Category Archives: Assignments

Moonlight over the Doors of Durin

As an admirer of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, I strove to replicate his hidden message on the Doors of Durin, which is the western entrance to the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm.  These Doors were only visible with starlight and moonlight, and so could not be seen by sunlight during the day.  To generate moonlight I implemented a materials-based approach.  My rationale for this was due to the fact that moonlight has a spectral signature not limited to a single wavelength.  This is quite logical, as moonlight is largely reflected sunlight off the Moon’s surface, and sunlight extends over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In 1929, French astronomer Bernard Lyot made a volcanic ash mixture with identical optical characteristics as the lunar rocks.  Specifically, he illustrated a near-perfect match of light polarization among the two materials over all phase angles.

I made a model of the Moon by gluing volcanic ashes from St. Helena on a green Styrofoam sphere with a spray adhesive.  The circumference of the sphere prior to applying the ashes was approximately 31 centimeters; after gluing the ashes, the circumference increased to 33 centimeters.  Therefore, on average, the thickness of the ash layer on my model Moon is 2 centimeters.  To elevate the Moon over a surface, I stuck one end of a wooden dowel through part of the Styrofoam, such that my model looked like a lollipop.  The other end of the dowel was put into a green Styrofoam rectangular prism that rested on the table.  Below is a picture of this constructed model.

Model Moon

To compare my model with the actual Moon, I determined the intrinsic brightness of both objects using the equation:

Albedo Equation

Here, A is the albedo (which is the fraction of incident light reflected off the Moon), H is the absolute magnitude (the brightness of the Moon if positioned one astronomical unit away; this distance is about the distance from the Earth to the Sun: 1 AU = 149,597,870,700 meters), and D is the Moon’s diameter in kilometers.  The Moon’s albedo is approximately 12 percent.  Substituting this value into the above equation and calculating the diameter by dividing the circumference by pi and converting to kilometers (D = 1.0504 x 10-4 km), the absolute magnitude for my model Moon is H = 37.8129.  The absolute magnitude for the real Moon is quoted as HMoon = 0.25.  Objects that are intrinsically brighter than others have a lower absolute magnitude; the absolute magnitude can even be a negative quantity for very bright materials.  It is evident from the above equation that the diameter and absolute magnitude are related in a logarithmic fashion.  To find how many times brighter the model Moon is than the actual Moon, simply take the fifth root of 100

Fifth Root

and raise it to the power of the positive difference between the absolute magnitudes.  Thus, the Moon is

Brightness Equation

≈ 1.06145×1015 times brighter than my sphere made with volcanic ash.

To produce an ink that was invisible under illumination by sunlight but visible under moonlight, I resorted to a contrast scheme.  That is, I applied ink of nearly identical color as the parchment I wrote on.  The catch is that the ink needed to be slightly different than the paper with an additional color component to differentiate between the Sun and Moons’ spectra.  Sunlight consists of equal parts of red, green, and blue components.  Moonlight, however, possesses a noticeably stronger red component and a weaker blue component.  Many people are oblivious of this fact; the reasoning deals with the Purkinje effect, which makes objects in darker settings appear bluer to us, as a result of the rods in human eyes.

Knowing that the Purkinje effect would not prove a significant issue with a light source positioned near my Moon to brightly reflect on my parchment, I tried two different contrast schemes.  One used blue paper with a blue ink that had a tinge of black added.  The second used black paper with black ink that had a tinge of red added.  The inks were mixed and applied using a paintbrush.  Upon writing with the inks, I quickly realized that they had a different color than their corresponding parchments even before the mixing of a secondary color.  Thus, testing was performed to make inks of exactly the same colors as the blue and black parchments.  I began with a rough test, simply adding spoonfuls of primary ink to dabs of secondary ink.  After doing this, I recognized that a stricter method was necessary.  My first attempt to yield a more precise test was to use eye droppers and simply count the number of drops I added of each color.  This plan was squashed, however, upon noticing that the ink was too viscous to exit the droppers.  My alternative approach made use of a scale to weigh quantities of the primary colors; below is a picture of the scale measuring one gram of blue ink.


