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Background Scene changes, character stays in place?


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#1 Timothy Lou Ly

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 07:13 PM

I'm not sure what the effect is called, but it's pretty common. It's the effect seen where the camera pulls for a close-up on a character in a certain scene/background/environment, then the background visibly crossfades on-screen into a completely different environment - yet the character is in the exact same position.

1) What is this effect called?
2) Is it done in production, or post, or a combination of the two?
3) How do I achieve this effect?
4) Can anyone find any examples of this online so I can visually study this some more?

Edited by Timothy Lou Ly, 07 April 2011 - 07:14 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 08:26 PM

Pretty easy with a green screen, you just cross fade 2 background plates for the shot. If there is a lighting change you can program it via a DMX board to happen at a certain point in the shot (fading down the lighting from one shot and up the lighting of the next).

To do it in camera you'd just repeat the same move (as best as one can, motion control is best, but you can get by without it if you practice enough) at the two different locations and cross fade them in post.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 09:08 PM

It's actually not done that often in movies where only the foreground changes... but one example would be in "Casablanca", during a flashback of Rick and Ilsa in France, they are driving in a convertible with a rear-projected background and the background plate dissolves from Paris to the countryside. One efx book made a note of this because it was rather daring to call attention to the artifice of rear-projection like that; it would be more common to dissolve the whole shot, actors included, to a new shot.

More common might be to match-dissolve one object over another for a transition. A more elaborate version would be to morph the foreground to another foreground, like the face of young Private Ryan morphing into old Private Ryan in "Saving Private Ryan".

Buster Keaton made fun of this to some extent, or was making fun of the need for establishing and traveling shots to get a character from one place to another, already somewhat of a cliche by the late 1920's. In "Seven Chances", Keaton leaves one building, gets into his car and just sits there, then match dissolves that to an identical shot of him sitting in his car at the next location, so that once the dissolve is over, he just gets out of his car at the new location and goes inside.
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#4 Timothy Lou Ly

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 09:14 PM

Thank you for the replies! I'll look into it all with tests with green screen and in-camera, as well as watching all those examples.

Edited by Timothy Lou Ly, 07 April 2011 - 09:16 PM.

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#5 Timothy Lou Ly

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 10:17 PM

Okay, I've just looked over the examples from Casablanca and Saving Private Ryan. I admit, the Casablanca dissolve does look kind of hokey. I think I will just skip over having the background in frame after all, and do something closer to the match-dissolve. But maybe you two can help me out with this shot I'm trying to work with, because I do see one problem with a match-dissolve with what I'd like.

I'd like to have my main character sit directly in the center of frame. He closes his eyes, breathes heavily through his nose, and his chest and shoulders inflate and rise - all the while, the camera dollys in close enough for an extreme close-up of only his face. Not too long after, the camera will pull back to about a medium shot to reveal a new location behind him.

What worries me is that because of just how tight the camera will be on him, and the movement he would be making, a match-dissolve doesn't seem very likely or practical. This leads me to believe that green-screening would be the way to go. But that brings up another issue - tracking and scaling the background with the foreground and camera movement. Are there any helpful hints you guys have about dealing with this?

Should I go on location to where he will be transitioning to and from and just replicate the dolly? Should I set the camera at the same distance the character will be in when we pull out to reveal the new location, and then just scale in post? Are there any easier ways around this, or is my shot too complex?
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#6 John Dorfax

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 08:31 AM

Okay, I've just looked over the examples from Casablanca and Saving Private Ryan. I admit, the Casablanca dissolve does look kind of hokey. I think I will just skip over having the background in frame after all, and do something closer to the match-dissolve. But maybe you two can help me out with this shot I'm trying to work with, because I do see one problem with a match-dissolve with what I'd like.

I'd like to have my main character sit directly in the center of frame. He closes his eyes, breathes heavily through his nose, and his chest and shoulders inflate and rise - all the while, the camera dollys in close enough for an extreme close-up of only his face. Not too long after, the camera will pull back to about a medium shot to reveal a new location behind him.

What worries me is that because of just how tight the camera will be on him, and the movement he would be making, a match-dissolve doesn't seem very likely or practical. This leads me to believe that green-screening would be the way to go. But that brings up another issue - tracking and scaling the background with the foreground and camera movement. Are there any helpful hints you guys have about dealing with this?

Should I go on location to where he will be transitioning to and from and just replicate the dolly? Should I set the camera at the same distance the character will be in when we pull out to reveal the new location, and then just scale in post? Are there any easier ways around this, or is my shot too complex?


The shot you describe shows up in the George Clooney Directed film "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." You can actually see them doing this very shot in a BTS documentary on the film. They put the actor on a rotating platform that rotated with camera (and the lights lighting him) so that when they pulled out from his ECU, he had seamlessly been placed in a new environment. Problem is, this in camera technique requires a whole lot of studio space! Good luck.

Also, I recall this shot in Whitney Houston's " I Will Always Love You" music video too...
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#7 Timothy Lou Ly

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 06:26 AM

The shot you describe shows up in the George Clooney Directed film "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." You can actually see them doing this very shot in a BTS documentary on the film. They put the actor on a rotating platform that rotated with camera (and the lights lighting him) so that when they pulled out from his ECU, he had seamlessly been placed in a new environment. Problem is, this in camera technique requires a whole lot of studio space! Good luck.

Also, I recall this shot in Whitney Houston's " I Will Always Love You" music video too...


A rotating platform. I would have never thought of it. Now I need to see this movie. Sounds genius, but I'd never be able to do it on my budget.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 18 April 2011 - 04:36 PM

This leads me to believe that green-screening would be the way to go. But that brings up another issue - tracking and scaling the background with the foreground and camera movement.


For a low budget solution, maybe shoot with the head locked off, and a motorized zoom. It should give you close enough to the same speed for both the actor and the plates. My guess is that you could get away with a little bit of mismatch.




-- J.S.
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#9 Patrick Shelton

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Posted 25 April 2011 - 10:11 PM

Although this is a little different, and mainly using greenscreen, I think Tom Antos does a great job with it.

YouTube Tom Antos "Famous Movies in 1 take"
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Visual Products

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Wooden Camera

Abel Cine

Glidecam

Metropolis Post

Tai Audio

Rig Wheels Passport

Paralinx LLC

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

FJS International, LLC

Ritter Battery

rebotnix Technologies

Willys Widgets

Technodolly

Opal

Aerial Filmworks