Thursday, 17 December 2020

Shadow Play

Being as I seem to be playing with light a fair amount at the moment (see older posts for details), I continued this in my next clip with a slight deviation to exploring shadows. Having never really worked with shadows before, it was a subject I definitely wanted to try out.

I didn’t have an idea what to do going into this mini project, but found a clip I really wanted to animate as I loved the framing and the movement of the character, so I decided to use that as my starting point. Perhaps a bit of a backwards way of working, but I find ideas from lots of different starting points, rather than just the ‘traditional’ or ‘obvious’ ones. I loved how the shadows from what I assume are trees appear across her as she walks and that was something I wanted to replicate.

The original footage

Before getting to the ‘fun part’ though, I needed to rotoscope the character. I wanted to do this differently than a standard outline, so went for a quite chunky brush. I haven’t worked with a thick outline like this for a while, so it seemed like an appropriate time to go back to it. I knew it would work as I have used it previously and as this clip was more about the shadows than the character, I didn’t mind using a style I had used already. Again, to colour her, I used familiar block colours which I know work.


I still had another step before moving on to adding the shadows: the background. I didn’t want a plain background as I wanted to contextualise the character, but I didn’t want to spend hours and hours rotoscoping the footage from the clip, because it wasn’t an exercise in background. I decided to put the background frames through a couple of filters in photoshop, before altering them further in After Effects, where I composited the project. I tried to make them more ‘cartoony’ or animated looking. Looking back, I think this still needs further work as it looks too close to the original footage, but as said I didn’t want this to be a time sucker as it’s not about the background, so just left them without further additions. I think it gives the right impression anyway.


So, now for the fun bit! As always I wasn’t totally sure how to do this when going into it (I bet you can see a familiar theme here, right?!), but I did have an idea. The idea was to draw some shapes which could represent tree shadows (very impressionistic ones):


Ok, yes, I know it just looks pretty random at this point, but stick with me here! I then brought it into After Effects and set the position key frames so it moved from right to left (the opposite way to her walking so it didn’t look like it was following her). I then added some blur, took down the opacity, added a ‘wiggle’ expression and a couple of magnifiers so when the shapes were on her they looked more 3D.

At first, it was a little hard to get the timing right and I ended up having to make the shadow file longer in length (it went from 6000x1080 to 9000x1080), which ended up being the right length for the speed I wanted it to be moving at.


I felt the shadows turned out really nicely and looked quite realistic. They definitely gave me the effect I wanted to create and perhaps turned out a little ‘better’ than what I was expecting. If I require shadows in this context again, I will be sure to use this style. 

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