In 2010 I got together over the Internet with four other YouTube musicians to create a collaboration video. We decided to perform a cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb from the 1979 album The Wall. The plan was to put us all together on the same virtual stage, even though we were all in completely different places around the world. Breno (keyboards) lives in Brazil, Omar (drums) lives in Mexico, Brad (Bass) lives in the USA, Sergio (guitar) lives in Costa Rica, and I live in Australia.
We started with a guide audio file and we each played our parts along to that guide track. Everyone sent their recorded tracks to me so I could synchronise them and mix the audio into the finished sound track for the video.
Each of us shot two camera angles of our performance in front of a green-screen, one full body and one close-up. Using a green-screen allows the background to be made transparent using a colour keyer so the performers can be merged with the 3D digital background.
I started the video by building a 3D environment inside After Effects from a series of flat pictures created for the various surfaces such as the wall, floor and speaker sides. The next step was to key out the green-screen backgrounds from all the videos and colour-correct them so they had similar tones. Due to the video files all coming from low quality consumer cameras and less than ideal lighting, keying properly was a bit of a challenge and I had to resort to manual tracing around some items, particularly the drums.
The full body videos were then placed on the stage and I added lighting effects to tie it all together. This produced a 3D scene through which I could move virtual cameras. The only problem was that the actual videos of the performers were two dimensional, so in order to keep the illusion of us all being in the same place I had to be careful to limit the 3D camera movement. If the camera was moved too far it would become obvious that the performers were in fact only two dimensional.
The camera movements were programmed to add interest and then I rendered out the first camera angle ready for the final edit. Each frame took a few minutes to calculate and render and the full 9 minute file took several days to complete.
I then duplicated the first composite 5 times as a starting point for the close-up camera angles. This enabled me to make sure each camera angle would have the same lighting effects so I could freely switch or dissolve between camera angles in the final edit as if the sequence had been filmed on a real stage.
I then imported all six camera angles into Premiere along with the mixed audio track, synchronised them and created a standard multi-camera edit ready for upload to YouTube.
The Completed Video – Comfortably Numb – Distant Minds
Trailer – Comfortably Numb Unmasked