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Re-creating a psychological phenomenon on film (Optical VS Digital)


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#1 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 11:03 PM

Hey All,

I'm making a film about a young man with a condition that causes him to see colors when he hears musical notes...he uses this ability to compose music. To recreate this on camera, it should be something to the effect that when he hears specific musical notes, like lets say he's playing on a keyboard, he sees flares of color. Maybe the keys light up one color, or better yet, its just in random areas superimposed over the image like a lense flare but animated and controlled...I've been thinking it could be something similar to the effect of the horizontal flares you get from anamorphic lenses, and then color correct the flares to different colors...or maybe do a sin city type effect where the colors are very muted and desaturated and different sound sources make a specific color pop and saturate in the scene (which I believe can be done in telecine)...I'm looking for some new ideas for different ways to portray this, from things you might have done or seen as optical or visual effects...and how to execute them.

I'm torn between whethere there's a good way to create this type of effect optically with filters and lights, or if its better to do it in post. I'm not attached to any one specific way to do the effect. The more specific the better, as opposed to just "go to a visual effects house and have them do it"...on that note though, if you do happen to know a good visual effects house in LA that might offer student pricing, that would be awesome as well.

Thanks a lot!

-Trevor
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 12:48 AM

There isn't really a good in-camera option -- I mean, you could time colored lights shining onto parts of the set to come up with a music note, but that would look exactly like what it is. You could try putting some piece of glass in front of the lens tilted at a 45 degree angle and reflect tiny colored bulbs that fade up and down in cue but it would be hard to match that to specific objects on screen, and would restrict your camera movement. Plus it would look like what it is too.

It only sounds possible by doing it in post as some sort of overlaid animation / color-timing enhancement effect, and while you could do it by hiring an animator and rotoscope artist to track and stencil around objects in the frame and doing all the color overlay work in an optical printer, it would be much faster, simpler, more controllable, and more flexible to do it on a computer unless you are a personal whiz at optical printing, with your own set-up where you are willing to devote the next year or so working on those shots.

But in terms of the specific computer animation software to use, I can't help you.
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#3 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 04:38 AM

Hey David,

Thanks a lot for the quick reply. If I were to go for the VFX option, I don't know if I could do it myself, do your or anyone else know of a good VFX firm in LA that might do this kind of work?

Also, if anyone else has any ideas using lights, etc. on set or ideas for how to do it digitally, I'm definitely open.

Thanks!

-Trevor
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 05:37 AM

What you could do is use thatrical and disco lighting in juxaposition with a "normal' room so that when the notes are played lights dim and colors wash in streaks across white walls and flash on specific objects, faces and people, The keyboard keys could be lit up by dummying up the keys with fake translucent tops and back lighting them with gels and LEDs on a prop keyboard or piano. I would also use stobes, follow spots and swirling lights to give movement to the young man's musical visions. Specifically used flashes of bight light and filters to denote strong, overpowering notes. I could see it very easily done with lighting FX, particularly if the other actors in the scene are instructed to completely ignor the lighting FX and consentraite solely on what's going on in the scene as though they were unable to seen the lights leaving only the young man to react to them. By carefully widening and narrowing shutters on unfocused llights, you could make the light grow and shrink. With all due respect to David, to me this really seams like something MUCH more suited to doing in camera rather than as a series of CGI elements thatare composited in post, PARTICULARLY if you're using film which would cost a fortune. Actually CGI wopuld cost a fortune wheter you were using fim or not! If you played the piece or pieces on set and planned for ADR in post, you could cue each wash, splash and swirl of color to the musical movements as they are played, then sync them perfectly in post. You will, of course need a lighting board, the thratical and disco instuments and crew to run say a follow spot or three as well as the regular movie lighting. If you think about it, Discos translate music into light all the time as do live concerts. You just have to figure out how to make that cinematic. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 04 February 2007 - 05:40 AM.

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#5 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 06:10 AM

Hey James,

Thanks! Interesting ideas. The main character will also be in exterior shots in a downtown area and ideally I'd like to create this effect there as well. Like maybe he's walking down the street, he hears a car honk as he passes by with a dopplar type effect and he sees a color associated with that.

