“Look, ma, no hands!” Cleanup case study

I do cleanup for ads, music videos, feature films almost on a daily basis, and there is not much things that can surprise me in this field. But the next case was a little unusual.

Take a look at final result first:

What do you think was removed from this shot? Some element of a background? A misplaced extra? Maybe unwanted product placement from the t-shirt? 

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No, the director asked me if I can remove… the singer’s hands from the shot (yeah, surprisingly not the dumpsters in a background 🙂 ) Now here’s the original:

As you can see – it is hard to ignore this pretty distinctive gesture in the middle of the shot. I do not know why they wanted to remove it, and frankly that’s not my concern. The task is set, and I got to do it! Given that the job had to be done in less than 6 hours, I had to use some creative thinking to quickly come up with a solution. 

First things first: when you remove something from the shot, you have to replace it with something else (duh!). Lucky I didn’t have to create a clean plate – the portion of the image I needed was intact a second before the gesture. So I took a single frame with well exposed gates and floor and stuck it back in place using a couple of corner pin tracks (one for each plane) from Mocha AE.

Corner pin tracking in Mocha AE

Then I made an accurate track of the head and neck and upper back to put it back on top of the clean plate. And then I got this 🙂

And that was the easy part. Now I needed to retrieve a phase of the shot, where the character is running hands down, then stabilize it, then rotoscope it of the background. This whole process took some time, and a couple of hours later I’ve got this:

Finally, I had to put it back in place of a cutout part. On top of that, transition is supposed to be seamless, naturally. And it was achieved with the help of Puppet Pin tool (composed in AE) and some optical flow trickery.

As a result – the client is happy, I’ve got a few bucks and a little, but interesting case for my portfolio 🙂

 P.S. Guys, drop me a line in the comments below if you want to see some more breakdowns like this. Cheers!

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