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  • The Exorcist Head Spinning Effect!

    Want to see what this article will teach you to do? Then Download this short video clip Here.

    Before I start here are the things you will need:
    Adobe Premiere
    Adobe Photoshop (v5 or better)

    This effect was made famous by the movie The Exorcist. It rotates the whole head a full 360 degree turn! This effect is easier to do than it looks and builds on your previous knowledge of editing pictures in the Adobe Photoshop Filmstrip format. To save me time this tutorial assumes you have already read through the star wars light saber guide found Here.

    The first step, as always, is capturing your subject. In my case I asked Tony to stand facing the camera and then to keep as straight as possible whilst turning his whole body a full turn until he faced the camera again. There is no need to take more than one shot since all the footage we need is here.

    You may find that its hard to turn smoothly so another way to get the shot is to sit your subject on a swivel office chair so they can be turned very smoothly in a circle.


    The background

    The first step is to get a shot of your subject just standing absolutely still looking at the camera. You will need an uncompressed AVI or best quality MJPEG to work with. Open your video clip in VirtualDub and select and resave just two frames! Select the mark in frame, move using the frame by frame buttons and then select the mark out button. Now you can use direct stream copy and Save AVI. My VirtualDub guide explains how you'd do this in more detail so if you have problems check that out Here.

    Now you must open these two frames in Adobe Premiere and resave them here is how to do it again. Open Adobe Premiere and right-click your mouse button inside the Project Window. Up will pop a bunch of options (as in the picture below), choose: Import > File. And choose your first video clip.

    Next we drag our video clip into the timeline window as shown below:

    Once that is done you can save your video as a Filmstrip by going to: File > Export Timeline > Movie...

    Up will pop the browser box asking where you wish to save your video. But since we do not want to save it as an AVI file we must press the settings... button encircled in red below:

    Up will pop the following dialog box. Choose Filmstrip from the drop down menu and then press OK.

    That's it! You can now save your video as a Filmstrip that is able to be opened in Adobe Photoshop! Once done just close Adobe Premiere.


    Editing the background

    So why did we just convert two frames of Tony standing facing the camera? Surely we want to convert all the frames, right?! Wrong! For this effect to work we need to get rid of the original head. To do this we must photo-retouch the original head out leaving nothing but the wall. It would take ages and ages and ages to do that to every single frame. So instead we are going to delete the head from just two frames and create a background movie that repeats these two frames over and over again. Technically we could create a movie that just repeated the same single frame over and over but in a video such as this it would look odd. The reason repeating just one singe frame would look odd is because even a clear camera picture has some slight changes in noise that must be reproduced for the audience to believe it is the same shot.

    Note: We could also do this head deleting magic using "blue screening" traveling matte techniques (which I will explain in another article) but since there is so much noise in this video, blue screening like this is an even greater task and requires extra equipment and planning!

    So open your two frames in Adobe Photoshop and lets get to work. Were gonna keep it simple. Select the clone tool (encircled in red below). Now choose a hard brush shape and a high opacity setting of about 90%! If you are a novice to Adobe Photoshop my starters guide should give you enough info to get going so check that out Here.

    To delete the head hold down the Alt key and Left-Click on the wall just beside the head to select the area you wish to clone from. Now let go of the Alt key and use the mouse to draw over the head (as you can see in the above illustration). Paint in a horizontal left and right manner rather than up and down since most cameras have noise in the horizontal position and it will also match the colour level beside the head better this way.

    You don't need to delete the whole head, just get rid of the hair at the top and some of the sides of the face so what is left of the head is about the same thickness as the neck, don't forget we are sticking a head over the top so we will not need to spend time making it perfect.

    Once you are done save the Filmstrip and reconvert it back to an AVI file again in Adobe Premiere. Check out my light saber guide again if you are having trouble remembering how to do this (found Here).


    Repeating the background

    Now we want to make this two framed photo-retouched background repeat about 40 times to make it as long as the clip I have done. So load VirtualDub and open this two frame clip once by going to File > Open Video File... Then open the same file again by choosing File > Append AVI segment... Notice that the video is now four frames long instead of two?! So do it again and again until you have a video as long as you want it! Obviously if you have hundreds and hundreds of frames then this is impractical. So what you'd do in this case is open the same video until you had about 20 frames, then re-save these 20 frames as an avi file. Then you can open these 20 frames over and over until you have 20, 40, 60 and so on. I'm sure you get the idea. Once you have your background completed save it.

    We will need to edit this new long background clip in Adobe Photoshop again so convert it back to a filmstrip in Adobe Premiere just like we did before.


    Pasting the Head

    Lets go back to our original movie of Tony turning around on the spot. You must convert this to a Filmstrip file so it can be edited in Adobe Photoshop.

    So just to recap you now have two video clips converted to Filmstrip files (*.flm).

    1. The background file without the head.
    2. The original video of your subject turning around.

    Open them both at the same time in Adobe Photoshop. Now all we do is copy each head from the original clip as it turns and paste it over the background we created for it, as shown in the example below:

    To do this task I suggest you use the polygon selection tool (encircled in red above). I strongly suggest you make sure the anti-alias box is checked to make the pasting smooth, for close ups you may wish to add some feathering too.

    Every time you paste a face in Adobe Photoshop it adds it as a new Layer. This layer can be seen in the layers box shown below.

    This is a lifesaver in most cases but when you are positioning lots of heads at once you will soon be cursing Photoshop. The easiest way around this is to merge the layers together every so many heads. So click on the little 'eye icon' beside the background layer (as seen in our picture above). When you click on this eye icon the background will disappear. Clicking on it again will make it reappear. So first make it disappear. and then hold down Ctrl+Shift+E (or go to File > Merge visible). This will merge all the heads into a single layer. Once they are merged just click the background eye icon once more to see the body again!

    It is hard to teach all the Photoshop skills needed in such a small article as this, so I will have to assume you know how to use it. Don't forget that the merged heads can still be repositioned separately while on the same layer, you just need to select each head (with a square marquee tool) and use the Move Tool found in the far top-right of the tools palette. Please don't merge the background layer with the heads layer until we are totally finished.


    Final Retouching

    Even after you have finished cutting and pasting the heads over the body you are not quite done. You will find that there are still some parts of the neck and head that don't quite match up perfectly. I suggest you touch these up frame by frame by hand. This need not take a long time, just a few strokes over each fame is usually enough! In clear detailed pictures you will need to use the clone tool to do this effectively, but since my video is small I have decided to just use the quick and dirty method, namely, using the Smudge Tool!

    If you take a look at the example picture above there is a line where the neck of the head touches the neck of the body below it. In my video I simply set the smudge tool (encircled in red) to blend the two together. You can also add a small noise filter over the whole picture when you are done to help delete any of that super smooth effect you sometimes get with smudging. This will seal the deal and fool the eye into thinking that the neck is truly attached to the head.


    Putting it all together

    Once you are done save your final Filmstrip and reconvert it to a normal AVI file using Adobe Premiere. To make it completely realistic I have used VirtualDub to join the first part of the video (my cousin Tony smiling) onto the part I created with the head spinning. This greatly adds to the effect because its starts with a normal video clip and then suddenly turns into something superhuman!

    I also did a version where Tony had glowing green eyes. These eyes were done using the exact same method I already explained in my light saber article. Namely, I added a single green dot over the eyes of each frame and used Photoshops effect options to make them glow!

    That's it really! The background sound was added with virtualDub from a wave file I created. The music obviously comes from the movie The Exorcist and was taken off my Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells CD.

    I hope you enjoy this effect.

    Duplication of links or content is strictly prohibited. (C) NICKY PAGE 2000