Download Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography PDF

TitleFilming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography
PublisherFocal Press
ISBN 139780240809151
CategoryArts - Film
File Size36.4 MB
Total Pages309
Table of Contents
                            Front cover
Filming the Fantastic: A Guide to Visual Effect Cinematography
Copyright page
Table of contents
Chapter 1: One-Eyed Magic
	The Pinhole Camera
	Refraction and the Lens
	Focal Length
	The Iris and Depth of Field Control
	The F-Stop
	The Modern Movie Lens
	The Glass Shot
	The Nodal Point
	Drawbacks of the Glass Shot
	Building and Shooting a Foreground Miniature
Chapter 2: The Fabulous Art of Matte Painting
	Preserving Image Integrity
	The Scout
	Camera Bag
	The Shoot
	Shoot Procedure
	Darkroom Procedure
	Studio Procedure
	The Painting
	Exposure Wedges
	Sky Mattes
	Sky Animation
	Painting Enhancements
	The Final Shoot
Chapter 3: Stop Motion
	Stop Motion Combined with Live Action
	Ray Harryhausen
	Go Motion
	How Do Traditional Stop Motion Effects Relate to the Digital World?
	Executing a Dynamation Shot with the Computer
Chapter 4: The Frame Is the Thing: All About Film Formats
	The Basics of Movie Film
	The Sound Era
	The Television Era
	Super 35
	Viewing Movies on Television
	Exotic Formats
	What About Digital?
Chapter 5: How Film Works
	Persistence of Vision
	Composition of Film
	How Do You Know How to Expose the Film?
	Why Not Use Normal Contrast Film to Begin With?
	How Does This Relate to Digital?
	Film Reproduction and the Optical Process
	The Optical Printer
Chapter 6: Film to Digital
	Bit Depth
	Compositing Software
	Laser Recording
	The Digital Intermediate and Beyond
Chapter 7: Digital Cinema
	Digital Cinema Cameras
	What’s the Best Camera to Use?
	Mechanical Television
	Interlace or Progressive
	Image Resolution
	Light Sensitivity
	Dynamic Range or Latitude
	Size of the Chip
	Color Sampling
	What Camera Did You Get?
Chapter 8: The Moving Camera
	Rear Projection
	Lock-Off and Pan and Scan
	Motion Control
	Motion Control on Set
	Motion Control and Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI)
	Two-Dimensional Motion Tracking
	Three-Dimensional Tracking
	Sticky Front Projection
	Matting Actors into Unstable Stock Footage
	Encoded Motion Interactive Playback
	Environment Maps
	CGI Actors to Accommodate Moving Backgrounds
	The Future
	The Blessing and Curse of Movement
Chapter 9: Blue and Green Screen
	Blue Screen
	Color Screens
	Setting the Screen Exposure
	Blue Screen or Green Screen?
	Shooting Green Screen Elements the Proper Way
	The Incoming Scramble Green Screen Shoot
	Outdoor Green Screen
	Green Screen with a Digital Camera
Chapter 10: Composition and Lighting
	Traditional Lighting Instruction
Chapter 11: Miniatures vs. Computer Graphics
	From the Earth to the Moon
	Real Light and Software Simulation
	High Dynamic Range Imaging
	Real or CGI?
	The Future
Chapter 12: So You Don’t Have a Million Dollars
	Green Screen Workaround
	Look, Ma: No Green Screen!
	Front Light/Back Light
	A Word on Black Backgrounds
	Try Not to Blend Color Space
	Difference Matte
	Front Projection
Chapter 13: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
	Old School Crowd Replication
	Ghoul Replication When I Couldn’t Shoot Properly
	Shoot It Now, Light It Later
	Walking on Green Screens
	The Mirror Method
	Shooting Chrome on Green Screen
	Live Figures in CGI Backgrounds, aka Paper Dolls
Chapter 14: Welcome to the Circus
	Personalities and the Work Environment
	Get to Know Your Host
	Remember Names
	Don’t Think Out Loud
	Help the Indecisive
	The Genius by Committee
	I’m Not Impressed
	The Tweakaholic
	Bend in the Wind of Vicious Aggression
	Fired on the Spot: A Real World Example
	The Ramifications of the Blowhard
	When to Stand Your Ground
The Man Behind the Curtain
Document Text Contents
Page 2

