Oscars Effects – Mary Poppins’ Levels


by Noemi Bodino, Michela Pratola, Giulia Tasca

Original title: Mary Poppins
Country of production: USA
Year: 1964
Genres: comedy, musicals, fantastic
Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Produced by: Walt Disney and Bill Walsh
Special Effects: Peter Ellenshaw, Eustace Lycett, Robert A. Mattey
Academy Award for Best Special Effects in 1965.

The film uses different techniques which blend together:
Animatronics: technology that uses electronic components and robotics to provide freedom of movement for persons. An example is the nightingales which interact with Mary Poppins.
Sodium Process: It allows to overlap actors and animation. Before the invention of blue and green screen, a sodium vapor screen was used to put the actors in the cartoon.
Matte Painting: technique used to allow the representation of landscapes in cinema industry. Matte paintings were made by artists using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass for integrating with the live-action footage. An example is the reproduction of the rooftops of London.
Meticulous attention of Walt Disney for the synchrony of movements, the spatial positions and lights make it indistinguishable for the viewers the distance between the animated characters and real characters.

Two scenes of the film were selected: the jump of Mary Poppins and Bert with the children into the picture and the scene of the Penguins that greet Mary.
Using a simple reflex take some shoot on a moving subject near an outside wall with natural light, reproducing the two scenes.
Once you have downloaded the recorded material you proceed with the processing in After Effects.
Uploaded the video of the jump in the picture, with the Roto Brush tool select the subject and delete the background. Check frame by frame that the rotoscoping selection selects only the subject and doesn’t take other parts of the scene filmed.
Then search for images that reproduce the scene of the jump seen in the film; once selected drag in AE and resize the subject and the background, make the light harmonious using various effects that the software offers. Through key points define the trajectory of the jump.
Use the plug-in Trapcode Particular to create the fog effect in the transition from one scenario to another.

It now goes on to explain the scene of penguins. Create a new composition in AE with the video of the shootings, the scene of the movie to repeat, a background image, a table and a chair (preferably in cartoon style). Here, as in the previous work, use the Roto Brush tool to cut out the real subject and the penguins of Mary Poppins. Resize all uploaded items like in the movie. Check the lights to try to blend as much as possible reality and fiction.
Once the work of the special effects ended, the final video can be mounted on Adobe Premiere Pro to add audio.


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