Soul leaving Body Effect. Urgent help please!! (12 replies and 15 comments)
I am shooting a short film, where the actor's soul leaves his body when he is placed in an coffin, and unaware that he is dead. He starts to bang the coffin box to let him out.
I am thinking to shoot two shots of the actor separately and make the banging shot transparent and add that to first shot in post.
Is there any better way to do this?? I have added a reference video link, please check it out at 1 hour 8 mins mark for reference.
I have to film this on Monday, and its quite urgent please help!!
You could just lock off the camera and have the actor play dead in one take inside the coffin (I'm assuming the side has been cut away to show the lid over the body) and another where the actor moves around and do a double-exposure in post, but you'd have more control if the ghost pass wasn't inside the coffin unless you can light the ghost version so that the actor is lit, maybe edge-lit, but the coffin in black so that you don't have the coffin interior itself being double-exposed.
But this might mean putting the actor on a black table against black with the same lens and distance so that you can light the ghost version of the actor a little differently than the dead version (and you're going to have to decide what the light is inside a coffin, since there would be none in reality - most cinematographers would probably opt for something very soft and very dim, maybe slightly blue-ish and monochrome.)
Ideally you'd line up the two versions with playback on your monitor, maybe even with someone who can dissolve between the two takes to check alignment, but if you shoot it a little looser, you can probably line the two versions up in post by zooming in and reframing a little -- with a lock-off shot in such a tight space, getting the two versions to match in framing should be easier.
I should add that if you move the actor to a black table & background, they might need some bit of black lid mounted over them to bang on if you are supposed to sense contact (though you'd think a ghost's hands would pass through the lid...) You could shoot the ghost version with diffusion on the lens if you wanted that effect.
I'm pretty sure that if you would shoot it all in one take (fixed camera) it could work by: freeze framing the part where the body is lying completely still. Then layer the "inverted" rest of the shot on top of the freeze frame shot and divide or substract it from the freeze frame shot.
You could easily test this out right now: place your camera on a tripod, put yourself in front of it. Play dead for a few seconds, then start freaking out.
Bring image in a compositor. Layer the freeze frame playing dead with the freaking out part of the shot and try dividing/subtracting/inverting/..... whatever.. Just play around with it and you might get an quick and dirty fun looking effect without much trouble. won't be the most convincing effect ever but for your specific situation it could work. Don't put in too much time/work into this shot if it is going to compromise the rest of the movie. A ghost shot is a pretty abstract thing so you can get away with various types of easy effects.
You could also shoot the ghost pass at a very low shutter shutter speed; this would blur the ghost's movements a lot and would help sell the effect event more I'd say.
If you want full control though; you should probably key the ghost and layer it on top of the original shot and play around with the transparency.
Also: you can shoot an empty plate of the coffin without the actor. then you can use it to subtract it from the shot with the actor in it. By doing this, you can effectively key him out perfectly.
You have to make sure that the plate is exactly equal to the shot with the actor in it. Otherwise it won't work.
google "difference key" if you're not sure about this technique. It's extremely easy and the if done properly it can result in geometry perfect key identical to the real world occlusion/transparency values in the edges. You'll end up with a perfect alpha matte.
Thanks David sir, and Wouter for quick responses.
Daivd sir, as you have mentioned, no light will pass inside the earth, but in order to show the act of character. Am trying to take some artistic freedom in order to light him. I am thinking to light this scene with a dedo light kit, which is small enough to light, or can I do it with some other light??
I have another requirement, director today added another shot, for the scene. He needs the continues shot from the character banging in coffin under the earth to shot where we show his tombstone above the ground.
The reference, for this would be the famous scene from Kill Bill, where the Uma Thurman is buried alive. I believe the earth's crust shown in the movie was done in CGI, or am I wrong?? can I do that effect in limited budget ?
Thank you guys again for your valuable time.
