Cinematography & VFX Tricks for Pulling Off an Insane Hallucination Sequence
If you were tasked with shooting an extremely trippy hallucination sequence, what techniques would you use?
In one of his latest projects, a hilarious little web-series called The Filmmaker Diaries, Luke Neumann tackled that challenge head on. The final product is both well-executed and tremendously surreal. Plus, Luke was gracious enough to show everybody how exactly he pulled off the various effects used in the sequence, which range from nifty cinematography tricks to some compositing and color magic that he crafted in After Effects. Check it out:
The main effect used here is one in which Pete, who is tripping balls thanks to some surreptitiously-placed magic mushrooms, has a conversation with three different versions of himself. If this had been done with multiple shots, it would be easy to edit together, but Luke chose to shoot this in a single take with a motorized panning head from Syrp. To pull it off, he shot four variations of the scene, with Pete placed in a different location for each shot. It's key that the panning motion in each of these shots happens at a consistent speed (hence the motorized head) so that they're easy to line up and composite together in post.
Speaking of the post process for this effect, bringing it all together was extremely simple. First, Luke synced up each of the shots by stacking them upon one another and turning on the "difference" blend mode. This technique makes it very easy to see when the shots are perfectly in sync with one another. Then it was simply a matter of masking out and tracking each version of Pete as the camera moved around the circle.
Here's the episode from The Filmmaker Diaries in which Pete hallucinates some doppelgängers. This episode makes sense on its own, but being the fourth installment of the series, you may want to watch from the beginning. You can check out the entire series in this playlist.
Have you guys ever shot sequences in which a character was hallucinating? If so, what techniques and effects did you use to draw the audience into the effect? Let us know down in the comments!