How to: face painting & compositing – Game of Thrones


A critical aspect of cinema is represented by the facial expressiveness which the actors manage to convey in a scene; where their acting skills are not enough, particular techniques can be used to reach a better realism. From this perspective, we wanted to recreate two effects taken from the tv series “Game of Thrones”, in particular those of the scene of the framing of a baby who is turned into a White Walker with the touch of a hand and those of King Joffrey’s death.

White Walker’ Scene

The main effect about this scene is the mutation of the eyeballs. As it can be seen by careful observation of the original videoclip, there are many elements which contribute to create the final result.
First of all, a black stain spreads in the eye as if it were smoke up to cover all the surface. Then, the eye starts to freeze from the pupil, giving off an intense light-blue light. In the end, the entire eye emits a blue glow which means that the transformation is completed.
At first, we made the necessary shooting using a green screen on which we applied a Keylight (1.2) effect to replace the background, in order to put the character into a proper setting.

Step 1
In order to create separate work regions, we created some masks: one for the pupil, one for the iris and one for the eye shape. We used the Mocha AE Bezier Layer Tool to create and track the masks.


Step 2
We used footages of smoke to generate the black stain, arranged between the iris layer and the background layer; we placed them in a circular manner so that the smoke is spreading over the eyeball equally.


Then, since the smoke was white, we applied a color correction to make it dark gray. After that, we used a masked black solid with high feather at the edges that expands to create the filling effect. Eventually, we put all these effects in a pre-composition.

Step 3
With the aid of Photoshop, we used a frame taken from the original footage to cut the part of the iris near the pupil, increasing the brightness and changing color in an electric blue. We arranged this layer into the composition, using Lighten as blending mode. The appearance of this layer was animated with a mask too.


Step 4
To freeze the eye, we created a black solid on which we applied a Fractal Noise with proper settings, as shown in the figure.

02_fractal noise

We added a Glow effect to give it a frosted appearance, since the ice reflects light.
We duplicated the layer and reduced the size to emphasize the central part of the eye, in the iris area. We animated both layers using masks to obtain an effect of expansion and we arranged them into a pre-composition.

02_fractal noise1

Step 5
In order to complete the ice waves created by the Fractal Noise, we used a footage of a shockwave on which we applied some Gaussian Blur and Timewarp to slow it down, because the animation was too fast.


Step 6
We put a shadow below the eyelashes by means of a mask to increase the blending with the whole image.


Step 7
We applied the Curves effect to the pre-composition, using keyframes to manage the change of the waves color on the eyes, as shown in the figure.


Moreover, we added a glaze by means of a blue solid with a low opacity and a high feather; we added a Glow effect to this layer, too.

Step 8
As additional elements, we worked also on the hand special effect. At first, we made a mask over a blue solid to change the skin color and we added Fractal Noise areas to give it a wrinkle effect. After that, we created a nail in Photoshop by means of textures and we applied it to the original nail, exploiting four tracking points we drew before shooting to track the movement.
In order to be as closely as possible to the original videoclip, we decided to add some snowflakes using the Trapcode Particular effect by Red Giant.


Step 9
We added an adjustment layer on which we applied the color correction to blend the character with the glacial setting of the original scene. We modified the highlight to get more detail, in addition to change the saturation and curves parameters.


Step 10
In the end, we added a freeze wind sound and an ice crackling sound effect to the eye as in the original clip.

Joffrey’s death scene
Poisoning and death of one of the main character take place in this part of the tv show; these effects are achieved by means of disfiguration and deterioration of the victim’s face (change of the skin color, formation of liver spots, visible veins, bleeding and change of the eyes color). Our goal was to recreate this scene and to make the character’s death closer to the original clip without using 3D elements.

Step 1
We filmed the scene with a green screen as background, then deleted by means of the AE Keylight (1.2) effect; after that we added a proper background, keeping the scene and the framing (zoom and selective blur in order to create more depth of field) as a reference .

Step 2
With the aid of the Bezier Pen tool, we selected an area of the face, corresponding to the cheeks and the forehead and we tracked it on Mocha AE in order to create the liver spots. After we selected Align Surfaces on the mask layer, we exported the keyframes used for the tracking and pasted them on an invisible black solid layer in the composition.

step 2

We didn’t use a null object because we needed a surface synchronized with the movement and not just a simple point.

Step 3
At this point, we added another black solid layer on which we applied some basic turbulence Fractal Noise effect and a Curves effect to modify brightness and color selectively of red and green channel. In that way, the cheeks of the actor looked more pale.

step 2_1

We repeated the process with another kind of Fractal Noise (Smeary), in order to increase the strength of face capillaries.

Step 4
We placed some image of veins above the Fractal Noise layer and we applied a Luma mask onto it. This tool works with the layer above, allowing to remove the white background we had on those images. We pre-composed the two layers (veins and fractal noise). In the main composition, we used Color Dodge as blending mode, which gives more brightness and lightens the skin color, allowing the purple veins to be visible and clear.

Step 5
We added images of red spots over the cheeks and their blending mode was set to Multiply. To obtain eye circles we used the same process to two purple solids placed under the eyes. We did the same to confer a purple color to the mouth.
All those layers (veins included) were parented to the black solid with tracking data. We added some keyframes to the opacity so that the stains and the veins are appearing gradually.

Step 6
In order to give a death pale color (skin color between green and blue), we duplicated the main video layer and masked it, keeping forehead and cheeks and removing beard and eyes. We animated the mask parenting this layer to the black solid layer.

Step 7
The veins effect on the eyes was obtained using a masked and tracked image. We created a Mocha Mask over the pupil and applied it on both eyes, because the veins image was covering it.

Step 8
In order to simulate nose and eyes bleeding we painted in Photoshop some rivulet of blood using a frame by our videoclip as background to be more accurate. We tracked the movement of our clip and we applied the generated keyframes to a Null object. Eventually, we imported the traces of blood from PS into AE, we scaled and moved them so that they looked gushing out from the nose and the eyes and we set the Null object as their parent. We made a mask on these traces and we animated it to get a real blood stream effect. In both layers we set Multiply as blendig mode.

Step 9

In the end, we added an adjustment layer to the main composition to get the same color for the whole scene, using the Curves and Brightness&Contrast effects. We also digitally zoomed in the scene to make more evident the deterioration of the king’s face. In order to do that without losing the image quality we used Red Giant’s plugin Instant 4K.

Schermata 2015-06-30 alle 17.12.26

Chroma Chi?
Alessandra Caretto
Nicola Falomi
Enrica Maggiora
Francesca Milani
Federico Montemurro


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