Rising Moon

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I’m in one of my final VFX sessions for an episode of HBO’s “Bored To Death.” We’re working on finishing touches for a scene shot in a cemetery during the day that’s meant to eventually look like night.

When I first heard we were going to shoot the scene “Day for Night,” I had my own personal reservations, having to do with childhood memories of fighting cowboys and a fake night sky. (See my blog “Day For Night”)

Vanja, our Director of Photography, had wanted to shoot the scene this way because it would allow us to shoot deeper into the cemetery where it would have been difficult to station enough proper lighting. And of course, I want Vanja to be able to have what he wants, so I agreed to go with it. (Collaboration often requires little leaps of faith!)

After our Color Correct sessions, we were well on our way to converting our daytime-shot scene into a moon-drenched night. George, my VFX artist, was now creating a complex combination of matte composites in order to eliminate the few remaining bright background patches that were piercing our nocturnal illusion.

The “Day for Night” Cemetery scene was starting to look great, but unfortunately, the shooting schedule had necessitated shooting the preceding scene at the Cemetery Gate during actual night, which of course looked completely different!

We had also shot footage of a full moon to be used as a transition between the two looks, but unfortunately, when I saw it cut into the sequence, it looked fairly static and didn’t create the visual transition I was hoping for.

We looked for footage we could license of a rising moon, but none of the available shots quite did what I wanted them to. One of the better clips featured a beautiful moon emerging from behind a dark cloud, but it was surrounded by a black, barren sky. Another shot featured some nice clouds that I knew we could light up in color correct, but the clip was of poor resolution. I ended up licensing them both in the hope that I could find a way to combine each of their better traits.

The next day in my VFX session, George said he thought he could grab the clouds from the lower resolution clip and clean them up a bit. Next he constructed some tracking mattes around the clouds so we could compose the way they would part to reveal the moon.

Soon I had exactly what I’d envisioned, a full, beautiful moon rising out of the clouds, lighting up the sky around it. Now we had a transition that would help us sell our Cemetery scene as being lit by the moon!

I know I’m lucky to have a job that constantly demands inventing solutions to problems beyond the horizon. But in those times when I can make a moon rise the way I want, I get the bonus of growth, accompanied by a moon-drenched night’s worth of satisfaction.

About The Author

I was raised in the Des Moines, Iowa, and had the good fortune to come out during my early days at Stanford University, which meant that I came of age in the San Francisco Bay Area, circa 1978! (That deserves two - !! ) I was thrilled to finally understand that piece of myself, and found many inspiring members within the gay community that helped me feel great about who I was. After college I moved out to New York to pursue a career as an actor. My 20's were fairly eventful (it was the 80's in New York, mind you) but by the end of that period in my life, I was looking for a more satisfying way to work and live. When my agent and manager both started moving clients to LA, I went, happily. Eventually I found my way into Renaissance Pictures, the production company run by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, where I worked on "Hercules" and "Xena." After several very cool years with them, I headed back to New York, motivated by a possible position on a gay cable network (that never happened) and a new love (that most definitely did!). 13 years later I find myself happily married to my husband Chris, working on two cool shows ("Nurse Jackie" and "Bored To Death"), and living in Chelsea with our golden retriever Jezebel. During the summer we're lucky enough to balance our time between the Pines on Fire Island, and Ptown on Cape Cod. During those visits, Jezebel loves nothing more than to jump the waves after a ball, or chase seagulls along the beach. She's a good role model on how best to enjoy the simple pleasures, and as easy a child to raise and love as ever there was! (She is a golden, after all!) You can reach Brad at carpenterbrad@me.com.

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