I think maybe what David was getting at is using lights in the way you suggest, might look specifically like lights illuminating a wall or object as opposed to colored flares appearing in the lens as though they're a part of his sight. Like if you could imagine having this condition, you wouldn't see color splashed on a wall, but instead it would be almost like the effect of a lens streak, a glow of light in your vision.

It seems like this could work by shining light or reflecting it into the lens in combination with a streak or some other filter possibly...but the Big question is how can we make the light appear as though it belongs there...or better yet, disguise it so you can't tell its specifically a light.

David you were referring to using a glass angled at 45 degrees and reflecting lights. I don't mind if we're somewhat limited in movement, and I don't mind syncing sound later if this effect would work. How would I go about doing this?

Perhaps when its POV of the main character (which is the only times we see these colors appear) and he hears a musical note, we could shoot very shallow DOF, so you can't make out the light source in the background but the colored flare still appears. I don't really know how or if this would work, and it would limit us in shooting only shallow for POV stuff, but I wonder... Any thoughts anyone?
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 08:36 AM

Hi,

I quite like the angled-mirror idea too - I feel strongly that this sort of thing should be as unobtrusive an effect as possible, and in your position I'd fear that digital effects would start getting cartoony and unsubtle. From what you're saying I get the impression that you want this to be somehow realistic and organic, not too "look, here's a visual effect!".

If you were to fire some extremely bright lights into your mirror and - especially if you were using nice flarey anamorphics - try various star and streak filters to make them flare. LEDs can be extremely bright and are easy to drive; you'll need a real artist to sit on the controls and fade them up and down.

Phil
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 11:51 AM

Since we're talking about a psychological eye-brain effect, distorting the image in post to me would look more realistic actually (reality is being altered) than shining lights onto the scene, which might look too real, like colored lights are being shined onto the scene.

The nice thing about animation overlays / CGI is that it will appear more like normal human vision is being altered "in post" (i.e. in the brain), not that he is looking at a real shot with some on-set effect being played out on it (i.e. in front of the eye).

Reflecting the colored lights & flares by using glass at an angle to the lens could be done, just that it's very tedious. You could also do it by double-exposing them, but the nice thing about glass is being able to see the effect in the viewfinder.
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 04:38 AM

Hey James,

Thanks! Interesting ideas. The main character will also be in exterior shots in a downtown area and ideally I'd like to create this effect there as well. Like maybe he's walking down the street, he hears a car honk as he passes by with a dopplar type effect and he sees a color associated with that.

I think maybe what David was getting at is using lights in the way you suggest, might look specifically like lights illuminating a wall or object as opposed to colored flares appearing in the lens as though they're a part of his sight. Like if you could imagine having this condition, you wouldn't see color splashed on a wall, but instead it would be almost like the effect of a lens streak, a glow of light in your vision.

It seems like this could work by shining light or reflecting it into the lens in combination with a streak or some other filter possibly...but the Big question is how can we make the light appear as though it belongs there...or better yet, disguise it so you can't tell its specifically a light.

David you were referring to using a glass angled at 45 degrees and reflecting lights. I don't mind if we're somewhat limited in movement, and I don't mind syncing sound later if this effect would work. How would I go about doing this?

Perhaps when its POV of the main character (which is the only times we see these colors appear) and he hears a musical note, we could shoot very shallow DOF, so you can't make out the light source in the background but the colored flare still appears. I don't really know how or if this would work, and it would limit us in shooting only shallow for POV stuff, but I wonder... Any thoughts anyone?


One thing you might try is "smoking" or "misting" the room or area you want to shoot in. This is done all the timw with lasars so they'll show up. Dave's 45 deg. angled glass is an old magician's trick to make ghosts appear, Peppers Ghost effect ( www.phantasmechanics.com/pepper.html and www.geocities.com/primitivepictures2001/fx2.html ). You can very easily build one of these if you like and try it. This is one of the earliest special effects ever done as many FXs in the very early days of cinema were designed by stage magicians. B)
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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 04:54 AM

As for software should you decide to go with a digital solution, I would recommend Lightwave, Maya (although you never really own Maya, you just lease it essentally, It's the best out there for liquid or fluid effects) or If you're poor and can't afford software that start's at 25 hundred bucks and have a moral dilema about downloading it from Limewire, them go with www.Blender.org . It has a bit of a learning curve but no more than Maya, it's very powerful and free. It was originally designed for creating video games but many people use it for anamation. B)
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 08:39 AM

Hi,

I quite like the angled-mirror idea too - I feel strongly that this sort of thing should be as unobtrusive an effect as possible, and in your position I'd fear that digital effects would start getting cartoony and unsubtle. From what you're saying I get the impression that you want this to be somehow realistic and organic, not too "look, here's a visual effect!".

