Doppelgänger Video [intro to video compositing]
For a still image version of this project see: Doppelgänger Photograph [intro to digital image compositing]
A doppelgänger is a counterpoint, a double, an alter ego, look-alike, or twin. It is a theme that can be found in literature, folklore, mythology, cinema, media, popular culture, biology, reproductive science/technologies, psychiatry and psychology. There is a wide and flexible range of references, cultural contexts, and fields of study to pull from when introducing this project.
What kind of story?
This project is about constructing an illusion in video.
Students develop the subject of the video by performing or interacting with their invisible self. Performance or interaction can take shape through: gestures, expressions, and/or a sequence or progression of movements, positions, etc. Alternatively students might physically respond to space, the architecture, or props/elements. Students should experiment with various directions and explore the use of exaggeration to communicate their ideas. Once the performance or interaction is identified, the activity takes place on camera. Inspiration for the subject behavior/activity can be found in performance art, rituals, reenactment, theater, cinema, television, dance, sports, fashion, portraits/poses, etc. [ examples: they might be asked to experiment interacting with themself through 3 absurd gestures, or asked to attempt a "still" portrait in duration/time. ] The best video clips are composited later with video editing software to create the twin illusion.
Students seek out a relevant and meaningful location for their scene. This means scouting, identifying, observing the space, then making informed choices and modifications. All visible elements in the scene should be considered: lighting quantity and quality, foreground information, middle ground information, background information. Necessary modifications should be made: artificial lighting, props, etc. Inspiration/research for this portion of the project can be found in cinema and location scouting, theater/set design, dioramas and museum exhibits, tableau, genre art, or any other built or natural environment. The objective is identifying a real place/space where physical interaction can take place and video can be captured.
The final project deliverable for this project is video. This video requires intentional subject matter in an intentional scene or setting. Convincing illusion is the goal. This project introduces conceptual development, project planning, camera use, and a range of constrained digital editing techniques that will give students skills, agency and confidence in the careful planning and construction of video.
audio, compression, camera shots, camera angles, file types, gesture, location, point-of-view, storyboards, time-based media, rendering, video
structure and timing
There are a few approaches to organizing the project schedule:
- 1 day version: project emphasis on group/team work, distribution of tasks, location constraints, timing constraints, simple ideas, very quick execution, very basic editing, exporting, publishing/sharing media; this schedule would lend itself to technical learning curves only
- 1-2 week version: project emphasis on individual project planning, thoughtful idea and location development, lighting kits if needed, intermediate editing (slow motion, reversing clips, fast cuts, etc), exporting, publishing/sharing media; this schedule would lend itself to narrative dev or performance, and technical learning curves
- 2-4 week version: project emphasis more planning, more advanced editing if the project will go further (e.g. chroma key compositing/chroma keying, masking, integrating cgi or alt environments), multiple critiques/reviews of proofs, time for refining ideas and reshooting as needed, time to integrate approaches to sound/audio (sound considerations, production, and editing), exporting, publishing/sharing media (youtube, vimeo); this schedule would lend itself to narrative dev, performance and technical learning curves
As with any studio project, if more time is an option students can be prompted to revisit, rework, iterate any phase in the project to resolve conceptual, aesthetic, or technical issues. Mature or ambitious students might also discover a more compelling direction within their process, and "start over" from there.
This project involves 3 phases of activity: pre-production, production, and post-production.
phase 1 of 3: pre-production
[ learn the tool: camcorder, camera, device ] This project can be used to introduce the use of any video capturing device that will take a tripod or can be secured with an iPad/tablet stand. Students should be able to identify and manage features and functions of their tool including on/off, start/stop record, power/battery status, media/card space, dials/switches/buttons, viewfinder/monitor/display, menus/navigation, etc. Students should understand how to access and control modes, basic exposure, color, focus options, framerates, recording formats and media settings including file types and file compression options. There is a large range of camcorders, cameras, and devices on the market, each with it's own labels and menus. A key strategy for dealing with so many tool makes and models is to have students bring the device manual (or documentation found online) on day 1 as technical reference so there is no guesswork. Another key strategy at the beginning of this project is to spend a few minutes as a group formatting/clearing the card/memory, checking the battery life, and stepping through the menus while looking up unfamilar terms and settings. Before heading into the field to work, students should successfully test their camera/device in class (make camera adjustments, capture some video, and transfer the media to a computer).