I remember Uma was buried with a flashlight, so it would be odd that you would add light to a pitch black coffin.
lol. what about a ghost trying to leave its body then? :p
Well, the earth above a coffin would be pitch-black so you could always just boom the camera into black above the lid of the coffin (again, assuming the side has been cut away for a view into the coffin)... and then boom out of a dark hole in the ground to reveal the surface grave, combine the two moves in editing. Now if you want to get fancier, if you are adding some light to see into the coffin, you could momentarily see a foot or two of dirt above the lid, very dim and fading into black as you boom, but then you'd need either sort of of glass wall to hold dirt in above the coffin, like an ant farm effect, or some other method of creating a fake wall of dirt (I suppose just a cardboard or wooden wall with dirt & rocks glued to it.)
This is the shot inside the coffin in the opening of "Doctor Zhivago", which is the boy's imagination as he sees dirt being thrown onto the coffin in the grave. Very dim, soft, and a little blue-ish.
I am intrigued with this scene and thought I could throw in my 2 pence worth!
I assume that you are working on a low budget otherwise this scene would have been resolved weeks ago rather than in the last minute and only a few days before shooting!!!
A persons spirit doesn't have to take the form of a human but can be a number of things. Have you thought of covering the actor with white "fairy lights" to highlight his silhouette. And bury him just enough to cover him. Shoot from the front and down instead of the side. Trim the lighting down to the bare essentials and use heavy diffusion. All you want is the glow of the lights breaking the earth away and rising up. Perhaps a side shot too as he leaves the ground all slowed down naturally. You can also just use a handlefull of lights leaving the ground and rising up. Spirits are not human anyway so you can do what you like here. Make sure you have a shot of the lights rising up towards the camera and passing close by on their way to heaven. 0fourse, you will need someone to pull the lights up from the earth with a fishing rod or spare long Panamic.
The effect is to see a "mist" of light or perhaps "fire flies" coming from the coffin although the audience will assume its from the coffin.
I have done this scene before and works well if you can tweak the lighting and get the sound right.
best of luck
Sorry but penultimate sentence should have said "coming from the grave". Make sure you choose the right SFX to compliment the rising lights (mist) and play with the stereo image as they pass past the lens. It will work if you are allowed the time to experiment. Anyway, hope it goes well whichever method you choose.
Or you could use a series of slow dissolves. Maybe open with the tombstone above ground, then zero in toward the freshly dug dirt, where we begin to hear strange muffled sounds as we go deeper and deeper into the earthly soil, finally the shot inside the coffin with the man banging and screaming. And maybe you can give your character an iphone, so he could use the dim light of the phone's screen, maybe the phone is dying, so he can use it sparingly. So it flashes on and off in his moments of panicked desperation. It's just not credible to see light in a pitch dark coffin, where there isn't any. Still don't know why blue light is used in the dark, night is black not blue, and so is darkness.
Because you need to see what's going on? One reason that blue is used is that when faces in a white or warmer light are very underexposed, they go red. Second reason is that whiter light at night tends to suggest an electrical source of some sort, whereas a pale blue-ish light vaguely feels like late dusk. It's just a convention of course but there are reasons it has some practical value.
Sure, if the character can justify having any sort of light like a lighter or iPhone screen, that's a lot more realistic -- but in this case we are talking about a dead or unconscious body whose soul is trying to leave the coffin. It doesn't make a lot of sense for a ghost to take out his iPhone to see better. And the fact that we are even seeing this action inside a coffin underground already is in the realm of fantasy, just as young Zhivago's imagination of his dead mother lying in her coffin is.
Every DP gets faced with the "no light" lighting scenario at some point. I had to do an action scene in an office at night during a power outage where the killer is using night vision goggles to hunt down the main character, who hides under a desk. So the room is already so dark that night vision is needed to see, and the character not wearing night vision goggles is hiding under a desk where it is even darker than the pitch-black room is. Now of course I told the writer that if it's dark enough that you need to use night vision to see, you wouldn't see the action of our lead actor who is hiding in another part of the room. I couldn't do what Roger did in "Sicario" of only showing what the night vision goggles could see since the main character isn't wearing any and we needed to see her fear as she hides in the dark. I guess I could have just quit or turned in black footage and said I was being realistic, but that's not what I was hired to do. Not to mention I'm shooting for broadcast TV which means people are going to be watching this dark scene in a room with their lights on.