If you were to fire some extremely bright lights into your mirror and - especially if you were using nice flarey anamorphics - try various star and streak filters to make them flare. LEDs can be extremely bright and are easy to drive; you'll need a real artist to sit on the controls and fade them up and down.

Phil


This is very close to what I thought when I first read the concept. It would be very cool if you could subtly flare the lens for the effect. This would probably lock you into particular lenses for their flare characteristics. I often use a set of old Cooke Series 2 primes (circa 1965) that would fit the bill.
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#11 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 08:58 AM

Thanks for the great suggestions everyone! I was thinking about smoke as well James, good call. Although it'd be very difficult to use it for exterior stuff. It seems like the effect might be too unpredictable to create optically...and after i saw some after effects demonstrations recently I've been thinking it might be a lot better to composite something in in post.

Although I'm still definitely open to suggestions, so if you have any other ideas or if someone has done a trick like this before effectively, please share.

Thanks!

Trevor
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#12 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 09:31 AM

This is very close to what I thought when I first read the concept. It would be very cool if you could subtly flare the lens for the effect. This would probably lock you into particular lenses for their flare characteristics. I often use a set of old Cooke Series 2 primes (circa 1965) that would fit the bill.


I just had an idea. What about somehow suspending colored liquid between glass and putting that directly in front of the lens? Theoretically the liquid would move around out of focus and make a moving colored type of effect. Practically speaking I have no idea what this would look like. Perhaps someone with more experience could tell me if a filter or device like this already exists or if this would work and how to shoot with something like this...

Thanks in advance...

Trevor
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#13 Michael Collier

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 04:28 PM

You could always go to a rental house, set up a black background and do a bunch of 'lens tests' of course really you'd just be using different lenses to record different lens flares. Move the light around, get different lenghts and positions of flares, then compsite those into the effect.

My fear with practicle is always timing. Its the note that triggers the color, which means the note has to hit at the right time. Doing it in camera not only limits your choices for how it looks, but also the timing of it (which will affect editting choices)

After Effects can do a bunch of stuff, and theres enough there to make it look practicle while maintaining the benifits of doing it in post.

By the way, the glass at a 45 reminded me of a video I made in 7th grade. Turned my brother into a ghost with that trick. Good times. Anyway good luck.
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#14 Trevor Fernando

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Posted 05 February 2007 - 04:52 PM

Thanks Michael, after I started looking into after effects I was thinking of a similar idea of recording some flares and compositing them in as opposed to trying to generate them from scratch.

Do you think I could shoot the flares on video and composite them in over the film image? Would it blend in since I'd only be using flares and not video content...or would it look super pixelated and weird...I only ask cuz running tests on film could end up being imprecise and expensive for such an effect especially considering I'm not a pro at doing optical effects...
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#15 Amarjeet Singh Sadal

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Posted 13 February 2007 - 10:20 AM

didnt read all the post. but i understand that this would be the answere for your query.

http://www.trapcode...._soundkeys.html

it has already been used very extensively in the industry
here are some clips which use it:
http://www.trapcode....allery/wire.mov
http://www.trapcode....tv_reaction.mov
http://www.trapcode....gallery/ss1.mov
http://www.trapcode....gallery/ss2.mov

regards
amarjeet
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#16 Keith Mottram

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Posted 13 February 2007 - 11:24 AM

didnt read all the post. but i understand that this would be the answere for your query.

http://www.trapcode...._soundkeys.html

it has already been used very extensively in the industry
here are some clips which use it:
http://www.trapcode....allery/wire.mov
http://www.trapcode....tv_reaction.mov
http://www.trapcode....gallery/ss1.mov
http://www.trapcode....gallery/ss2.mov

regards
amarjeet


i agree this is a great plug in which i've used on a couple of music vids and corporates, this is your controller but you can use it to influence anything- e.g. as notes get higher flare get brighter/ image softer/ colours warmer. your imagination is basically the limit- that and a good effects artist.
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