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Episode 6: Holograms

The low down on hologram creation By Stephen Schleicher
Hologram Final imageYou are sitting in your living room enjoying a beautiful binary sunset, when suddenly your hologram goes off. Its a call from your brother-in-law wanting to say hello. What do you do? So sets up the next installment of our Star Wars fan film production series.

If you missed the first in our series, you can check out Episode 5: The Cheesy Scroll Strikes Back here. Even though it is Episode 5, it is really the first in our series-- we actually plan to go back and do the first four installments at a later time when technology advances... or something like that.

Anyhoo, on with our lesson.

How do they do that?
Holograms have become a recognized staple in the Star Wars universe, from the first time Luke cast eyes upon a tiny Princess Leia asking for Obi Wans help, to the more recent "walker" hologram that transported the evil Darth Siduous down the palace corridors of Naboo. Lucasfilm, Ltd. and Industrial Light and Magic usually have tight lips when it comes to revealing how their effects are done, but I did some research on the Internet (everything on the Net is true, of course), and have pieced together a plausible answer for how the early holograms were created.

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It seems the original holograms were created by filming the actors against a black backdrop. The film was then transferred to video and played back on a television screen while a film camera shot the image. Because of the limitations of video (525 lines, interlaced images, 60Hz/second) this created the scanlined flickering images of our heroes. The final film results were then composited into the scene later on. Anytime an image would "cut" out due to interference, it was probably created by jiggling a loose wire connected to the television set from the VTR or camera.

As technology has improved, this low-tech approach to creating holograms has given way to more high-tech methods using chromakeying and post effects. Fortunately, Lucas and company decided to keep the low-tech look of the effect, and well do the same. For this tutorial we are going to take the high-tech approach and cover chromakeying and compositing using blue/green screen techniques, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects 5.x Production Bundle, and Sound Forge for some audio tweaking near the end.

Background on the background
Even though this tutorial is aimed mainly at a postproduction process, I have decided to take some time to discuss blue and green screen techniques, because frankly, there isnt a lot of good information out there, and confusion seems to be the word of the day for fan film producers when it comes to shooting for special effects.

How does chromakeying work? In the early days of television the camera used tubes for each of the color (or chroma) channels (red, blue, green). By "turning off"or making blind one of the tubes (blue, for example), it would create a "keyhole" in the video that could then be filled with a different video source.
How Chromakeying works
By making the camera "blind" to certain colors, you can create a hole and fill it with another source.

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Related Keywords:Star Wars, fan film, hologram, tutorial, adobe after effects, adobe photoshop, animation, compositing, mattes, chromakey, chroma key, dv, digital video, blue screen, green screen, shooting, post production, stephen schleicher


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