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How To Make Someone Fly (On a Budget)

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MENTOS: Case study

This project is a classic example of pre-production being the most powerful form of post-production. As ‘post-production people’, we know the practical limits of the idiom ‘fix it in post’. We’re always happy to ‘fix it in post’, but it will always look better if we shoot the elements carefully, thoughtfully, and deliberately, with a clear plan of how to assemble it in post-production.

This was a spec advert, meaning Mentos didn’t – and still probably doesn’t – know it exists. It wasn’t shot with fancy cameras and lenses, expensive lights, or a huge crew. It was about 4-6 people, a Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 4.6k, and some Sigma ART lenses, along with a golf-bag full of old quasars with gels zip-tied to them.

The conceit of the short film is that a young woman’s first kiss with a charming young man sends her flying into the stars. However it is revealed that it wasn’t the young man’s kiss, but the fresh minty Mentos he was chewing.

As the VFX supervisor (and director) I strove to light our greenscreen plates as accurately as possible to the environment we’d be compositing our talent into. This meant replicating movie theatre marquee lights as our leading lady left them below. It also meant animating lights to portray fireworks exploding in the background. For this, we used some cheap DMX hardware and a software package called ‘Millumin’.

We shot a variety of backplates with a little Mavic Air drone. We just did our best to match the ‘straight vertical’ motion of each drone pass: the extreme city background, the hero building, the theatre marquee, and the hotel marquee. We then stabilized each plate before compositing them together and generating a new upward camera move. The idea behind shooting drone plates rather than compositing still photography was to emulate the perspective shift on each 3-dimensional object.

Other little tricks which help to sell the piece are lens emulations: tasteful uses of glows (a nifty nuke gizmo named ‘expoglow’), lens flares which accurately move with relation to the camera (via OpticalFlares for Nuke), lens dirt which reacts to the light in the frame, a fairly aggressive film grain treatment.

Other than that, we strove to be as thoughtful as possible in pre-production, so that everything just slots into place in post-production!


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