Green Screen, Tracking & Compositing

The green screen, motion tracking and compositing masterclass was a very unique experience in that it gave us an opportunity to work with respected industry professionals, DOP Nick Paton and editor and owner of the Post Lounge, Steve Cooper. Our task for the day was to create two moving shots- one with the camera tracking across the set and the other with the camera dollying into the window- of the set with a green screen outside of the window. The second half of this, was to shoot some static footage of an outdoors environment. So, we commenced the day by designing the set, carefully placing props in the space with focus on one particular vase which sat on a table directly in front of the window. The next thing we did was place roughly 6-9 tracking markers (two small trips of black tape crossed over to form an “X”) in the shape of triangles on the green screen and three on the vase. One of the greatest things about having Steve and Nick with us for the day was that they really wanted to make sure that we all knew what was happening and why.

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Being a post student who has done very little work with green screens, the highlight for me was having Steve take the time to not only explain the green screen and tracking process but to show us (especially the posties). Being that there are only two post production students in our class, he had us placing and moving the trackers, checking through their positions through the split monitor and guiding us to fix them as required. This was a really great feeling to have someone like Steve show interest in teaching us new skills. From this, I learned that the purpose of tracking markers is to provide extra information for editors and post-production software to create an effective image replacement. In our case, we would be replacing the green screen with the footage shot of the outside environment. In the edit, these trackers are used to more precisely key out the green screen and identify/ match the appropriate distances to create a realistic finish.

While on set, there were some technical elements that were taken into consideration to assist in achieving this sense of realism. These included the height of the camera from the ground, the angle at which it was sitting and the distance between the camera and the vase. Additional considerations were made for the direction of the lighting in order to emulate the natural light that would come through a window. These details are significant to note as together they provide the foundation for a seamless integration and edit between the plate shot and the set footage.

In terms of filming, the hardest part on the day was trying to get the lighting right, however having Nick on set really helped to speed up the process and fine tune things like reflections. The edit for this project was definitely the most challenging and involved process.  I wouldn’t day that this post work difficult as such, it was more so just how time consuming and fiddley the steps were that made it challenging. Being a post student, I had two tasks to complete using the footage. The first one, being the same as the production students, was the replacement of the green screen with the plate shot in the sideways track. The second was to replace the background and the vase on the dolly into the window. With post production facilitator Alex Adam, we stepped through the keying processes. I found the first edit to be much more manageable than the second, the reason being that I had to learn new software in order to replace the vase with the provide 3D gnome. This software was called Cinema 4D and I had never used, or even heard of it before. However, after having a bit of a play, I was able to get the hang of it and could relate some aspects of it to another program that I’ve used in the past for an animation class called MAX 3D.

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The other program we used for this project, actually the main one, was Adobe After Effects. One of the good things about these software is that they can be used in conjunction with each other through dynamic linking. This makes the flicking back a forth a little less ‘clunky’. For this particular 3D task, the process went as follows: We imported the required footage into After Effects then added a 3D camera track to the shot of the set with the green screen. Following this, we applied a couple of solid layers to the objects in the room to help with the placement of the, soon to be added, Cinema 4D layer. After making a few sizing and positioning adjustments to the gnome, we added Keylight on the base footage.

It took a bit of fine tuning to get the scend running smoothly with the gnome, but I did get there. To finish it off, we went back to the footage in After Effects we went through and masked out all on the black trackers on the green screen. This was a small and easy fix. Finally, to tidy up the gnome, we went back into Cinema 4D to change to direction at which the light was hitting the statue to match the light of the scene. Last but not least, we used Photoshop to remove any red spill and leftover glimpses from the original vase.

Overall, it was a great masterclass whereby I learnt a new program, was taught some things I previously didn’t know and was able to practice my compositing skills.

