Friday, May 4, 2012

Wade in the Water

One of the reasons we picked the particular 10 second segment we did was because it would be hard. Water is a big part of the segment, and we wanted to give our effects team something challenging to work on.

Because our project blends live action and animation, we had to decide which process to use to create the water. While animation might be simpler (read: less messy) real water just has such a beautiful quality, so we wanted to try that out first.

You know those plays that take place on a boat or in the ocean, and to create the water they move two long sheets of paper or wood in a sawing motion across the stage? They create a depth to the stage that indicates, foreground and background without actually dumping gallons of water on the stage floor, and guests. That's *kind of* what we wanted to do with the water images at first - stylistically, it would look very much like a diorama or stage 

Our effects team started out with a small aquarium. They filmed the hard edge of the water on the front of the aquarium and moved the water to create waves. They then took that image and moved it in to After Effects to adjust the color of the water, and then layered it just like they would have on a stage to create foreground and background.

As awesome as that process was, it turned out this look just wasn't right for our scene. The 2 dimentionality of the image just didn't capture that beautiful thing we love so much about water - the way it catches light. Also, the size of the waves wasn't right, no matter what they tried.

We realized we needed three things: 1) more water 2) a different angle 3) and outside light. Luckily, we know someone with a pool.

Using a $2 tablecloth attached to some PVC pipe as a green screen, we got to work. We angled the camera so it would grab the hard edge of the water against the green screen this time, and the waves we would catch in the foreground played with the light. Angling the shot this way will allow us to layer the image and create that stylized 'theater water' look, but it will have the right light.  

After just the first few shots, we knew we were getting images that would work. I can't wait for you to see it. 

More than anything, this project proved one very important thing: our effects team is so resourceful and creative and awesome. Any roadblock we hit, they found away over, around or through it.