March 23, 2018

How to Pull Off the Rolling Transition From the 'Atlanta' Season 2 Teaser

The "Rolling Preview" for Season 2 of "Atlanta" was awesome. Here's how to create that sweet camera rotation effect.

Last month, FX premiered a short, 30-second teaser trailer for the 2nd season of Atlanta, the TV dramedy created by and starring Donald Glover. Why am I bringing up a preview that was released back in February for a season that has already aired its 4th episode? Well, because that preview had a friggin' awesome "rolling" transition effect that had filmmakers/cinephiles lighting up the video's YouTube comments section like a very nerdy and kinda small Christmas tree. (7 out of 23 comments ain't bad, y'all.)

The team over at Cinecom have come up with a way to mimic the effect using a green screen and some masking and keying in post. It's not a perfect recreation, but it might work for your project.

But before we get to the tutorial, check out the original Atlanta teaser below:

And here's the Cinecom tutorial:

Ever since people first feasted their eyes on this teaser back in January, there have been debates online about how it was done. Was it done using a green screen? Was it done with practical effects? Was Donald Glover hanging upside down and swaying back and forth? The theories get pretty wild the more you investigate, in part because there are several things about the video that just don't make sense regardless of which technique you claim was used. In fact, the moment you believe you've figured it out, the next frame will show a shifting of light or an antigravity hoodie drawstring that completely blows your deduction out of the water.

But, if you have your heart set on solving the mystery, here are a few theories to consider. 

  • Green Screen: One of the more prevalent theories out there about how this teaser was made is that the filmmakers put Glover in front of a green screen and went through the same basic process as the Cinecom team demonstrates in the video. The only problem with that is that Glover appears to be hitting the ground on both the left and right side of the frame, rather than merely leaning over to each side to make it look as though he's falling.
  • SnorriCam Rig:  The other common theory is that Glover was wearing a SnorriCam rig, or something similar, and was actually being filmed at each location falling over. However, the main reason this is disputed is that it's pretty much physically impossible to do the action Glover appears to be doing in the video, essentially "falling upward" from the left until he's standing upright and then falling to the ground toward the right.
  • Wall to Wall:  One interesting theory that combats the SnorriCam theory is that, yes, Glover is wearing a SnorriCam rig, but he isn't really falling at all, but instead leaning side to side and hitting a hard surface, like a wall, on either side to produce an impact.
  • Like Mike: My favorite theory out there, and probably the most outrageous, is that Glover wore specially-made shoes like Michael Jackson did to pull off that anti-gravity lean in "Smooth Criminal." Now, we all want this to be true, but chances are it probably isn't...and we're all going to have to accept it and move on.

Editor Justin Odisho also did a livestream earlier this month about this. He brought a lot of great professional insight as an editor into how the effect could've been done.

Regardless of how it was really done, the filmmakers that created the teaser for Atlanta Season 2 have given not only fans of the show but also fans of film something that mystifies and confuses them, causing us all to wonder and debate over how it was done. That's a gift that I think all of us strive to give our audiences at some point in our careers, right?     

Your Comment

5 Comments

Nice tutorial, but there is one little thing that´s "off" in your recreation of the scene: the actor rises from left and falls to the right, thus creating a kind of "jump-cut" on his motion.
If you watch the original teaser closely, you will notice that the actor does not rise nor falls, but stands quite vertical all the time, just "shaking" a bit on the transition points.
Other than that, great tutorial on the technique!

March 23, 2018 at 10:24PM, Edited March 23, 10:24PM

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Looks like Glover and the camera are on a see-saw gimbal that is controlled by grips on the way up and then by gravity and momentum on the way down. I think the first one Glover controlled the descent himself. It seems to me that the only visual effect (other than the transition to each following scene, and the titles) is digitally painting out the padding Glover lifts up from on one side and falls into on the other. Otherwise, he’s actually rising and falling and that’s no green screen.

March 24, 2018 at 11:19AM

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Jason R. Johnston
Director & Cinematographer
91

The shirt strings aren't moving....

Jib the light from above to below him, rotate the composition afterwards. Glover adds slight slight sideways tilt to sell it.

March 24, 2018 at 12:51PM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
912

Superb work.
So creative.... Awesome.
Hats off guys.

March 25, 2018 at 10:06AM, Edited March 25, 10:06AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
793

It seems totally doable that Glover would be harnessed into some kind of rig that would rotate him and the camera at the same time. Based on the footage, and how you can see gravity acting on his body, I think it would be very unlikely that the crew did something other than this relatively simple setup.

March 25, 2018 at 12:57PM

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