 

 

 

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Experimental Film

Experimental cinema or avant-garde cinema is an art form like no other. It is a great liberty to explore film form and various techniques that are not explicitly used in mainstream cinema. While this freedom of expression is exciting, it can also be somewhat overwhelming in the creation process. In the production of our experimental film, Consumed, there were definitely some challenges that we, both individually and as a group, had to overcome. I had two roles in this production, they were production design and editing. In terms of production design, the hardest part was finding the right balance between having too much in the frame and not enough. I think this is just something that takes practice and experience to finesse. However, for experimental, there really no “right” or “wrong”.  For the editing process, the most difficult part of this project was pulling myself out of the mindset of traditional, mainstream film making. As the editor, I had to try to let go of my restraint and refinement. Rather than cutting specifically to the beat, editing to drive a story or avoiding the use (or over use) of digital effects and transitions. Our film went through a number of passes, each time becoming more intricate and less linear. I put a lot of thought into the addition of stock footage and used it sparingly in the beginning, though I was much more confident and open-minded in my use toward the end. I also struggled a lot with adding visual effects as I have had very little practice with this aspect of editing.  28336845_160949071230060_6510824476229083512_o.jpg

With these insights that I gained throughout this project, I will definitely try to implement them in my approach to filmmaking in the future. I will do this by being more experimental in my use of props, costuming and set design and will think outside the box a little bit more. I feel that some of the choices that I, and the team, made for the design of this film were things that I would not normally consider. In my projects to come, I will be more confident with this and not be afraid to try ideas that may seem different or out of the ordinary. With regards to how I can use my editing difficulties and insights in my style of filmmaking, I will no longer shy away from using visual effects or stock footage. These can be great assets to any film when executed well. Again, I think it just takes practice. One of the biggest things I have taken away from this whole experience though, is that being on set doesn’t have to be stressful. You can have fun and enjoy yourself while still following a schedule and achieving the goals that have been set for the production. I believe that having a good working environment and positive energy on set really does carry through to the screen and final presentation of the film.

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We began pre-production for this project with a team brainstorming session whereby we all researched and shared examples of experimental films that we like. Furthermore, we discussed concepts that appealed to us to help direct or research. We settled on youth and the culture of social media. The best experimental that I shared with the group was a political commentary piece which incorporated a lot of social and digital elements which I believe helped to shape our ideas and goals for this project. We decided to use our film to make a comment on the vicious façade of social media and the detrimental effect it can have on one’s mental wellbeing. We wanted to show a bright and shiny world in contrast to a darker world in turmoil. This notion formed the base of our search for visual references for which I created a group Pinterest board that we were all able to add our inspirations to. This helped us create our storyboard along with influences from the series Black Mirror and the work of previous Studio 3 students. In particular, the Pink Lady Productions experimental film.

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In order to make it clear to the audience the collision of the two worlds, without explicitly telling them, we used glitter for the perceived “glamorous” life of our character and black paint for the inner turmoil, or, the ‘real’ world. I loved the idea of having the two worlds collide, not only with the use of inter cutting but the whole concept of physically covering the glitter with darkness. I feel that this shot epitomises our purpose of this film. To support this imagery, I wanted to use stock footage that was relative to our theme and supportive of the cause. With this in mind, I chose a rollercoaster to signify the emotional highs and lows of social acceptance. The reason I wanted the footage of caged chickens and fish swimming around and around in a bowl is to infer that we are trapped and caught in a never-ending cycle of what we believe is social acceptance verse what is real.

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I feel like we all learned a lot about each other in the making of Consumed, and who we are as a group (Dark Horse Productions). Being the first project we had ever worked on together as a team, it surprised me how well we meshed and how we were able to use each other’s skills and creativity to produce something that we were proud to present. In terms of improving this project, I’m not really sure what more we could have done as there was nothing that really hindered our production or final product. I feel that we worked really well together, we had some great cinematography, the lighting looked good on camera and the set looked as we had intended. If anything, I think the only thing I would say would be to get extra B-roll of the ‘dark’ world and some just of props as there was concerns that our film was starting to look too much like a music video. However, as mentioned earlier, this was overcome in post production.

Overall, a fantastic experience and opportunity to create a great show reel piece to kick off the trimester!

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