Congratulations! We survived the apocalypse! You know what that means? Yes, we get to keep learning some more awesome VFX! This week we are going to go over an effect that is pretty simple and widely used, but can be extremely useful when done correctly. That my friends, is the Cloning effect!
Haven’t heard of the cloning effect or just not sure what it is? Here are a few examples:
As you can see the cloning effect is where you feature the same subject multiple times within the same shot of a video.
People who don’t know VFX might say that they obviously used a green screen to do the effect. While a green screen can be used to create this effect in some instances, there actually is a much more simpler and effective way to pull it off.
Like all VFX, this effect starts with the camera. The way this effect works is you need to take one individual shot of each “clone” that will appear in the shot. You need film them where you want them to be within that shot. Once that is done, you will later crop the clips accordingly so it looks like each clone is in the same setting. If you are having trouble figuring out where to shoot each clone, draw out a picture on how you want the final effect to look and draw lines separating each clone.
To make this effect work you need to carefully set up your camera so the frame is exactly where you want your cloning effect to happen. Make sure you are using a tripod! Once you have your camera in place, hit record and make sure no one touches the camera. Bring your subject into frame and position them where your first clone will be. Have your subject do all of its actions and then ask them to move to the spot of the next clone. Be sure to watch the viewfinder carefully (without touching it) so that your subject does not pass over those imaginary lines that you drew in your picture when planning this shot. Also make sure each action of each clone is the right length. If two clones are having a conversation, you need to allow enough time for each of them to respond to each other. The best way to do this is to read the response to your subject that the other clone will have after they say each of their lines (you can edit that out in post).
One more thing before you go out and shoot this effect! Lighting is important when shooting for cloning! Make sure the amount light in the frame is as consistent as possible when shooting each clone shot. If it is not, have of your frame will be dark and the other half will be light. Also use lighting to eliminate long shadows as much as you can because they can overlap over the imaginary lines you set up. These things can be fixed in After Effects but it is a pain to do it, so try to avoid problems with lighting as much as possible.
Now onto editing: This effect can actually be done in non-linear editors like Final Cut and Premiere, but if you want the best result, go with After Effects (also that’s the one I’m going to talk about). If you shot this effect the way I suggested you should have one long clip with each cloning frame within that clip. Cut the clip so you have one layer for each of the cloning frames. Line up the frames in time so that the sequence will play out how you want it. After that is done it is time to start masking. The masking tool is like a cropping tool except it can be used to make more exact crops.
Make a mask going along the imaginary line on your first clip then outline the rest of the section where your subject is. After you finish the mask you should see the clone effect take effect.
When you click away making the mask lines disappear you might see the crop doesn’t look perfect. This can be solved easily by feathering the mask. Feathering is a very important when it comes to using masks. Feathering masks blur the edges of the mask that you make slightly so you don’t see the hard edges you would normally see without it. Almost all masks that you ever use should be feathered at least slightly because they help the effect look more believable.
If you shot two clips then your effect is complete, but if you have another clip, go ahead and carefully mask that out too. If you ended up having part of your subject overlap over the imaginary line, you’ll have to carefully maneuver your mask you you make an outline around the body part that overlaps and then feather that out as well. If it is an over lap that interferes with another clone you’ll unfortunately have to rotoscope it. Rotoscoping isn’t fun, but it is very effective. I can’t go over rotoscoping in full detail in this article, but I in a future article I will.
Once you are satisfied with your cloning effect you might want to add some more filters to it to make the overall clip more believable. This could be a widescreen, color correction, camera shake, or a combination of the three. Camera shake is most effective because it will make your shot look more realistic and will take people’s focus away from any small imperfections in your masking if there are any.
Cloning can be a really neat effect, but what makes it most effective is if you can incorporate it in a creative way within the film or video you are making. Many YouTubers put up a cloning effect just to show off that they know how to do it, but don’t actually make a practical use for it. Again this is a fairly easy effect to pull off, but it is also fairly easy to mess up. Practice the effect a few times before you use it in a video. People will not be impressed if you don’t execute the effect well.
To see a video I made with cloning check out this Angry Birds Parody I made. It is called: Angry Men.
Each week I will touch upon a different technique used in VFX, most of them pertaining to After Effects. These include, rotoscoping, keyframing, motion tracking, title sequences, lens flares, color correction, and much much more!
If you want to see some of the projects I have made my Channel on YouTube is CKproductions1000. We release a new video every other Friday!