Some smooth, stretchy After Effects work mixed with spot-on sound design gives us Tales of the Unexpected, by More Soon.

Tales of the Unexpected from More Soon on Vimeo.

Here’s the only clue so far on the techniques used:

Yeah pretty much.. it’s a really long video made in After Effects layered over a series of displacements.

I’ll try to get some more secrets out of the creator, but in the meantime: Any CDM readers like to step up on how this might have been created?

This is my favorite part of video production, the “figuring out someone else’s Kung Fu” process, but I don’t know enough about displacement maps to even get started on this one.

  • I can think of one way this could be done, but you can't do it in After Effects alone.

    To me, it looks like a clip of composited natural imagery (flowers, leaves, etc.), all panning from top-to-bottom in successive layers – easily doable in AE. The resulting clip was then brought into a 3D program, and the clip was used both as a texture map and as a spherical geometry displacement map on a sphere, or simply used directly as a geometry generator using spherical displacement.

    (About this technique – some 3D programs can generate geometry directly from pixel data, essentially using the luminance info in the clip to push polygons higher or lower from the center of a plane or sphere – the brighter the pixel, the further away from the center of the sphere the polygon will be displaced. Here's an image I did years ago in Electric Image that uses this technique –

    I made the shells by taking three different swirly grayscale images and using a plugin called Image2Mesh in spherical displace mode to generate distorted spherical geometry. I made the pebbles by taking a photo of pebbles and using the luminance values in the image to displace a flat plane of polygons vertically. I then applied texture maps to the shells, added a light source, and set a specular highlight on the shell texture to suggest shininess.)

    In this case, an animated texture map generates continually evolving geometry, so the shape is always changing. And, in this case, if you use the same map for both texture and displacement, the imagery in the map will be registered with the geometry, so the pixels will map directly to the displaced polygons. Finally, the artist lit it and added a specular highlight suggestive of plastic-y wetness to give it that creepy organic look.

    As I said, I don't think there's any plugin available for After Effects that can be used to generate and modify spherically-displaced geometry from an animated texture map, so this almost certainly was started in AE and finished in a 3D program like Maya, Cinema 4D, or what have you.

  • If you have Max/MSP/Jitter, you can see a patch demonstrating this process: in the folder jitter-examples/render/. I like the colors and flow they achieved in this one.

  • Jan

    The cool effect is not the displacement alone. The "spherical warp" is the stunning effect.

    Warping it in one axis only can be seen here:

    Maybe its warped in two axis??

    The whole scene appears in a little point on top of the sphere and disappears on the bottom.
    But just mapping displacement and diffuse map onto a Sphere and move the map wouldn't do it.

    I think I noticed also the use of a Fisheye camera with animated distortion angle. (maybe used inverse?)

    There are some more examples done here:
    (Mercedes Benz Viano commercial concept)

    Please note that the complete 3D scene is warped!

    and here:
    (this is the video I saw this technique first)

    Someone could try to build this effect using 3dsmax and two 180° bend spacewarps? Its only a suggestion. Or maybe someone could ask mr.zhestkov how he did the video on vimeo. Here is a link to his Homepage.

  • It's true that there's some polar distortion in the imagery, which could have been applied after the fact, to the rendered 3D output, or possibly to the original displacement map generated from AE. Either could work, I think.

  • mj

    i'm not wondering how it's created , i wonder why they used the dull background….

  • rich

    Could you use spheres or cylinders in AE (Boris filters let you) after some wipes or with Time Displcament?

  • rich

    Boris 3D filters can wrap not that you'd need it…

  • Indeed, really nice video! I'm guessing its mostly slit-scanning…

  • It's cool but say a little pointless. I like the VIANO stuff a lot…
    Still interested in HOW to do that.

  • DeluDe

    the warp thing is pretty easy to figure out… its the default uv mapping of a primitive sphere in almost every 3dapp, while the cilinder moved in the horizontal axis, in this sphere the video is panned from top to bottom. you can either do it in AE or in the 3d app, the result is the same. after the pan is done in AE (or later in 3d) you only have to take the color video to the texture channel, and tune the grayscale video (the cylinder concert video has way better work in that department) so you can put it in the displacement…

    then all you need is a very high subD in the sphere and a very good computer a lots of time to kill, or send it to a render farm online

  • DeluDe

    btw i agree with mj, altough they're all smeared colors and the gray can be the apropriate color, it would gain by simply tunning from 50% to 75% black, to a darker gray… but maybe is the author telling "yes, you're gonna have a hard time keying it without damaging it :p"

    sorry for the double post

  • Here's an open source solution…
    You can use Pd/GEM.
    There's a GEM object called imageVert which maps pix to polygons whose height is determined by colors (or maybe it's luminance).
    This small screen shot is different from the video in this post but maybe gives some illustration of imageVert. It's the forth row down, first column here:

  • Not sure how this is done on the PC version of after effects, it might be similar.

    On a mac, with the pre comp layer selected, press and hold the keys:
    CTRL + Option + Acid
    at the same time.

  • Graham T

    Very cool. Not sure how the video is made but i'm sure that the sounds come from Logic Pro's sculpture synth.

  • this also can be done with 3ds max displacement map.. just mapping a full video into a sphere… I have done this trick before. taking reference from mat pyke universal everything.

  • BirdFLU

    Dave Bowman said "My god, it's full of sushi."

  • A quick and easy setup with displacement map in Cinema 4D: – more time and tweaking and it could be it..

  • Jan

    @Lukas: Yes

  • visuality

    Thats Zborn toy and some spherical
    displancent (AE filters 🙂 and or FF FX I can tell
    by the specularity.
    time mapping would have made that even
    more cool 🙂

    Pretty nice 😉