Hovering Lights

001_010 Shot Breakdown.

April 27, 2015

Starting off easy to see if this is gonna work or if it’s too confusing.

This was a very simple shot, designed simply to introduce May’s character and the whole instagram-point-of-view thing. Since there’s a crazy TV in the room, I thought I could enhance that feeling by adding some flickering to May’s face, using The Kick. We set it to a bright blue tone and Petar shaked it at random intervals aiming at the wall, so the light would bounce back on her face without harsh shadows and in a very soft way that could be understood as a flickering TV.

When in post, the effect wasn’t as clear as I thought it would, too subtle, almost invisible, so it was time to try and enhance it. Happily, while checking the separate RGB channels I noticed that the blue hue of the light was very represented in that channel, but not on the others. Isolating the blue channel I still had an alpha that was too “diffuse”, including the side of her face that shouldn’t be so affected by the light.

Looking at the red channel, it could be used to “focus” my current mask on the desired areas. So I subtracted the red channel values from my current blue, blurred and increased contrast, of course, and got an alpha that looked like this and its area of effect behaves accordingly to the light flickers on the wall. When there’s no bounce, there’s very little white on the alpha.

Next step was to create a grade that represented the glowing areas. TVs are 5600K or 65000K screens, while most indoor lighting is 3200K, so the glow had to be bluer than my current white balance. Also soft, because May doesn’t have her face right up against the screen and not too intense for the same reasons.

Then, the last trick was to input the alpha as a mask to this grade and add a random expression to its mix, setting the minimum value at 0.5, which guarantees that the glow won’t ever be entirely off, but can flicker much more (and faster) than Petar’s movements, giving it more of an digital feeling from the cuts and changes of lighting on the imaginary TV screen – yes, I have watched TV without looking at the screen just to see how its light should act. And it does look like this.

It’s much more interesting in movement, but this GIF will have to do for the breakdown. The full reel is coming out soon enough.