Look Inside - compositing

SENIOR COPYWRITER AND FILM DIRECTOR. I help company owners humanise their brands by telling authentic, immersive stories that inspire, entertain and educate us.
Look Inside_compositing

SHIONA PENRAKE, Writer/Director/Editor of 'Look Inside'

One of the things I love about filmmaking is the challenge of crafting visuals to be the best they can look. Ordinarily, you shouldn’t plan to fix things in post, but In the case of my latest short film ‘Look Inside’, there was no way of avoiding this end result because the set we were filming in was white and cast and crew were moving around it for the duration of the shoot, so inevitably it got dirty. And being mostly white, this left me with a lot of blemishes to remove in post.

The entire film is set in a white room with 8 walls and 8 uniquely designed doors. I chose the colour white as it evoked emptiness and isolation – it’s like a blank canvas, which Estelle must transform using her imagination. 

But as we all know, white is the worst colour to maintain. Even more difficult, the paint we had wasn’t waterproof, so when we poured water on the floor for the crying scenes, the paint would dissolve, revealing the green stage floor underneath. And our actress, Lydia Barnes, found herself slopping around in the white paint. We had to wipe her knees before every take during that part of the film.

Here’s an example of the green floor showing through during the Sports Door scene when the camera tilted down to the clothes that Estelle drops. 

To remove these marks, I imported the shot into After Effects and applied a small mask by creating a solid colour layer and using the pen tool to customise its shape. I matched the colour of the white floor by applying the Ramp effect, which allows you to create a gradient and not just a solid colour. I animated the mask’s position in nearly every frame so it covered the green marks. It wasn’t difficult, just a bit tedious, but at least it got my floor looking good as new again.

I then applied masks to the rest of the film to cover the dirt on the floor and the drill holes on the door frames. This took me about two months to do this, working in my spare time. It was pretty gruelling. My dad, who produced ‘Look Inside’, thought I was going overboard with the compositing, but I couldn’t simply un-see those blemishes. I wanted the film to be as perfect as possible.

The task became more difficult as the lighting grew dimmer in the later scenes. There were more colour tones that I had to match, which looked fine as a still image, but when I previewed the whole video, the colours on the mask shifted, creating strange bars that completely distracted you from watching the film. My heart sank when I saw this. I had to scrap these compositing efforts – they just didn’t work.

So I tried again using other effects instead of masks. For the dirt on the floor, I applied an effect called Dust & Scratches to blur out the dirt on the floor, instead of replacing the floor with a solid colour.

I discovered a neat effect called CC Simple Wire Removal, which is primarily used to cover wires on stunt shots. I used this to cover the holes on the door frames. This worked really well.

I still have a few niggles, but that’s always the case with any project you do, I think. Hopefully, the compositing work I did has enhanced your viewing of the film.