As mixing a quantity of the secondary color that was undetectable with the scale with several grams of the primary color went very far in changing the resultant color, and understanding that I did not want to devote an umpteen number of grams of primary ink for each trial, I carefully made depressions with a chopstick for my measure of the secondary ink.  Shown below are typical quantities of the two inks; notice the three depressions of the black ink.

Ink Quantities

Pictures of the ink tests are shown below.  The first picture shows the rough test performed with spoonfuls of blue ink and large dabs of black ink.  All the character sets are labels, each written with one spoonful of blue ink: B is blue (no black), 1W is one spoonful of blue ink mixed with one dab of white ink, 2W has two dabs of white ink,…, 4B has two dabs of black ink, and 5B has 5 dabs of black ink.  Don’t be fooled by the apparent disappearance of the 4W and 5W in the photo.  From the proper viewing angle, they both are quite bright, and clearly not the same color as the parchment.  The second picture validates this assertion.  Notice how bright the 4W and 5W are here.  This picture contains additional tests.  The W on the top right denotes plain white ink, clearly visible in comparison to all other colors.  Looking closely at the middle of the page, one can spot the character sets 1g, 2g, 3g.  These represent grams of blue ink mixed with exactly 10 depressions of black ink.  By my inspection, I determined that the 3g appeared the least noticeable.  Therefore, I used the recipe of 3 grams blue ink mixed with 10 chopstick depressions of black ink to write the hidden message.  The third picture shows testing done with the black ink.  This was less extensive for two reasons.  One, the black ink more closely matched the black parchment to begin with.  And two, by the time I began testing on the black parchment, I had already performed extensive testing with the blue parchment, so I proceeded directly with using the scale.  The code on this sheet is: B- black ink only, 1gB3R- 1 gram black ink and 3 depressions of red ink, and 1gB4R- 1 gram black ink and 4 depressions of red ink.  To write the hidden message, I chose 1gB3R as my recipe, as the extra amount of red in 1gB4R resulted in an ink that appeared more visible in ordinary light, without any noticeable improvement under moonlight.

Blue Ink Test Start

Blue Ink Test Detailed

Black Ink Test

The secret message I wrote on both the blue and black parchments is the same one that appears on the Doors of Durin.  It is written in the language of the Elves.

Ennyn Durin Aran Moria.

Pedro mellon a Minno.

Im Narvi hain echant.

Celebrimbor o Eregion tethant i thiw hin.


This translates in English as


The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria.

Speak, friend, and enter.

I, Narvi, made them.

Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.


Below are pictures of this message written in Elvish on both colored parchments.

Secret Message

To represent the Sun, I employed an LED flashlight with a luminous flux of 37 lumens.  The Sun has a luminous flux of 3.6×1028 lumens; that is on the order of 10 thousand yottalumens (Ylm).  Given that the distance from the Moon to the Sun ranges from about 147 million kilometers to 152 million kilometers, thereby taking a rough average of 150 million kilometers, in order for the ratio of luminous flux to distance to be equivalent for my contrived system, the LED flashlight must be placed approximately 1.5417×10-16 meters from the model Moon.  This is quite fascinating but hardly an issue, as the light loss over reasonable distances of several meters is minimal.

By turning each parchment at an angle with respect to the flashlight, the writing appeared invisible.  Examine the three pictures below for the blue and black parchments to verify this.

Blue Black Invisible

Blue Sunlight

Black Sunlight

To produce moonlight the flashlight was shined on the volcanic ash sphere.  For the effect to be astounding, one should already place the parchment at a viewing angle such that it is invisible with the flashlight shining on it, and merely move the Moon into the light path without shifting the parchment at all.  The two pictures below were taken exercising this approach; the first is the blue parchment and the second is the black parchment, both under moonlight.  Observe that since the Moon I constructed is small in relation to the parchment, the message is not entirely visible.  One must shift the paper towards the Moon to read content on the right-hand side.  Nevertheless, you can still pretend to be Gandalf.

