19 May 2016

Centennial Park: Shooting Live-Action Plates

Centennial Park: Shooting Live-Action Plates

Author:  Stephen   Categories:  Live-Action Plates, Behind the Scenes  
We found a location for our first ever film shoot! Before you get too excited though, let me temper those expectations. We really just wanted some test footage to try a few things and develop our pipeline/workflow. What follows are the results of our shoot, good and bad.

Filming Live-Action for Animation

When we started on this little venture, we knew it wasn't really about the final product so I didn't want to spend much time animating anything really complex or time consuming. Instead, we had a list of skills and workflows we needed to learn and test out so it was more about the things outside of the animation process we wanted to spend our time on. Here's the full list:

1. Filming live-action
2. Recording audio
3. Shooting HDRIs to use to light the scene in Maya
4. Tracking footage (PFTrack)
5. Stitching HDRIs together to create an environment light
6. Realistic lighting in RenderMan
7. Final Comp to match film look

What Was the Cameraman Doing?!

I always laughed - sometimes complained - when I got a shot to animate and I couldn't figure out what the cameraman was thinking when he shot it. I would put the character in the scene and realize the camera was focused on the wrong thing or seemed to be filming an invisible 9ft tall character when the character I needed to animate was only 5ft tall. Those limitations in the plates are part of the everyday problem solving visual effects animators have to go through. Things would be different, I thought, if I were on set and could make sure they filmed everything right. Let's see how I did.

cgbreakdown preparing for live-action shoot

Victor and I started smartly, discussing the best way to shoot the empty plates and coming up with a plan. We had it pretty well worked out. First, he would film me walking toward camera so we could determine where he would aim the camera and how far back he would walk. After we marked his starting and end point on the ground, he would film the empty plate and I would stand by his marks and tap him on the shoulder when he reached them. Seemed foolproof. We were now highly skilled VFX  supervisors.

Here's the results:


So, overall not bad, but we filmed aiming more to screen left than anticipated and for some reason the footage on the left is a lot less stable. I think when you don't have anything specific to focus on, your body tends to not be as good at keeping the camera still? I think next time we attempt something like this, we are going to need to get some sort of dolly setup if we want better results. I guess we will see when we track it and drop in the animation clips how good of a job we did.


Onto more pictures.

cgbreakdown filming live action plates for animation

This is the point in which I realized Victor's headphones are plugged into the audio recorder on the camera cage and he can hear Laura and I discussing his cinematography abilities. Maybe it's not that nice to talk about people? Regardless, the final product will determine whether or not our criticisms were warranted. Keep at it though, Victor! We love you!


cgbreakdown shooting B-roll for animation test

After we finished filming the live-action footage, we went to start on the HDRIs. This doesn't look like I'm doing that, you say? You're right. This is me shooting B-roll after we realized Victor forgot the lens back at the studio. Maybe it'll come in handy later.


cgbreakdown footage for PFTrack photogrammetry test

PFTrack has photogrammetry abilities too, so I thought I'd take some film/pictures of this monument to see if I can recreate it in 3d. That's another project for another time though.


Finally, the lens arrives! Back to the HDRIs.


cgbreakdown discussing how to shoot HDRI

It's at this point we realize we don't really know how to do that either. At least it's overcast, that's supposed to be good for HDRIs, right?


cgbreakdown camera equipment

Making the switch! Wrapping the camera cage for the day and putting the panhead tripod to work.

Side Note: Is Quentin Tarantino the only director that can legitimately say "That's a wrap!" these days? Nobody else really has the need to Wind Reel And Print any more.

cgbreakdown camera cage

"That'll do, cage. That'll do."


cgbreakdown HDRI camera setup

Victor's concerned about the calibration. I say let the shooting begin!


cgbreakdown shooting HDRIs

Meanwhile, Laura has spent most of the day smirking at the two of us for acting like we know what we are doing when we are clearly making it up as we go along. She's the wise one in the group.


That's it for the shoot! Next up is learning how to use PFTrack.


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