Pumpkin chorus

Pumpkin Chorus

Here we have a spooky little pumpkin chorus for Halloween — #38 of my #100videoclips project.

The main motivation, besides the time of year, was to experiment with track matte keys, particularly putting a face on a thing, in this case, a pumpkin. Read below about how I put it together.


What I Did

The key to this effect is the Track Matte Key effect (no pun intended) in Premiere Pro.

When I first started using the Track Matte Key, I would often get confused about which layer went where and did what. I think I can keep it straight now, but it can be kind of confusing.

First, I’ll go through the setup, then talk about how to use the effect.

  1. I set up the camera on a tripod to take the video of the pumpkin(s). I only had one pumpkin, so in one video take, I put the pumpkin in one location, left it for a few seconds, then moved it to a second location and repeated. I actually did it five times, but one of the locations overlapped with another one, and that would complicate things more than I wanted, so I ended up using four.
  2. Next, I refocused the camera and in the same location (to get consistent lighting), I took a closeup of my eyes looking around in various directions, and of my mouth singing the chorus.
    1. Ideally I would have had a recording to sing along with to get the right tempo, but I just sang it from memory and it turned out fine.
    2. Pro tip: When doing something like this, keep your head as still as possible. I moved my head around a bit, which made the tracking in a later step more difficult.
  3. In Premiere Pro, I took one of the clips that had just one pumpkin in it and used it as the base scene.
    1. The clip was only a few seconds long, so I repeated the clip a number of times.
    2. Even though the camera didn’t move during those seconds, there was still a slight change going  from the end of the clip to starting over at the beginning, so I did a cross-fade transition:
      1. Put the clip on one track, and a copy of the clip on a different track.
      2. Overlap the end of clip 1 with one second of clip 2. On clip 2, start the opacity at 0 and increase it 100 by the end of the one-second overlap.
      3. Trim one second off of the front of clip 1, and trim clip 2 to just the one second of overlap. That gives a fairly smooth and seamless transition.
      4. Select both clips, right click and select “Nest”, which combines the two clips into one nested clip.
      5. Copy that nested clip as many times as you need for the duration of your video.
  4. For the clips with the pumpkin in a different location, I did the same thing that I described in #3, but I also added a track matte key before creating the nested clip.
    1. Once you have the one-second cross-fade overlap, add the Track Matte Key effect to both clips.
    2. Create the track matte by creating a new Title clip. Click on the “New Item” icon at the bottom of the Project menu, and choose Title.
    3. The title creation screen will show whatever images is at the current cursor location. One of the pumpkin clips (not the base clip) should be showing.
    4. Draw a shape around the object that you want masked. For a pumpkin, it could just be the oval tool, although you could also use the pen tool to draw a more complex shape. If you use the pen tool, you will need to choose “Filled Bezier” as the Graphic Type (on the right) once you complete the shape.
    5. Exit the Title screen, and add the title you created to your timeline on a video track that is above the two clips that you created previously. Stretch the title clip so it is the same length as your clips. You should see a white (or some other color) shape cover the pumpkin.
    6. Select each of the two clips with the track matte key effect, and choose the track you put the title on as the matte. That will show only the pumpkin from those tracks, which will allow the track underneath (which should be the base track from #3) to show through. That will give you two pumpkins.
    7. If the dividing line between the matte and the background is too stark, you can add a Gaussian blur effect to the matte clip to soften the edges.
    8. If you select the two cross-faded clips plus the matte (Title) clip and right click, you can nest all three of them together. That way, you just have to deal with a single clip that has just the second pumpkin on it, overlaid on the base clip with the first pumpkin.
  5. I repeated those steps for each of the other pumpkins that I wanted to appear.
  6. For the eyes and the mouth on the pumpkin, I did a similar track matte key (two ovals on a Title clip for the eyes, and one oval on another Title clip for the mouth) to get just eyes and mouths.
    1. When creating the matte, because I moved my head around a little bit, I had to keyframe the clip, one frame at a time, to make sure the shapes followed my eyes and mouth. Keeping my head perfectly still during the filming would have avoided that problem.
    2. I had to resize and reposition the eyes and mouth for each pumpkin.
    3. To give variety, I also started the eye clip at a different spot for each of the pumpkins, and flipped horizontally one of the pairs of eyes.
    4. I also changed just the horizontal scale of one pair of eyes to make them more rounded, and added a warp effect to another pair to add more variety.
    5. I applied the RGB Curves effect to those clips and changed to brightness and color to be closer to that of the pumpkins.
    6. Finally, I used the Darken blend mode on the eyes and the mouth to make them look even more natural with the pumpkins.
  7. For the darkness effect, I created a black video and copied it onto two different tracks.
    1. For one track, I just varied the opacity up and down to match the rhythm of the music.
    2. For the other track, I made a vignette (darkness around the borders) by, once again, using a track matte key effect.
      1. For the matte, I just made a big blob for the center of the screen and applied a very strong Gaussian blur to really soften the edges.
      2. Under the Track Matte Key effect, I selected “Reverse” to just show edges as dark.
      3. I adjusted the opacity of the black video layer to the level that I wanted for the vignette.

That’s a lot of steps, but I hope I provided enough detail to be useful. As you can see, the Track Matte Key is used many times in different ways to put it all together. It’s a great effect to master.