After coming to us for their first video “Porcelain”, From Her Eyes returned with a request for their second video from their new EP. The band were keen to use the idea of glass and mirrors to co-incide with the lyrics and meaning of the song, so it was up to us to implement the idea in our own way.
Hearing “let’s work with mirrors” is like nails on a chalkboard to most camera operators. So many variables to think about when it comes to shooting them, especially when working out angles to ensure the reflections are kept in check. The band put forward the idea of there being a “mirror world”, where the audience sees an empty room, but when a girl looks into a mirror, she can see the band in the room. We did a little research into how best to achieve it, using both mirrors and green screen. In the end, we thought about using some VFX trickery and masking to achieve the effect. After a few initial tests and a few eureka moments, we decided upon using 3D models of shattered glass, which would fly over the scene revealing the band through them, as if they are trapped in an alternate universe.
Shooting this was a little more convoluted than a standard performance video. We used a dolly track, shooting an entire runthrough of the song at one angle whilst running the camera back and forth on the dolly. The band and all gear was then removed from frame, and the empty space shot in the same manner. This way, we’d be able to overlay the movements to match the shots as one is masked over the top of another. This was repeated in a number of positions and angles with both group and individual shots. The difficulty here was that it was not a motorized dolly, and as such, we had to gauge how quickly we were moving in each shot in order to match both band and empty room shots. This was usually gauged by walking in time with the beat, although to get a good amount of dynamic changes throughout, this method didn’t always apply.
The editing was initially approached much like a standard performance video, with all band footage cut together into a fluid performance. Then, the VFX came into play. First job was to make the glass. A broken pane of glass was drawn in Adobe Illustrator, then imported into Cinema 4D to be converted into a 3D object. The next stage was bringing it into Element 3D in After Effects, where it could be animated in a number of ways. Several animations were made with a variety of glass pieces flying or floating across the screen. These were then imported into a separate project, and placed over the already edited performance cut to see which shots would work with the VFX addition.
Once the shots were decided upon, we had to go back to the footage of the empty rooms in order to match up the angles of the shots, but more importantly, the speed with which the dolly was moving. Once we’d find the right match, we’d line it up, then apply an alpha track matte, so that the band footage would show through the shattered glass pieces as they fly across, like a window into another world. We then overlaid the glass footage with the Overlay blend mode to restore the glassy look and bevelled edges.
We used a more extreme colour on the band performance footage, and darkened the empty rooms with added contrast, so seem as if the world was alive within this other dimension. We used a number of other effects to give it a more surreal and distorted look, as well as a displacement map to distort the footage as the glass passed over it, adding to the realism.
The resulting effect was a successful first foray into 3D modelling and animation, and a great learning process for us. Client was happy, we were happy. We always enjoy taking on a somewhat daunting task, and the reward when you smash it is ace.