Blue Moonlight

Black Moonlight

The challenge, of course, is to develop an ink that is invisible under sunlight for all viewing angles, not just a restricted angular range, and that is also clearly seen under moonlight.  I will endeavor to rectify this problem for my final project.

Enchanted Object: Magic Mirror

For this weeks assignment, I decided to combine my previous knowledge from my pepper’s ghost project with a new idea. I decided to create the magic mirror from Shrek.

first I searched for quite a while for a rigged face online. Strangely, it took many hours to do this, and before I found one I actually had resorted to modeling a face from scratch in Maya. Eventually however, I did fine one on It was a robot head though, so I had to do quite a bit of modeling on an already rigged head. (Which is very dangerous to do).

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 6.53.52 PM

With a reference picture from a film segment I found on youtube, I started modeling the face of the mask by deleting unnecessary parts of the robot head and moving each vertex of the mesh one by one as carefully as possible. After messing up once and decoupling the model from the rigging, I started over and was able to finish a nicely modeled Mask.

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 12.39.52 AM

After this I recorded video of me acting out yes and no answers to questions. I decided to start with three different voice options for possible questions, yes, no, and maybe.

The next step after recording was converting the video into tiff image sequences, which I used Premiere to export as. And then imported the video as an image file sequence of tiffs into Maya to use as a background in order to animate the mask on top.

After everything was animated, the next step was rendering. I rendered all the answers with mental ray in Maya and exported them as video through FCheck. I then recombined the sound back into the videos using Premiere by taking out the old film footage of myself and replacing it with the new mask movies. All the videos  were ready for playing. Now for the effect

To create the magic mirror, I overplayed a half silvered mirror on top of my laptop screen. Since only light from one side of a mirror will be passing through at a time, this give the effect of it being a mirror but also showing the face from behind the glass. I created a powerpoint presentation that I could control with a hidden bluetooth keyboard while watching my users. I would tell them to say “mirror mirror” in order to make the mirror appear. I had all the videos set to play automatically so everything went generally smoothly as long as the user asked a yes or no question. After the user had asked their question I would just continue the presentation with an answer.

Below is the final rendered clips of the answers. More footage will soon be uploaded of a user actually using the program. But for now I’ve kept the half silvered mirror with Dan for safe keeping.


My final project will build off of this so hopefully it will be even more exciting! I want a live user to be able to speak through the mask to answer questions. More on this to come later 🙂

Deceptive Jail

Webcams give the delusion of transporting a viewer to a new location by displaying a site in real-time with high-resolution and continuous motion.  When examining a site in person, however, a viewer expects to smell the surrounding airs.  Unfortunately, webcams by themselves do not provide this immersive experience.  As a means to both tackle this challenge of heightening sensations with webcams and devise a system to fool criminals, I built a small jail cell that included both visual and olfactory perceptions.  The intent is to constantly change a prisoner’s apparent location, making the prisoner disoriented and confused.  Guards may move the prisoner from the cell to a motion simulator for a multitude of hours to trick that prisoner into believing that travel is occurring.  Under fatigue, prisoners are more likely to be cooperative and divulge information concerning the truths about crimes they committed or the whereabouts/upcoming plans of their criminal partners.  As a last measure, guards could use a webcam of the prisoner’s home, accompanied with appropriate smells, and say to the prisoner, “Tell us everything you know, and we’ll let you go home.”  Having tricked the prisoner into believing the deception, the presentation of the homeland will evoke powerful emotions that will further break that prisoner down.

