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Compositing a water surface shot - possible?

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Adrian Graham-Smith
Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 9:57:16 am

I've been asked my advice on whether a shot will work for someone's short, and before I tell them to go out and reshoot, thought I'd best canvas some opinion here on whether it'll actually work...

The desired result of the shot is looking down a set of stairs into the river thames. Out of the muddy water comes a hand and grabs the handrail. This has already been shot once, and the actor's body on the surface needs to be removed, leaving just her hand. As it stands it won't work as there isn't anything to lay over the actor as not enough handle was shot, and in any case it's hand held so would be a nightmare to track.

I'm going to suggest they reshoot the shot, this time locked off, shooting once with the actor doing the 'grab the handrail' motion, and again with the actor out of shot. Then I can composite the water over where the actor is lying in post to remove her from the shot.

My concern is that this might look wrong given that the motion of the water will be different in the two shots (it looks quite choppy in the original shot though, which I think would help), so they may not mix together nicely even through a well feathered mask. Anyone have an opinion on this? Is there anything else I'm missing?


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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 1:41:35 pm

Not having seen the shot it is hard to say- maybe you can post a short clip. Your solution would be the best- locked down camera and no movement- clean water and then actor. However you may be able to replace the surface of the water all together. If you can track the shaky camera move using a 3d Tracker like the Foundry's Camera Tracker, then you can use FreeForm Pro to generate water. There is even an enhancement pack available for water- the Aqua Pack.
Here are a few demo's of what it can do:











Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 1:51:59 pm

AE's Caustics effect in concert with Wave World can also produce some fun water. And, of course, let's not forget Psunami.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Michael Szalapski
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 1:49:03 pm

You may need to have a pretty tight rotoscope on the hand if you can't get the water to blend properly.
Another thought would be to dump some mud or other environmentally friendly stuff in the water just upriver from your talent to obscure their body. That way, no compositing necessary! Practical stuff is always better than digital. :)

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Adrian Graham-Smith
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 2:45:42 pm

Thanks for the advice. all. Sorry I couldn't put a framegrab up but the production guys here were a little twitchy about me putting up anything for the rushes (I don't think it's from The Dark Knight Rises though- unfortunately)

I'll have a look at all the plugins and see if I can find something that might work. Basically I don't want to rotoscope too much if I can help it... Doing far too much of it at the moment!

Thanks again


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 3:38:04 pm

[Adrian Graham-Smith] "the actor's body on the surface needs to be removed, leaving just her hand. As it stands it won't work as there isn't anything to lay over the actor as not enough handle was shot, and in any case it's hand held so would be a nightmare to track."

Insufficient handles from shot isn't an issue at all - what you need to do is to replace the body with similar water movement BUT without the body. Any handles you would have gotten would likely be a different type of water movement. AND you do need to clone in similar water movement over the body to make this work.

To pull this off given the existing shot sequence, ie continuous shot is going to be a ridiculously difficult task not only from a production point of view but also from post.

What needs to be done is for the director to provide another sequence of shots. A cut-in/CU to the hand from another angle just as the fingers appear over the water will be a more doable task.

So, yeah, forget about this shot. It sounds like it's poorly directed, with very little idea of how to piece the production tasks together with post production procedures.

I suggest that you task them to re-shoot this scene with more emphasis on the hand (story-telling is more important) rather than visual FX.

HTH
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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Conrad Olson
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 4:42:58 pm

Personally I think your first suggestion is a very valid solution. Feathered roto works fine when you are blending different patches of water. I've done at several times.

Forget the plug-ins you will get a much better result if you can use real footage. You could even just go and shoot your own elements and grade them to match your plate but your tracking would be the biggest issue then. If the camera is moving that much you might get away with some hand tracking.

---

conradolson.com


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 5:11:29 pm

Hi Conrad, it's good to see a Nuke COW Head in here. I hope you drop by more often, we could use alternative ideas/solutions on related issues.

As for this shot, I see a desperate woman, underwater, coming up for air and reaching to grasp a handrail. I can see a lot of frantic, perhaps even violent trashing of the water or at the very least a hard crashing of the hand as it reaches above water level. This is going to create quite a bit of ripple, along with its peripheral effects.

I don't see how cloning surrounding areas will help and I think it will be a difficult task to replicate a similar effect without the camera capturing the object (if a dissimilar object was used to create the water movements).

As for tracking, if the job required a track of the hand, Mocha will be an asset. If the track was started when the arm was close to the rail (again, without the actual shot, it's kinda difficult to ascertain the proper requirements) then a pretty good track is viable, without too much fuss, for a large part of the track.

I still think that the story-telling is at issue here and without a considerable amount of time during production and post, it's best to have a second, insert shot put into place. And even then, the hand should take precedence for this little sequence. Hence, a cut-in will actually work much better regardless of budget or time.

my 02 HTH
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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Conrad Olson
Re: Compositing a water surface shot - possible?
on Oct 28, 2011 at 5:21:29 pm

I read the description of the shot as just the hand coming out of the water. That would be a much smaller area of water that you would need to keep. If the whole actress breaks the water then you have a very different set of issues.

If the hand makes a big splash as it breaks the water you wouldn't see the actress through that white water so you could soft matte around that and replace the surrounding flatter water.

You might not need to get rid of every part of the actress. Just the big obvious areas. The audience won't notice smaller broken up areas.

You might be able to roto bits of her and just grade those areas to be much closer to the colour of the water. That might hide sections within the ripples.

As for the tracking I was talking about tracking the surface of the water so that you could track in patches. Mocha could work for that for sure.

You're right that if you could re shoot it in muddy water you'd get the best result.

---

conradolson.com


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