The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the film and television industries to speed up their work in applying technological solutions to problems like how to safely, effectively model everything from large crowds to loogies. Using Ted Lasso as an example of how TV shows have managed to develop techniques in the former field, a video from Insider looks into new developments in the art of tricking viewers into thinking a handful of real or CGI people are actually hundreds or thousands.
While noting that fake crowds are a longstanding cinema tradition that’s been accomplished in the past through everything from painted backdrops to balloon models, the video highlights how Ted Lasso’s visual effects team, which faced the dual issues of being unable to film inside a real, appropriately huge football stadium and needing to adhere to COVID safety precautions, ended up using and creating novel crowd creation techniques.
One of these is dubbed “plate extras,” which sees teams like Lasso’s Barnstorm VFX shooting close-up footage of real people wearing a variety of costumes while performing gestures in front of a green screen. By filming these extras from different angles, they can be positioned against a CGI backdrop to simulate a crowd without needing to put lots of actual people in close proximity to one another.
The video also explains how a technique called “crowd tiling” is shot by having a group of extras move from one portion of a set to another, being filmed in each spot before those images are combined to make a fake crowd. “Digital doubles,” which are CGI models of real people, and programmable crowd customization software were also used in Ted Lasso for shots that were far enough removed to hide the fact that they don’t look quite as good as actual flesh and blood humans.
Watch the entire video for more. And take heart, knowing that with these kind of innovative approaches to cinema before us, filmmakers can now overcome any problem—even the undying feuds of competitive bald muscle-guys who hate actually starring in movies together.
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