The Wicked Witch of the West

I feel kind of uncomfortable starting this thread, because I'm more of a lurker, and don't really post here very often. This is a clip from a film I've been working on with a number of talented people for the past few years. It's an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the goal of which is to be more faithful to the book than other versions that have come before. We're just starting to make some solid headway, and this halloween we revealed our Wicked Witch of the West in a brief little clip:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQkDTbamgXc
What reaction there's been has been fairly positive so far, but I'm at a point for the moment where all I can see are the flaws. I'd love to get some constructive criticism on this bad boy, stuff that I can tweak before it makes its way into the final film, or lessons I can take away for other scenes.
If the project interests you, you can learn more about it at our (currently Witched up) website.
And as this is a Hitfilm forum and I assume somebody's going to ask; all the compositing was done in Hitfilm. Handheld shots were motion-tracked in SynthEyes and then it's all 3D layers in Hitfilm. I did a pretty detailed write-up on the effects work here: http://wonderfulwizardmovie.blogspot.com/2011/11/misery-business.html

Comments

  • Wow very creepy, :-? but cool B-)
  • edited November 2011
    What I liked:
    [list]
    [*]The witch looks great - her prosthetic make-up and costume are excellent
    [*]Dorothy looks well cast
    [*]Tight editing
    [*]Not too overpowering colour grading
    [*]The heart-beat sound effect helps to build the tension
    [/list]
    What I didn't like as much:
    [list]
    [*]The audio mix (combined with her raspy voice) makes it a little difficult to follow what the witch is saying
    [*]The lighting on the tower render is very flat, giving it an "old school" render look
    [/list]
    It's great work overall, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from this project!
  • Wow nice work theclone56- this looks great! I really liked the prosthetic of the witch- it really creeped me out for a few seconds when it was first revealed- it suited the actors voice brilliantly and they both worked well to create the archetype witch but also enough originaility to make it fresh- it was also a lot more scarier than the make up we're used to seeing in Wizard of Oz films, plays and programmes.
    I also liked the colour of the sky and clouds and the colour grading-it looked almost other-wordly, which is no doubt a good thing for a witch. The tower also looked great but personally i'd have loved to have seen it really ancient;crumbling masonry, splintered wood and vines of ivy covering the parapets. It would probably take some considerable work though and the tower looks good as it is anyway.
    Great stuff, looking forward to seeing more of this project!
    Sam
  • Thank you guys for the comments, I really appreciate any kind of feedback I can get. We totally lucked out with our prosthetic guy. He did some fantastic work, and was a really nice, helpful, down-to-earth fellow to boot.

    What I liked:
    [list]
    [*]The witch looks great - her prosthetic make-up and costume are excellent
    [*]Dorothy looks well cast
    [*]Tight editing
    [*]Not too overpowering colour grading
    [*]The heart-beat sound effect helps to build the tension
    [/list]
    What I didn't like as much:
    [list]
    [*]The audio mix (combined with her raspy voice) makes it a little difficult to follow what the witch is saying
    [*]The lighting on the tower render is very flat, giving it an "old school" render look
    [/list]
    It's great work overall, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from this project!

    Appreciate the positive remarks, for sure. And we're very pleased with our Dorothy actress. She did a great job working with almost nothing to react to. Very talented girl.
    Totally agree with you on the sound mix. Sound isn't my strong suit, not by a long shot. We're working on making some progress with a couple of other scenes before we start a real recruitment push, but a sound guy will definitely be one of the hunted.
    As for the flatness of the tower, I know it's currently kind of the in-thing to have a lot of really bright specular highlights in CGI renders, but that felt inappropriate to me with the general overcast look of the scene. But if it's looking old school, then I'm not doing something right. Would you have any suggestions for improving the aesthetic without going crazy with the highlights?

    Wow nice work theclone56- this looks great! I really liked the prosthetic of the witch- it really creeped me out for a few seconds when it was first revealed- it suited the actors voice brilliantly and they both worked well to create the archetype witch but also enough originaility to make it fresh- it was also a lot more scarier than the make up we're used to seeing in Wizard of Oz films, plays and programmes.
    I also liked the colour of the sky and clouds and the colour grading-it looked almost other-wordly, which is no doubt a good thing for a witch. The tower also looked great but personally i'd have loved to have seen it really ancient;crumbling masonry, splintered wood and vines of ivy covering the parapets. It would probably take some considerable work though and the tower looks good as it is anyway.
    Great stuff, looking forward to seeing more of this project!
    Sam

