About an hour ago I completed the first vfx shot for Mach III. It's one of 50 visual effects shots for the Swedish segment of our film. It's a small step but it's great to finally have a shot in the can. Our VFX shots run the gamut from simple comp work to full CG shots. A handful of shots, (like the one I just finished) require animated gauges and dials. Unfortunately, most of the readouts in our "insert" cockpit at the aviation museum looked like this:
We needed to figure out a way to bring the instrumentation in this cockpit back to life for our film.
There's quite a few ways to accomplish the effect of guage movement. I considered modeling CG gauges, or using motion graphics in After Effects. Ultimately, I decided the quickest and most efficient way of creating moving instrumentation would be to do it practically .
So, I purchased a $12 motorcycle speedometer off Amazon, took it apart, and rigged its odometer to a drill. Then we lit the odometer with a near identical lighting setup to our live action plate. I adjusted the odometer to the numeric value we needed for the shot and let it rip! To my surprise it worked out great for such a simple solution.
Our rig for shooting the odometer
Odometer in action
I stabilized, roto'd, and tracked the odometer shots into our live action plates of the instrument panels. After a few hours of finesse, the shots came together quite nicely! Having live action gauge footage gives it that realistic aesthetic while only taking a fraction of the time it would have taken to do a CG shot.
I've got lots of practical VFX gags like the one above that I'm anxios to try out for Mach III. I'll be sure to share what works and what flops as I go. Keep an eye out for the aforementioned odometer shot in our upcoming trailer!
SR-71 Pilot Self Portrait - Brian Shul
Moving from post to pre-production, Andy and I shot some tests last Monday. A huge weight was lifted off our shoulders, I'm feeling very relieved. One of our biggest concerns with shooting the American pilots was the reflections in the high altitude helmet. As you can see in the above image when the sun visor is pulled down the helmet literally turns into a mirror.
Prepping for our front projection test
Andy and I played around with a handful of techniques trying to re-create this look. We front projected clouds on a 15 foot screen in front of the helmet. This technique worked to an extent, but 15 feet was far too small. If we had access to a space that could support a 75-100 foot screen, this effect would work. But since we don't have the budget of Oblivion, it looks like I'll be digitally adding reflections for a handful of the shots with the sun visor lowered.
As you can see, we need a massive screen to fill the helmet.
On the upside, as soon as the tinted visor was raised, things started looking up. The clear visor on the helmet had little to no reflection. Which will make my life much easier in post. As soon as we played around with using big diffused light sources and added a little bit of lens flare, our shots really started to sing!
Our test shoot has me really stoked to shoot the second half of Mach III. Filming people wearing space helmets just looks plain cool. You'd be hard pressed to come up with bad angles to shoot a space suit. I'm looking forward to another round of test shoots in our staged SR cockpit later in the month.
Huge relief when we found how little the clear visor reflected the environment. Now to figure out how to deal with the fog...