "Agent"
In using these frozen images as backgrounds for our green screen work another problem arose that objects that were moving when the image froze appeared to flicker when shown on a television. This problem was especially hard to detect since it would not appear when previewing the video on the computer monitor. Apparently, in order to work with any images or movie files in After FX, they must first be "interpreted". This is done by first selecting a video clip or image that you have imported into your project, then clicking on the File menu, selecting Interpret Footage and selecting Main. This should bring up the Interpret Footage dialog box. Next you must go to the "Fields and Pulldown" section, where you will find a Separate Fields pull down menu in which you must choose Lower Field First. This solution was provided by Mark Evans, one of Ben's co-workers at Veritas Software.
For the final scene of the video we once again borrowed an idea from The Matrix where Morpheus asks Neo to decide if he wants to learn more about The Matrix or if he wants to go back to knowing nothing about it. In The Matrix, Morpheus has Neo choose between two pills, a red pill and a blue pill, as a symbol declaring his intention to learn more. In duplicating this scene, we were concerned that some people might draw an analogy between choosing to come to Cal Poly and taking drugs. To avoid this misconception we had our Neo choose between a red jellybean and a blue jellybean. In any event, the movie ends with a choice needing to be made. The video fades to black as Neo makes his choice, so the choice is then passed along to the viewer, whether he or she wants to learn more about Cal Poly's Computer Science program or not.
The end titles were created using After FX and Premiere. The scrolling credits
were done by making still image of all of the titles and then using After FX
animated the image starting with all the titles located just below the viewable
area and then moving them upward until the last words move out of view. This
animation was imported into Premiere and two addition titles were added to the
end. The titles faded in an out using a Cross Dissolve transition to black
each time. The first title is a message we tried to convey throughout the movie
"expand your mind", and the second title is the place we would like them to
do it "Cal Poly". These titles were important because they leave a lasting
impression on the viewer.
Now that the video has been created, the next concern is how do we distribute it to prospective students. The best three options that the school has available to it are to send it on VHS tape, CD-ROM, or on the World Wide Web using streaming video. Many recruiting videos are sent out on VHS video tape because more people have VCRs than computers. However, since this video would be sent to students interested in Computer Science, it is safe to assume that many of them will have computers capable of playing the video if it were distributed on CD-ROM. The web would be the cheapest form of distribution for the video, since there would be no shipping or reproductions costs. On the other hand, with most home computers still connecting to the Internet at speeds of 56K or lower, the video would either take a long time to transmit or it would have to be of such poor quality that most people would not want to watch it. As broadband connections such as DSL and cable modems become more prevalent, it may become more realistic to use the Internet for distribution of the video.
Are you a CSC major?
Yes ________ No _______
Please list some of the factors that affected your choice in coming to Cal Poly.
When you applied to schools did any of them send you videos to encourage you to come to their university?
Yes ________ No _______
Have you seen the movie, "The Matrix"?
Yes ________ No _______
If you saw "The Matrix" what did you like or hate about it?
of Quick Questionnaire Given to
Professor Rogers' Human Computer Interaction Class
12 CSC Majors
10 Non-CSC Majors
Factors that affected decision to come to Cal Poly:
4 - received recruiting videos from other schools
18 - did not receive recruiting videos from other schools
21 - had seen the movie "The Matrix"
1 - had not seen "The Matrix" (a non-CSC major)
Things students liked about "The Matrix":
Things students hated about "The Matrix":
"Better than SFX." Film Unlimited 1999. 24 May 2000 <http://www.filmunlimited.co.uk/Feature_Story/Guardian/0%2C4120%2C56118%2C00.html>.
Buckalew, Chris. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview.
Connely, John. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview. 4/19/00.
Dana, Charles. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview. 4/19/00.
Hitchner, Lew. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview. 4/19/00.
Maraviglia, Jim. Executive Director of Admissions and Recruitment. Personal Interview. 6/2/00.
Matrix, The. Wachowski Brothers.1999.
Matrix Realm, The. 1999. May 30 2000 <http://www.fortunecity.com/lavender/heat/640/>.
Rogers, Erika. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview. 4/19/00.
Stearn, Dan. Cal Poly Professor. Personal Interview.