Whether you are an old hand at visual effects or just thinking about getting your
feet wet with your fi rst indie fi lm, Mark’s book delivers a very detailed history
and hands-on, step-by-step detailing of effects techniques, both past and present,
reminding everyone that visual effects are still about more than just staring at a
monitor and watching pixels move.

—Kevin Kutchaver, Emmy Award winning VFX Supervisor and
Founder of HimAnI Productions, Inc.

This book perfectly addresses the number one problem in the movie business: all
decisions are made based on fear. “Will I lose my cushy job if I make the wrong
decision?” With this book on your desk that’s one less problem to worry about.

—Glenn Campbell, Visual Effects Supervisor at AREA 51

Page 154

Chapter 8: The Moving Camera


photographed the top half of the VistaVision plate, copying one-half of the frame.
There was no image degradation, because one-half of a VistaVision frame equals one
whole Academy frame, so no image blowup was necessary (refer to Figure 4.8). As
the image was copied, the optical printer lens was moved frame by frame to create
a tilt-down move over the matte painting effect. This same idea can be found in
digital when the background plate is placed within a higher resolution matte painting
frame. As long as the digital sampling of this larger frame stays within the fi nal digital
output resolution, there will be no loss of quality.

Most pans and tilts easily fi t within the larger aperture of the VistaVision frame. If a
longer event (such as a long pan) was desired, the method was to physically pan the
camera and then stop at the lock-off point where the matte would align with the
background. Before the camera came to rest at the lock-off point, the blend of
the matte painting and the live action would not match, but this would never be
seen, as the printer would only be copying the portion of the image outside the matte
painting area. As the pan came to a stop, the optical printer lens “hooked up” to the
live action pan and continued the move onto the matte painting, which by then had
a perfect blend since the camera had come to its stopping point. This method was a
brilliant way to preserve quality while bringing back controlled movement after the
fact. The main drawback with the lock-off method, as with the on-set nodal pan,
was that all effects elements remained locked and had no perspective shift. In a real
situation, the taking camera pans not about the nodal but about the center of the
camera. As a result, an object closer to the camera moves past it faster than objects

Figure 8.2: The third pass was a pull away on the foreground miniature only. Black velvet was
dropped to obscure the painting. Note the simple use of two blue-gelled lights bouncing off foam core to
provide skylight and a yellow gel over the hard directional lamp to simulate sunlight. Lynn Ledgerwood
is seen detailing his model. The perspective is “forced” by having different scaled cars in close proximity
to each other, providing a sense of depth. This setup was used for the fi nal shot in the fi lm From Dusk
till Dawn. Courtesy of Illusion Arts.

Page 155

Filming the Fantastic


in the middle ground or background, imparting a sense of depth. To address this
issue, a method of repeating an actual camera move had to be created.

Motion Control
Motion control is a method by which stepper motors are attached to all the moving
axes of a camera and are controlled by signals generated by a computer. The beauty
of this idea is that the movement of the camera can be fi nely controlled and is exactly
repeatable. It is interesting to note that this motion control camera technique was
used as early as 1948 in the “Fifth Avenue” shot in the fi lm Easter Parade. Motors
that derived their instructions from signals recorded on fi lm controlled the camera;
it was called the Dupy Duplicator. Olin Dupy of the MGM sound department was
the inventor.

