Cinematography & VFX for Lines
Cinematography & VFX for Lines
07 Dec 2013

LINES is a short film I recently finished work on, inspired by Janet Frame's short text 'The Linesman'.

Through 2013 I worked as part of a Creative Team made up of fellow filmmakers Emma Nichols, Harriet Denby, and Robert Edwards. On this project I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take responsibility for all aspects of the films capture and post-processing. One of our most important goals was to achieve a level of technical finish that could hold up to scrutiny next to films produced by expereinced crews with more financial backing than we had available.

LINES explores connection, imagination and the human urge to ask, "what if ?"

We shot on the Full Frame Sony A99, with the Atomos Ninja 2 external recorder (DNxHD). My work involved planning and managing this capture workflow, creating strong compositions / lighting set ups, and correctly lighting for green screen.

Without dialogue, our imagery needed to be beautiful and symbolic in order to drive the subtleties of the narrative. After the production I spent much time editing the film and consulting with our team about the effectiveness of it's structure. Below are some stills from the finishing VFX compositing work I did to bring this story to life, including the use of a soft keying technique to preserve the detailed window reflections, and some animation work to make our line worker fall off his pole. Click images to open the full resolution files.

All shots were motion tracked to add the illusion of distance between the window and the scene outside. Some of the shots such as the one above had very little points to track with seeing as the hands obscure most of the frame. I found a very faint round white smudge on the glass which I pulled a matte from, and used to obtain the tracking data.

Care was taken that the keying process used didn't completely crush all of the subtle reflection detail.

The background for this moving close up shot had to be keyframed manually since there really wasnt any reliable way to track it.

It was harder to light correctly in the wide with what we had available, so a little relighting on the curtain here was needed.

We shot the reaction for the fall shot in our set, so that we had full control over the altitude matching and reflection quality.

Original shot of the woman looking out the window at our Linesman.

Plates had to be created in photoshop to remove the Linesman (We never got a clean plate of this!) and to bring the pole and lines in front of the animation (above left). I then created a rough 2D digital double of our character with all body parts separated and rigged as a puppet. The puppet pins were then linked to null objects at main points on the body for easier control when animating.

Better view of the character rig.

And here it is with the compositing, animation (this took some time), and relighting done. We then had the ability to pull focus between the Woman and Linesman (above right, Linesman falls in reflection).

As a final touch I added some typical wellington dirt and dust to the front of the window to make it read more as a real surface.

An online release for the film is coming soon, I'll post again when this is ready. If you're intrigued and have any questions feel free to drop a comment below!

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