The Yellow Wallpaper Preproduction and Production


More adventures in VFX supervision! Currently, I am the supervisor for a senior thesis film titled The Yellow Wallpaper, directed by Amberly McMahon. When I was put on to this project, the directors, producers, and DP had never worked with VSFX, so they weren't entirely sure what needed to be done for this project. If you're familiar with the story of The Yellow Wallpaper, a woman forcibly placed in isolation begins to hallucinate a woman in the wallpaper. It's a wonderful short story with deep feminist tones, so I was excited to work on it! Here is the script and shot list I was given.

Click through to read them.

So, right off the bat, we have a number of challenges- adding a 2D element into a live action scene, and getting it to match the camera. Of course, As production began we had another large issue that needed to be addressed, but I'll touch on that later. 

Firstly, I roughed out a shoot document before meeting with the director, DP, and production design for the first time. Here are my initial rough thumbnails as well as some meeting notes I took on process.

Pardon my chicken scratch- let me translate. essentially, I jotted down a workflow in Nuke that involved tracking the wallpaper, making that plane the front of a 3D scene, and making each layer of the wallpaper its own card, much like in matte painting to set up faux distance that way.

I talked over this in the first meeting with the crew, and they agreed. However, due to some budget restrictions, we had some problems. We did not have enough funds to add a roof or to print a whole room's worth of wallpaper. Seeing as set extension isn't terrible to do, I offered to spend some more time in post to add it in. It's not an ideal situation, but one that we can definitely work with!

So, here are a few behind the scenes photos about my tracking setup, which I'll explain further in a moment.

So the no roof worked out, and although I haven't received a rough cut yet, I do not think the ceiling is in any of the shots. So, I chose simple circle trackers, just to add some high contrast points and have a track-able shape. I decided to forego typical complex trackers, because I believed that some of the more intense handheld camera movements would be better tracked with a simple circle outline to emphasize motion distortion. 

Now you may be wondering, wow Kat, what the hell, you absolutely should have made those walls blue, that's going to make for some long weeks of roto! And yeah, you're right, I probably should have, but in speaking with our grips and DP, blue spill would have made the delicate lighting setup impossible to do. So, my plan is to do some rough cleanup of the tracking markers, and pull luma keys for shadows and fine detail. It's not the ideal situation, but definitely is a workflow that I believe will work. 

And hey, it's baby's first big film! It's a learning experience, and now I know to consider this next time I run VFX for a set. 

Lastly, I needed to have a shadow morph at the end, so at that point I did use a bluescreen (blue, not green, because this film is so yellow. Look at it and tell me green was the right choice.) to get a key of her shadow to comp back in later. With the original master lighting, we could not get one on the wall, so we had to set up a new placement of lights so we could get one. It's not intended to be a photoreal moment anyways, just an intense, dramatic one. 

Also we shot some lens distortion, and were lucky enough to shoot on one of the school's RED cameras, not the FS7 like originally planned. I don't have any images for that, but it was something I planned from the beginning.

So there! Currently, my team and I are waiting on the rough cut to be delivered to us to start working. Definitely a fun experience, and one that has taught me so much!