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"House of Lies" effect

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Nick Griffin
"House of Lies" effect
on Jan 18, 2012 at 10:37:47 pm

Did anyone else see the pilot for "House of Lies," a new half hour comedy from Showtime? If not and you have access to it through On Demand (or some similar service) it's well worth checking out if only for the extremely complex and well done compositing.

A signature effect used in the pilot several times is having a scene freeze and the main character continuing to walk and talk around the other frozen cast members and then just as quickly become part of the scene as it un freezes. His delivery is a "breaking the 4th wall" kind of thing -- addressing and explaining things to the audience.

This is much more than simply inserting a green screen key over another take. There are also frozen elements in front of the character and, on one of the shots, a crane or jib move of the camera with the character in motion while everything else is frozen AND the same camera move is also taking place on the frozen scene.

While I realize that computerized camera mounts make all kinds of magic possible, as a lowly shooter of industrials and talking heads I am more than a little impressed by the skill and technology and would seriously love to learn the production details.


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Scott Roberts
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 18, 2012 at 10:52:17 pm

I did see the pilot (and have the second episode saved, but not watched), and I was also impressed with the quality of the freeze-the-shot, 4th-wall footage. It was better than most effects of this kind, and if you really do try and boil down how it was done, it becomes a really interesting process, I imagine.

THAT BEING SAID, I kind of hate the freeze everything, talk to the audience shot in it's most basic concept. I'm just not amused by it anymore. And it's probably because they used to do it all the time (poorly, very low-tech style, "no-tech" if you will) on Saved By the Bell. It's called the Zach Morris Time-Out. And anything Zach Morris does should not be replicated. I don't care if he wasn't the first person to do it, once he DID do it, he ruined it for everyone else.

<iframe width="480" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/iO2SirSH7Rg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe>


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Stephen Smith
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 20, 2012 at 6:37:47 pm

Time-Out

Scott's edit-bay freezes

Stephen says, "What! Saved By The Bell was the coolest show at the time. Don't be a hater on a show that takes place in a heavily populated city and they teach drivers ed inside the school with a golf-cart and the class only has 15 student. Or that they struck Texas Tea on the football field. Or that in every episode they do something like run the schools radio station and then you never hear about that ever again...kind of like the shows where someone has a baby and then you never see it ever again once it is born. Saved By The Bell rules.

Time-In

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Vimeo page


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Nick Griffin
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:07:08 pm

Ummm, that was painful. The effect I described was actual freezes with camera moves on the freezes matched to camera moves on the "live" talent. NOTHING like this fake stuff, which appears to be more acting related.

And Stephen, you like Saved by the Bell? Really??


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Stephen Smith
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:33:59 pm

[Nick]

Ummm, that was painful. The effect I described was actual freezes with camera moves on the freezes matched to camera moves on the "live" talent. NOTHING like this fake stuff, which appears to be more acting related.

I have not seen House of Lies, but yes, the Motion Control effect you are talking about is really cool. Here is a well done video worth watching:







[Nick]
And Stephen, you like Saved by the Bell? Really??

I thought my comment was really funny. I guess you should never mess with freezing time.

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Vimeo page


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Richard Herd
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 20, 2012 at 7:47:56 pm

Freeze the action and talk to audience, ever see Hamlet?


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Nick Griffin
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 20, 2012 at 9:56:48 pm

ToucheĀ“. However I don't remember the camera moves Shakespeare used.


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Mike Cohen
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 6:40:56 pm

here's a making-of for the cops vs clowns one






Wire-removal...explains a lot!

I think another show does this freeze-frame thing - Leverage maybe?

Very cool


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Nick Griffin
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 7:41:01 pm

Thanks, Mike. Very cool and the techniques and technology are to be admired indeed, but that's not what's going on in the case I've cited.

Three "House of Lies" have now aired and, based on the most recent show, I'm convinced that this show is using multiple techniques for achieving the effect. By far the most impressive freezes were in the pilot episode -- no surprise there. That's where an ongoing scene would freeze, the foreground would have particles appearing to be frozen in mid-air, the non-frozen talent would keep moving, going in front of some of the foreground and then a vertical camera move would track all three as if the scene existed in reality.

On episode three there was one master frozen shot, but it was on a cut rather than a freeze in the middle of a scene -- making it far simpler to composite the frozen foreground, the live action and the frozen background -- without the need for as much complex match cutting. There were also a couple of scenes in episode 3 where the actors were clearly faking the freezes because you could see mild twitches in their extended hands.

Now, as to the device of freezing the action and speaking to the viewer, thereby breaking the fourth wall. So what? That's really not the point I was making with this thread. It's been done on a lot more productions than "Saved by the Bell," and perhaps even some stage plays which precede Hamlet, Richard. The discussion is about the technical aspects of the achieving such a realistic freeze, not the idea of it.

And thanks again Mike for the Clowns & Cops link. Very educational.


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Mike Cohen
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:08:52 pm

Yes, Nick, but Saved by the Bell was a hallmark of American cinematic excellence surpassed only by Citizen Kane and Season 3 of Knight Rider (KITT vs KARR story arc / super pursuit mode), and the series finale of Airwolf!


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Nick Griffin
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:16:12 pm

Oh, the time I've been wasting on HBO, AMC, FX and other nets watching The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Rescue Me, and the two current favs Justified and, above all Breaking Bad. Thanks for helping to set me straight, Mike.


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Scott Roberts
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:33:20 pm

To be honest, I was just looking for an excuse to post a Saved By the Bell video on this forum. Bayside High School - ALWAYS RELEVANT.


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Nick Griffin
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Jan 23, 2012 at 9:36:25 pm

[Scott Roberts] "I was just looking for an excuse to post a Saved By the Bell video"

"Well, then there's that."


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Austin Harpole
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Feb 23, 2012 at 9:04:59 am

So what I have gathered is, no one really knows...


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Stephen Smith
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Feb 23, 2012 at 4:52:22 pm

I have not seen it, but based on what was described it was clearly done with Motion Control.

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Vimeo page


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Stephen Smith
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on May 18, 2012 at 10:45:40 pm

Speaking of Saved By The Bell:

http://news.yahoo.com/video/brokennewsdaily-28854714/does-coffee-make-you-l...

Ha Ha, I thought that was funny.

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Vimeo page


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Rodrigo Kirchner
Re: "House of Lies" effect
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:21:39 pm

hi everybody,

sure d-motion will do this if you have the money :)
shoot a plate
shoot the whole thing with actors again
shoot the green box marty (match the green box marty with the scene marty with a live key on the greenbox set)

a cheaper version would be to shoot it in a higher resolution
shoot a plate
shoot the scene
shoot the green box marty (match the green box marty with the scene marty with a live key on the greenbox set)
do the camera movements of the freeze scene in your favourite composing program

that should also work

cheers

rod


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