When you’re shooting a scene that will use CGI or 3D Animation interacting with live action there are many precautions you as a filmmaker must take to ensure that you get what you need to make the shot work. Simply saying, “Oh we’ll fix it in post” will not work here, but with just a few easy steps you can be sure you’re getting what you need and saving yourself from many post-production migraines.
Below are 7 tips that I’ve picked up along the way and that I hope will help you out when you’re filming a scene that incorporates CG and 3D Animation so that you can get what you need to make sure your scene looks great!
1. Pre-Plan Everything!
The more pre-production and consulting you do with your 3D Animator the better! Remember only you know what you want and it’s your job as the filmmaker to effectively and thoroughly communicate to your Animator/CG Designer what it that you want so that they can make it a reality.
- Concept Art: Before you begin discussing what you want, you should first draw what it is you want (the more detailed the better). Now you don’t have to be an amazing artist, just a rough sketch will do for your jumping off point. Also, if you’re not creating a completely fictional object you can just find pictures of the actual object and present that to your CG Artist.
- The Dimensions: Once you’ve settled on how you want your design, the next thing you should discuss is the size and scale of the 3D object. This is not only important for the Animator but also plays a key role in directing your actors and framing your shots.
- Storyboards: draw out your scene so you and the CG Artist get a better idea for how much your 3D object interacts in your movie. You can also avoid some production and post-production headaches by doing this as well. Storyboards allow the Animator to tell you what is possible and what isn’t for your budget or equipment.
2. Record Your Camera Settings
When you’re shooting a shot that involves post-production 3D elements you’re going to want to record your cameras Position and Focal Length. By recording the position and focal length of your camera during the shoot it allows the CG Artist to match the virtual camera with your field camera making the perspective of your shot look accurate, resulting in a better end product.
3. Use Reference Objects and Photos
Reference is KEY! This will help everyone from cast, crew, to the 3D Animators. For Example: Say you want a rocket launcher to come out of the top of your car, some things you might want to do are: 1. Place an object that is similar in shape and size of your 3D rocket launcher at the top of your vehicle. This will let the CG Artist get a better idea of how big the rocket launcher is and it will help your actors have the correct eye line (if they are reacting to the rocket launcher). 2. If the rocket launcher is metal try placing a metal object in the place where the rocket launcher will appear – this will help your animators get a better idea of how they should light the 3D object and how light should interact/reflect with the metal in that shot. 3. If you don’t have reference objects, take photos of your surroundings. By taking pictures of your surroundings it will give the animators a better idea of where light is coming from or where the Sun is positioned (if it’s an exterior shot).
Note: The following tips are in NO way rules, they are simply suggestions that I feel will help you during production especially if you are new to shooting scenes that will later composite 3D animation.
4. Place Your Camera On A Tri-Pod
This will save you a lot of time in post-production as you will not have to motion track frame for frame your 3D objects. Now while you still can have camera movement in your shots, I just don’t recommend it for first time 3D filmmakers. Learn the basics first then step up your game on your next shoot. However, if you have a few extra bucks handy there are some great 3D motion tracking programs out there such as Pfhoe and dkad that will make tracking for those handheld camera shots extremely quick and easy.
5. Have Your Green Screen Handy
If you have your shots completely planned out then you will know ahead of time if you’ll need your green screen or not, but because we live in the film world we both know that improvisation and changes are made constantly and on the spot. The reason it is smart to have your green screen handy is in case you are not sure if your 3D object will cross paths with your real object or person. It only takes a second to set up a portable green screen and trust me it’s a lot easier to chroma a shot out in post then it is to motion track frame for frame.
So see, shooting scenes that will involve 3D animation are not that scary they just involve a lot of pre-production and really knowing what you what. Of course you can still pull off CGI shots without the above tips but if you want to make things easier on both you and the animator and save yourself tons of money then you are going to want to Pre-Plan Your Sequences or Shots, Record Your Camera Settings, and Use Reference Objects or Photos.
Hope this article helps you get a better understanding of what you need to do when planning to shoot a scene involving 3D Animation or CGI and will make the whole process seem a little less intimidating. Have Fun and Good Luck!
While we have already completed one sci-fi feature, we have just dipped our toe into integrating CG into our movies, so if some of you are more experienced on the subject and have some pointers you would think we omitted or should include, please chime in and share them in the comments area.
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Have A Great Weekend Everyone!