Behind the Scenes: Making Colin Fly

I thought I'd do a post to show how a special effects shot is created for the videos. It really depends on what's required as to whether I need full-on effects or not, but for the recent video for Gashapon Mini Action Maze Game, I needed quite a complex sequence.

The effect required for Colin the Robot to :

  • Approach a sign (defocused, and then focused) with "Free Flying Lessons" written on it
  • Walk onto a green 'track' (an enlargement of the miniature Gashapon game)
  • Be seen walking on the actual game itself (As if Colin was now somehow tiny)
  • A closeup of Colin with the real game seen behind him
  • The hand of The Curator coming in, flicking the action lever on the game
  • Seeing Colin being flipped up into the air and out of frame
Quite a lot!

So here's some screenshots and notes on how it was done:

I use iMovie as my editing software - its free with Macs and is a great program to get some professional results. Its easy to use, and also has quite a few in-built special effects tools. Nothing 'Hollywood' grade of course, but enough to visualise an idea. The results can often look 'low-fi', but I like that feel - makes it feel vintage :)


Free Flying Sign

Ive previously made real miniature signs for videos, but for speed I decided to do the signs Digitally for this one. I screen captured a still of a clip where I'd previously used a sign, and then pulled it into Photoshop:


Next I pulled in a still from the new footage of Colin:

Then I positioned the sign where I wanted it to appear on screen:

And then I cut out the sign and added in a shadow for effect:

 Then I digitally pained over the sign to give me a blank canvas:

 And finally, I used a font to approximate a hand-written message and also drew an arrow:
The final file (a PNG) has a transparent background that I can then overlay over the live video shot.

I did two version (not shown) - one blurred and one in focus, for the two required shots.
Fake Gashapon Track

First thing was to make a fake Gashapon track. I use 'Fun Foam' - its cheap, easy to cut and has a thickness that allows you to make shapes out of it.






The first job is to mark out what's needed using a regular pen (the cool one with birds on it - very pro)


Then, I carefully cut out the shapes with a craft knife. I'd drawn the shape in reverser of what I needed, so I could flip the cut out pieces over and not see the pen marks.


Then I just put the shapes onto another sheet - I didn't need to glue them down, and that meant that the clean sheet can be used for something else another time.  You can see the actual game here - I was approximating the lower left corner (it didn't have to be exact as it would be seen in close up)

You may notice that the green of the Fun Foam is darker than that of the game - that's something that we need to fix.


Colour correction

I do a lot of this during editing to try and get all the shots to match up as best I can - when you adjust lighting or just put something different in front of the lights, to colour and brightness of what you shoot can change slightly. Luckily, iMovie has tools to help you adjust and compensate.

But the green of the fake track needs a little more - it needs to be a much more vibrant shade of green.

So this is where I turn to Photoshop. It doesn't have to be that, but its a program I have on hand.


Above you can see the original shot I took using the fake track, with Colin walking over it.


After dropping the video into Photoshop and adding some colour adjustments to only the greens, I was able to increase the vibrancy of it to match the real game.


Green Screen Colin

Green screen (or Chroma Key) is the digital effect of using a colour (blue or green) as a mask in a video shot. Effectively, anything in shot green or blue can be digitally removed by a computer, allowing you to se another video or photo behind it as a background.

iMovie has this effect built into it, and I've used it for a lot of effects.

I needed a shot of Colin walking across the miniature game, so I shot him on the same sheet of Fun Foam we saw earlier. Here's the shot pulled into Photoshop:


Only the green will be removed - so I need to extend it to mask out the white tabletop:
And here it is overlaid over the original shot:


And then I use colour filters to brighten the green - this helps the Green Screen process:
I used the above as is for the closer shot of Colin, using a clip of the miniature game I'd shot as a background.

But for a second shot, he needed to be much smaller. iMovie doesn't allow you to reduce the size of a green screen overlay (you can reduce regular video overlays, but not both at the same time)

So in Photoshop I reduce the size of Colin, and extended the green even further. I then exported that new video, and used it for the shot of him walking in miniature across the game, and interacting with the shot of The Curator's hand toying with the controls.


Making Colin Fly

Final shot is the animation where Colin flies of screen. This was done entirely in Photoshop, using its in-built animator. I cut out Colin, and created six frame of him flying off into that air, then output that as a video file with a green layer behind it:






I even added in some fake motion blur to make it look a little more realistic!

The final shot needed of a burred background behind Colin, is just a closeup of another shot of the miniature game, closely cropped and placed behind a shot of colin I took with green behind him:









And after all that, here's the finished scene (at the end of the video) - hope it was worth it!



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