Tag Archive: filming


Camera Tracking

I think the camera tracking has been one of my biggest worries during this project. It is something I have only fleeting experience with, but it is essential for producing a polished end product. When filming any moving camera shots we decided to keep them on a tripod and just pan to keep things simpler. The first shot I chose to track was probably one of the most important shots in the entire project: the very final shot where the elephant gives the monkey back to the mother.

I have been using Boujou as this was the program we were introduced to during a previous compositing project earlier in the year. It had produced a great result for me in the past, but I was aware that others on my course were not so fortunate. Boujou does not always get it right first time. I imported the footage and set Boujou to tracking the movement in the image. To do this, Boujou latches onto distinctive areas in the image (ie colour changes which suggest edges of objects). It then tracks how these points move throughout the footage. To get the best result, it is generally necessary to have points that occur on the x, y and z axis within the 3d space of the shot. However the shot I was working with had a flat wall in the background (which meant no track points in the z axis) and I worried that Boujou would struggle to know how close or far away the camera was throughout the shot. The next stage of the camera tracking was to ask Boujou to use these track points and their movement to create a camera in 3d space that matches the movement of the camera in the shot. Thankfully I found an option at this point to tell Boujou that the camera was nodal. This means Boujou knew that the camera was on a tripod and in a fixed position and could only rotate. Finally, I could export the information into Maya and check to see whether it worked. To my delight, the tracking seemed great. However, I quickly noticed that objects in the scene seemed to suddenly move up and down, or side to side out of time with the footage. Since I have no knowledge of how to correct this in Boujou I decided to see if I could fix it without too much effort in Maya. I played the animation until I found a moment when objects in the scene moved out of sync with the footage. I then checked the camera’s curves in the graph editor to check if there were any odd kinks or jumps. Most of the problems were extremely easy to find and fix, but there was one that was extremely frustrating. About two thirds of the way through the scene skipped sideways suddenly and then gently eased back into its original position. I could find nothing on any of the curves that would indicate the camera was rotating like this. I spent a long time trying to establish whether it was just one curve or all of them effecting it, but eventually, after some painstaking work tweaking each individual key, I managed to tidy it up so that the movement was barely noticeable.

I wanted to set up the scenes that my animators would be using before I did anything else, so I then moved on to some of the scenes with a fixed camera. I created a new Maya file for each one, referenced the elephant rig and created a new camera. I created an image plane for the camera with the .png sequence of the correct shot. I cannot believe how difficult it was to then actually manage to position the camera in 3d space so that it lined up with the footage. I had foolishly assumed that it would be the moving camera shots that would cause me the issues when all along it was positioning cameras by hand that would be my downfall. The situation was made more frustrating by the knowledge that I had assumed Motion Graphics were taught easy ways to work out the position of cameras in still shots. In 2nd year, we learnt to take a photo with the camera in the same position and an item in the shot that you knew the dimensions of. You could then use this item to help line up the camera. Since I was relying on the knowledge of my Motion Graphics students as I knew they had plenty more experience than me, I readily accepted their answer when they assured me nothing was needed for these shots. It was pretty galling when I asked them later on how I would be positioning the cameras and they answered “by eye”. I have at least learnt one lesson from this. Whenever possible, if filming for a VFX composition with a still camera, make sure there is something in shot that you know the exact dimensions of. It will make your life so much easier.

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First Edit

Now that I have all the footage from both shoots, I’ve finally been able to sit down and start sorting through which shots worked best. I created a new Premiere file and set to work putting it all together. Its quite exciting to see it coming together, and Im surprised at how long the video is. I sat down with a tutor to discuss timings as I was worried that some things felt a bit slow. However I wasn’t certain if this was just because the scenes were currently missing a CG elephant. He agreed with me though and so I started being a bit more harsh on the footage, cutting out unnecessary seconds at the beginning and ends of shots.

This is the final result:

Filming is Complete

All of the filming is now done and I have the footage from the first shoot, some of which is absolutely brilliant. This has got to be my favourite shot:

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I just love the depth of field.

The second day of filming wasn’t nearly as cold as the first, and even with only two of us, we were done by lunch time. A huge chunk of our time was actually spent simply waiting for all the delivery vans to leave so that the streets were less cluttered. The final shot was probably one of the hardest to set up. I wanted to catch some footage of a flock of pidgeons being startled and flying away. In order to encourage them all to congregate in the first place, I scattered a small handful of bread crumbs across the pavement. It was a good 10-15 minutes before the first pidgeon found them, but once it did, the rest joined within a minute or two. Now all we had to do was scare them and manage to film them taking off. The first couple of attempts ended with me accidentally running in to shot, but after some practice I worked out where I had to stop. Sadly we couldnt move the camera fast enough to pan with them, so eventually we just settled on them flying out of shot.