The jail was built out of nine jigsaw-shaped exercise mats that fitted together nicely on the sides.  A picture of the constructed cell is shown below.  Two holes were cut on one of the mats.  The larger hole was a 25 cm by 15 cm rectangle, sized for my computer screen, in which the webcam would be shown.  To give the appearance of a jail, I cut out some of the mat material and made three short bars and spread these out over this viewing window.  The smaller hole was a thin 16 cm by 3 cm rectangle for the odors to travel through.  Additionally, I positioned a small wooden dowel rod for support on the top mat and also taped down some of the outside connected sections with silver duct tape to prohibit the mats from sliding apart.


To funnel scents through the small hole, I heated water with a Vick’s humidifier and placed several drops of fragrances in the humidifier’s basin.  Steam then rose from the humidifier with the odor of the fragrance.  I was fortunate to find a tall metal piece in the garbage, which was employed as a funnel.  I connected a section of a pizza box to the bottom of this funnel with silver duct tape, applying tape across the entire section to shield it from the moist steam of the humidifier.  A hole the size of the humidifier’s opening was cut out on the pizza box section for the steam to exit.  The system was constructed in the room seen in the above picture.  The measurements were taken such that the humidifier rested on the remainder of the pizza box to prop the funnel up high enough to reach the small hole, as shown below.


For completeness, the entire system, both the jail cell on the left and the humidifier/funnel sub-system on the right, is pictured below.  Notice also the laptop computer with its screen flipped around slid against the viewing window to display the webcam.

Whole System

Two different sites were tested with appropriate fragrances; one was a forest scene and the other was an ocean scene.  The link for the webcam of the forest scene is:

The link for the webcam of the ocean scene is:

For the forest scene, a Eucalyptus fragrance was placed in the humidifier’s basin.  For the ocean scene, the fragrance added was Waikiki Beach Coconut.  The picture below shows the two fragrances; Eucalyptus is on the left and Waikiki Beach Coconut is on the right.


The next two pictures show webcam images inside the jail of the two scenes; the first is the forest scene and the second is the ocean scene.

Forest scene

Ocean scene

Additionally, I took video recordings of the process of applying the fragrances and watching the webcams.  The forest webcam is fairly static, but while watching the ocean webcam, one can clearly see the waves moving continuously.  The first video below shows the forest scene and the second shows the ocean scene.



A large challenge while testing my system was the excessive moisture buildup from the humidifier, especially around my laptop.  This issue was remedied by applying paper towels and aluminum foil under my laptop for protection.  However, the wall of the cell became sufficiently drenched after about ten minutes of operation.  One possible improvement of the system is to concoct my own fragrances to make the smells as realistic as possible.  For example, for the scent associated with the ocean, I might blend together the juices from canned tuna fish together with salt and sand.  It would certainly prove quite torturous for a prisoner to suffer through this magical potion.

Racial Camouflage

For this weeks project, I did one small experiment and one larger one.

The Maxi-Pad Wallet


I found this idea online a long time ago and I wanted to test it out. To create this wallet, I found an unused a large maxi-pad and removed the pad, but kept the wrapper. I then added some paper inside to hold the money, and added some tape to put under the flap to hold it together. This made a wallet that held money tight but camouflaged it to look exactly like a pad. I wanted to see if anyone would actually believe it though. After handing it to some of my (especially male) friends, I found it extremely effective. My guy friends didn’t even want to touch it while my girl friends didn’t seem to care, it looked like a regular pad. The only flaw to this design could be that I might accidentally throw it away!


