Image Effects DUNE: My Wonderful Work! by cecilia
Let's DUKE it Out!

This scene started out as a fairly simple green screen effect. Ok, it never got THAT complicated, but like most shots a little attention to detail always pays off.

I'm guessing one reason that William Hurt was shot against a green screen and not just in the room was because they undercranked the camera and shot him in slow motion. That often requires attention to lighting and maybe the room would have looked wrong under those conditions.

Anyway, my job was to put the actor in the room. Sounds simple enough.

Standing on a Piece of Plastic

So they had William Hurt stand in front of a green cloth. Possibly because it was too small to shoot at any other distance. First thing I noticed was that it seemed to me that he was a bit too close. What happens when the actor stands close to a green or blue screen is that the color of the screen gets reflected on the actor and his clothes. This causes "spill". I noticed a certain amount of green in Hurt's hair, parts of his sleeve and on the highlights in his boots (the red arrow). You'll have to trust me on this because it's something that showed up in certain frames and is more obvious when the footage is seen moving.

what's that shiny stuff???

The green cloth isn't very big so I'm guessing they had little choice about how far Hurt could stand. What really confuses me is the plastic sheet under his feet! Is this supposed to imitate the shiny hardwood floor of the room? Were they trying to get the green on the floor to be the same tone as the cloth? Who knows? All I know for sure is that this made extra shiny green spots on and between his boots. And I had to remove them.

On the right here is the Background Plate. I was just handed this single frame. So I expanded this to play during all the frames of the entire shot. This is the room that Duke Leto stands in during Paul's dream. The Duke starts with his back facing the viewer and slowly turns around, stretching his arms out as he turns.

the empty room

The Tricky Stuff

  • 1. Once I pulled Leto off the green screen and removed all the little green spots from the shiny reflections, there was the fact that here was Hurt "floating" in this room. The thing that anchors a person or object to a location is shadows.
  • 2. Now, as I'm sure you noticed, there are no shadows. I mean there are no shadows of the Duke. Anywhere. None in the room, obviously and none under Hurt. Maybe that's why they put that plastic sheet there? Well, in any case I have to "invent" shadows. Hmm? What a dilemma!
  • 3. The only information I had was Hurt, himself, moving. So I took that and processed the footage. AfterEffects has a plug-in, the name of which I have forgotten (sorry) which takes frames and desaturates them - basically removes the color info. It can also warp and twist the frame. What I did was take the new "shadowed" Duke and angle it so there was a long shadow right behind him. Then I scrunched another copy of this shadow so it's just in front of him. And then made a third, really scrunched it and tucked it just under his feet and slightly to the right. Basically I looked at where the lights were coming from in the room and guessed how they might look under the Duke. This is where being an artist comes in handy. ;)
    By the way, before anyone thinks, "Ah, plug-in! Just press a button and Voila! everything is done!" Well, think again. There's alot to play with in this plug-in and one has to fiddle with these settings until they work. This is a shot in which artistic intuition played a vital part. That and experience.

This is a frame of the Duke just pulled off the green. There's no suppression of the green spill. This is just so you can see what a simple composite would look like.
And, obviously, no shadows added! Man! Does he look disembodied!!!

the amazing floating Duke

Ta Da aaaaa:

It looks very effective moving because the shadows are all made from the Duke footage so they all move the same. The arms come out and he turns all at the same time. And I was able to also add a transparency to the shadows so that they become more transparent the farther they are from the figure - sort of like in "real" life! All these little details really sell the whole thing and I'll bet money that none of you even knew this was an effects shot! Come on!! None of you Knew!!!!

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