It feels great to know that the stress of filming is hopefully over and all I now have to worry about is the digital side of things.

Filming

So, it finally happened. Yesterday was pretty intense and incredibly cold. Apparently one of the weather sites quoted Cardiff centre as being at about -6C (with windchill). It was absolutely bitter. I felt ever so bad for Rachel, Dylan and Hazel, and indescribably grateful that they had come to help despite the icy conditions.

We decided to get the biggest and most complicated shot out the way first, before Rachel, Dylan and Hazel arrived in Cardiff. Amy (my graduate compositor) and Jon (my 2nd year Motion Design cameraman) were an incredible help throughout the day. Helping me to judge camera angles for the best shots.

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We spent some time setting up outside Cardiff Library before we finally got the green screen out and set to work. It was great fun, but since I managed to land the job of running from the elephant, it got tiring quite quickly. All too soon I needed to go and pick up Rachel and her kids from the station and I left the rest getting a few more takes of the elephant shot as well as some crowd shots and general reaction shots.

Once we got back I sent everyone but myself, Amy and Jon back to uni to warm up as Dylan was feeling shy and didn’t like such a large number of people. Dylan was an absolute natural. He rarely looked at the camera and he got almost every shot right first time. What a fantastic little star.

By lunch time we had got every shot we needed and I sent Rachel, Dylan and Hazel off to have some lunch and warm up whilst we got a few more shots with the monkey toy. In the end, Dylan didn’t want to take the monkey back home with him, so he now has pride of place on my desk.

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After a stop in the union for lunch, we headed out to try and get some more shots. However it was getting a quite overcast and dark, even at half two, so I think it likely we will have to reshoot those. We finished the day with just two shots we hadn’t managed, and possibly an extra one if the afternoon ones turn out to be too dark.

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Whenever we filmed something that would include the elephant, I made sure to take a set of photos of a chrome ball at various exposures. These will be used for the lighting in Maya. My chrome ball was a bit smaller than ones I have used in the past, and the camera’s zoom quite small, so I will have a bit of work in photoshop getting rid of myself and the camera in each shot.

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I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall whilst trying to organise the film shoot. I originally wanted all my footage shot by the end of January, or at the latest, the first week of February. Well, thats all out the window now. Its not going to be shot until the end of February, which, of course, throws my schedule out the window. I feel a lot of this is simply down to the fact that getting hold of Motion Design has been “interesting”. I never seem to get replies to my emails, although I have at least established they are getting read. Im not sure if knowing they are being read and then ignored is more or less frustrating than them not even being read.

The past two days have left me feeling drained and panicked after it seemed we would have to do an emergency last minute shoot to get as much footage as possible with only a day and a halfs notice. Gareth, my tutor, had helped me organise a meeting with some of the Motion Design course for the 18th February in order to do the filming on the 21st/22nd. However I was then informed that this clashed with the annual Ffresh festival, which the Motion Design course is often quite involved in. Unable to get any response or confirmation from Motion Design as to whether this was an issue or not, I started trying to make emergency plans to film today (which at the time was less than 48 hours away). My graduate compositor advised against the whole situation, certain that last minute shoots never work out. This of course made me feel worse since noone was really presenting me with any other options, and shooting couldn’t be pushed back further as my animators are meant to start animating at the beginning of March.

Thankfully, it turns out my worry was for nothing and the students involved in my filming would unlikely be attending Ffresh on the Friday 22nd. As such, the last minute shoot was scrapped and I was able to breathe a big sigh of relief.

And so it begins…

So, the production section of our major project has officially begun. Eeep. Time has flown by, it feels like no time at all since I was starting my major project in 2nd year.

Our final major project is broken down into four chunks, each four weeks in length (giving a total of 16 weeks production time). Three of these four chunks will be used to create a VFX insurance advert that I will be directing. Two of the three will be mainly directing, with some lighting, rendering and (probably) camera tracking where necessary. The third chunk will be for rigging and skinning the elephant model for this advert. My final chunk is a much smaller collaboration. I will be rigging a “toony” monkey modelled by one of the second years. Another second year will also be animating it.

Right now, I am trying to coordinate with the Motion Design course to get some help with filming my footage for the advert. They have a lot more experience of filming as well as access to much better equipment. The third years have shown little interest in getting involved, but I have been reassured by staff that I should be able to get some second years involved instead.