There are two primary categories of visual effects processes: 2D (two-dimensional) and 3D (three-dimensional). 2D involves work done on images that have only horizontal and vertical dimensions. This includes things like video, photos, graphics, and so on. 3D work involves anything that requires an asset to be built in a simulated 3D space. Let’s do a deep dive into each of these.
The heart of 2D VFX is compositing. Compositing is the art of taking various source materials and combining them into a single final product. Sources might include filmed footage, rendered CG elements, or sourced or created art. The work is done by an artist called a compositor. Every VFX shot, whether it involves simply altering a single frame, combining various pieces of footage, or adding elements such as 3D animation, matte paintings, or graphics, ends its VFX journey in the compositing department. A compositor blends all the elements together and polishes the shot to ensure that all the work integrates seamlessly.
The work the compositor produces is called a composite, but is most often referred to, by industry insiders, by the shortened name comp. Likewise, the compositing process and even the compositing department itself, is often simply referred to as comp. You might hear a phrase like, “These files are ready to send to comp.”
This section aims to familiarize you with basic terminology and concepts used in compositing. We will get into many of these in greater detail later, as we move through the pre-production, production, and post production sections of the book.
In the old days, compositing was done in a variety of ways using in-camera tricks. While on-set a common method involved masking areas of the frame to record only part of the image, then rewinding the film to record on the other side of the frame with the masked area flipped. Similar techniques were used with specialized cameras recording projected images, again to isolate parts of an image to composite with one or more other images. Today, compositing is done almost exclusively on computers using digital files. However, the concept is exactly the same. The goal is to combine images together, to remove parts of one image, and to replace them with other images.
A compositor usually starts by loading the primary VFX plate into a compositing application and then merges additional plates into the shot. A plate refers to a piece of original photography that is intended to be used as an element in a composite. A foreground plate (FG) is usually the primary element positioned closer to the camera which will be placed over the background. A composite often has several foreground elements. The bottom element, or furthest from the camera, over which all others are added is the background plate (BG). The plate the compositor starts with is usually the one that contains the main action of the shot to which all other plates will be matched to.
Visual Effects for Indie Filmmakers: A Guide to Integration and Artist Collaboration is set to publish November 23, 2023. tinyurl.com/VFXIndie
(500 words, keywords: Covid-19, Pfizer, Moderna)
As of January 15, 2021, there are two Covid-19 vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for immediate emergency use in the United States. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (commonly referred to simply as the “Pfizer vaccine”) was approved for emergency distribution on December 11, 2020 for individuals 16 years and older. The Moderna Covid-19 vaccine was approved on December 18, 2020 for emergency distribution to individuals 18 and older.
In effectiveness trials, the Pfizer vaccine proved to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 among clinical trial participants, while the Moderna vaccine was deemed 94.1% effective.
In the Pfizer trials, only 1 of the 18,198 participants who received the vaccine contracted a case of the illness which could be classified as “severe.” Of the 14,134 participants in the Moderna trials, none of the individuals who received the vaccine and then contracted the illness were classified as severe cases.
Both vaccines carry potential side effects of pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. Additional potential side effects listed for the Moderna vaccine include swollen lymph nodes near the injection site, as well as nausea and vomiting. Both vaccines require two doses and carry a greater potential for side effects after the second dose. The Pfizer vaccine requires a second booster dose 21 days after the original, while the Moderna vaccine’s booster dose is recommended 28 days after the original. The vaccines are not considered interchangeable at this time, meaning that the first dose of either vaccine should be followed with a second dose from the same manufacturer.
The Pfizer vaccine dosage is .3 mL whereas the Moderna dosage is .5 mL. While both vaccines require refrigeration and have limited viability once exposed, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept at extremely cold temperatures making its delivery to rural locations logistically less feasible than the Moderna vaccine.
Unlike older vaccines which rely on injection of dead or weakened virus cells, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are categorized as Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. Using a relatively new technology, mRNA vaccines use strands of genetic coding that activates inside the body to produce a partial protein unique to the virus, in this case Covid-19. When detected, cells produce relevant antibodies. Advantages of this type of vaccine include its non-infectious nature and a faster manufacture time. As development of this technology is ongoing, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to monitor testing and developments in this field.
Because of the expedited timeline for emergency approval, neither of the current vaccines have been in trial long enough to evaluate the duration of protection. As such, the CDC does not recommend additional boosters beyond the first two recommended doses at this time. As trials continue, the CDC notes that this and other recommendations may change.
Trials for at least three other vaccines are currently underway in the U.S. including AstraZeneca, Jansseen (Johnson and Johnson), and Novavax.
Detailed information can be found on the CDC website at http://cdc.gov and the FDA website at http://www. fda.gov.
Big Country Magazine
Talk to the instructors of the Big Country Junior Master Gardener ® program for a while and you’ll come away with one word firmly planted in your mind: FUN! Gardening is fun! Plants are fun! Recycling is fun! And even... bugs are fun? These folks exude an excitement for gardening and nature that they pass on to as many as 100 students weekly in the Abilene area.
