June 4, 2015

Cinematography & VFX Tricks for Pulling Off an Insane Hallucination Sequence

Luke Neumann Hallucination Tutorial
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!     

Your Comment

15 Comments

Yes! That was awesome. I did a lot of After Effects stuff for a hallucination sequence in my sci-fi short called NOISE GATE (you can watch it here):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX8USzx0prE

At the end of the film I wanted to character to feel like he's being transformed from the inside out. Sort of a hallucination/spirit quest. I used the Liquify effect in After Effects to push and pinch the video. I was kind of going for a more 80s/90s fx feel. Thanks for the cool post!

June 4, 2015 at 11:08PM

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Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover
345

the sound design mmmmmm...so good maan. love the jazz elements.

June 5, 2015 at 7:29AM

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Sam Downton-Jones
Director, DOP, Editor.
13

Awesome! Thank you.

June 5, 2015 at 3:35PM

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Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover
345

Do you mind if I ask what camera and lense(s) you used? I really liked the overall look of the film. Reminded me of Dirty Harry and the '70's!

June 6, 2015 at 2:28PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
634

From The Looks of The Tutorial I Say a Epic ...When he drops the Files in AE they are R3D Files...

June 6, 2015 at 5:47PM

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CABLE (X-FORCE)
DP/EDITOR/DIR
268

I was using a Canon t2i with mainly a 50mm 1.8 and the Tokina 11-16mm. I wanted to get that spaghetti western/cyberpunk feel. Glad you picked up on it! And thanks!

June 7, 2015 at 11:14PM, Edited June 7, 11:14PM

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Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover
345

Awesome, thanks!

June 8, 2015 at 8:11PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
634

Not so much the main character, but the film itself hallucinates, I guess. I just wanted to make a weird ass looking film with little to no plot-a test film, visual/audio dance. And yes, this is a cheap shot at promoting my nothing film but god damn I'm not missing a chance. Enjoy..or not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSwMM5-_KwE

June 5, 2015 at 7:10AM

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Sam Downton-Jones
Director, DOP, Editor.
13

So cool! Loved your film. Something about the door opening and closing was really unnerving. I also was intrigued by the person staring at the wall and then disappearing. Really cool!

June 5, 2015 at 3:54PM, Edited June 5, 3:54PM

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Donovan Vim Crony
Director, DP, Editor, VFX, Sci-Fi Lover
345

unintentional post please see intentional following

June 7, 2015 at 8:32PM, Edited June 7, 9:14PM

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John L Decker
Artist
8

I really liked the characters and their interaction and the hallucination sequence was superb. I now will have to watch more of the series.
I have experimented with a POV simulation of the "peaking" experience of drugs like LSD. Using a short video sequence, I cut the shot into discrete tiny increments and manipulated them in Photoshop, then constructively reassembled them in stretched time. I treated the sound track similarly and "stacked" sections to create echos and shears. My cheap shot here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq3qjcU2KaM

June 7, 2015 at 8:47PM, Edited June 7, 8:47PM

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John L Decker
Artist
8

Free lensing was a good option in my case. Strange bokeh and flares created decent dreamy mood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzXIPBsraz4

June 8, 2015 at 5:08AM

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The "special effect" that would have helped this the most would have been a bit of chemical costume design. Somehow getting a little atropine from an optometrist (messing with belladonna isn't advised if you don't know what you're doing) would have dilated the actor's pupils and in doing so made the actor's performance feel more real.

The amount of light in the shot had his pupils pinhole tight. Which sort of ruins the illusion that you carefully and creatively crafted with the film special effects/camera work.

June 8, 2015 at 11:08AM

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Sean Bokenkamp
Animator
368

This is funny, the very first video I ever made, eve, in school was me hallucinating being chased by a Pac-Man ghost. Used a lot of ripple filter timed with foot steps.

June 12, 2015 at 1:20PM, Edited June 12, 1:20PM

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Great techniques! I have also created some hallucination scenes through post production techniques. I used Adobe After Effects for editing. I mostly used the effects Liquify, Ripple, Turbulent Displace, Twirl, and Warp under the Distortion category and Fractal and Turbulent Noise under the Noise & Grain category. I used some basic masking techniques as well. For the audio hallucinations, I incorporated Adobe Audition into the project. By changing pitch, creating echos and simulating different acoustic scenarios I was able to add another dimension to the characters trip.

You can check out my video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDD-nP8TqyM

Let me know what you guys think!

June 15, 2015 at 1:52PM

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