I'm developing a stop motion project that will require some removal of rods, and their shadows, but I'm having trouble figuring out the process. My current plan is to shoot two passes for each frame, one with the rod, and then a plate with it removed, so I should be able to paint out the rod and shadows (I may also have green tape on the rod to try to key it out to save some painting time). But is After Effects the place to do that, or Photoshop? And can anyone tell me where to get good info on how, exactly, to do that? I'm not finding any tutorials that are very useful.

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Hi Owen,

That's a great question, and I don't think there's only one answer. The good news is you only need to shoot one clean plate. You don't need two passes for each frame unless your camera is moving. If your camera is locked off, you only need to shoot one clean plate, either as your first frame or your last frame. Import the frames into Photoshop. Each frame is a layer. Put your clean plate on the bottom layer. On each frame with your rig, select the rig (and its shadows!) with the lasso tool in Photoshop and hit delete, exposing the clean plate where the rig was. Flatten the file and save it as a new image. Repeat repeat repeat. It is tedious, but it will work.  There is a way to do this in After Effects, but I don't use that program. I'm sure someone here will chime in with another way to do it. 

Good luck!

Dawn

Thanks Dawn. The issue for me is that there will be animation behind the rod and its shadow, rather than a static BG, so I believe I do need to shoot a clean plate for every frame that will need to have rod removal done. I'm hoping to find a way to streamline the process, but I'm not familiar with AE. Hopefully, like you said, someone else may chime in on this one.

Owen


Dawn Brown said:

Hi Owen,

That's a great question, and I don't think there's only one answer. The good news is you only need to shoot one clean plate. You don't need two passes for each frame unless your camera is moving. If your camera is locked off, you only need to shoot one clean plate, either as your first frame or your last frame. Import the frames into Photoshop. Each frame is a layer. Put your clean plate on the bottom layer. On each frame with your rig, select the rig (and its shadows!) with the lasso tool in Photoshop and hit delete, exposing the clean plate where the rig was. Flatten the file and save it as a new image. Repeat repeat repeat. It is tedious, but it will work.  There is a way to do this in After Effects, but I don't use that program. I'm sure someone here will chime in with another way to do it. 

Good luck!

Dawn

I reckon if you have something moving behind you will need a different approach, which is to shoot the scene without the foreground character and its rig. Then repeat the shot with the foreground character only and a small green screen, so it can be keyed out easily. The screen could be mounted on the rig base and the arm could have some cloth on it. The reason for shooting the foreground character in the same set is so the light falls on it the same and it casts shadows onto the set.

Then in AE you composite the two together after keying out the green screen, and perhaps masking the rod if necessary. No need to use Photoshop in this case. One tip with AE is to make the foreground shot into its own composition, that way you can alter the parameters easily, even when it has been dropped into the main comp. I have done this with several live-action characters dropped into a model set. They were each filmed separately against a green screen and the scene was 'stitched' together in a comp then dropped into the set and the positions finessed to make them fit.

Of course you could just do the two passes without the little green screen, but you would be masking everything except the foreground character and their shadow anyway. You'll need to pay attention to any interaction between foreground and background that could cause a problem. Having a shadow cast onto the background (painted in) would help to marry the two together. 

If you are moving the camera in the shot, you would need to do it with a motion control rig that can accurately return to the exact starting point to duplicate the move. 

There's a great video from the VFX supervisor on Boxtrolls showing how the pros tackle multiple things going on in the same shot. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XE6lEqGGgk

And here's a link to a rig removal video made by an SMA member: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LrqudKvof8

And another video showing detail of rig removal in After Effects using Keylight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvp-9b5e_OM&t=437s

I reckon this might also be of interest. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmxszcAfcRo

All a lot easier at small scale! But the principles are the same.

If the camera is moving, or things are moving behind the rod, you will have to shoot each frame twice.    Ideally you have a rig where the puppet and rod can swing out of shot on a hinge, then return to the same spot.  But if you can't do that, you just have to line it up again each time you put the puppet back in.  Dragon frame will let you shoot 2 sets of images, so you can click back to the last one where the puppet is in the set, to line it up.  The clean background frames will be in a different folder, and you can look through those as well if you select them.

Otherwise, you shoot the character separately, on a green screen, and composite it over the action in the background.  That way you just paint the rod out with green, before keying it out in After Effects.

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