Image Effects DUNE: My Wonderful Work! by cecilia
Feets Don't Fail Me Now!

See Jessica run. Run Jessica run. Run very fast. Worm coming up!

Ok, so there's this scene where Jessica and others are trying to catch up to a worm so they can ride it. (Hey, I didn't write this stuff ;) Now, I can assure you that no desert worms exist so we had to "make something up". On the set they had Saskia Reeves running on a treadmill alongside of a large prop. This prop was constructed to be the side of a worm.

Now, the actor running was the only footage I got. The point here is that I had to create everything else. I had to make quickly moving sand appear seamlessly under Jessica's feet. I had to have "blowing" sand moving past Jessica and the "worm" body to look like the worm is traveling and kicking up sand.

Creating Something Out of Nothing

This is a frame from the footage of Jessica running on the set. You can see the treadmill - the dark blue strip just under Saskia's feet - and even a foot that belongs to a crewmember just in frame.

The only "information" about how fast the sand under Jessica's feet should move is her own feet running.

By the way, according to Ernie this was the "only" treadmill they could find in Prague. He told some story about how they looked high and low for one and this was "IT". Ok, Ernie, whatever you say....;)
Well, it WAS a funny story. I guess you had to be there!

Reality Bites

The only way to do this is first to separate out the various parts with spline mattes. While I don't have copies of all the mattes I made, I did a representational drawing on the right here to point out certain key areas that I used to decide where the mattes should be. Jessica's body as she runs has to be separated - the red line shows the basic area. What's tricky here is that at certain times during the footage parts of Jessica's body has motion blur. That requires different feathering on the edges and that means creating a different spline matte. And - as indicated by the light blue lines - sometimes Jessica's body "opens" like when her arm moves away from her body. I had to make "negative" mattes for that. And the green lines are around shadows which not only need their own feathering but a transparency to composite properly over the sand layers I'll have to create.

spline heaven

Sand In My Face

This is a representation of what I did to make the basic sand move under Jessica's feet. I found (not this piece on the right but something similar) a picture of sand which I stretched to be longer than the frame of the original footage. Then I angled it to match that of the worm body. At this point I keyframed this sand layer at the beginning of the footage to be as far down in the frame as possible - more or less where you see it now. Then I keyframed it at the end of the animation farther up - following the red arrow. I made an educated guess as to how far to move it up, and ya know what??? When I did a test rendering I got the movement right on the money! Wow! I'm just SO smart!

Now, I'm simplifying all this but trust me there were ALOT of spline mattes and layers in this shot. After I made the sand "floor", I had to find images that I could use or alter to be used as flying sand particles. There were about five or more of those. I made them move at different speeds and transparencies past Jessica's arms and behind her. This was supposed to be sand thrown off by the worm. All this stuff has to be subtle enough to not "notice" but if it's not there the shot looks empty and unnatural. After all that I also had to add a slight bit of "camera shake". That is I had to to make the frame vibrate slightly to give the sense that the POV (which seems to be well, sort of on the worm) is moving from the worm speeding across the sand. I did this in Lightwave. As I recall there is some plug-in which takes frames and slightly moves them on the x and y axis (on every frame) according to what numbers I pumped in. After trying a few experiments I found the right numbers and rendered the final frames.

sand in your face

Wow! It's done!

After adding all these layers I had to get the color right - everything had this bluish tint to it. And this shot did take alot of tweeking before Ernie and Co. were totally satisfied, but some shots are like that. There are subtleties which just have to FEEL right or the whole scene wont work. But it got done and is quite nice, if I say so myself!

Of course it looks best when you see it in motion. Click on the smaller images on the right to see their larger versions. Each is from a separate shot which was edited together as part of the same sequence.
It's basically Jessica running alongside the worm. A shot of a fellow already on the worm (third picture). And shots of Jessica being pulled up onto the worm (fourth picture). These shots "on" the worm were really filmed against green screen but still required my fake blowing sand to be added once I pulled the actor(s) off the green.

You can also see what Tony has to say about this shot on the AI Effects site

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