Piedra sola

Through december 2019 I had the opportunity to work on an independent film called “Piedra Sola” (“Lonely Stone”) which was a nominee for the tiger competition in the IFFR. I was stabilising footage, removing unwanted objects, adding effects such as fire and smoke, and fixing mistakes made during filming. I was working closely with my friend and university colleague Eduardo. Together we workshopped solutions to many requests made by the film’s director and producer.

Here are 4 of the shots I worked the most on (the shots are actually much longer, these are short clips from them):

Effigies, close

In this shot, an idol is carried and placed onto a fire to be burned. The director wanted the shot to be stabilized, and also wanted the sky to be more dramatic, and to fit better with the following shot. I used After effects to roto/key out the mountains, flames and characters, MochaAE to track and stabilize the shot, and added a new sky texture that was provided.

Effigies, far

This shot is supposed to be set a few minutes after the last one, however it was actually recorded first. As such, the fire is a completely different shape, since it had not burned down yet, and the effigies had not yet been placed to burn. The producer was also not happy with the small size of the flames and very little smoke they got out of it. My solution to the continuity was to clone out the old fire above the embers, replace it with some fire and sparks assets from a larger fire, add some smoke (which was distorted and blurred to fit the scene/notes from the producer) and to add back in the figures in the foreground.

I grabbed the figures from the previous scene. I took a still image of it, cut them out, flipped them horizontally (the camera is facing the other direction) added a heat haze warping, erased portions of it, that would have burned more quickly, and added fake lighting from the fire.

House, far – Chimney smoke effect

This smoke asset I created was not used in the final production, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out. The director wanted a column of smoke from a chimney to lead the eye down to a house. I tried a few different approaches including smoke assets and a fluid sim, however I found the best result came from a particle effect made in after effects.

Ultimately the director changed his mind on having a smoke column, but I am super happy with this effect.

Profile, with smoke

Youtube compression makes it a little difficult to see the movement of the smoke, that shows clearly on a cinema screen in 4K. I have added arrows to better show the effect.

Eduardo was working on this shot, where the character is in profile, looking towards a fire. The producer wanted some of the smoke to be in the foreground, and to flow around the character, and over his face and shoulders. Eduardo was trying to get a smoke simulation to do this, however I found a much more efficient solution, that took much less time to complete. I created a perlin noise effect that billows and evolves over time, then had it travel to the right.

I then added a mesh warp effect over this. I distorted the path that the smoke takes, causing it to flow around areas I chose, to speed up and slow down as pressure changes, and to become more turbulent behind the character. The effect is then animated, both to react to the character making small movements, and to ensure no repetitive patterns in the smoke are visible.

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