Visual effects

Layering and masking

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Layering and masking

Layering is something that most video editors can achieve. It requires you to shoot a second reel of footage that you then can layer over the top of your original footage. This effect can be used to create really fun or really spooky effects in your video, or you can go really wild and create mind-bending double-exposure effects.

Masking can be used in conjunction with layering, can allow you to show or hide different parts of your footage, this enables you to make composite videos (two - or more - videos joined together to create one video).

In the following exercises, we will examine how we can use layering and masking in simple ways to add some cool VFX to your film.

What you'll need:

  • Video recording device
  • Tripod or static stabilisation support
  • Video editing software

Some things to remember when layering or masking:

  • Composition. Your frame should stay consistent throughout the scene. This will make it easier to add in your extra layer of footage
  • Lighting. It will be best if your lighting stays consistent throughout the scene, this will make everything easier at the editing stage
  • Space. When working with layering to create overlapping videos, you need to be aware of the position your actors take up in the frame to make sure the different layered videos don’t occupy the same space at the same time.

Activities

Exercise 1: Screen overlay

This exercise will allow you to insert a clip into another clip to make it appear that your characters are watching something on a screen such as a TV, computer, tablet or phone. This can mean your characters can watch something or even interact with another character via a telecall/facetime call. 

Tip: When filming for this effect, make sure your camera is on a tripod and that the screen you're replacing stays still (really still). If the screen you're replacing is moving, then the overlayed footage that you're inserting will stay static while the screen behind it will wobble which can break the illusion.

FILMING (main scene)

  1. Compose your shot
  2. Position your actors to begin recording
  3. Make sure the screen or device is visible in the frame
  4. Begin recording
  5. Call action
  6. Act
  7. Call cut
  8. Stop recording.

FILMING (in-set scene)

  1. Compose your shot
  2. Position your actors to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording.

EDITING

  1. Import all footage and location image into your video editor
  2. Bring your main scene onto the timeline
  3. Bring inset scene onto the timeline, being careful to place it above your clip. This will cover your main clip. Don’t worry this was meant to happen.
  4. In the effects options, your video editor will have the ability to re-scale, transform and re-position clips in your video. Different video editors will have different methods of doing this. If you get stuck try looking in the program’s help menu or a quick Google search will help.

  5. Make sure you have the in-set clip selected and then scale, transform, and position it to cover the screen in your main clip.

Exercise 2: Twins

Have you ever wanted to be a twin? Well, this is your chance. This exercise will allow the same actor to be on screen as two different characters/people at the same time. You can achieve this effect in two different ways.

Method 1: Uses the green screen and keying combined with layering to film your actor twice before bringing them together onto a background of your choosing in your editing software.

Method 2: Uses layering and masking to film your actor twice on in the same location before bringing them together into that location using your editing software. This is good to experiment with as it allows you to shoot on location out in the world.

PREPARATION

Before filming it’s really important to figure out if the ‘twins’ are going to interact with one another, if they’re going to have a conversation, then you’ll need to time each half and be aware of timing when you’re filming each twin, or you could get someone to stand in (using Method 2) and read the lines while you film each twin to help get the timing right. It is somewhat difficult to make them connect ‘physically’, especially with Method 2, but if you're using Method 1 they will be able to get close to each other or walk past each other. You will need to be aware of your actors’ position within the frame. A good way of keeping things simple when filming (and in editing) using Method 2, is to allocate one area for each twin and have your actor stay within those bounds. If using Method 1, get a background image ready to use when you move to the editing stage.

Method 1

FILMING (twin A)

  1. Compose your shot on the green screen
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop Recording

Be sure to make note of the position and timing of your actors in this scene

FILMING (twin B)

  1. Compose your frame on the green screen
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording

Be sure to make note of the position and timing of your actors in this scene.

EDITING

  1. Import your footage and location image into your video editor
  2. Bring your clip of Twin A onto the timeline
  3. Bring your clip of Twin B onto the timeline, placing it above Twin A
  4. Bring your location image onto the timeline, being careful to place it underneath your clips
  5. Find your keying effect in your video editing program (sometimes a quick Google search can help with this)
  6. Apply your keying effect to both of your clips (in most video editors, this is as simple as dragging the effect to the clip you want to apply it to.

Method 2

FILMING (twin A)

  1. Compose your frame on location
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording.

Be sure to make note of the position of your actors in this scene and not to overlap.

FILMING (twin B)

  1. Compose your shot on location
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording. Important: be sure not to ‘overlap’ your actor with your actor.
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording.

Be sure to make note of the position of your actors in this scene and not to overlap.

EDITING

  1. Import your footage and location image into your video editor
  2. Bring your clip of Twin A onto the timeline
  3. Bring your clip of Twin B onto the timeline, placing it above Twin A
  4. Find your masking tool in your video editing program (sometimes a quick Google search can help with this)
  5. Apply a mask to the side of the Twin B’s frame that they aren’t on to block out the empty space.

A black mask on a clip will block out what it’s put over, revealing what is underneath on the timeline, in this case, your other clip.

Extension

Keying & Layering: The Ghost

Have you ever wondered if ghosts exist? Well, wonder no longer as you create your own ghostly scene in your movie! This effect is achieved by layering a scene shot on a green screen over the top of a scene shot normally on location. When layering, we reduce the opacity to create a ‘ghost’ effect. This effect will allow your actors or objects in your scene to interact with, or be affected by, a ghostly figure, played by another actor. This can be fun if your film is a ghost story or if you’re exploring ideas of the supernatural!

PREPARATION

This type of effect requires pre-planning before the shoot. In particular, you’ll need to plan out the movements and position of your actors and objects in both the main clip and the clip to be layered (the over clip). As your ghost will be filmed on a green screen, you’ll need to guesstimate and transpose the position and timing of the actors from your main clip to the green screen. Having the main clip available as a visual reference and using some masking tape can be helpful.

FILMING (main scene)

  1. Compose your shot
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording

Be sure to make note of the position and timing of your actors in this scene

FILMING (overlay scene)

  1. Compose your shot
  2. Position your actor(s) to begin recording
  3. Begin recording
  4. Call 'action'
  5. Act
  6. Call 'cut'
  7. Stop recording.

EDITING

  1. Import all footage and location image into your video editor
  2. Bring your main scene onto the timeline
  3. Bring inset scene onto the timeline, being careful to place it above your clip. This will cover your main clip, don’t worry this was meant to happen.
  4. In the effects options, find the keying effect and apply it to the over-lay clip. Your main clip should then be visible instead anything that’s green.
  5. In the settings/options for your clip, you’ll be able to slide the opacity of your over-lay clip to give your ‘ghost’ a ghostly appearance.