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Ever wondered what it must be like to live your life as a thumb? Well now you can find out for real in our latest production about the amazing talking thumb! We had a major overhaul of our editing equipment here at Mcphoney Pictures so what better way to test out the new hardware than with a nice visual effect piece! Enjoy!
We suppose you are (possibly) wondering why and how you came up with this rather bizarre idea? Well to be honest it was one of those thoughts that we had one day on “How painful it must be for a thumb to use a lighter!” And that is where it basically started. Of course we had to do quite a bit of research in trying to make the idea work. We had already learnt the basics of using Adobe After Effects’ Motion and Stabilization tools, however we wondered if it was now possible to use the technique/tools on a moving object…or in this case a thumb!
Original Test footage shot

original test footage shot

Whilst researching and testing out the footage the one thing that we did discover was that our editing suite just wasn’t capable of rendering such a huge amount of data. Even though it was only going to be a couple of minutes. Ok we tell a lie, our editing suite could handle it but it would take over 2 days (48+hours) for the rendering to complete…and that was just an estimate from the computer! In other words in order for this production to go any further…we needed to upgrade our hardware!
A wee while later….(about 12months) we were finally in the position to upgrade our entire editing suite! So we chose the best of the best (within our budget of course)! and as soon as it arrived we then re-opened our talking thumb production.
The first thing we realised during pre-production was that we couldn’t have our thumb moving too fast otherwise it would become far too difficult to have a face motion tracked onto the footage. So we went back and re-shot a calmer thumb! It was then discovered that for the computer to track and stabilize the thumb footage, it needed particular markers to help the motion of the thumb become more visible. So thats when we thought about a bit of blu-tac would be our savior!
Blu-tac on small finger before added effects.

Blu-tac on small finger before added effects.

The next part was of course to record the conversation. Now the tricky part with this was that we couldn’t move the face much whilst it was being filmed as this would again make things difficult for the computer to track. So we spoke directly into the camera, holding our face in both palms of our hands whilst having the script stuck to the side of the camera. (Its a good job no-one saw us)!
With the conversation finally done it was time to mask our face onto the footage of the thumb. Sound simple eh? Well….in some ways it was and in many ways it wasnt! Having motion tracked our eyes and mouth (the only parts visible on the talking thumb) we then had to create a mask (in Adobe After Effects) for our face to be easily placed on the thumb but with only the eyes and mouth visible.
Mask of eyes and mouth footage

Mask of eyes and mouth footage

For the mask (face) to stay on the thumb we then had to traverse the tracking motion of the mask onto the already tracked and stabilized thumb footage which would then create one completed, tracked and stabilized sequence. Simple as that eh!  However with our new piece of editing hardware, this no longer took the previous estimate of 48+ hours, it actually did it in less than 4 minutes! (Yes we are boasting)!

Final completed footage

Final completed footage

Finally with the production complete we werent exactly too happy with how the feature finished but none the less we were still impressed with how it looked and so we released it onto the unsuspecting world!

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