The trick of using colder light when it has to be very underexposed is something I learned from Caleb Deschanel, that pale blue works better when you want something many stops underexposed because it puts just a tiny bit of information on one layer of film, plus again, the problem that white light on a face that is four stops or more underexposed ends up turning muddy red.
I understand completely with your explanation. And I thought the character buried alive was actually alive, which is why I suggested an iPhone as a light source. I suppose films aren't meant to be real (most of them) , but more or less a simulation of reality. The pale blue light you wrote about is also in the night vision scene from Silence of the Lambs.
But I believe in Kill Bill 2, Tarantino did use pitch dark to give the audience the feeling of being buried alive and it was very effective. But as you explained, the guy asking for advice is trying to film fantasy.
I am quite happy where this conversation is lead to. I have learnt few things from your discussions.
David sir, I lit the scene with a warm tungsten LED, as I thought that would be the color of mud under the earth. I am quite hooked on how did you light the action scene that you have mentioned, can I get a glimpse of it ??
Mike, I was on very limited budget to create the "Fairy lights" silhouette, and I was also on very limited time!! Whole movie was to be shot in 1 day. The fireflies effect is quite interesting to use for the soul leaving the body. If you have used it before I would love to watch it.
Jthomgs, I have thought of dissolves, and starting from the tombstone and ending at the body inside coffin, but what we are trying to convey to the audience is completely different. I will post you the video once its done.
I have studied few movies like Kill Bill and Buried to learn something, but in those movies characters are buried alive, and they are being teased or tortured. They have a light source like Iphone or torch with them, which can justify the lighting.
I have posted two screenshots from the short, and hope so I did somethings with the budget that I was allocated. I would love your thoughts on the screenshots.
This is really dark!
I agree with David. A pale blue would work much better. You could just shift the oranges to blue in post. I'd try it out.
The warm light is too unrealistic. I find myself wondering where the light is coming from. I wonder, is there a lamp at his feet? Or is he being taken into Hell?
I think the light should be softer too.
My attempt to film spirits leaving a body was many years ago and sadly I do not have a copy also the copyright was held by the BBC film unit although now disbanded the copyright still applies.
At the time we made up the "fairy lights" from 12 volt car bulbs and a long cable, powered by a 12 volt Panavision camera battery. You can make up one of these quite cheaply but now you can buy Christmas tree LED's even cheaper e.g., 20 lights for £3.99. They even come with their own dimmer.
You are going to shoot a whole movie in a day!!! Wow! Even George Lucas cannot beat that.
Reference your two photos. I can only see an image in the second one. This shot will be good in the coffin scene looking down at the man so you will have to do a side shot to match.
The scene where we see the spirit leave the grave or man is an important part of the storyline so take your time and get it right. There is no short cut to success and it's all down to perseverance and hard work, No Pain, No Gain so they say but going through the pain barrier is the only way to go. You could use CGI but that's a second mortgage job. I think you are a "hands on" type of guy and are eager to experiment so stick your neck out on this one. They will remember you for your efforts.
Where does the spirit go after this scene? Perhaps that's in the sequel.
Wish you luck
Might I also suggest watching F. W. Murnau's Sunrise. There a a lot of great double exposure effects in this film to look at.
Also, might I suggest thinking about using a POV shot. Perhaps we see someone's (your dead man's) a point of view as he rises from the ground?
Here are some drawings to illustrate my point:
You would do a cross fade between shots #1 and #2. Then reverse angle shot (or, you could keep tilting up to reveal the man hovering over the grave). And then cut to wide shot.
It probably would have been clearer if I just made the connecting arrows in #2 curved to emphasize the "Tilt" motion.
That should say, Vampyr, not Sunrise. Though both are amazing!