How do I put me singing within a still photo collage?
July 21, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I understand that I cannot receive full technical assistance on how to do that here, so I would appreciate it if you could even steer me to the right website/forum/expert to learn how to do this:

Here's what I want to do: make a music video. The video is me singing, but I am embedded in a series of still pictures.

So -- I know how to make a "video" using a series of still photos, inserting them one by one into a timeline (using any one of a number of possible software applications -- even the lame Windows Movie Maker will do this -- and I also have Sony Vegas on another computer, though I find it a bit complicated )

And -- I know how to make a video of myself by, well, taking video of myself.

But what I want to do now is somehow put myself "in" each still photo. So that, for example, I would get a stock photo of people eating at a dining room table. And it's clearly a stock photo. But now I'm sitting there, singing my song, as if I were eating with them.

And next there I am again, within another stock photo, say, of children playing in a sprinkler in a playground, and I'm sitting behind them, singing to them.

It's obvious that I'm not really in the photos, that this is a "technique" -- that's the little jokey part of it. It's supposed to look artificial.

**BUT I don't want it to look as if I'm *in front* of those still photos.** This is very important. I want to see if there's a way that an ordinary non-professional video-maker like myself can make it look as if I'm IN the photos, and I'm the only person in the photos who is MOVING (video) whereas they are still.

So this is the aesthetic, and it serves a sort of meaningful purpose within this project (the protagonist - me- who is singing - is experiencing her world as if it were like a series of still lifes. )

So any ideas about how to accomplish this with a Windows computer, or who to ask, or how to learn in some other way? Also does the term "green screen" have anything to do with any of this??

thank you. (actually I also have iMovie for the iPad, but I have no idea how to get good-looking video onto my ipad and do the rest of it. Probably better to use the Windows machines and Vegas?)
posted by DMelanogaster to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. This is called green screen or chroma key. You will need a program like After Effects to remove the green screen/ wall color, and to mask out the table/ foreground objects.

You'll need to pay attention to the lighting of the wall, and of you. Any shadows you cast on the wall will create artifacts. Ideally the wall should be very smooth and evenly lit, and it'll be easier to key out. Do several test shoots before recording lots.

Keep in mind the perspective of each photo, and try to match it. You'll make your life easier if you're behind solid objects. So if it's a table, the table has a cloth over it that goes to the floor, you're not going to cut out the edge and each leg of the table, and have your feet underneath. Go for mostly straight lines too. Also, wear colors that are a strong contrast to your green screen, try to keep your hair smooth, avoid sheer clothing, fringe, fluttery sleeves, etc.

A few yards of fabric pinned to a wall can work surprisingly well. If you can find green or blue felt by the yard this will be the best, as it is matte, opaque, and doesn't have a sheen to it. Iron it first, make sure it hangs evenly, and is evenly lit. Lots of consumer level programs work really well at this, but they won't be precise and as crisp as professional productions. I'm only familiar with ones for Macs, so I'll let others recommend specifics.

Sounds fun!
posted by fontophilic at 2:56 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could also try the opposite of that approach - use an image editor to make a transparent hole in the still photo where you're going to show up, then overlay it on top of the video. More basic tools (like VirtualDub, for example, a free video editor) can't do the greenscreen thing but have the capability to overlay a still image - normally used for stuff like placing a logo in the corner of the screen, if you can't get hold of something like After Effects.
posted by XMLicious at 6:01 PM on July 21, 2013

Response by poster: XMLicious, that is an interesting idea, especially if I could manage to just have my mouth move (have the rest of the face, and the body, somebody else's who's in the original still photo)-- otherwise, wouldn't the "hole" have to be changing shape constantly, to accommodate my moving being as I sing?

(I've often wondered how those weird videos work, where you just see a mouth moving, that's obviously from another source than the photo)

It does sound simpler than the green screen thing, which sounds scarily hard for a novice (?). Also I'm not sure how, with the green screen, to make my video of myself seem to be WITHIN the still photo (I've seen plenty of green scene videos but the people seem to be in front of the background, rather than within in -- am I wrong?)

THank you, and sorry if this constitutes "sitting" on a question.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:52 PM on July 21, 2013

Yes, if you're using the simple method of overlaying the still image, whatever is going to show through the hole will need to stay in the same place and not move around, since the hole isn't going to move.
posted by XMLicious at 7:05 PM on July 21, 2013

I don't think it is too involved for a novice. This was the kind of stuff we'd do on weekends in my dorm room (though, a few of us did go onto careers in video production.) Very minimal equipment, but we did have access to nice software. You just need to do lots of planning and test shots is all.

Look at Auto-Tune the News on youtube. This is the kind of level of execution you can pretty easily get. They do both a foreground, and a background masks, they just mask video instead of stills. You can see there are halos, fuzzy lines, around the actors because they're not using the best green screens/lighting set up, but it still works. iMovie can do most of this.

This technique does look fake because of the phenomenon known as motion parallax. If you move towards or away from the camera, your body will get larger or smaller, but other objects in the photo won't move in relationship to you. Moving in line with the plane of the photograph should be fine, but keep in mind the perspective of the photo. It'll be easiest if you find a very direct shot, something like the Last Supper, and match that perspective. (As an aside, in video, this can be solved with a MoCo rig, which is getting pretty out there, though a few moco rigs exist for iPhones. This is used around 0:04 of this video. )

Come to think of it, it might be better if you can stage these photos in real life to avoid these issues. Take a still from the camera of the empty scene, drop your green screen in, in take a still, and add actors/props/foreground objects and take another still. Remove other actors/foreground objects, then record your moving scenes. Then its a matter of keying out the screen, and making a sandwich of your layers.

If you want to play around with this kind of effect, check out on an iPhone.

BTW, this will all go much better if you have one audio track that you lip-sync to. Each scene, each room, will have different background noises and audio characteristics, and it'll be very jarring if you use the video audio. I'd do the whole song in each set up, a couple of times. Start shooting by hitting the play button on some speakers out of frame, while an assistant claps really loudly. This is your "clapboard" and will help you sync audio tracks later on.
posted by fontophilic at 6:48 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can do the image-overlaid-on-video thing in Windows Moviemaker too. You need an additional XML file, but you can grab those for free online.

You'll need to keep your head still when you shoot the video.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:18 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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