I’d like to follow up yesterday’s post by giving a few examples of ways that simple and cheap digital effects can improve the average low-budget film. The most obvious and probably the most useful tool in post production is digital color correction. Almost every software-based non-linear editor can adjust the hue, saturation, and levels of any video clip. This is important for those filmmakers shooting on video who would like to emulate, or at least simulate, the warmth and depth of film.
And as handy as those simple controls are, compositing programs like After Effects and Shake can accomplish much more. Individual parts of a scene can by isolated and tweaked. Sharpening or blurring can emphasize or obscure certain details. Minor camera shakes can be fixed. Glows and blooms can be added to highlights. Specific colors can even be altered, turning green spring foliage into a warm autumnal environment.
But sometimes changing what already exists isn’t enough, and new image data must be added. Video captures much less color depth than film, so when the camera is exposed for an actor’s face, the sky behind him will probably be completely blown out. With the right equipment and good polarizing filters, some of the sky’s color may be salvageable, but with highly compressed 8-bit DV video, it’s more likely to be pure white. This is where sky replacement can come in.
For years now, Hollywood effects houses have been adding new sky and cloud elements to locked-off plates when the images need more dramatic kick, or they needed to simulate weather that wasn’t available on the set. However, this is now a very simple procedure for anyone with a basic working knowledge of almost any compositing package, and skies can now be tracked to moving and even hand-held shots. Andrew Kramer has an excellent tutorial on how this is done.
Adding an image as simple as a blue sky or a few clouds can instantly make an image much richer and more filmic, and with a little planning on the set, you can shoot images that will integrate with dramatic sunsets and moving clouds, as shown below: