Every good editor and VFX artist aspires to be (or at least should aspire to be) invisible to the viewer. At no point do you want the viewer of your movie, short film, webisode, etc. to stop and say, “Wow that was an awesome matte painting,” or, “That was an incredible digital composition.” You want the viewer to be immersed in the universe the film is creating. As technology has advanced, editors and VFX artists have stepped up and taken a more active role in creating simple yet creative shots cinematographers used to take hours laboring over. One of the most noted of these instances is showing a reflection in someone’s eye. I will show you how to create this effect in three simple steps:
- Capture Your Footage
- Composite Your Shot
- Resize, Crop, and Retouch
CAPTURE YOUR FOOTAGE
The two pieces of footage you will need include: a close up of an eye, and what you hope to reflect in the eye. For me, I aimed to create an iconic image of some enemy reaching towards the person as it reflects in their iris, and for this, I used my lovely assistant (my wife) to play both parts. Using some cheap macro extension tubes on my Canon DSLR I was able to get reasonably close up on my subject’s eye.
The camera was locked down on a tripod and I had my actress sit down in a chair in order to minimize her movements. I then had her throw on a gas mask, switched out the macro tubes for a cheap wide angle macro attachment, and captured footage of her reaching towards the camera in a menacing fashion.
By using the wide angle attachment, it created a slight fish eye distortion around the edges. This will blend nicely as the footage will be composited and reflected on an eye, which is curved in nature.
COMPOSITE YOUR SHOT
Now that you have collected your footage, import the clips you intend to use into a new composition in After Effects. Move both clips into your LAYERS WINDOW and make sure the reflection clip is on top.
With the reflection layer selected, RIGHT CLICK and go to BLENDING MODE >> SCREEN.
This will begin to blend the two layers together in an organic fashion necessary to create the foundation for our visual effect. Depending on the lighting for your scene, you may also play around with alternate BLENDING MODES such as OVERLAY and COLOR DODGE.
RESIZE, CROP, AND RETOUCH
With your REFLECTION LAYER selected, hit S on your keyboard to bring up the SCALE option, and reduce the SCALE down significantly so that your reflected subject just fits within the iris of the subject’s eye.
From there we need to cut the reflection layer into a CIRCLE using the ELLIPSE TOOL.
Hit M twice on your keyboard with the REFLECTION LAYER selected in order to bring up the MASKING OPTIONS. Here you will want to INCREASE FEATHER to blend the edge of the circle cut we just made. Also, reduce MASK OPACITY until you feel the REFLECTION LAYER is appropriately blended into the eye.
To add more drama to the scene, you can also quickly retouch the clips and add some COLOR CORRECTION. Go to LAYER>>NEW>>ADJUSTMENT LAYER and apply the TRITONE effect. You will be presented with three color ranges to identify: whites, mid tones, and blacks. For my scene, I pushed on the cooler spectrum and moved my mid tones and blacks into the blues, but you can experiment with your own scene for the desired effect.