note: other interesting topics/themes might include the history of cameras, and the contemporary use of skeuomorphs as a connection to the analog/mechanical past
[ develop the narrative: sketch, storyboard, practice ] This project can be used to introduce ideation and project planning. There are many approaches to thinking and planning visually: sketches and storyboards, rough snapshots/photos of ideas including quick montages/collages, or the practice of physical gestures/exercises. In general students should develop at least two directions/variations so there is some contrast and comparison in the decision making process. Storyboards/sketches should include forethought and strategies for subject activity AND camera shots and angles (do an image search for "camera shots" and "camera angles"). Camera shots and angle constraints and/or parameters can be useful here as part of the project criteria if students need guidelines. Ideally there is review, critique, conversation, or check-in time built into this part of the process so students receive critical feedback on plans/directions/camera decisions.
note: if students are prompted to respond to a space, place, or architecture, rather than take a scripted approach, they may have to spend time out of class thinking and planning visually in situ/on location and location exploration might take precedence over narrative
[ scout the location: collect details, problem solve ] This project can be used to introduce site research. This involves finding a meaningful and intentional place where time can be spent without interruption. Students should consider the quality and quantity of available lighting, distance and travel to location, best time of day for light quality and shadows, potential weather, security issues, photography and tripod permissions, and personal safety. The documentary: Stanley Kubrick's Boxes (available on Vimeo at the time of this writing) is useful for introducing research, planning, and location.
note: consider assigning some location constraints here as needed according to local tendencies (e.g. bathrooms, cemeteries, public art spaces, and playgrounds can seem like great ideas to students, but they will have to work hard to discover a way to transform these places)
phase 2 of 3: production
[ modify the scene ] This project can be used to introduce looking. It's very easy to think a place seems interesting, walk up to the edge of the environment, ignore the real lighting situation, capture video from average eye level, and be disappointed with the results. Students should be prompted to spend time, move around, and look, while exploring the scene with their whole body. They should look through the camera/device and frame potential vantages. Once they find the right point-of-view, they need to establish/revise camera shots and angles paying close attention to foreground, middle ground, background, the horizon line level, avoiding very difficult situations. Intentional props, objects, artificial lighting, etc should be added to support the narrative. Unintentional elements should be removed or modified (furniture, people, leaves, trash cans, signs, etc - elements that don't support the narrative). If elements cannot be removed, a new point-of-view should be established.
[ stabilize the camcorder(s), camera(s), device(s) ] This project can be used to introduce diligence (being careful, following instructions, problem solving, taking responsibility for outcomes). Stabilizing the camera for the duration of the shoot is very important. Illusion cannot be accomplished in the final composite if the camera position moves between frames/clips (this is true for beginners who have no editing experience). Students must use a tripod or design a comparable stabilizing tool. Discourage hand-holding the camera. Once the camera is stabilized students need to evaluate the scene looking through the viewfinder/screen paying close attention to the the edges of the frame and horizon line. Again, unintentional elements in view should be removed or modified. If distracting elements cannot be removed, students need to find a better point-of-view.
[ capture the video ] This project can be used to introduce quantitative criteria. It is challenging to get ideas, space, body, expressions, and exposure in alignment. Give students expections or constraints to work with or work against. Students could be asked to use a single camera, or integrate multiple cameras. They could be asked to work towards a 30 second video, a 1 minute video, or a 5 minute video. Students should capture as much footage as is necessary to have useful clips to work with, and plenty of clips to eliminate.
Generally students work together, in pairs or groups, so that they can help each other with the camera operation and help each other with onsite art direction based on the project plans (sketches, storyboards, exercises, etc). It might be a good idea for students to work together if they are working in unfamiliar locations or have expensive gear unattended. If the location is not an issue, then a student might choose to work alone.
note: working in pairs or groups is useful if equipment/gear is limited
phase 3 of 3: post-production (digital compositing)
note: other interesting topics/themes might include meaning of linear and non-linear editing
[ file management ] This project can be used to introduce file management. Students come into foundation level courses with a wide range of background experience. Some students will understand that it is important to store files in a named folder or directory in a specific location on a computer, drive, or network and some students will have no experience with file management. Generally files are transferred from a camera/device using an SD card or a device specific cable. Students need to save files in a named directory or folder. It is not a great idea to move source media files around after a project is established because of the way video editing software is organized (with media linked rather than embedded), so encourage students to find a permanent place for their source files. If media files are moved, there may be some necessary problem solving later in the process (some software will be able to locate moved or 'lost' media while other software will require manual reconnecting).
