How to send have an actor regurgitate a wand

Hello, I'm working on a project and one of the effects needed is having a character regurgitate a wand, Mary Poppins carpet bag style. The character passes out, is laying on the floor, and then wakes up, opens their mouth, and a wand miraculously travels up out of their mouth. Any ideas on how to accomplish this? 

If this was coming out of an actual carpet bag or other inanimate object, I could use a false bottom on the container, since it's on the floor, but here my container is an actor, and I can't give his head a false bottom. I thought that we could make a practical solution, and create an animatronic version of the actor that has a false bottom, but I feel like there might be a way with vfx and matting and green screens to do something simpler, and maybe sell it with a practical component. Can anybody direct me to a video on the internet of something like this or give me an idea of how we could execute this? 

Many thanks, 

BenG

Comments

  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    Hi Ben,

    A few ways of pulling this off come to mind.  One would be using the perspective of the camera to make it appear as though the wand was coming out of the character's mouth, but have it coming from beside their head.  If the camera is farther away from the character and the lens is zoomed, depth will be further compressed and help the effect.  You could then add a bit of stringy slime dangling on the end of the wand to help sell the effect.

    Another option would be to make a segmented wand that collapses into its self so it can fit in a performer's mouth and extend as they remove it.

    Another option (and the one I would likely use) would be a combination of practical and digital.  Use a practical version of the wand that is cut off at the handle, just short enough that the actor is comfortable with it in their mouth.  Then track and digitally extend the end of the wand, matching the lighting and appearance of the handle.

    /Chris
  • Thank you for your thoughts, Chris! I thought about a collapsible wand - I just don't know how to have it extend as it's removed. I imagine there would need to be some sort of tension, like maybe the actor would be holding the base of it in their teeth and would then let go once it's fully extended. Do you by chance know of any good videos I could watch/show the director that would have a good example of doing something like this with the digital component? I know that's a really open ended question - just thought I'd ask.

    Also - what do you think of my initial idea of creating an animatronic character that could have an entire wand passed entirely through the back of its head? 
  • Chris EllerbyChris Ellerby Los Angeles Admin
    Often retractable props have a spring inside them that keeps them in their extended state by default.  So in this case, the actor would hold the prop down and as they release it, it would extend.

    The animatronic idea is a good one, but it is an expensive approach, and often difficult to pull off in a way that it looks real.  To justify using an animatronic, it would have to be extremely obvious that the wand is not relying on any of the other common tricks.  The challenge is that stuff like this is a good application for digital or hybrid approaches, so even if you spend tens of thousands on an animatronic that looks good, most would assume it was at least partly CG.

    /Chris
  • That makes sense.
  • Hello, Ben.

    I agree, an animatronic head, (though it would likely be fun to build), would be an unnecessary extravagance & expense. I also agree that keeping as much of the effect "practical" as possible will work to sell the whole effect. If doing it through the use of sly camera angles isn't feasable, then digital compositing will be your best friend! Mind you, I'm NOT talking about using CGI. I'm talking about compositing. By this I mean that all physical elements would be shot live on-set, and then combined in post, during editing. Shoot your actor miming the act of removing the wand, (you could have your actor remove a shoestring, or section of rope from their mouth, for the most direct physical reaction). Then, do an additional shot of the actual wand being lifted into the air, (as though it was coming out of your actor's oriface). This would be shot with the actor out of the way, and a small, portable green/blue screen in their place, in order to isolate the wand and hand element. If need be, you could also shoot a few "gack" elements, too. If you think you really need them. From there, it's just a matter of pulling all of the footage for this into After Effects, pull a couple of mattes, maybe some tracking. Then combine the footage layers into a cohesive whole. It might seem complicated. But, in reality, it's easier than it sounds. If you check out the movie, "A History of Violence", on the Blue Ray Behind the Scenes footage, they show a good example of how similiar compositing of practical elements was used to create the effects for one of the pivotal death scenes. (No, they weren't using wands.)
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