After Effects

Prehistoric Park – meeting the deadline with a screengrab

How easy it is to work on any given project isn’t just a matter of how well you know After Effects. All sorts of factors can combine to make one job more or less demanding than the next. Designing the DVD menus for the ITV hit “Prehistoric Park” was probably the most demanding project I have ever worked on, and the extremely tight deadline I had was a significant factor in the job’s difficulty.

I had set up the Episode and Chapter select menus to resemble the security room which appeared in the series, and had a bank of TVs set up to display the various episodes or chapters for the viewer to choose from. Incidentally, this is all done in AE. There are no 3D applications involved here, just lots of cutouts arranged in 3D space. The TVs are each comprised of 4 solids arranged in 3D space – a photo of the front of a real monitor, and grey solids for the top and sides. You never see the back or the bottom so no need for anything there. Shadows and spotlights hide a multitude of rough sins!

Prehistoric Park - Episode Select Menu
Prehistoric Park - Episode Select Menu

But I digress..

I also had 2 computer screens as part of the set and although I had planned to design some sort of fake Prehistoric Park interface to go on them, I simply ran out of time. The deadline was approaching, it was past midnight and I just wanted to finish up and go home. There was no time for me to design something that would rival ‘Minority Report’. And because I had to let the various menu compositions render overnight there wasn’t much point in me working longer anyway, or the renders wouldn’t be done in time for the morning…

So I had to improvise. I screengrabbed the Mac I was working on, with After Effects open and me in the middle of working on the Prehistoric Park menus. Then I imported the still, dropped it into the composition to fill the laptop screen, finished up and went to bed. Problem solved in 30 seconds!

So if you look really carefully at the Episode and Chapter select menus in Prehistoric Park, you can actually see a screengrab of the After Effects project for the Prehistoric Park menus…

Remember what AE version 6.5 looked like?
Remember what AE version 6.5 looked like?

This wide shot shows the two laptop screens I needed to fill – the front one denotes which disc is being played, while the rear one will be used in the Chapter Select menu to navigate back to the Episode Select menu. When there’s a transition to play you can see the screen a bit more clearly…

DVD menu recursion...