    Thank you! Other-worldly is sort of the goal, really. Before shooting we talked a lot about finding actual locations to film in, and even got so far as scouting a few out. But the more we did the more it became apparent that we'd just end up being a cheap fantasy film that shot in the woods behind the overpass, if you know what I mean. So that's the reason we went with the green-screen stuff. I'm a big fan of stylized film, and I figured this way we could create an Oz that was uniquely our own, and not just... the river by the suburbs with some comped in extensions.
    You're probably right about the crumbling masonry, that would've been a good touch, and might be something I'll take the time to add in. As for vines, the Witch lives in a very dry area, as she must, so we've made a decision to keep her land free of any greenery.
  • My only complaint is that the Witch's voice is the 100% generic creepy witch voice that everyone is familiar with, and uses as a default for "Witch Character". You're trying to do something very different, and you've succeeded, apart from that voice.
  • edited November 2011

    As for the flatness of the tower, I know it's currently kind of the in-thing to have a lot of really bright specular highlights in CGI renders, but that felt inappropriate to me with the general overcast look of the scene. But if it's looking old school, then I'm not doing something right. Would you have any suggestions for improving the aesthetic without going crazy with the highlights?

    I much prefer how the stones and wooden floor look behind Dorothy at 0:53, compared to how they look behind the Witch at 0:57. I think this is because the floor looks too bright and evenly lit in the latter shot, which highlights the unrealistic way it joins with the stones and gives it a flat and artificial feel.
    One possibility for creating additional atmosphere in the scene would be to reduce the global illumination and add a few visible torch lights. The light drop-off from the torch lights should immediately add depth and credibility to both your stone and floor textures.
  • i'm thinking it could use more ambient sounds. A little wind, maybe a crow cawing in the distance. Anything to open up the scene. If you hear something that you don't see on screen it makes the scene feel bigger, not so claustrophobic. At the same time the sound of the keys rattling could be brought down a hair, its a tad over powering in the scene.
    The witch make up is awesome.

  • My only complaint is that the Witch's voice is the 100% generic creepy witch voice that everyone is familiar with, and uses as a default for "Witch Character". You're trying to do something very different, and you've succeeded, apart from that voice.

    This is the most common negative comment. I agree with it, to an extent. The voice that our actress did in her audition was better than anything we've been able to get out of her since, though we keep getting closer. We have to ADR the rest of her scenes once they've been edited, and I'm planning to rerecord the audio for this scene when we do the rest. For consistency if nothing else. She's great because she'll give you something different in the performance every time, but it can make editing for continuity a little rough.

    I much prefer how the stones and wooden floor look behind Dorothy at 0:53, compared to how they look behind the Witch at 0:57. I think this is because the floor looks too bright and evenly lit in the latter shot, which highlights the unrealistic way it joins with the stones and gives it a flat and artificial feel.
    One possibility for creating additional atmosphere in the scene would be to reduce the global illumination and add a few visible torch lights. The light drop-off from the torch lights should immediately add depth and credibility to both your stone and floor textures.

    I appreciate the advice very much! Definitely going to help me improve this thing. I could tweak the visuals until the cows come home. And they're really far away from home to start with, I guess. If we hadn't been striving for a little mini Halloween event, I'd still be up to my elbows in this scene.
    Your comment about the lack of depth is what I've most taken to heart. My current task is going through the whole film and doing some pre-viz mock-ups of scenes we haven't really touched at this point. I did this comp the other night, trying really hard to give a sense of depth and avoid that "old-school" kind of look. Would you mind weighing in on that?
    [img]http://i1098.photobucket.com/albums/g365/barnyardstudios/KissingCousins.jpg[/img]

    i'm thinking it could use more ambient sounds. A little wind, maybe a crow cawing in the distance. Anything to open up the scene. If you hear something that you don't see on screen it makes the scene feel bigger, not so claustrophobic. At the same time the sound of the keys rattling could be brought down a hair, its a tad over powering in the scene.
    The witch make up is awesome.

    That's great advice on the sound, thank you. I'm going to have to mix at least one more scene myself, and I'll definitely work to open up the soundscape.
    Really genuinely appreciate the comments, guys. Very helpful stuff.
  • edited November 2011

    I did this comp the other night, trying really hard to give a sense of depth and avoid that "old-school" kind of look. Would you mind weighing in on that?

    The deeper shadows and brighter highlights definitely give it more depth. Plus, the complexity of the model, the realistic variations in the wood texture and the lens blur all help to sell it as a background.
    However, one thing I noticed straight away was that the light on the actors appears to be coming from the left (from behind the witch), but the shadows in the background imply that it's being lit from the right. In my experience, matching the lighting between actors and background almost always makes a shot more compelling.

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