A Rush of Dust to the Head

   My team and I have just released a rather odd little video on the Triskelle Pictures Facebook page. Whilst it's fairly amusing, I don't know if it's 100% self-explanatory, so I've written this blog post as a companion piece.

   As stated in the video, there's a scene in Songbird where the witch character (played by Julia Damassa) steals Jennifer's (Janet Devlin) voice by blowing magic dust into her face. Production Designer Charlotte Ball and I initially thought this could be done using practical effects, but there was always a health risk with blowing things near/into a person's eyes. So we knew we'd have to test this out well in advance, and I (somewhat foolishly) volunteered to be the test subject. Watch the video above to see how this turned out for me!

Charlotte's concept art for the 'dust scene' in Songbird
   For the practical and physical tests, we used things that were edible (such as flour, icing sugar and a gluten free option too) to minimise the health risks. A couple of the ingredients left scratchy feelings in my throat, but they didn't leave any lasting damage; the main issue was trying to close my eyes on cue, and acting like I wasn't expecting the attack!

   We also tried doing this scene with some old-school VFX screen techniques, for which Charlotte would blow the dust samples in front of a black screen; the black would then be removed in post, and replaced with footage of my 'shocked' face as the dust appeared to hit it:

Above: various FX layer experiments we've done for this scene, and the original layer at the top. Please excuse my double chin from this angle - it's all in the name of art!!

   This technique is going to take a little perfecting. Removing the black without making Charlotte see-through required a mix of screen blend on the opacity, chromakey, and cutting her out of the image with a mask and key frames - sometimes all at once! But we've nearly cracked it, and this method worked better than our practical tests because it gave us more freedom to use whichever materials looked best on camera, whilst still being completely safe for the actors involved.

   Want to enable us to do more crazy experiments for the sake of making a great film? Then sponsor Songbird on Indiegogo today!



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