Most current video editing software will launch with some prompts for setting up a new project, naming the new project, assigning a location for the project, and making some format decisions. Once the software is launched and the project is saved, students can import the Doppelgänger media files into the project and save the project again. Spend some time helping students understand that media files are connected or linked to the software project file, they are not embedded in the software project file. For beginners this might be a new construct/media relationship.
note: if using older camcorders (tape), media will need to be captured through video editing software. this is a real time transfer, so plan on that slow process
[ software introduction: Premier ] When introducing a new tool, it is a good idea to begin by stepping through the interface landscape to help students get acclimated to the working environment. Consider using a very generic video file to act upon so no one gets caught up or attached to meanings. This initial software information doesn't necessarily stick but it's a friendly low stakes way to move through some user interface conventions and common practices.
note: software versions, releases, and updates make the specifics of software features and functions variable so those details are limited here
If you are using Premier here are some lecture/demo notes or prompts (subject to changes as software updates). This information will be translated for Blender asap.
General background: In computing, a graphical user interface (GUI, sometimes pronounced gooey) is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices using images rather than text commands. Adobe Premier (first launched in 1991) has an intuitive interface, with some feature/function redundancy. This means is there are many ways of accomplishing the same tasks using different methods: menus, tool buttons, panels, or key commands.
gui intro: top menu / most important for beginners from left: Premier (preferences, take a look, always a good idea to know where to adjust global settings), File (saving, importing, exporting, project settings/manager), Sequence (settings, go to gap, add/delete tracks), Window (arrange, workspace, bring various panels to the foreground)
gui intro: workspace panels / Workspace > choose editing; step through the areas briefly: media bin/panel where the source material inventory is referenced and stored, source panel and controls where source media can be previewed and marked, project preview panel and controls where the timeline sequence can be viewed, timeline, and tools for modifying media on the timeline. This is not comprehensive tour but enough for a beginner.
gui intro: tools / razor!
gui intro: timeline / tracks (demo locking/unlocking, hiding, audio and video relationship and how to disconnect these, methods for adding and deleting tracks)
[ general video editing software use ]
import media / import, connect, or capture the video to the project file
evaluate media / preview media, trim unusable material with mark in/out; trim is optional because media can be cut on the timeline
construct sequence / Drag and drop media from the media bin or panel onto the timeline; use order and tracks (or layers) to control the sequence over time; note: by default dragging and dropping media from the media bin or panel brings in connected video and audio tracks. In Adobe Premier: delete audio from the timeline use Sequence > Delete tracks or control-click (Mac) anywhere in the left side of timeline panel; to detach audio from a video track select both the audio and video tracks in the timeline, control-click (Mac), then scroll down to 'unlink.'
edit sequence / Use the playhead and scroll elements/features to move around in the timeline. Cut, split, move clips in line with a narrative or experimental direction; use basic tools (e.g. select to move, razor to split, delete key to delete).
refine sequence / Modify individual clips (adjust speed/duration, direction); select a clip, Clip > Speed/Duration; or control-click (Mac) to get options.
export / Prepare video for viewing and distribution. Target a specific scenario with render settings.
[ constructing Doppelgänger illusion process: Premier ]
- ____ In Premier, choose New Project in the project window; set location and name your project (probably where you saved your camera media files)
- ____ File> New Sequence; Name your sequence in the sequence window (projects can have many sequences); note: presets can be adjusted now or later; Premier should be able to “detect” and prompt you to accept the proper settings when you drag clips to the timeline during your editing process.
- ____ File > import assets from whereever you have them stored; note: from many camcorders Premier will want the .mts files and reject what it doesnt need. note: consult your camera/device manual for details on file formats/options
- ____ Acclimate to Premier workspace: lower left is your project panel or bin inventory / lower right timeline / upper left preview media from project panel or bin / upper right preview edited composition from timeline
- ____ Notice when you drag something from your inventory to the timeline, Premier will ask you if you want to match those clip settings. Most likely yes you do want to match your clip settings.
