This project teaches you how to take three actors and turn them into a large number of on-screen characters.

Planning is essential if you are trying to build a crowd. Fussy audiences will spot any replication or incongruous behaviour. Justin Hunt of Ember films shows how you need to be organised and shoot your takes in a methodical way if you want to have all the elements right.

As you’ll see when you get to try some of this footage in our Clone Project, there are two important things about the shoot which any VFX artist compositing this shot would appreciate; firstly the camera is ‘locked off’- it doesn’t move in any of the takes, so it’s easy to combine the ‘plates’ or layers. Secondly, the actors don’t stray from their assigned area - this reduces the embarrassment of one actor digitally intersecting another on screen!

If you are planning a shot like this, you might also want to factor in the weather and time of day. As we shot this scene the sun moved and the weather changed- meaning the background tarmac changed imperceptibly as we filmed. Shadows shifted and surfaces got drier and less reflective. So, try to minimise the time you spend on these shots and check the weather forecast too. It’s not wise to shoot at the end of the day in case you fall behind schedule and the sun starts to go down…

Filming for Cloning

Masking checklist

  • If the colour or contrast of the image in your mask is different to the background layer, then sometimes a large feather will help it sit better in the shot, as the edges become gradual.
  • A good way to keyframe a mask of particularly complex moves (say someone running in a zig zag across the scene) is to set keyframes at extremes (say every abrupt turn of the runner), and then set more again half way between those keyframes. And then half way between them…until the mask moves with the runner. It’s still easier than frame by frame!
  • You can change the opacity of your mask, say to 95%, which can subtly bring the image underneath through to help with making your object ‘sit’ in the shot. Too much and you turn them into ghosts!
  • Make sure you have enough points on your mask to accommodate future action in the shot. If you’ve put your actor into a rectangular mask and she starts ‘star-jumping’ later in the shot, you may have problems of overlap with other nearby characters. So, always look ahead through your footage.
  • You can keyframe backwards. Start with your difficult star-jumping actress and then move backwards with your keyframes.
  • Computers are dumb. If your mask isn’t blue in HitFilm, it’s not key-frameable!

NOW read the CASE STUDIES and complete the CROWD PROJECT