Racial Profiling Camouflage

IMG_4817 IMG_4813 IMG_4818

This was my main experiment since I personally find racial profiling to be a very big current problem. Since I am Japanese, Indian, Belgian and Spanish, not many people know what my ethnicity is on site. Not only this, but also depending on the season I wear a completely different set of colored make up. So I already had all the supplies I needed to wear as many types of skin color I could just by using my year-round stock of make up! The goal of my camouflage was to mask my ethnicity, so that no one who did not know me would know what race I was. I researched what facial features were most defining in determining what race a person may be and found that the eyebrows, nose, eye shape, mouth and facial structure all contribute to the appearance of a race. With this in mind, I experimented… I placed black along my eyebrows so it was very difficult to see what shape they are. I also placed black around my nose so from farther away, it would be hard to see the shape and size. I also pattered the stripes in a swoop fashion, to obscure my facial structure. There wasn’t much I could do for the mouth and the eyes. So I did my best with blacking out one eye, and making the other as light as possible, along with placing stripes down my mouth. I also places a robe around my head and neck, so it was impossible to see another skin tone and what hair I had. I suppose this could also be accomplished with a hat and a scarf or a hoodie. After showing this design to my friends they all freaked out, they couldn’t even tell it was me! After presenting this design in class, my professors suggest I upload it through my Facebook account to see if it could tell that it was me. Turns out it couldn’t! Facebook’s facial recognition algorithms couldn’t even tell that this was me! So in conclusion, I think this pattern was a success. Cons include, lots of makeup, strange looks. However pros include looking like a star wars character for a day!

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 11.39.36 PM

#antitag – Anti Facial Recognition Environment and the Many-faced God

Want to avoid being auto-tagged by Facebook, Google photos, flickr, and the like? Want to create a party environment for all your cohorts that ensures all attendees remain unrecognizable to the collective scrutiny of the bots? Whether you’re familiar with the Many-faced God or not, you can benefit from the dark magic that streams from its collective. Here’s how.

Safety Amongst the Heard

The approach of this projects is derived from a classic hacktivist tool – the DDoS attack. Dos stands for distributed denial of service. Essentially this tactic can shut down any service the way the Star Wars fans shut down Fandango when tickets went on pre-sale; by overloading the the servers dedicated to a service with requests, the service becomes effectively unavailable.

Typically this tactic is used to shut down web services of corporations that have been misbehaving or underestimating the power of the internet, but in this case we’ll be applying the concept to render Facebook’s auto-tagging feature effectively useless.

Making A Mask of Masks

To kick things off let’s just start with a ton of faces. After running this through Facebook’s tagging system I was surprised as how good a job it did.
Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 7.44.43 PM

Even though most of the faces were clipped or obscured, the tagging system was able to identify 18 / 22 faces. The anti-establihsment won’t settle for an 18% success rate.

To up the unsuccess rate we’ll add in some extra facial orifices.  Maybe we only need to mess with each face a little bit to throw off the recognitions algorithms.

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 7.45.11 PM

The tagging system is still recognizing 17/22 faces, and 17/27 if you begin to count based on all the eyes, noses, and mouths present. This increases our un-recognition rate to between 23% and 37% for an average of 30%. Better, but nothing you want to trust with your social life. Let’s take things a step further.

For the next mask we’ll use the previous mask, but overlay a rotated copy of original image. The result is a nearly unrecognizable hot mess of facial features. Everyone becomes one, and one becomes no one. This pleases the Many Faced God, but what does the Facebook’s recognition think of our abomination?

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 7.45.39 PM

One face detected, and he doesn’t seem to be too happy about it.  Still, this mask’s 54 faces brings it’s un-recognition rate to 98%. Not perfect, but certainly ready to begin expanding the applications at a responsible rate.

Human Trials

With no funding partners to sponsor testing subjects less conscious of their social media presence, I will have to sacrifice myself to the Many Faced God.

Just Walk Right In

The strength of this strategy over other facial recognition obfuscation techniques is that it does not require individuals to do anything irregular. No face paint, no fancy clothes or accessories. Instead, the #antitag environment protects the identity of anyone inside it. To achieve this level of obscurity, the masks created earlier are projected all over a room, so that anyone within the room gets a face full of lasers and can’t see for hours becomes covered in the obfuscatory facial features.

Mask of Masks 1.0


With red boxes indicating the recognition of an incorrect face, and a green box indicating the recognition of the correct face, we can see that this first mask has a 78% success rate at preventing recognition. We can do better.

Mask of Masks 1.1


Let’s skip to the last mask, just to get a sense of the results we can expect to achieve. This mask has a 100% success rate at preventing correct facial identification, and an 83%  success rate at preventing incorrect facial detection. 

