David Whittet's Blog
Family Physician and Film Maker

Art which conceals Art

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Painstaking effects editing with Final Cut Pro


There’s an old saying in the Indy film making community that encapsulates the film makers’ dedication to their art: film making is not matter of life and death, it’s far more important than that!

I found myself musing over this quotation today as I worked on perfecting a particularly tricky effect in Amiri & Aroha. I am preparing viewing copies of the film for competition entry, taking on board recent feedback, including that from the British festival, and making some key enhancements for the next round of international film festivals.

I recently commented on the endless list of Digital Compositors on the titles in the commercial cinema and the satisfaction I feel as an independent film maker from making ever last edit and effect myself.

This scene is a case in point. Kōkā, the soothsayer, strokes her crystal ball and conjures up visions of events yet to happen in the film. To bring the scene to life, I decided to put fire and lightening into the crystal ball. I achieved this by overlaying an image of the lightening into the shot of the crystal ball (a technique we call compositing). My task was made all the more difficult as in the original camera shot, the actresses’s right index finger protrudes in front of the ball (see the screenshots below). Overlaying the fire and lightening onto the shot resulted in Kōkā’s finger being cut off behind the lightening! It took some very complex compositing work to restore the finger in front of the crystal ball and make it look real, complete with a shadow of the crystal ball on Kōkā’s finger.

If I have succeeded, and the audience are engrossed in the story, they will be totally unaware of the mountain of work behind this shot. Art which conceals art.

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The camera original shot with the actress’s right index finger in front of the crystal ball

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The intermediate composite, with the actress’s finger cut off by the overlay of the lightening in the crystal ball

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The final composite shot with the lightening within the crystal ball and the actress’s finger in front of the crystal ball with a subtle reflection of the electrical energy on her finger!