The Zombie Casserole Chronicles – Part Eight

A misplaced light stand could ruin your day, but it doesn’t need to ruin a take.  To the left is a still from a scene in Zombie Casserole.  To give it some context, Dawn (Hanh Nguyen) has just hung up with Wally (Andrew Prokurat).  She’s about to tend to her zombie husband, Chuck (Bruce Clifford).  The clip is a transition between the phone call and Dawn tying a tie for Chuck.  It provides some continuity, but has a few flaws that are entirely my own.  I was working the camera and there are two rather egregious mistakes.

The first one should be easy to spot. There a prominent light pole on the far left edge of the frame.  A background in photography may have worked against me.  If you don’t like something at the edge of a photo, you can easily crop it out.  Not so much with video.  You need to live with everything you have in the frame. The other problem is a little more subtle.  Even during editing, I didn’t pick up on it right away. There’s a small mirror just behind the lamp on a night stand on the right.  You can see my shoulder and the camera.

If we had another clip without these errors, I would have happily used them.  Editing is time consuming enough when just sorting, selecting and ordering clips.  If I can avoid having to do any fine editing I will. That just wasn’t the case here.  There are no light-stand free takes of this scene. If it had only been the mirror, I might have let it go.  We’re not trying to win an Academy Award for editing, here. As long as I’m committed to editing out the light stand, I may as well take care of the mirror, too.

I started out by clone stamping and manually painting the night stand out of the scene directly in Adobe Premier and that was working fine and well until Dawn’s elbow moves across the light stand. The painted areas applied to the entire scene.  As there were a few dozen, adjusting them individually is more than I’m willing to do.  Enter plan B: Find a tutorial.  Surely, I’m not the first one with a need to remove an object from a scene.  A Simple Object Removal instructional video fit the bill.

I’m not going to repeat it verbatim.  The instructor does a much better job of it in the video than I could do in text, but I’ll summarize.

  1. Export a still image from After Effects.
  2. Edit out the offending object in Photoshop.
  3. Crop it down to the area that’s affected and save the image.
  4. Import the image back to your After Effects project.
  5. Create a mask to allow for the actor or other objects to appear in front of the object.

I created two small edited images, one for the light stand and one for the mirror.  I only had to create a mask around the light stand. While I didn’t need to mask around the mirror since Dawn doesn’t cross in front of it, I did make a small mask so that only the mirrored surface is substituted in the clip.  The shadows change slightly as Dawn gets up.  Without the mask around the mirror, you would see a distinct contrast between the change of light and shadow in the clip and the image.  There is a line of contrast on the left of the completed clip after Dawn walks off the scene. It’s subtle enough that I think I’ll let that go as the focus is on Dawn rather than the walls behind her.

Special effects aren’t always so special. Taking the extra time is worth it when you have no other choice. Not making the mistake in the first place is a better option.

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