Currently in Abilene, there are two active Junior Master Gardener® groups, both coordinated by Cheryl McCormick who started the first local group in 2006 along with Richard O’Shields.
The program at Johnston Elementary has been operating since 2008 and is headed up by Jean Dotson. This semester there are about seventy kids participating. It’s a big group but Dotson refuses to turn any exuberant students away. Some kids who struggle in academia excel in the gardening program, she explained. “It’s their moment to shine.”
The second group has just been inaugurated at St. John’s Episcopal School, led by Juanita Campos and Kathy Turner. This group currently has sixteen children enrolled. Campos explained that the St. John’s program is only just getting off the ground, though it already promises to be a success. The school has installed a garden area for the students equipped with irrigation and the children are looking forward to planting veggies and herbs as the weeks progress. Both groups will run through May before breaking for the summer.
These groups are part of a larger international youth gardening program run by the University Cooperative Extension network, headquartered in College Station. Although each group is tailored to meet the needs of the individual organizations, they all follow the curriculum designed by the network that teaches kids about soil, plants, and wildlife, with an emphasis on personal development. Once a child has completed each aspect of the curriculum, they receive a Junior Master Gardener certificate.
Christa Clay-Bunger, an instructor with the Abilene-based groups explains that the kids come away with a new appreciation of nature and the joy of just being outside. She says that many of the children are surprised and excited to learn they can actually grow their own vegetables to eat.
The program is not just about getting plants to grow, though: a great deal of emphasis is also placed on nature conservation and recycling. Roxanne Klump who has taught the curriculum for several years described one of the lessons about soil. She said that the kids learn what soil is, where it comes from and how to make it better. They learn about how trash affects soil and how recycling can help. One of the activities related to the recycling lesson is to have the kids construct sombreros out of recyclable materials. The kids love it, she said, and they learned about what materials are good for the soil and which ones are not.
In addition to the after-school program, many of the instructors participate in an in-school program called Nature Kids. This program consists of a series of special presentations during regular class hours that are coordinated with a school’s teachers and in conjunction with regular science classes. This year only Johnston Elementary participated in this program, but they are hoping to expand into other schools next year. This is not part of the regular Junior Master Gardener program and the kids do not receive certification, but it allows children who are not able to enroll in the after-school program to be exposed to a fun way of learning about the science of nature. A group at Johnston Elementary recently had a special lunchtime lesson where the kids gathered up all the left-over items they would normally throw away after a meal and then learned which items could be composted, which could be recycled and which could be fed to animals. They weighed the collection at the beginning and it was almost 10 1/2 pounds. Once they sorted out usable and recyclable materials, they found they were left with only half a pound of actual trash! It was great fun for the kids as they learned they certain items that came from the earth can go back into it and help make a garden grow better.
Exposure to wildlife is another aspect of the program. Kids learn to identify birds and insects and learn how organisms contribute to the Earth’s process and growing cycles.
“Learning to observe nature is a very important skill and one that is diminishing in this age of television and technology,” says Dotson. “We try to share the mysteries and joys of the natural world. One year, second grade students were able to observe a female monarch laying eggs on milkweed plants right in our garden. I was 54 years old before I ever saw that. They have learned if they are quiet as they pass by the garden they might make a discovery.”
In addition to the practical science lessons, the Junior Master Gardener program also aims to teach kids cooperation, responsibility and leadership. Because the after-school groups consist of students of various ages, all the way from kindergarten to sixth grade, there is a lot of collaboration required amongst the different ages. The older kids tend to take on leadership roles and help the younger kids with activities as well as explain terms they might not understand as well. In fact, Campos said she intentionally divides her group at St. John’s into teams consisting of kids from a variety of age groups so that they can learn cooperation and get a diverse perspective.
Of course, as some of the students get older they can learn more advanced concepts and at Johnston Elementary master gardener, Marianne Marugg, has started a group for just fourth and fifth graders who want to delve deeper into those concepts. Some of the activities she has planned for this group are creating labels for the plants in the garden, creating a garden guide that will be available for visitors, building and erecting birdhouses and repairing those that are in disrepair.
The two groups currently operating in the Abilene area are run in conjunction with their respective schools and, therefore, are not open to the public. However, anyone who is interested can start their own Junior Master Gardener group by signing up for free. The only cost is for curriculum and materials. Leaders do not have to be master gardeners and are not even required to go through a training program. They only need a passion for gardening and for educating the next generation.
As the current programs end along with the school year, Dotson suggests that those interested might seek to form a summer group. It could be a family or neighborhood group or perhaps some of the local summer camps would want to register to teach the Junior Master Gardener curriculum as part of their activity schedule.
For those seeking to share the magic of gardening with their kids this summer, but who are not quite ready to organize a program group, the Junior Master Gardeners instructors suggested some at-home activities including nature walks to identify plants and animals or starting a small backyard garden in a rectangular box. Seeds that are easy to start and grow well in the area include beans, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and okra. If you plant okra, be ready to share with the neighbors, they joked.
