How to fix an impossible matchmove

The director of a Star Wars fan film offers advice for when it seems impossible for a shot to be matchmoved.

Versus: The Way to Shadow, which you can watch above, is a 41-minute-long Star Wars fan film directed by Nicolas Santini, and he was in charge of all the VFX. You can find out more about how he made it in the articles How to create your own Star Wars movie and How to make your own motion capture studio.

But here Santini offers a bonus film-making tip...

The problem

How do you matchmove a shot like this?

Try as you might, some of your shots simply won’t be able to be matchmoved: there’s too much motion blur, weird camera compression artefacts and moving elements filling the whole frame.

After crying for a few days you can start thinking of a creative way to help sort the scene out. Here is a trick for how to fix an impossible matchmove…

01. Separate your elements

First, roto out your character and all moving objects you want to keep in the final frame. Then replace the background with a digital one. Take a lot of pictures of the different environments while on set, you can then stitch them together and use the result as a texture. Then camera map on a low poly surface that matches your scene.

02. Blend your elements

Now you have the two main elements, you can manually animate a CG camera in your camera mapped environment, the rotoscoped actor linked to the camera. It’s a hard task to match camera motion by eye, so decompose the original camera motion starting with its position then moving onto its rotation. Now add your CG elements; lens flares are your friends!

03. Add your elements

Finally add your CG elements, such as lasers and lens flares. Luckily this shot had to look a lot more chaotic than the original footage. More than a few patches of CG grass, a lot of debris, moving Clone troopers and a huge amount of lasers were added, and this helped a huge amount, to blend the original live action with the replaced background.

Bonus tip: Shooting a rain scene

Use waterguns on set to wet the actors and elements, this will help to blend the footage with digital effects when in post.

Words: Nicolas Brunet

Nicolas Brunet is a self-taught 3D and VFX artist who has previously created CG commercials and shorts, and is now focusing on becoming a director. This article originally appeared in 3D World magazine.

Limited edition Star Wars art book

From a galaxy far, far away comes The Art of Film: Star Wars special.

In volume one of this new series we showcase a stunning selection of artwork inspired by the Star Wars movies – from 1977 to the present day.

From posters to portraits, and comics to illustrations, this lavish 180-page book showcases a selection of the world's best Star Wars art, both from official and fan artists. Presented in full colour on premium stock, it's also available with a hardback cover and gold foil detailing for the ultimate collector.

Secure your limited edition hardback here

Standard edition available here