Monday, February 26, 2018

The Age of Invention: Filming

In the summer of 2016 I shot the live-action footage for a caveman comedy, which then went through extensive editing because of a faulty microphone and because I almost over-reached when I got to the FX work. But now it's finally looking like near completion, so it's time to start sharing the work on this project with you.

These two happy chaps are our heroes, from left to right, Andreas Pettersson and Joakim Strömgren. They were participants in a media project aimed at people with slight disabilities, for which I worked the better part of three years. Both of them have slight mental disabilities (and Andreas is almost blind in one eye), but they're quite independent and far less glum in their outlook on life than I usually am. Eventually this project ran its course, and nobody stepped in to finance or take over it, so it quietly died. However, by this point Andreas had bought his own camera and editing software, and started making his own short videos. I wanted to stay in touch with Andreas, Joakim and others from our group, so I concocted this film to keep working with them.

The story is basically about the invention of the wheel, and the ensuing problems. As usual I shot the whole thing in front of a green screen, but outdoors. The weather was fine up until the very last shot, after which it started to pour down.

Despite using this pretty primitive set up, I'm quite happy with how the composits in After Effects turned out. All backgrounds are pieced together in Photoshop using stock images. I used a warm filter to unify the final compositions.

The costumes are as plain as they can be. I bought two fur coats at a garage sale and cut them up to look like the traditional cartoon caveman garbs. I bought three cheap wigs online (the third comes into play in one part of the story), and the other props plus some stone age jewellery were culled from previous projects. You might wonder what the heck is going on in the photo above. Well, keep reading..

This arrangement is supposed to represent the intrepid inventors trying out the wheel for the first time. Joakim and Andreas are sitting on a couple of bar stools, draped over with a green screen. Apart from the legs of the stools disappearing down holes dug by the numerous moles that infest my garden, the set up worked quite well.

The actual locomotion of the venture is supposed to represent a circus act of a kind. It's not exactly a perfect effect, but the general idea seems to be communicated. Andreas right leg disappeared behind the green screened stool, so the right leg used in these shots is actually mine, shot separately and added in its own layer in AE.

The wheel is a real low-tech construction: Some bits of cardboard glued together and covered with a mix of latex and cabosil, painted grey. A wooden rod is attached to the backside, and I simply spin the contraption with my fingers in front of my camera, backed by a green screen.

This is what a final shot can look like. As you can see they're chased by a stop-motion bird, but there will also be other prehistoric critters in this film. No dinosaurs, though. I opted for slightly cartoonish post-dino creatures instead, since they're hardly ever represented on film.

In my coming posts I'll detail the making of these puppets, as per usual. Andreas and I are actually starting up a new group project for disabled people, where we'll focus on making short films. We have some valuable support from a Swedish educational organization, and later this year I'll be reporting about our escapades there. I'm sure it won't surprise you that there'll be some stop-mo critters appearing in those videos too.

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