How to create your own Star Wars movie

Versus: The Way to Shadow, which you can watch above, is a 41-minute-long Star Wars fan film directed by myself, Nicolas Santini, and I was in charge of all the VFX.

The film contains 415 VFX shots, from which 77 needed to be matchmoved. For complex shots I installed markers on set (light coloured ping pong balls).

Here the placement of trackers represents a clone body lying on the floor

Here the placement of trackers represents a clone body lying on the floor

Only two shots were impossible to matchmove because of the actor covering the whole frame and too much motion blur.

To fix this, the actor was rotoscoped (thanks to Ben McEwan for his help on these shots) and the background was replaced by a digital one. On set, I could capture some elements to be used in post so as to create a 270-degree background video.

Then I manually animated a camera, which tried to match the motion of the camera on set, and finally I filled the shot with CG elements. As these shots were full of action with tons of lasers, it worked pretty well.

As we had planned to use entirely digitally created clone troopers in this film, we definitely needed to use motion capture.

Eat your heart out, Andy Serkis!

Eat your heart out, Andy Serkis!

At first I used the rotomation process, based on videos, front and side views of the actors, I keyframed the rigs to match the sources. The terrible result of that process is visible in the very first teaser of the film.

After digging for solutions I discovered the concept of video-based motion capture, and then started the long stage of testing… and suddenly, one day, we had an animation test which finally worked!

We shot 317 animations with four mini DV cameras. I played each clone trooper's motion, and each session represented about one shooting hour.

The lead character, Darius, is a Jedi on the run

The lead character, Darius, is a Jedi on the run

We placed the cameras on the corners of a 30m² room, each accompanied with blue LED lights, and trackers were covered with reflective tape – this way we could clearly see bright blue dots in the video to simplify the tracking process.

The tracking process of each tracker was the longest and the most tedious task throughout the entire experience.

When that stage was thankfully completed I exported animated 3D point clouds to external 3D software and linked the clone trooper rig controllers to these specific points.

Next page: animation, rendering and compositing...

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