How I Added Computer Screens to “The Barrier”

BarrierExampleShot_01I didn’t do much work on news scenes for “The Barrier” this week. Instead, I diverted most of my efforts to adding computer screen images to the film. In several scenes, the characters talk about what is on their computer screen, so I needed to add those images in.

How I Created the Computer Screen Images

I was tempted to get some actual screen capture images from a transportation modelling program. That might not go over too well with the software vendors, so I decided to create my own images.

I began with a look at some screen images I found on-line. I looked at emme/4, Visum and Cube. Way back when I used emme/2, I thought the screen had a very distinct appearance. From what I could tell from the images I looked at, all the screens look pretty similar now.

I used Microsoft PowerPoint to create the screens. I had a little fun with that. I called the soft ware ‘Blackbox” by a company called “Voodoo”. That was an inside joke. I had menu options like “Look_busy” and “Lets_go_eat” and had icons like a piece of pie and a donut with sprinkles (another inside joke). In the final film, all of these will be too small for anyone to read, but I wanted to have those little details anyway.

I used several different versions of a data entry pop-up box to create a short animation that I used in one shot. It was one of those things that people wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) notice if it’s there, but they will notice if it isn’t.

How I Put the Computer Screen Image into the Movie Image

Xtranormal does allow you to overlay images and videos in selected areas of some sets, and I did use that approach in a couple cases. Other shots were not so easy.

In one scene, the computer screen I wanted to use was not one that allowed an image or video to be inset. I did the overlays in Premiere Pro instead.

For most of the shots, I was able to do a direct overlay of a still onto the computer screen, because there was nothing blocking the view of the screen. When the image was a direct on view, it was a simple scale and move to get the effect I wanted. That wasn’t always possible.

When the screen was at an angle, it took a little fiddling with keying options to get the perspective right. I found the corner pin tool worked well there.

There were a couple of shots where a character blocked part of the screen. I tried the color key option, but it turned out that the screen color was too similar to other parts of the image. I found a way around that when I realized that the computer screen image only covered a small area of the movie image.

I started with the movie image as a video track, and then overlaid the computer screen image on top of the movie image as I’d done before. In the resulting image, the character’s head covered the computer screen image. Over top of that, I put another copy of the movie image, with the color key for the computer screen. In the final image, the computer screen image does appear properly with the character’s head in front of it. In the rest of the image, where the image was also transparent, the base track of the movie image showed through.

For all of these I had a static image, but I had one shot where the computer screen image changed. Xtranormal does allow this, but I didn’t realize that at first. In any event, it didn’t allow the detail level of control I wanted. Again, I used Premiere Pro to overlay the computer screen video over the movie image, just as I’d done with the still images.

New Scenes

I worked on four new scenes this week, but only finished two of them. One is only about 7 seconds long while the other was 1:41. The total run time is still under 30 minutes. I hope that I will get more productive next week.

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