Michael Butler of Studio 496 recently produced a short utilizing compositing and the Kessler Cineslider to help create a very unique atmosphere. We had a chance to talk a little about his film.
Kessler University (KU): Tell me a little about yourself.
Michael Butler (MB): I have been a still photographer for years and felt the need to move into video to tell a more complex story. I have always been fascinated by the concept of time. There simply aren’t enough tools to show time in still photography. That brought me into slow motion and time-lapse. Like most of us – I have a day job too – I am a software development consultant in the Seattle area.
KU: I would love to know a little about the concept of the film. You’ve created a nice atmosphere.
Several years ago I arrived to photograph an enormous cedar tree in the Olympic National Forest. When I arrived I found that the trunk of the tree had been decorated with red tulips – the flowers were very fresh. I photographed the tree always thinking in the back of my head “who did this?” It haunted me for years – not just who – but what spiritual part of us is driven to such transient works of art. Always I return to the Earth Mother as the primary influence. I sketched out this short piece and took some time off from work to shoot it.
KU: I also love the grade you have applied to the piece. How did you approach this?
The piece was shot with the Panasonic GH2, Nikon d7000, and the Nikon D300s(IR modified at LifePixel). I decided to keep the feel very light so I added a lot of diffusion. The color scheme was setup in SA Color Finesse in After Effects. Each shot was diffused, and color corrected in AE before being assembled into the final project in Adobe Premiere.
KU: The compositing was great as well. Can you shed some light on how you accomplished this?
I wanted the actor (Hannah Stern) to be the personification of the Earth Mother spirit. She should never be a concrete presence – just a trace. The Kessler gear was a perfect fit. All of the shots with Hannah were taken in 2 steps using the CineSlider and the Oracle controller. First, a clean shot was made without the actor. Immediately I would shoot 2 or 3 takes with Hannah in the scene. All shots used the same Oracle program to move the slider. The clean shot and the best take are synchronized in AE – since the Oracle moves are identical – this is easily done by dropping the opacity of one layer and moving the other until they are perfectly registered. The opacity is keyframed to provide the desired effect.
This process allows you to have a moving camera with a “ghost” effect – something you normally see with a locked off camera. Additionally – you can have elements between the camera and the talent that perfectly register providing a convincing look.
KU: What was it like using the Kessler gear on the shoot?
The Kessler gear performed flawlessly on the shoot. I took it everywhere with no problems. Since this was being shot in public places the kit was light, CineSlider and Oracle. The GH2 shots were done on the Kessler gear to achieve the “ghost” effect. Also – the Kessler Camera Control Module was used with the CineSlider and Oracle to get all of the time-lapse footage. I could pre-plan all of the moves with specific equipment making it easy to setup when I arrived at the location.
KU: What can we expect next from you?
I’m planning a project that explores shadows in the inner city corridors. Seattle is an extremely photogenic city and I’m hoping to take advantage of that. I’m especially looking forward to getting some time-lapse work done in the rain – this may be a bit dicey for the equipment – we’ll see.