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Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects

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Charlie Reader
Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 10, 2013 at 4:56:46 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm shooting a video in a few weeks and would really appreciate some help in working out how to achieve an effect in After Effects.

At the end of the video, the character is digging a hole in some woodland at night, as he does so, thin beams of light break through the ground. He continues digging until he's completely uncovered the light so there is one strong beam bursting out the ground, illuminating his face/body. The character then climbs into the hole.

In terms of shot composition, it would be side on (profile), medium wide so you cant actually see downwards into the hole. There might also be a few closeups of his face illuminated by the light.

I originally planned to use a fog machine, and a large daylight bulb in a shallow hole in the ground to achieve this effect. But I am wondering if I could achieve a more dramatic effect using purely After Effects. It would also make the actual shoot itself much easier (I'd rather spend more time on the shot in post than in the woods at night).

So my questions are:

1) Could I create a dramatic looking light source from the ground using purely AE with plugins like Co-pilot flares and CC Light Rays etc.

2) If so, how could I incorporate these artificial beams of light with the haze/smoke.

3) I have a few ideas on this one already, but am wondering what you guys think would be the simplest way to achieve the effect of the character climbing into the hole. I want his whole body to disappear but am unable to dig a huge hole due to location restrictions.

One last thought- We're going to film a lot of the video day/dusk for night. Could it be beneficial to shoot the shot in question in the day or dusk, convert it to night, then add the light beam effect- as it would mean there's already some light I could mask on the characters face etc. My only concern with doing this is that the smoke/haze might not look as dramatic.

Sorry for the huge post! I realise I'm asking a lot, but any advice would be hugely appreciated!

Thanks guys,
Charlie


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Charlie Reader
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 10, 2013 at 5:00:13 pm

(I have After Effects CS5.5 on a mac)


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 10, 2013 at 5:56:21 pm

I suspect I know the answer, but I have to ask to confirm: does this have to look photorealistic?

If so, I would expend the time shooting rather than in AE. The reason: realistic-looking shadows, and the play of light across the body. It is far, far easier to carefully plan out a sequence of shots where a light below the subject is gradually revealed by digging than it is to create the intricate interplay of light and shadow you seek.

Okay, they can do this stuff in Hollywood. No sweat. But I would assume you are not in Hollywood, your talent doesn't command 20 million dollars per film, you don't make 10 million dollars per film, and so the economic playing field changes from working magic in post to taking lots of time planning and doing it as a practical effect.

Dave LaRonde
Former Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Vishesh Arora
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 10, 2013 at 6:02:10 pm

Charlie

1) Could I create a dramatic looking light source from the ground using purely AE with plugins like Co-pilot flares and CC Light Rays etc.

Yes you can create the desired effect with Co-pilot flares and CC Light Rays.

Another plugin which may give good is Red Giant Trapcode Shine.

If so, how could I incorporate these artificial beams of light with the haze/smoke.

You have to play with Blending Modes and find out which one suits you best.

I want his whole body to disappear but am unable to dig a huge hole due to location restrictions.

You can mask out the Character and animate the Mask path and character's position. Can't say much but it will be a difficult task as to mimic exactly that he is climbing the hole. It should look natural at the end.

One last thought- We're going to film a lot of the video day/dusk for night....as dramatic.

I would suggest you to shoot at Night if its not too problematic.

Though its easy to go for Day to night conversion but again Solving all the issues during shoot is the best approach.

as it would mean there's already some light I could mask on the characters face etc.

You can create this effect creating a mask on a solid and then playing with its opacity. Wiggle expression will help.

See the tutorial :Simulated lighting

Vishesh Arora
3D and Motion Graphics Artist
Films Rajendra

Blog:
http://digieffects.wordpress.com

Demo Reel(3D):







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John Cuevas
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 10, 2013 at 6:01:15 pm

I think you should look into purchasing(Red Giant has trial versions) Trapcode Lux. Then with a little masking/solid layer to obscure the light, you could really create a good look. If Lux is out of the budget you could try trapcode shine or use Optical Flares.

For the smoke, you could create some type of smoke using fractal noise or maybe you have some smoke footage you want to use. You could then duplicate you light source layer, place it above the smoke and change the smoke layer's track matte to a luma matte. The smoke will only show in the light source layer. Lastly I would adjust the transfer mode of the smoke to overlay, soft light(play around and pick what looks best)

And of course--Dave is right, shooting it pratical is always the best choice.

Johnny Cuevas, Editor
Thinkck.com

"I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."
---THOMAS EDISON on inventing the light bulb.


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Charlie Reader
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:12:49 pm

Thanks very much for all of your advice.

I agree that shooting as much as possible practically is the best way to go, but unfortunately there are a lot of limitations with the location we are filming at- We can't shoot after sunset and can't do anything destructive to the area we are filming in (IE digging holes for lights).

I've looked into the plugins you guys have mentioned and am feeling more confident about creating the rays in After Effects. I then might shoot an extreme closeup of the characters face at another location like my garden and use a real light to intercut with the medium wide of the beams coming out o the ground- this would add the realism hopefully.

But is there a good way to create shadows for the medium-wide shot?

With regards to the character climbing into the hole- I had thought about animating the mask path of the character, but I'd probably need to film the action in front of a green screen which we don't have access/time to do. I think I've thought of a solution though where the climbing in can be implied rather than shown.

I'm going to do some day-to-night tests this weekend- as I said I can't shoot at night so am looking to shoot early morning and early evening when theres light but not a huge amount. I've done a fair bit of research on day-to-night shooting already but if anyone has any advice they feel would help, please do let me know!

I'm also wondering about creating 3D fog in After Effects in some shots- Again, any tutorials or thoughts on this, feel free to share.

Thanks so much guys!


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Achieving the effect of a man climbing into a hole in the ground + light ray effects
on Jan 11, 2013 at 5:44:40 pm

[Charlie Reader] "We can't shoot after sunset... "

But as you first described, this is a night shot. That kinda makes the location a little useless to you, yes?

Day-for-night is generally a crap shoot, used as a last resort if you have no other options. Dusk-for-night and dawn-for-night, while s lot better, present their own problems: the useful shooting periods tend to be brief, thus you'd need to shoot over a few days during which the sky conditions will probably vary. It will be most noticeable just before sunrise and just after sunset when you'd have to take the still-discernable angle of the sun into account.




[Charlie Reader] "and can't do anything destructive to the area we are filming in (IE digging holes for lights). "

If it's carefully planned, you could shoot at an alternate location for the hole, and chroma key in or matte in the backgrounds from the primary location. You could then dig to your heart's content... assuming, of course, you've covered all your bases on the background shots picked up earlier at the primary location. And assuming this hole isn't being dug in the middle of a parking lot with pavement on it!

You have a tricky sequence of shots here, sir... but the problems can be overcome.

Dave LaRonde
Former Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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