Modern motion control didn’t come into widespread use until the dawn of affordable
computers with the fi lm Star Wars (1977). The biggest advance was the ability to

Figure 8.3: An example of a tilt-up move within a high-resolution image. In this case, the 1.85
composition has a fi nal output resolution of 1828 ¥ 988. If the matte painting is considerably larger
than this, we can pan about without fear of losing quality because we never “blow up” the image. In
this case, the large matte painting has a resolution of 2996 ¥ 3136. When we pan up to the smaller
frame the extraction is exactly 1828 ¥ 988. If we zoomed in closer we would begin to get a softer image
because we would be enlarging the pixel data.

Page 308


The Man Behind the Curtain

Cameraman, artist, and actor Mark Sawicki began his career as a stop motion hobbyist
in Jackson, Michigan. His early work as a teenager led Mark to enroll in the University
of Southern California Cinema program in Los Angeles, where he and his friends
struggled to fi nd ways of breaking into the fi lm business. An early effort of Mark and
his classmates was the independent feature fi lm The Strangeness,* for which Mark was
co-producer, visual effects artist, and actor. This fi lm was a terrifi c introduction into
the fi eld and opened the door for Mark to work at Roger Corman’s New World Pic-
tures. While at Corman’s, Mark experienced the rough-and-tumble world of low-
budget effects that recreated the spectacles of much larger pictures using very limited
resources. After working on several 1980s genre pictures such as Galaxy of Terror and
Saturday the 14th, Mark was invited to set up the optical department at Celestial
Mechanics Incorporated and was introduced to the world of commercials, where he
won a Clio for his camera work. After a 5-year stint at CMI, Mark went on to become

Mark Sawicki

*Featured in the book Nightmare USA by Stephen Thrower, Fab Press (2007).

Page 309

Filming the Fantastic


an independent stop motion animator on several MTV rock videos and educational
projects. Throughout this period, Mark performed as an actor in a number of inde-
pendent features.

In 1986 Mark was invited by Bill Taylor ASC to become the matte cameraman for
Illusion Arts. While at Illusion Arts, Mark was exposed to the time-honored tradition
of latent image matte painting effects and had the fabulous opportunity of working
under Albert Whitlock in the last years before the great matte painter’s retirement.
While working under effects supervisor Bill Taylor and master matte painter Syd
Dutton, Mark composited more than 1000 matte paintings; some of these shots, like
those used for Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear, became haunting imagery burned into the
memories of audiences around the world. Mark was a fi rst-hand witness to a craft
that had been handed down from generations of artists dating back to the silent era.
His stay at Illusion Arts was highlighted by sharing in the win of an Emmy certifi cate
for his contributions to the Star Trek television series. During this period Mark was
invited by Eastman Kodak to become a trainer for the groundbreaking Cineon Digital
Film system. Mark was responsible for writing tutorials and personally training a new
generation of digital compositing artists in Los Angeles, London, and the National
Film Board of Canada.

In 1996 Mark was offered the position at Area 51 of co-supervisor along with Tim
McHugh on Tom Hank’s From the Earth to the Moon. This miniseries was a pivotal
event that ushered Mark into the remarkable world of computer graphic effects.

After the miniseries, Mark re-entered the fi eld of optical printing by becoming head
cameraman for Custom Film Effects, founded by former Disney effects supervisor
Mark Dornfeld. Mark executed high-quality, traditional optical composites for major
fi lms well into the twenty-fi rst century, in the midst of the digital revolution. The
printers were ultimately retired in 2005, and Mark continues as a digital colorist and
effects camera supervisor. Although Mark no longer engages in clay animation, his
creations are sold in the fi ne art market and have been featured in several magazines
as well as HGTV’s Carol Duvall Show. Mark has taught visual effects for more than
15 years at UCLA Extension along with effects supervisor Glen Campbell of Area
51. Mark has also authored several video programs on the art of clay animation that
are distributed to schools worldwide. Today, Mark tries to keep abreast of a wide
spectrum of techniques by working in high-end postproduction and performing as
an actor in low-end independent projects.

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