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Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject

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Diego Barraza
Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Nov 6, 2015 at 3:17:58 pm

Hi guys,

I'm shooting a music promo for a tango ensemble. I've come up with a idea: the band playing in a black background stage, they are playing and lit from above for key light, all around them they are surrounded by festoon lights with their warm orange glow. As they are playing the festoon lights start to fly around graciously and then fly off in the end.

I am thinking of filming then without the festoon lights and place them all in post but don't want it to look fake.

Any good ideas how I should plan and shoot this would be appreciated.

This is low budget shoot.

Thanks,
Diego

filmmaking-editing-dop-dad


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Mark Suszko
Re: Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Nov 6, 2015 at 3:38:56 pm

Just so we're clear, post an image of what you mean by "festoon lights". Do you mean what we call here "Christmas lights" or "String lights"?


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Mark Suszko
Re: Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Nov 6, 2015 at 3:47:38 pm

The next question is: are you trying for true 3-d or are you trying to simulate 3-d in a 2-d space? This is one idea for "faking it" in 2-d space.

I recently was working on green screen footage of a fellow in medium shot that had insufficient key and fill light but plenty of back-light. While adjusting this footage to look better, I had a happy discovery.

In FCPX, there's a plug-in called "spot" and it creates a virtual spotlight, with some control of the position, brightness, edge softness, spill, etc. It turns out you can keyframe the position of that effect and get a very eye-arresting result, imitating lights that were never there originally.

But this plug in does not create a visible point light source, only the effect of one landing on the footage itself, so, to sell the effect as caused by a"3-d" light, I'd need to add a composite layer of a visible, animated bright dot or sphere, and keyframe it to match the imagined path of the source from the earlier plug-in effect.


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Diego Barraza
Re: Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Nov 7, 2015 at 5:59:31 pm

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the input. Here in the UK feston light look like this:


So my idea is film the band with real lights around first. Underexpose the festone about two stops and have key light a top soft source. Long shots and close ups. Then film them without the feston but with the top soft source key light, so I can have a plate of them playing to animate with Motion lights as particles around the band. Maybe do some closups with a real bulb going around them.

I like the idea of using that spotlight plugin in FCPX. I will check it out.

My question is more about what would be the best way to arrange the shoot so when I apply the VFX in post it looks as authentic as possible.

filmmaking-editing-dop-dad


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Mark Suszko
Re: Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Nov 8, 2015 at 12:22:37 am

Depending on your DOF control, you will get some lovely bokeh out of those string lights. My first impulse would be to say this needs to be shot with a motion-controlled camera to do what you want to do. Failing that, I foersee either greenscreen or roto work to pull this off.

What about hanging the light strings from a slowly-rotating armature above, keeping the band and the camera still? Failing that, make a dolly rig with that camera and a boom arm going over the top of the camera and out above the subject, with the light string hanging down from that?


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Diego Barraza
Re: Pointers on how to animate lights realistically around a subject
on Dec 22, 2015 at 10:47:30 am

First still frame from the shoot. Looking christmasy. Filmed with Sony FS7. I'm still working on the animation and edit so more info soon.



filmmaking-editing-dop-dad


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