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Joseph Belschner

The freeze frame cinematography.

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I am looking into achieving the look of having the main character walking into a frozen frame of action (I.e. The James Blake video for "retrograde"). The format has not been decided, but most likely video. Any input would be great.

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Combining two bits of action which appear to happen at different speeds will always require compositing - you can drop a normal-speed person into a freeze-framed background simply by shooting the person against a green screen. It's possible to do the required keying work to a decent standard on reasonably affordable software. If you want the normal-speed person to move behind or among frozen objects or people, you could either shoot the frozen elements against green and create a multi-layer composite, or rotoscope to create the required matte. If the moment is truly frozen, you should only require one pass at drawing around everything, which may be a worthwhile caveat to save time on set.


If you want slow motion in some objects and not others, but no camera movement, you simply need to find a camera that will shoot the required slow motion material. Cheap options include the Sony FS700, all the way up to a Vision Research Phantom, which will come with its own minder and cost one internal organ per day


If you want camera movement, things become significantly more complicated. It is possible for motion control camera cranes to perform the same move twice at different speeds, so you can have synchronised action at various speeds in the same shot. Combine this with multi-layer composites for action at one speed happening in front of and behind action happening at another and you've got a reasonably complicated visual effects supervision effort to organise. This is also likely to be expensive, since a motion control crane will require specialist crew and take significant setup time. If you want to move it around and shoot on location, doubly so.


If you want truly frozen moments with camera movement, you'll need to look into a matrix-style "bullet time" camera arrays, and then matching the same apparent move with motion control. At these levels of sophistication, it rapidly becomes easier to computer generate anything that possibly can be computer generated to simplify the required setups.


There, I think that covers more or less all your options, in rough order of complication!



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