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Advice on Jack-o-Lantern Effect?

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Ryan Firpo
Advice on Jack-o-Lantern Effect?
on Nov 4, 2010 at 3:12:01 am

Firstly, I am not a motion graphics artist. I know the basics of Motion, but I won't be doing the post work described below. Unfortunately, I can't get a hold of the person who will and there's an issue of time, hence my post:

I'm shooting a little personal short film tomorrow that involves a talking Jack-o-Lantern. Picture a man's body -- normal torso, arms, etc -- sitting at a dinner table with a Jack-o-Lantern for a head. He responds to other guests at the table as if he were a normal person. His mouth does not move. We're not doing any animation here. Picture something like "Jack" in the Jack-in-the-Box commercials. If not for the flame/hollow interior, this could easily be done practically by placing a pumpkin on an actor's head; but because of the flame/hollow interior, this will require some compositing.

I'm looking for advice on the best way to achieve this. The most important question: what elements need to be shot?

Here's my idea so far:

1) Place the unlit jack-o-lantern on top of the actor's head -- so basically he'll have a carved pumpkin on his head. Shoot our medium of his lines.

2) Shoot a closeup of the lit jack-o-lantern as a separate element (preferably on a high-hat in the exact same position as the unlit jack-o-lantern so the lighting matches).

3) Matte the face (eyes, nose, mouth with flame/hollow interior) of the lit jack-o-lantern element and composite it over the medium of the unlit jack-o-lantern. It should be easy to line it up since our angle will be the same and we can use the shape of the eyes, nose and mouth as a guide. If the actor moves his head a bit, we can use tracking to move the lit jack-o-lantern element.

I think this will work, but we're limited with how much the actor can move since the composited element will be a stack jack-o-lantern. Any better ideas?

Thanks in advance!

fwiw We're shooting on the RED ONE MX with the 18-50mm and the 50-150mm zoom lenses.

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Sacha Thomas
Re: Advice on Jack-o-Lantern Effect?
on Nov 4, 2010 at 8:39:42 pm

I am not an experienced comp artist-but it seems that trying to line up the glowing eye etc is bgoing to be really challenging for a couple of reasons.
1. You will have to try to match the edges exactly, which leaves a lot of room for failure. You would have no buffer area between the edge of the holes in the jack-o-lantern with the actor in the shot and the edges of the holes in the jack-o-lantern you are using to get the glow. You will have to work really hard to avoid seeing the edge of the hidden jack-o-lantern during actor movements.
2. If you shoot a medium of the actor and a close-up of the jack-o-lantern, your edges won't match up anyways because of lens distortion. As you probably already know, the wider your lens, the more distortion of shapes you are likely to encounter.

I would suggest shooting the glow in a way that fills the frame so that you don't have to combat the edges. Maybe you could get a similarly sized pumpkin and carve out the entire side and light that. Then you could shoot the interior glow without worrying that when it is comp'ed, the edges won't match up.
The other way you could do it is simply create a glow using lights in Motion to simulate what you would shoot in my suggested solution above.
I hope that helps! Good luck.

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Jason Diebler
Re: Advice on Jack-o-Lantern Effect?
on Nov 5, 2010 at 6:07:59 pm

I would paint chroma green shapes on the pumpkin, then key out the shapes so you can layer in the glowing flame behind the eyes and mouth.

"The deepest blues are black" - Foo Fighters
(this doesn't help me when I'm chroma keying!)

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