Mask of Masks 1.2


Adding a third layer of faces achieves total obfuscation. Coincidently total obfuscation is the new Clinton campaign slogan. No faces recognized. With 82 faces present in one frame, effectively there are none. 

Fashionable Pepper’s Ghost

For my Pepper’s Ghost project I decided to piggyback off of an idea that Professor Novy sent out to the the class. The project was called the aspire mirror; when the user peered in to the mirror, it reflects what the user is inspired by. Here’s a link to the website.

With a half-silvered mirror and a massive 8k tv, I had all the technology I needed to start creating my project. After studying a great deal about pepper’s ghost and seeing the aspire mirror, I realized I could use this method to create a new form of online shopping technology!

This project works best in a room with natural lighting. Unfortunately the 8k tv I had available was in dark room so I had to provide some lighting with artificial lights, but when creating this effect in my room with sunlight over my computer screen it worked much better. I first placed the half-silvered mirror over the 8k tv as closely to the screen as possible. On the 8k tv behind the mirror I created a black background. Since the background behind the mirror on the tv was darker than the light in front of it,the mirror reflected my image back at me.  I then found items for sale online like a shirt or sunglasses and cut their images out, placing them on back backgrounds. After some very very careful positioning. I flipped through a slideshow of images to present what the future of online shopping would be like! First I showed the main websites regular online shopping page. I displayed the items for sale through the mirror (This showed through the half silvered mirror like  a regular screen). Then I chose an item to model by showing the item placed on a black background; wherever the black background on the tv was, I saw a reflection but wherever I had placed the item, that showed through!

Some complications of this project were trying to get the half-silvered mirror to stay on the 8ktv (I ended up duck taping it up), placing the objects to fit exactly on the right spot on my body in the reflection, and getting the lighting to work in the 8ktv room. In the future I think a good addition to this project would be to add an Xbox kinect or some other device to track exactly where body parts are to overlay images on top of them.

Below is an image of the final output on the 8k tv. Better images hopefully to come soon!


Pepper’s Ghost

One of the most alluring pieces of equipment I have ever encountered is the phoropter, which is used by optometrists during eye exams to assess a subject’s vision and ascertain that subject’s eyeglass prescription.  The following link offers a description of phoropters, accompanied with pictures:  As a young child, I recall being pleasantly intrigued by watching my optometrist whirl the lenses and prisms in the device around with ease to alter my view; the swift changes seemed somewhat magical to me.  During eye exams, optometrists place a phoropter over a subject’s eyes and ask the subject to read a series of letters both close up and far away.  They iteratively change the lenses and other optics in the device to deduce the optimal prescription of the subject.  However, to my knowledge, optometrists have not yet implemented the Pepper’s Ghost illusion in conjunction with phoropters.  Since the ghost image is fainter than the object itself, a Pepper’s Ghost eye exam would be more challenging than the traditional one.  This would prove especially valuable for accessing candidates to jobs with strict vision requirements, such as astronauts.

I made a basic phoropter using two circular cut-out pieces of white cardboard and four pairs of lenses.  The lenses are displayed and labeled in the picture below.  As distinguishable from the labels, the types of lenses used were thick positive spherical, spherical meniscus, meniscus, and thin positive spherical.  An interesting aside fact I learned after reading about lenses is that plus lenses are synonymous with convex lenses, whereas minus lenses are synonymous with concave lenses.  Plus lenses are prescribed to fix farsightedness and minus lenses are prescribed to fix nearsightedness.  The two thick positive spherical lenses shown on the far left side of the image refract incident light appreciably, and thus when looking through them, the view appears quite blurry.  I was able to see clearly through the other three pairs, so the thick positive spherical lens pair served as an outlier case.


I traced out the shape of each of the lenses onto the two cardboard wheels with a pencil, such that the center of each lens was 4 centimeters from the rim of the wheel.  Shown below is a picture of my tracings on the wheels.  Scissors were used to pierce through the center of these marked regions and cut the shapes out.  Additionally, I cut out the shape of the largest of my lenses, the spherical meniscus, in two locations on a cardboard box for viewing windows of the ghost image.

