It's nearly impossible to shoot crowd scenes right now. What can you do as a workaround?
With Hollywood shut down and pandemic precautions still in place, it's nearly impossible to shoot big, crowded scenes safely. But even after it becomes safe to work again, you might find that hiring background actors or extras is cost-prohibitive to your production. After all, you'll probably need to pay each person about $100 for a day of work.
One easy and fast solution might be to use Adobe Premiere for digital crowd multiplication.
This isn't a new technique, by any means, and it's been used to pack football stadiums or create zombie hordes in the past. But it's certainly a skill that might come in handy, especially in the middle of COVID-19.
Rubidium Wu over at Crimson Engine has got a few pointers for you! Check out the step-by-step video below.
The main takeaways
One thing that helps this technique work is that the camera remains static, and only the grouped extras are moved in each shot. This creates distinct plate shots you can mask together and match easily.
Consider taping or chalking off areas, so your extras will know how much space they have to move. If you have an arm or object move out of that zone, it's going to require much more complex compositing.
Layer shots on top of each other using a blue screen or green screen. It's simply a matter of adding a Color Key to your clip and keying out the blue, then rotoscoping around any rough parts.
Remember to have your extras dress in different outfits and cover/uncover their hair for the various shots to provide crowd variety. If they're carrying objects, vary that as well.
Even if you're a perfectionist, you might be able to get away with things looking a little bit rough. These shots probably won't last more than a few seconds, and the viewers' attention is probably going to be on a lead actor saying something elsewhere on the screen.
What do you think of the final product? Have you tried this technique before? Let us know in the comments!
What's next? How about more tips?
Once you've mastered this, we've got some more tips for making small groups look huge. Here is a quick way to composite in After Effects. And make sure you can tackle these common green screen problems!