Project Breakdown: House Rules Ident

Project Breakdown: House Rules Ident

I've been deep into video production for the last couple weeks and wanted to show you some behind-the-scenes on a new project. This is the ident for my YouTube channel in the making, House Rules!

I love doing animated 3D graphics, but this time around I wanted real-life footage to work with. My initial thought was to get some backlit footage and combine it with images, kind of like this:

I'm not a big After Effects person (as a matter of inexperience, not preference), but had enough context to know it could work. But I still had to figure out...

How do you set up a backlit scene?

Okay, FUN FILM FACT™ incoming!

Green screens have to be lit evenly and separately from the subject, and the subject has to be far enough away from the green screen so as not to cast a shadow.

I learned this doing my green screen experiments last year. It's harder than you think!

My studio was a lot smaller at the time and I kept running into a crazy-making problem: there was always a halo of light around my arms. It was bouncing off the green screen and on to me.


The next time I was on set with Brit + Co in San Francisco, I shared my experiments with the crew and asked how they would solve the problem. Cody, the PA (Production Assistant), showed me some equipment in their studio for controlling light.

That was super-duper helpful. I built a DIY version of what I saw using a light stand, spring clamps, and part of a big box from Amazon. Here's a behind-the-scenes video from Snapchat explaining the whole deal.

But let's say we want to do the OPPOSITE. To have a halo around the subject, then just the utter darkness of their soul filling the interior of that form.

Time to flip the script. For this shoot, I started out by lighting the backdrop and allowing just enough light to spill over around the edge of my subject. (Which was me. 🙄)

Here's an idea of how the lighting setup performed. These have been desaturated and the levels are adjusted.

After getting the backlit shots, I switched to a softbox out front and explored different ways to fill the frame. I spent about an hour just hamming it up from different positions: close, far away, from the side, and so on. 

Here's how that looked before any adjustments. IT'S FULLY LIT. (With a softbox!!)


When I was done, I brought this stuff into Adobe Premiere and started the ol’ slice-and-dice.

I selected out the best takes and cut them to YeenGotDees (Inst.) by Yung AOL. Specifically, I cut to the beat. My friend Hayden (also known as the all-powerful artist Zolloc) taught me about that. We were watching the music video I did for Tweedy and he was like, "That should have been a cut. That should have been a cut. That's a cut. Cut. Cut. Cut."

I'm not one to turn down experienced advice. The last time I hung out with Hayden he was waiting on a call from Rihanna! 

So I cut-cut-cut to the beat, and here's the initial edit without any visual adjustments. Most of the dramatic lighting stuff didn't make the cut.

When I was happy with the rhythm, I pulled the project into After Effects.

This is where the logo, transitions, and visual adjustments happened. I filled the gaps with my original 3D artwork and some footage of palm trees and clouds.


Then I went to work trashing up the footage. With the right adjustment layers, you can drag plenty of visual noise out of an image. Here are a couple examples.

From shooting to editing, the whole process took 2-3 days. I ended up making lots of small tweaks over the last week, but it was about the right size for a weekend project.

The first episode of House Rules will be going up soon. Here's a link to my YouTube channel if you want to subscribe now:

And you can send me a question right here:

Hope you're having a great week. I was scheduled to have kidney surgery today but the hospital bumped me to next week. I'll probably be on a little break for recovery until next month, but we'll see!

Talk to you soon!

Allison House is a designer and art director specializing in 3D visuals and motion graphics. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, SPIN, Pitchfork, and many more.