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Creating Depth (Where None Exists)

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Zak RayCreating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 6, 2009 at 11:36:37 pm

So I have a relatively complicated (at least for me) VFX shot to pull off; if you look at the image linked below, there are three or four planes involved: the small trees nearest the camera, the large forked tree, the actor, and the trees in the background. What I need to do is create separate layers for each plane-- I guess I need a solution analogous to using the clone tool in Photoshop as I would were this a still image. It's made more complicated by the wind blowing the trees back and forth.

Any help would be greatly appreciated,

Frame from the video:

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Chris WrightRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 1:58:57 am

question #1, is this a very stable locked down shot on a tripod?

qu#2, why do you need to layer it? is it to move like a cardboard pop up, or to rack focus?

If its locked down, you can get the moving objects matted with difference matte. Other things, you will have to custom isolate with hue, saturation, stencil alpha, custom shift channels,& autotrace luma, because the alternative is bad news, roto leaves...

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Zak RayRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 2:06:40 am

Answer #1: Completely stable, yes.
Answer #2: I need to make each foreground layer disappear sequentially-- first the small trees, then the forked tree, then the actor, then the background. The issue therein is that even when I perfectly isolate the planes, I still have gaps in each layer that I need to fill in as if the objects I'm removing were never there. If it were a still image, I would clone areas in PS-- what do you suppose the best way to do this in AE would be?

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Chris WrightRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 2:24:42 am

For the price it will take to do this in post, you could greenscreen, 5 minutes later after key, drop fading foilage in and be finished. But for the sake of argument, let's try the hard way.

After you have perfect mattes which I discussed in the above post, you will still need to clone the missing layers by creating a special type of clean plate that you don't see in the beginning of the effect, i.e. they're hidden.

There's so many tutorials covering all the skills needed that I either post 100 links or post none. Needless to say, unless you're absolutely sure you can finish, I recommend greenscreen. It will be better faster, cleaner, and more tweakable.

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Zak RayRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 2:39:29 am

I actually shot the clip twice, once with the actor in frame and once without, so I do at least have a clean plate for him.

I understand it's going to take a lot of time, but if you can just steer me in the right direction, I'd be grateful.

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Chris WrightRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 5:11:20 am

You should be able to use the photoshop patch tool to clean plate the trees

by adjacent pixels and when parts are revealed. Mocha in cs4 is great, but luma and alpha mattes are still much faster.

These few tutorials should take a few hours to digest, but will save you hundreds of hours in the long run.

patch and heal to clone and blend in photoshop

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Steve RobertsRe: Creating Depth (Where None Exists)
by on Nov 7, 2009 at 9:33:23 am

Yikes. Trees. Bad idea, but let's see what we can do.

Here's what I imagine:
layer 1 (top): the large foliage at left-to-center of screen. Use keying to pull out the dark tree trunks, masking to kill everything to the right of the right trunk.
layer 2: tree trunks. Fill in the tree trunks with a dark solid, or patches of tree trunk copied from elsewhere. Now here's the problem: with what are you going to fill the areas to the left of the tree trunks once layer 1 is removed? I would grab sky from another shot and dupe the grass under the talent and move it to the left. I wouldn't try to add any trees there unless it looked bare.
layer 3: talent: I hate diff mattes (they rarely work in real life) so I'd roto the talent -- but then again, maybe a diff matte would work around the body, but you'd probably have to roto his head and shoulders.
4. Background: Once you remove the tree trunks, how would you fill in the area behind? You've got to find trees from somewhere else because you can't create the edges of the existing BG trees by cloning. You have to create trees, with shape and all -- not just a tiled texture. You're making trees.

If I were given this shot, I'd convince the DP to do this if the talent (and bluescreen) was unavailable for a reshoot:
1. keep the talent and roto the BG out
2. shoot grass for the talent to stand on, with background trees but no foreground trees and bring him in over that layer
3. shoot various foreground trees with sky BG for keying out
... of course, the lighting would have to match. :-)
4. Comp the talent, BG and new FG trees in layers in AE.

Remember: these jobs are more than just removal, there's also filling in. Ask yourself how much needs to be filled in, and with what. How much needs to be created? The "kid stays in the picture" animated 2.5D stills effect requires limited cloning around edges due to reveals due to movement. This is different, no?

Anyway, hope that helps.

Tip: it sometimes helps to look at these scenarios with the right eye closed. This flattens things and gives a graphic perspective, which is all the camera sees. Keeping both eyes open and seeing in 3D might fool us into imagining that the layers actually exist in the camera when of course, they don't, and the job is harder than we think.

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