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Handcrafting a Spooky Scene

Matt Schwarz
October 23, 2012 by Matt Schwarz Staff

When it comes to special effects, miniature sets are often used to help create a scene where shooting on location could be difficult, expensive, or impossible. Luckily our friend Brian from !ROBOTHAND! is an old pro at creating and compositing around miniatures and takes on the challenge of creating a spooky graveyard scene!

Here's a run down of the materials Brian used:

- A big flat piece of cardboard
- A bag of moss
- Grey modeling clay
- Glue gun with plenty of glue sticks

Storm clouds:
- 10 gallon fish tank
- Plastic syringe
- Evaporated milk
- Rubbing alcohol

- Sheet of glass or plexiglass
- Black acrylic paint
- Push pin

- White t-shirt
- Armature wire
- Aluminum foil

Let's review:
Brian uses Final Cut Pro for the post-editing steps. Here's a brief overview-

  1. Place your graveyard footage into video track one of your timeline.

  2. Place your ghost puppet footage on video track two (above your graveyard footage), then apply a Chroma Key effect by double clicking the footage, then going to the Effects menu > Video Filters > Key > Chroma Keyer.

  3. Click the eye dropper button from the filter's control menu that appears to the left, then click the black background of your ghost footage. This should remove most of the background leaving your ghost super-imposed over the graveyard shot.

  4. Right-click the ghost footage on track two then go to Composite Mode > Add to make the ghost somewhat transparent and give it a nice glow.

  5. Click the Motion tab above the Chroma Keyer control, open the Opacity drop-down menu and lower the amount until the ghost is somewhat transparent.

  6. Create a new timeline (or sequence) by going to File > New > Sequence.

  7. Place your cloud footage on track one and your lightning footage on track two.

  8. Repeat steps 2 through 3 for these clips as well.

  9. Click the tab above the timeline window to go back to your first timeline. Drag the other timeline containing the clouds and lightning from the Browser window on to video track three (on top of the ghost and graveyard footage) of your first timeline. Timelines appear as clips in the Browser window allowing you to drag the contents of one timeline into another.

A big thanks to Brian Lonanao from !ROBOTHAND! for creating this awesome tutorial. If you like Brian's work be sure to check out his recent short film The Transmission!


Nick Schreger

Cool! However...your bathroom is a lot spookier :)

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