I have recently published a music-video for my song “I met a seer” on Youtube and today I want to tell you about the production-process.
The first idea for the video popped up in my mind, when I saw a little plastic man at Ebay. He looked a bit like those common figures to practice drawing, but this one was more detailed than the others I know, which are made of wood. After some research I ordered it from a site called sugarandcotton and though the site has a bad reputation the figure arrived a few weeks later from China. It looks like this:
It comes with alternative hands and some other accessory like a Laptop, a gun, a cellphone, and a sword. It looked very cool when I ordered it, but when I packed it out I realized, that I had payed a ridiculous amount of money for a small piece of plastic.
As always the product presentation suggests a very high-quality product, while the reality looks like this:
However it worked for my purpose, but I would think it’s worth less than ten dollar and not forty-five.
The idea for the video was to animate this figure with the traditional stop-motion technique and to bring it to life within an abstract environment together with a real person: Me. After I had wrapped my brain around this concept I decided to realize it with two different set-ups: First I would shoot the stop motion in front of a green screen. And second I would shoot myself in front of a green screen. At last I could combine both shootings.
I ran into first troubles when I tried to animate the plastic man. I had to figure out how to fix it on the ground. My usual method to use removable glue pads like Uhu Patafix did not work properly. Next I followed a recommendation and ordered little strong magnets, which I wanted to glue under the feet. I got a great product, very strong Neodym magnets:
I used superglue to fix one magnet under each foot and painted the magnets blue with a permanent marker. I did this to make the magnets disappear, when I would later apply the green/bluescreen effect. But during the first tests two problems came to the light: First the color of the permanent marker disappeared very quickly, when I moved the man over the ground. Second the superglue could not fix the magnets very well. I had to glue the magnets several times during the production. I used magnets in combination with an iron desk, which I found in our basement. In this way the figure could be animated.
When I was ready to start my setup looked like this. As you can see the magnets were also useful to fix the green screen on the metal-desk. I used two simple desktop-lights with 5400k bulbs and stole some furniture from a dolls-house. The furniture was fixed with glue pads.
I photographed with a manual setting using a Panasonic Digital Camera DMC-TZ 10. Before I had always relied on the automatic setting of the camera, but this time I tried to achieve a better quality. Because I planned to add myself later I let space and switched on the grid on the camera-screen. In this way I was able to control the right proportions. The story I want to tell goes as follows:
- Me walking, overlooking the laptop (“The book of wisdom”)
- Plastic man walking, finding the laptop
- Meeting of me and the plastic man, battling about the book
- The plastic man punches me and I fall to the ground
- The plastic man walks to the table and sits down
- He invites me to the table and also to sit down
- He opens the laptop
- I watch a movie of the battling-scene on the laptop and realize, that I am also a plasticman
- End titles
Shooting the pictures for the stop-motion took less time than finding the right setup. All photo-sequences were imported to iMovie. Then the different scenes were rendered separately. In some scenes I had to adjust the green-screen effect manually for all single photos to achieve a good quality. iMovie doesn’t offer to mask complex figures, but you can use a “cage” to apply the effect only to the desired area and you can remove additional color with an eraser.
If you are an attentive reader of this blog you know, that I complained in a previous article about iMovie (read here), but after I have upgraded to OS X El Capitan and could also upgrade my old iMovie-version I was surprised how much better the new version of iMovie works. I could not think of a better software, if you don’t have higher or professional expectations and needs.
Back to my movie-project: I rendered all stop motion-scenes and went on with the real video-shooting. I used a Panasonic HDC-SD 99, an older model, which I got for a good price on Ebay. This task was also challenging because of three reasons: I experienced, that the light is much more crucial in a bigger room and with shooting from a distance. Second I had to fight against wrinkles on the green blanket. Third most of my rooms were not big enough to show me from head to the feet. When I had found the right environment it looked like this:
With just one strong video-lamp available it was impossible to shoot without shadows. The insufficient light and the wrinkles caused many problems later. I fixed the green screen with wood-clamps. Now I understand, why professionals work with stiff green screens made of cardboard. With the assistance of my seven years old son I could finally start to film. I instructed him to look for the right placement of me on the grid and I orientated myself on some wrinkles on the ground to stop at the right positions.
The next photo is taken from a failed test with less light:
As you see the scene is not bright enough. I tried to save the scene with manual green screening. I encircled myself with green and filled the picture. But first it had been an immense effort and second the result was not better. Therefore I decided to shoot the scene again.
The last challenge happened, when I wanted to create a picture-in-picture effect during the Laptop close-up. Though iMovie is capable of this effect, it’s impossible to shape the picture to an unregular rectangle to keep the proportion of the Laptop. iMovie is just able to create regular rectangles. The problem could be solved in the software “Blender”, which offers enough properties.
When I had rendered all different scenes it was the time to cut the movie. Because it’s a music-video I imported the audio-track to iMovie at first and cut and moved the scenes to their planned positions. Some parts of the stop motion-videos were speeded up or slowed down to create a more natural movement. When I was satisfied with the result I rendered the movie. The final touch happened also in iMovie, as I applied a Filter-effect to the whole work to achieve a consistent look. A slight color-correction and the Filter “Hard light” did the job.
Looking at the final music-video I am quite happy with the result and I have learned a lot about video during the production.
Watch my music-video on Youtube