Traced Lenses

Prior to fixing the lenses in place, I cleaned them with rubbing alcohol, rinsed them off with water, and then dried them with wipers.  A hot glue gun was used to securely mount the lenses on the wheels.  A picture of the two wheels with lenses attached is given below.


With the phoropter constructed, I next needed to make the Pepper’s Ghost illusion and position the wheels around the viewing windows I established.  I used a cardboard box to house the object and piece of acrylic needed for the illusion.  Two small holes were cut through the box in the locations where the center of each wheel was to be placed; small holes were also cut through the center of each wheel, as seen in the above picture of the wheels with lenses glued on.  Two large screws were pushed through the small holes on the box and the wheels.  Below is a picture of the phoropter mounted to the box.

Outisde box

Duct tape held the acrylic piece steady inside the box.  The object selected to produce the ghost image was a desk clock.  A clock was chosen because it provided the subject a means of discerning information.  The visual challenge was to look through the phoropter at the ghost image and tell the time, based on the locations of the second, minute, and hour hands of the clock.  The overhead view of the components inside the box is seen below.


In order to clearly see Pepper’s Ghost with my system, the lights were turned off and an LED light bulb was placed overhead the piece of acrylic as an illumination source.  Two shots through two different lens pairs are illustrated below.  The first is through the thick positive spherical lenses and appears blurry and unclear; the view through the right lens is the actual clock.  The second is through the spherical meniscus lenses, and the ghost image of the clock is discernible through the left lens.  The time on the actual clock is 11:01 with the red second hand on second 42; of course, since the ghost image is a reflection, it is inverted to look like the time is 12:59 with the second hand on second 18.

Blurry image

Clear image

Visual Effects

By recording video in the overhead camera position, also referred to as the bird’s-eye view, I achieved a visual illusion featuring two actors who seem to defy gravity and temporarily float in air.  The video is shown below.


The video features two wizards dueling with magical wands.  Throughout the action sequence, both wizards perform a levitation spell that portrays his opponent to be suspended in mid-air with his feet removed from the apparent ground.  In actuality, the actors are laying on the floor with their feet against a wall (the apparent ground), allowing each to simply remove his feet from the wall when his opponent launches a successful attack.  A camera operator is standing on top of a tall ladder, approximately six feet from the ground to film the overhead view.  The height from which the scene was filmed was a crucial aspect, as beginning film takes demonstrated that shorter ladders, such as those only two or three feet tall, did not enable a large enough space to be visible with the camera.

Avidemux was used for video editing and Kdenlive was just used to add audio to the edited video.  I carried out editing with two separate programs because for some odd reason Avidemux did not allow me to insert audio; although, Avidemux has the capability of running audio and video together.  During filming, there was a point in which the wizard on the right-hand side pushed his feet off against the wall in a jumping motion.  He then rose from the ground and walked over to the left side of his opponent, laying down again in an upside down fashion with respect to the camera’s view, before casting a final levitation spell.  Editing with Avidemux was done to facilitate the appearance of a surprise attack.  After the jumping motion, I removed video content up to the point in which the wizard on the right-hand side was completely off the screen.  I then kept eight frames of the wizard off screen; when watched right after the jumping motion, it appears that the wizard has vanished.  I then cut out all video content from that point to the point in which the wizard has established his new position behind his foe, so that it appears that the wizard vanishes and instantly reappears ready to attack.  With Kdenlive I added music played with a harp to complement the gentle nature of levitation.

Having never directed a video before, I became aware that it is quite difficult to verbally communicate an action sequence in a way that everyone involved can fully understand.  Although I had written out a script, it was suggested to me that I make a series of drawings to distinctly highlight each individual step in the sequence.  Implementing this new approach proved successful and enabled the actors to practice the choreography in a less hesitant manner.