Klump also suggested planting dill to create a natural butterfly habitat. The butterflies are attracted to the dill and will lay eggs on the plants. Kids can then observe the lifecycle of the butterflies as they hatch into caterpillars, form a chrysalis and then become butterflies!
For more information or to establish your own group, see http://jmgkids.us, or in Taylor County call Extension Agent, Robert Pritz at (retracted). You can also email the Big Country Master Gardeners at (retracted).
A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain resulting in stroke-like symptoms. Often referred to as a “mini-stroke,” a TIA occurs when the brain is temporarily deprived of oxygen due to a blockage.
Like a regular stroke, TIA symptoms come on suddenly and can include slurred speech, difficulty understanding what others are saying, dizziness, numbness or paralysis on one side of the body (including one side of the face drooping), weakness, headaches, loss of balance, and impaired vision. Unlike a regular stroke, however, a TIA is temporary with symptoms usually lasting only a few minutes, although they may persist for hours.
While a TIA does not cause permanent damage or disability, a TIA is considered a warning sign for stroke risj. In fact, approximately 15% of people who suffer a stroke have previously experienced a TIA. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after experiencing a TIA. Typical evaluations include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or Computerized tomography (CT) scans to check for damage and ongoing blockage. Blood tests may be ordered to examine blood consistency, and exams may be ordered to monitor and evaluate the heart and circulatory system.
TIA sufferers are often advised to follow up with a neurologist and/orr cardiologist for further evaluation. Treatments typically include medications like anti-platelet drugs (such as aspirin), anticoagulants, or statins to lower blood cholesterol. In some cases where there is a physical cause, such as a narrowed artery, surgery may be recommended.
While there are many factors that contribute to an individual’s risk for TIA’s such as age, genetics and previous health issues, lifestyle is often one that can be improved. Risk of TIA’s may be lowered by eating healthy, exercising regularly, cutting out smoking or illicit drug usage, and maintaining healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
PROFESSOR: Web Design has developed rapidly since the introduction of the internet back in the early 1990’s, back when just having a web presence was enough to garner traffic from potential clients. Since those days, however, web traffic has multiplied exponentially and competition for audience attention is at an all-time high. So, what can you do to ensure that your website attracts an cultivates an audience? Now, I’m not focusing on things like S.E.O. or targeted advertising, tools that drive traffic to your website. I’m talking about the website itself, because even if you have a fool-proof campaign to drive potential clients to your site, you still have to ensure, that once there, they stay there! Keep in mind that the majority of visitors have likely been directed to your website via a search engine in which the link to your site was just one of dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of possible choices.
Think about your own web surfing habits for a moment. Let’s say you’re intent on buying a pair of shoes and you search for something akin to “buy tennis shoes.” Your search results show hundreds of URLs and ads for webstores that sell shoes, right? You select one, click on it, and the landing page pops up. Almost instantaneously you form an opinion, deciding right then and there either to continue to explore this website or to click back and examine another option. In fact, statistically speaking, studies show that people decide whether or not to engage with any given website within .05 seconds of clicking on the page. So, let’s look at the psychology that is triggering that .05 second reaction and discuss what design elements assist in manipulating that reaction in favor of the visitor remaining on the site.
Someone tell me, what’s something that informs your decision on whether or not to further explore a site?
STUDENT: The first thing I consider is whether or not the site even has what I need!
PROFESSOR: Good! Yes, we have to demonstrate to people immediately that we can accommodate their needs. So, let’s discuss a couple of things that will help us do that right off: our branding and our hero section. Let’s start with branding. It’s important that our company logo and is obvious and conveniently located on the page so as to signal to visitors that they’ve found the correct website. Also, a well-designed logo that portrays a solid company identity will communicate a great deal with a single glance. We also have what is often referred to as a hero section, which is doubtlessly the most important aspect of our design. A hero image will, in all likelihood, be the first element visitors notice, and will be an integral contribution to the opinion they subsequently form. Therefore, the carefully selected image should be eye-catching and informative. The hero section should, likewise, contain a statement which informs visitors about the organization, usually via one or two cleverly crafted lines which clarify mission and purpose, and convince visitors the site is worthy of further exploration. To that effect, both the hero image and statement should clearly complement the company’s branding and style. Any questions?
Okay, great! Then, let’s switch gears here a moment and talk about things that turn people away from a website. Anyone want to jump in and give some examples of that?
STUDENT: I hate it when I can’t find what I’m looking for. I have to click through different pages looking for something when I just want to be able to see where I need to go from the landing page.
PROFESSOR: Yes! I’m so glad you mentioned that because clear navigation is absolutely essential to quality website design. One of the primary causes of visitors exiting a website without engagement, is exactly what you just mentioned: overly complicated navigation design. Your navigation menu should be easily spotted, near the top of the page, should contain brief but descriptive labels, and should remain consistent throughout all subsequent pages of your website. Remember, as with everything on the landing page, keep these navigation labels brief. It’s easy to overwhelm visitors with text-dense material, so an open design that is easy to scan, highlights key information and suggests links to additional content will assist in enticing visitors to explore further.