WNF | Nature Is Us

WNF shows us 50 ways of passing on the earth to the next generation. Nature is not just something in the distance – nature, that’s you and me. Bram van Alphen directed a dreamlike and intimate film, where the beauty of nature and humanity merge into one.

Advertising agency Selmore approached us in September 2011 with this exciting new idea. A young woman would close her eyes, and as a tear would slowly roll down her cheek, flora would sprout up like a river in its riverbed. As her tears are rolling down over her chest a lively world of plants, flowers and butterflies emerges.

Technical challenge

Apart from the 3D animation and rendering there was one main challenge for which we had to

A wonderful concept with beautiful imagery and symbolism, but with quite some challenges as well. Apart from the 3D animation and rendering there was one main challenge for which we had to find a solution: tracking. To attach the flora to her body we would need a very solid track, which meant we

would have to cover her body with tracking markers. Tracking markers usually suffer from mainly three obstacles, of which all of them were found in our commercial:

  1. Retouching. Removing those markers in post is often a long painstaking process. The subtle gradients combined with the texture of the skin makes it almost impossible, especially when it would be completely covered in markers.
  2. Extreme lighting. The dim lighting with a lot of silhouettes formed another problem in tracking. It meant that at least half of our markers would find themselves in complete darkness, where as only a small subset of the markers would remain visible. As our model would be moving those markers would slide in and out of the light.
  3. Depth of Field. Because most of the shots were meant to be shot with fairly long lenses we would be faced with a very small depth of field. Our tracking markers would be shot partly out of focus, which would make tracking harder.

Back at the studio the first tracking tests on the infrared images were very positive and it was clear that we had found the right solution to our problem. With all these obstacles it was clear that we had to be smart about a solution. So we came up with the idea of using infrared light.

The idea is to shoot two images at the same time. The first one being the normal image and the second one being an infrared image. By using an invisible ink that absorbs infrared

light we are able to create tracking markers that are only visible on the infrared image and are invisible on the normal image. The tracking would be performed on top of the infrared images and later applied to the normal image.

The human eye is blind to infrared light, so to produce a life-like image most cameras are made blind to it as well. We had to start our search to find a suitable camera which could actually record an infrared image. We ended up with the Phantom camera for several reasons: there are various technical models of the phantom of which a few are very well capable of recording infrared light. The camera’s can both be pulse-locked to expose a frame at the exact same moment and they perform well in slow motion.

Together with Phantom camera operator Flip Bleekrode and Grip/Stereo specialist Luc Hoeijmakers we worked out the technical details, placed both cameras in a stereo rig and aligned them so they would shoot the exact same image. Our first tests came out mediocre. We had several types of ink, several types of infrared lights and filters, but finding the right mixture took some time. Since we were working in the blind, we couldn’t see the light ourselves except on the monitor, we had to carefully do the math. We had to calculate the frequencies in nanometers to carefully align the transmission and response peaks of both the camera, the ink the filters and the lights but once all was fine tuned it worked even better then we could have imagined.

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WNF | Nature Is Us

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