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Posted by birdseed, on 2008-06-03 07:44:59

Realistic desert background

hi there, i'm creating a set which involves simply a desertscape with a single tree. the tree is done but i'm unsure how to get a realistic sand receding effect for the background. Do i create a small sand box, fill it and add my tree... and then have a picture of a desert behind all of this, or is it more effective to use a blue/green screen? I don't have much time to play around so i wondering if anyone had created something similar before. Is it possible to insert a real sky/hazy desert footage behind my real life set??

Posted by B and B Studios, on 2008-06-03 14:41:30

I did a shot sort of like that a few years back. What I did was make a sandbox fill it with sand but for the places you want your person to on your glue it in place so it doesn't come off. As for the sky, because I wanted the hazy sand blowing buy I used green screen. Good luck with your project. --B&B Studios-- Ethan Bartholomae B&B Studios; http://bandbstudios.web.officelive.com/ Brickfilms-R-us; http://brickfilms-r-us.webs.com/ my MySpace page; http://www.myspace.com/ethan_bandbstudios

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-06-03 19:51:02

I usually have 3 parts to a desert set - 1) The close-up foreground where the puppet is animated. I have animated in loose sand (for a beach shot) but it's really hard to avoid brushing it and getting little twitches, so it's better to make a firm landscape with a sandy texture from plaster or something. One way for rounded sand dunes: On a flat board, sculpt the dunes in water based clay. Cover with plaster re-inforced with hessian (burlap) or fibreglass matting, 3 or 4 layers. Let it set. Lift it and remove the clay. Paint the plaster, and sprinkle saydust or sand over it while still wet. Let it dry. If it needs more, coat with glue and add more sawdust/sand. (Sand is really tough on drill bits so if you have to drill tiedown holes, drill them first or use sawdust.) Further back where there is no risk of touching the sand, it's ok to just dump some loose sand on the set. 2) the distant landscape, in forced perspective - things actually get smaller as they get further from camera. Often there is a gap, hidden by hills in the foreground, so I can get into the back of the foreground set and reach puppets there. 3. The painted backdrop, which has the sky and usually the really distant land and the horizon. Here is a simple one, with just the puppet-scale set and the backdrop: http://www.stopmoshorts.com/gallery/index.php?action=showpic&cat=62&pic=626 Here's a nice cartoony desert set in Jurgen's armature clip: http://www.stopmoshorts.com/gallery/index.php?action=showpic&cat=16&pic=884 But foreground set is unfinished.

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-06-03 22:55:15

I just uploaded an old video showing me building and filming a desert set in the studio, which gives a better idea how the different layers of the set work. http://www.stopmoshorts.com/gallery/index.php?action=showpic&cat=16&pic=1096 Sorry, no cactus, it's an Australian desert! But the same general approach could apply to any wide flat landscape.

Posted by castlegardener, on 2008-06-03 23:12:48

that is great Nick. Very informative and entertaining. One question, why did you tilt the backdrop?

Posted by emmyymme, on 2008-06-04 00:34:48

would it be tilted for the perspective? so it maintains the forced perspective and doesn't show either edge of the plywood? just my guess.

Posted by Nick H, on 2008-06-04 02:30:31

Yep. The painted backdrop on the wall isn't tilted. The back part of the set is, and the front part is very slightly tilted too I think. As Emmy says, it makes the back edge of the front piece overlap the front edge of the back piece, so you can't tell there is a big gap in the set. Tilting the back more also made the angle partway between the horizontal set and the vertical backcloth, to ease the transition. It did help with the perspective, and I had used part of the set earlier in a tracking shot where the perspective showed up more. Another set was in a wide S shape, with a space on the front left to go in and reach the puppets, bits that connected the three parts of the set for the puppet to cross, and another access gap on the back right. A rock or slight rise in the foreground would hide the gap behind.

Posted by birdseed, on 2008-06-10 05:44:55

thanks everyone