New York Film Academy Cinematography faculty member and author Mark Sawicki introduced his VFX students to the concepts and step by step process of how to create a virtual set extension that combines on set lighting with virtual lighting in post. The technique was used to great effect in the box office hit “Dr Strange.”
The method involves the clever integration of properly photographed stills coupled with a green screen foreground. The stills are specially processed in Photoshop and then delivered to After Effects to create a synthetic 3D space of texture maps on Polygonal surfaces that can be manipulated in space and time. Mark’s students were instructed to take exacting notes of their lighting and camera set up when they shot the green screen element, so they could take that information and do follow through virtual lighting with computer graphic light instruments and materials.
Once the footage was processed the students met in post where they were introduced to the strange world of the virtual set. Sawicki gave students a hands-on experience demonstrating lighting simulations where boxes have to be checked to allow shadows to fall and spotlights can defy the inverse square law or even create a light that “darkens” a room. Even Doctor Strange would be challenged in such a world.
Sawicki feels it is extremely important for the Cinematographers of today to get a grasp for lighting on set and in the computer, so that they have control over the look of their imagery every step of the way and also have a feel of when they can save time on set by enhancing or modifying lighting in post. NYFA stands out as one of the few schools on the globe that takes their students beyond the envelope to explore the strange and exciting world of virtual lighting.