- ____ Edit (optional) --> Double click assets to load in top left window, mark in and out points, drag clip to timeline
- ____ Edit (common practice) --> Drag and drop media from inventory to the timeline. Play the media to preview. Drag the playhead to mark placement and use the razor tool to cut clips in the timeline; use the select tool to delete unnecessary media, drag and drop to arrange sequence
- ____ Modify timeline media scale, position, opacity--> Find the “Effects Controls” tab top left in Workspace under Source tab. With a clip in the timeline selected, twirl down Motion and Opacity to make many kinds of changes to your media
- ____ Modify timeline media speed/duration --> With your clip selected go to menu Clip > Speed/Duration to change speed and direction
- ____ Modify timeline media color balance, brightness/contrast, etc --> Window > Effects; with a clip selected drag an effect icon from panel to timeline, or simply double click the effect icon; Effects added to media load parameters top left, make Effect adjustments up there; note that it is very normal to adjust brightness, color, etc in order to get media to match exactly after the composite process. When a subject/shadows move even slightly it can change the exposure. This change will be noticeable when media is side-by-side.
- ____ Craft and refine two video tracks using any of the techniques described. Each track will contain one side of the Doppelgänger illusion. You may have more (triplets, quadruplets), but these instructions are geared for two video tracks.
- ____ Make and name a title clip that will act like a mask/matte, revealing only a specific portion of the video layer below it. File > New > Title (it's not really a title we are making, we are making a shape; the software could be designed better). Use the rectangle shape (or the pen tool if you need a more specific mask/matte shape) and draw the shape to cover half of your video composition (this exact size of this shape can be tweaked later in the process so do not worry). Make sure your shape is solid with fill color but no stroke (options on right). Close the title window. Yes, just close it. Your new title is now stored in your media inventory project panel bottom left of workspace. Now do it again! One more. Make and name another title that will act like a mask. This time your shape will cover the other half of the composition. You should have two solid shape titles now.
- ____ Set your title timing. Find the titles you just created in your project panel. Right-click/ctrl-click (Mac) on the titles in the panel and choose Speed/Duration. Set the duration to the length of your video (you can adjust it later as needed should your video get longer or shorter than planned by ctrl-clicking the title in the timeline or simply dragging it by the edge).
- ____ Drag one title clip above a video track. Choose the track with the coinciding visual content you wish to reveal. The title clip will reveal the content below it, and make the rest of the composition transparent. The transparent area will reveal the content below it. See the sample images for a screen capture of the track stacks.
- ____ Go to the Effects tab in your project panel bottom left in Workspace. Find Track Matte Key Effect (in Keying). Drag the Track Matte Key Effect to the video track. In the Track Matte Effect options that are revealed in Effects Control top left of workspace: Matte - the track number with the "title" in it / Composite Using - Matt Alpha / Reverse NOT checked. Now you should have 1 side done.
- ____ Mask your other video track. Drag a "title" above your other video tracks. Repeat step 15. Alternatively you could create just one title and take advantage of the "Inverse" setting in the track matte options.
- ____ Add and subtract audio and video tracks by control-clicking near the track names in the timeline areas, you will get a popup window with options to add and subtract tracks. To disconnect audio tracks and video tracks from each other right/control-click (Mac) either the video or audio track and select Unlink Audio and Video. Remove audio layers you don't need/want. If the project intergrated sound then now is the time to place your imported audio files. Drag new audio to a track and synch with video tracks.
- ____ Render and Export: with the right sequence selected in your inventory, File > Export > Media; Match sequence settings or make changes carefully. Format - generally quicktime/h.264. Preset - in the US you will use HD or NTSC settings.
- ____ Resist using fades or transitions unless it is absolutely necessary. It is not useful to rely on filters. The intent of this project is photographic illusion.
- ____ Resist the use of filters. Monochrome is ok (single tone or black/white). It is not useful to rely on filters. The intent of this project is photographic illusion.
[ exporting / distributing media ]
File > Export media; Generally this is a case-by-case situation. H.264 is a good bet. Uploading projects to Vimeo and YouTube are both options for a group screening/critique and provide students new to video some experience using social platforms to distribute their work.
*student samples coming Spring 2015; see Doppelgänger Photograph [intro to digital image compositing] for still image versions
Visual Guideexpand all
Contributor(s): Jessica Parris Westbrook, Adam Trowbridge
Updated date: 07/26/2015 - 22:22
Software: blender, premiere
Other Software: Alternative Software: Blender, http://www.blender.org
Other Hardware: tripod, extra battery or power supply (optional), duck tape or gaffers tape (optional), iPad/tablet stand (as needed)
Links, related art/design: