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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsToday, we're setting up a scene which involves cloning. So essentially what we're doing is we're shooting one plate of the background, and then we're multiplying the various actors we have within the scene numerous times. So essentially we can make a cast of four people look like a cast of 100 people. So one of the reasons we do this is if we have a limited number of actors then we can replicate them numerous times within the scene. So if the budget doesn't allow us to have 50 actors already dressed in costume, and art worked, and all that stuff, then we can achieve a similar effect with only four people.

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 secondsThere are a lot of different things we have to look at when we're shooting a scene like this. First of all, is we are blocking out the action to make sure that none of the actors cross each other and that they know their specific areas in which their scene is going to take place. So one of the things we do is we use gaffer tape to mask areas on the monitor so that we can make sure that the action is confined to that one area within the scene. And that's quite important because we don't want actors to cross over each other and also it may create more work in post. Come in Andy. Can you hear me?

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsI can hear you. OK, now walk straight forward.

Skip to 1 minute and 25 secondsCould we just stop there? Actors are performing to different beats. So we're using those beats to choreograph scenes, to choreograph movement within the scene. So if for example, there's an earthquake the actors all react at the given cue. Also, another really important thing when we're shooting a scene like this is to make sure that all the props, all the assets which are in the scene, they don't move. So once the props are put in place they stay there.

Planning and shooting for cloning and masking

This week we’re working on a guerrilla version of crowd replication, which MPC mentioned previously. You’ll find out how to take three actors and turn them into a large number of on-screen characters. This can dramatically increase the production value of your films.

As you’ll see, sometimes great VFX are reliant on mundane things like ‘Gaffer’ tape on monitor screens!

Seriously, planning is essential if you are trying to build a crowd. Fussy audiences will spot any replication or incongruous behaviour. Justin Hunt of Ember films shows how you need to be organised and shoot your takes in a methodical way if you want to have all the elements right.

As you’ll see when you get to try some of this footage in our HitFilm exercise, there are two important things about the shoot which any VFX artist compositing this shot would appreciate; firstly the camera is ‘locked off’- it doesn’t move in any of the takes, so it’s easy to combine the ‘plates’ or layers. Secondly, the actors don’t stray from their assigned area- this reduces the embarrassment of one actor digitally intersecting another on screen!

If you are planning a shot like this, you might also want to factor in the weather and time of day. As we shot this scene the sun moved and the weather changed- meaning the background tarmac changed imperceptibly as we filmed. Shadows shifted and surfaces got drier and less reflective. So, try to minimise the time you spend on these shots and check the weather forecast too. It’s not wise to shoot at the end of the day in case you fall behind schedule and the sun starts to go down…

In the next section we’ll be seeing how you can use HitFilm to mask and composite your version of what we’ve dubbed a ‘post apocalyptic’ shot. Don’t worry though, there’s not a zombie in sight. However, IF zombies are your thing, we’re sure you’ll like this next technique!

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This video is from the free online course:

Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA)

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Storyboards are only one way to communicate. Lets look at some VFX definitions.
    Visual effects or special effects?

    Like any creative subject it helps to share definitions about what things mean -this can be confusing for newcomers; it'll help us communicate better.

  • Tracking and layers: a gentle start
    Tracking and layers: a gentle start

    HitFilm guru Simon Jones shows us how to build a dramatic shot in HitFilm using layers of stock footage we provide on the course. Enjoy your 'comping'

  • The Blaine Brothers guide to using VFX
    The Blaine Brothers guide to using VFX

    The Blaine Brothers have a positive can-do attitude to VFX, and see it as a tool that should be used in the service of a story, not as decoration.

  • Still from Georges Méliès' "India Rubber Head" (1901)
    A short history of keying

    Keying isnt just a digital invention. From the early days of cinema in the 19th century film makers had used 'mattes' to amaze their audiences.

  • Insider tips on shooting green screen
    Insider tips on shooting green screen

    Justin Hunt, our long suffering director of photography for our HitFilm footage has years of experience of green screen to share with you here.

  • Cab Calloway (1932) Minnie the Moocher
    What is Rotoscoping?

    Rotoscoping is probably the most time-consuming of VFX techniques. It's often a last resort when you can't pull a key. Let's find out more about it.

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