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Different Environments

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Guy CirinelliDifferent Environments
by on Sep 16, 2008 at 10:37:20 pm

Hello -

This is my first post here, so I hope I chose the right place for this question...

I am producing a video for a company who is introducing five families of copiers.

One concept is to have one on-camera host. He is sitting or standing as he addresses the camera.

The background behind him (his environment) continuously changes (from small business to huge IT department, to design firm, etc.) and stays on each one for about 15 seconds. Each environment features a product specialist. As the background changes, he interacts with each product specialist in their specific environment and they discuss the features and benefits of each product family.

This way, he touches on each of the five families in their own environment. The spot would be similar to AT&T's Philawarepraguecago spot. The host would be shot green screen and we'd key the backgrounds individually and use wipes as transitions.

Another concept is to have the host walk into each of these product specialist's environments and he interacts with them there. I was thinking of possibly using fake walls or door frames as transitions into each of the environments. This seems much more complicated.

Does anyone have any experience with a semi-complex shoot like this? I'd like to present these ideas to the client, but I want to make sure I can pull them off.

Thanks so much for any help!

- Guy

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Mark SuszkoRe: Different Environments
by on Sep 17, 2008 at 2:24:07 pm

If it was me, I'd use a hybrid setup, with a green wall and floor, but with live prop door frames for the actor to go thru. I'd walk the actor in a trucking wide shot from left to right, each door frame he passes thru defines the next area, which is composited in later of course. How much he interacts is limited by the camera angle since from the side-on trucking shot, he'd have to turn his back to the camera to interact. I suppose you get a better angle if he walks *behind* each new user in their environment... say the layers, from front of the lens to the back wall would be:

1 Door frame
2 Copier stand with copier
3 Person operating the copier
4 Actor/spokesperson walking thru the shot, pausing to say something over the other guy's shoulder to the camera, or standing next to them, then passing thru to the next environment as that whole shot is tracked left.
5 The green screen with a backdrop of the environment.

In that setup, the compositing is relatively noncomplex; since all layers stay within themselves, it's just a multiplane shot. The guys that win Canne Ad awards and make uber dollars take it a step further and break the boundaries between the image planes to really "sell" a 3-d composited environment, using a lot of roto.

You could go either way, flat layers or complex 3-d, I think it really depends more on the script and how it is to be delivered, (dead serious versus with a little wink and nod) than on how much heavy duty compositing you throw at the job.

You could even go for an extreme low-tech look and go with roll-down classroom map type obvious fake backgrounds all on one set, with other props like potted plants or surfboards being hand-pushed and pulled into the shots from the sides by stagehands, and still get a point across. The copy point in that script would be that the machines are so consistent, and so well connected, it really seems like where they are doesn't matter.

This is something you have to work out in the marketing meetings as you tweak the verbal and non-verbal messages and strategies. Start with the copy points, the selling points, of the script, and evolve the effect to sell that, instead of starting with a cool visual device and trying to shoehorn the script to make it work. Someone should be able to watch the spot without sound and figure out the metaphors being played out, or what you have is a gimmicky spot that doesn't sell the product, just the talent of the compositor.

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Guy CirinelliRe: Different Environments
by on Sep 17, 2008 at 3:27:59 pm

Awesome - thank you very much! That really helps.

We are thinking about delivering the message a little "tongue-in-cheek", so the host can totally just walk into each environment. And, yes, to avoid having the talent turn his back to the camera, he can enter each room through a doorway located in the rear of the room - as opposed to having the action happening behind him.

For some reason, Pee Wee's Playhouse comes to mind (yikes!) - where the guests look into the windows and enter the scene.

Well, very cool - thanks again and it gives me a good starting point. Now I just need to find a good DP.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Different Environments
by on Sep 17, 2008 at 4:21:03 pm

I didn't mean the back of each room for the door frame, I meant entering stage/screen right and the door frame wiping across the shot or being in the frame on either side as a border, as the way to cover the transition between environments. Old trick that goes back at least as far as Hitchcock. Easier to do now with AfterEffects.

If your door is at the back of the room, and the actor walking forward "towards" the camera/audience, revealing a new room each time the camera pulls further back, you have a dolly-back move, not a trucking shot. This can still work, but you have to add another layer for what's behind the doorway each time he goes thru it, while still revealing a portion of the previous layer/room in the doorway behind.
Or just write in that he closes the door behind him immediately after every entrance:-)

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Guy CirinelliRe: Different Environments
by on Sep 18, 2008 at 1:11:28 am

Yes - I understood what you meant. It just made me think of a couple other ideas. That's great - I will begin working off of those concepts - good start. Thanks again very much!

By the way, is this the forum to look for potential DPs to help out on the shoot?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Different Environments
by on Sep 22, 2008 at 2:37:07 pm

Find DP's in the Cinematography forum.

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