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Lost Boys - School of VFX - Ghost Project Showcase

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Lost Boys - School of VFX - Ghost Project Showcase

Lost Boys Studios | School of Visual Effects - Ghost Project Showcase
Visual Effects Diploma Program, 2010-2011

We are coming up on the Christmas holiday season and one of our Class 8 ghost projects was inspired by the "Christmas Carol" which we revered to as "Scrooge"

Hope you enjoy and Seasons Greetings!

Behind the scenes "Scrooge!", "Asylum" & Ghost.

If you take a look at many of the current television shows and blockbuster movies you will observe scenes with ghost, spirits or apparitions. These apparitions are often created using real or live action background plates with green or black screen ghost character plates and practical elements (smoke, oil, sparkles, etc.) composited together to create stunning ethereal effects.

Filming on an outdoor rig for "Scrooge!". Photo Credit: Michael Balzer.

During their first term at Lost Boys, students are asked to create a shot in which a ghost can be inserted into a scene. The goal is to create a believable cohesion between the various 2D elements with consideration of focal length, camera height and other real world limitations. The Ghost Project requires the students to work entirely within our compositing software NUKE, to hone their compositing skills using matchmoving, rotoscoping and masking. The students are involved in shooting live action background plates and green-screen character plates. In addition to other available elements, the students can use a variety of "cloud-tank" elements (the cloud-tank is a re-purposed fish tank that is set up with a black light in which we shoot a variety of substances including fluorescent ink, egg whites, cream and sparkles). The students are only provided four weeks from start to finish for the Ghost Project. The timeline includes finding relevant film reference, designing their idea, scouting locations, arranging costumes and actors, and filming plates.

The 2010/2011 class worked together and created two short story sequences. The first was "Scrooge!", a tribute to "A Christmas Carol" and the second "The Asylum", inspired by a sequence in the videogame “Fatal Frame”. Both Ghost projects were shot on the Canon 5D and supervised by VFX Mentor Mark Benard at Lost Boys Studios - School of Visual Effects. Actors in "Scrooge!" were Jason Tranetzki as Scrooge and Gregory Watkins as Marley. Actors in "The Asylum" were Gustavo Kasai as the Reporter, Michael Balzer, Miguel Ponce and Heather Sabourin as the ghosts.


[B](PART 2)

Gregory Watkins - Student[/B]

“I selected the "Scrooge!" project, as it was recognizable, I knew what it was about. I liked that there were specific references to draw from.

I was inspired by the ghost effect that was used in the recent animated "A Christmas Carol" movie. The ghosts had a wispy, smoky, ethereal effect around the edges, which I wanted to try to recreate. Trying to track the smoke effect to the ghost became very complicated. I was using a 3D reference, and trying to recreate it with a 2D image. All the smoke elements naturally drift and dissipate over time. I needed the smoke to cling and follow the ghost. It required creating multiple tracking points and several smoke layers. I even tried to construct a 2D procedural, but found the (cloud tank) smoke elements gave a more believable effect.

I really enjoyed playing the role of Jacob Marley. Filming of the character became a bigger production than I initially thought. Special make-up was applied and then I was dressed in costume and suspended on an outdoor rig in front of the green screen. After the project was finally composited together, I was really pleased with the results.”

Compositing by Gregory Watkins

Michael Balzer - Student

"I chose "The Asylum" ghost project, as I really liked the darker environment and the concept of the ghost only being seen through the lens of the camera.

For the creation of my ghost, I was inspired by scenes from two movies - the dream sequences in "Harry Potter" and the way Nightcrawler, from the "X-Men", appeared and disappeared. I wanted a contrast between light and dark (good and evil), so I chose to use ink and fire elements to portray my ghostly apparitions.

Although I enjoyed all aspects of this project, I particularly enjoyed filming the ghost. I was selected to be one of the ghosts and I really enjoyed getting into character.

I really wanted the ink elements to form the ghosts and found getting the timing just right to be the most difficult part of this project.”

Compositing by Michael Balzer

Miguel Ponce - Student

"My ghost project was inspired by a video game called "Fatal Frame". It was the first game cinematic that actually frightened me. I was captivated by the story, the concept and the characters, but wanted to modify it to make it workable as a class project.

As far as the conceptualization of the ghosts, I wanted to replicate a fire effect for the bathroom ghost. After I had finished compositing the sequence, I saw a similar effect in a scene from the television series "Smallville". I found that very encouraging. For the second ghost I wanted to create a watery effect. I have often seen in Asian horror films that the ghost will appear in fluid like substances like water or oil. I liked being able to show some diversity between the two ghosts.

As I am new to the software Nuke, I found all aspects of this compositing project very challenging and rewarding."

Compositing by Miguel Ponce

Jason Tranetzki - Student

"I had recently watched the CG version of “A Christmas Carol” starring Jim Carrey. I really enjoyed the concept and wanted to try to convert a CG film into live action, instead of the reverse.

I intended to completely copy the concept of the ghost and achieve the same smoky look with real plates and elements composited together.

I really wanted to blend the smoke and ink cloud-tank elements and have them interact with the ghost. I found this incredibly challenging to achieve. In CG you are not limited to real world physics. I found it very difficult to track the elements to the ghost as he moved.

I really enjoyed working with Nuke and learning the possibilities and limitations of the software. I think we selected a very ambitious project. The experience working on this project has definitely clarified for me what I would attempt to execute in camera and what I would do in compositing."

Compositing by Jason Tranetzki

(PART 3)

Gustavo Kasai - Student

"As I wanted to work on a project with more opportunity for creative exploration and vision, I chose to work on "The Asylum" as opposed to the "Scrooge!" project.

For the shots of the ghost seen through the camera lens, I decided to give it a sepia or yellowish treatment, to simulate the film cameras of the era. I also wanted to make the ghost appear in a thick, almost cigarette smoky atmosphere. For the ghost that was not seen in the camera I created a shadowy ominous impression of a figure.

The biggest challenge I faced during this project was painting out power cords, cables and various other objects.

I would say the highlight for me was keying out the green screen and playing with color correction. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to edit together the scenes into a short stylized story."

Compositing by Gustavo Kasai

Marcelo Bassoli - Student

"Was excited to work on the ghost project and film on a rig on a green screen. I chose to work on "Scrooge".

Probably the biggest challenge was that I wanted to complete more than one shot and tried to complete a few different ones."

Compositing by Marcelo Bassoli

Lost Boys Studios | School of Visual Effects is North America's only dedicated visual effects school offering an intensive eight month program supplying world-class training in photo-realistic 3D for VFX and compositing for film and television. Our students work with the award-winning VFX Supervisor/Mentor, Mark Bénard, in a project-based learning environment, covering VFX pre-production and shooting, 3D for VFX and compositing. Boasting over a 93% placement rate, Lost Boys is the eminent school of visual effects. For more information please visit our website at, or join us on Facebook