SHOT 121

Okay, here we go with my first flying scene. Degree of difficulty? Yes.

The murder hornets we met in shots 105 and 107 have gotten curious while James and Sushi try to work things out.

I went through a dozen setups for this key shot, and settled on creating a bridge from my camera table to my set table using a steel yardstick. The space between those tables is where I need to maneuver in order to animate the scene.

These hornets came with stands, and the yardstick has all the inches marked off, naturally. So the goal was to make the Boss Hornet jump off the cherry tree and fly over to the Vespa for a better look.

If you look close in the bottom right shadows, the smaller hornet is already on the patio, playing with (and wearing) the hat James threw over there previously.

Okay, so how do we pull this off? Through a process called rigging and de-rigging.

First, for every shot in the sequence we take two exposures. These get put into separate timelines by the Dragonframe animation software. You can use multiple exposures for just that — typically different F-stops. Or you can use them for creating background plates for shots like this.

A background plate is an exposure that has everything except the flying object that you’re animating.

Then you take the real shot of the flying object either held up by a stand, or hanging from a string.

And finally, in Photoshop, you erase the rigging in the top layer, thereby exposing the background within the area you erased. This must be done for every affected frame, and then the video is reconstructed in Final Cut Pro from the processed frames.

And like magic, the flying hornet’s stand disappeared from the composited clip.

So for each frame, I moved the hornet’s stand by a set number of inches, easing into it from the jump-off point, then accelerating, and then slowing for an air-brake landing with wings spread.

Yes, it’s painstaking. But so is life. And the payoff was awesome, watching my wife’s jaw drop the first time she saw a buzzing, flailing piece of plastic fly across my studio. And better yet, a friend actually asked me if that was CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery)!

When the Boss Hornet lands on the Vespa, I made sure to animate the Vespa rolling back to sell the audience on the physics of the situation. I mentioned that I own an actual Vespa, so a sound effect of something hefty (like me), jostling that real scooter with a satisfying ‘clunk-clunk’ completes the illusion.

Don’t forget the power of a good sound effect!

Oh — before we leave this shot. The green screen you can see through the open door will be filled in later with a properly angled interior shot.

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