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Once upon a time, a visual effects artist and a Grammy-award winning singer got together to make music video magic and Snow White was reborn.
The tale begins when Adam C. Sager, a Portland, Oregon-based VFX supervisor and director, met with Kimbra, a New Zealand-born recording artist, and decided to honor Disney for the inspiration it had given both artists throughout the years. Kimbra had just recorded "I'm Wishing," the song from the classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" movie, for a Disney tribute album, We Love Disney, Australia. Blending reality with Disney magic, Sager created a music video that inserted Kimbra directly into the classic animated film as the heroine Snow White and wicked Evil Queen.
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To achieve the unique look of the music video, Sager and his crew filmed Kimbra in front of a green screen and then inserted her into the fantasy land of Snow White. Using the scenes from the original movie, Kimbra appeared to be right beside animated animal friends and in the infamous magic mirror.
"When preparing for the shoot, I knew that we'd need an incredible camera that could provide us with a crisp and clean image," Sager explained. "We'd need the ability to capture uncompressed, and with the bit depth necessary to seamlessly key and integrate Kimbra into the original animation. This video concept would require us to procure a plethora of complex shots, so selecting a camera with ample performance and quality would be paramount to our success."
For this, Sager and his DP Ethan Burke turned to Blackmagic Design's URSA. "URSA's 12 stops of dynamic range certainly gave us the latitude we needed in post," explained Burke. "It's 10 inch full HD flip-out screen was also extremely helpful on set, since it allowed several people to easily see the image at once without having to crowd closely around the camera. For instance, Kimbra's hair & makeup artist was able to use the 10" monitor to check how her work would look on screen, while at the same time I could use the 5" screen on the other side of the camera to navigate menus and change settings."
"While still on-set, I began pulling footage into a compositing application on my laptop, and was immediately wowed by the ease at which the chroma values were keyed from footage," Sager added. "I then started adjusting the color values, and I'm pretty sure I blew everyone's minds with how quickly Kimbra was seamlessly inserted into the animated world. I had basically completed a shot right there on the set, and that was largely due to the incredible quality of the footage captured by the URSA."
The digital film camera was combined with Blackmagic Design's disk recorders, and capture and playback technology to create the workflow for the shoot.
"We recorded directly to the HyperDeck Shuttle in Uncompressed 10-bit Quicktime files via the SDI output on the URSA. We then used the HDMI loop-through on Blackmagic Design's HyperDeck Shuttle to send a digital feed to Sager's computer (via Blackmagic Design's Intensity Extreme) which provided us with a live-composite on the monitors," explained Burke. "This helped us determine where to place the camera so we could achieve the viewing angle(s) necessary to match Kimbra's performance to the original animation."
"Shooting this video was an extraordinary experience for everyone involved. In addition to the challenges that accompany any visual effects shoot, we also had the added objective of staying faithful to the aesthetic and heart of the most classic film in Disney history," Sager continued. "With merely a day and a half to shoot everything, having a camera and production workflow that made everything come together quickly and easily was crucial."
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