Lost Boys Learning – Class 4 – Ghost Project Showcase

Lost Boys Learning | School of Visual Effects

Class 4 – Ghost Project Showcase

Just in time for Halloween, the third project at Lost Boys Learning is the popular Ghost project. In order to create a ghostly apparition that is subtle and believable, students worked entirely within our compositing software NUKE, as well as shooting individual live action background plates, black-screen character plates in our studio and a group cloud-tank elements shoot. Blending together the three live action elements, the students strive to create volume and cohesion between the different 2D elements – and a scary ghost.

Creating abstract, amorphous VFX can be a very challenging experience. Unlike recreating practical or physical objects the students design a look that requires subtlety and creative vision. In a real production experience, the client or supervisor will have difficulty explaining exactly what they are looking for, so it is up to the artist to analyze all their references and design a look that can be effectively sold to the client. The artist might hear “that’s not quite what I’m looking for…but I’ll know when I see it” or ”more oily-smoky, brighter but more subtle, etc.".

The Ghost project is designed to demonstrate the power of leveraging practical elements (physical effects filmed in studio) to achieve very organic looking effects in a short period of time. In our studio, we shot a variety of substances on our high definition video camera including fluorescent ink, egg whites, cream and sparkles in our "cloud-tank" – a repurposed fish tank set up with a black light.

Our students have four weeks from start to finish, including finding relevant film reference, designing their idea and scouting locations. This year, we shot in the village of Cumberland, including the museum mine shaft display, the Japanese cemetary and an abandoned mine; and at the old dairy ruins in Merville.

Lost Boys Learning is located in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island – a community with a huge variety of accessible, free locations, including urban, rural, seaside, old-growth forest, ruins and mountains. For this shoot, we used guerrilla-style filming with our portable generator, fog machine, lighting kit and occasionally a bit of fire starter in hand.

JongJun "Danny" An

"I spent a lot of time shooting for this project because I’m interested in making movies. My story is one of an explorer who finds the abandoned "1913" building, a former research facility. He discovers an old movie camera, which triggers a "flashback" sequence, showing a scary surgical experiment that happened a long time ago on that site. The flashback reveals the true story to the explorer just before the ghost of the surgeon attempts to kill him. We filmed all of the flashback sequence in studio with costumes and props, including a juicy raw steak. The most difficult thing was making fog and matching it with the ghost."

Monica Rodriguez

"My Ghost Project was inspired by the effects in the movie "Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix". My character is the ghost of a bride; her unexplained murder has left her angry and she remains in this world. In order to integrate this idea with a real background I choose a Japanese shrine close to Cumberland. The hardest part in this project for me was to integrate the fog which was a practical element filmed in a cloud tank. The element was high resolution and required both time warping and mesh warping which challenged my compositing considerably."

John Lipskie

"A local museum has a coal mine exhibit which made a great location to film this project and set the scene. Many Chinese and Japanese miners worked, and perished, in the local mines. I focused mostly on integrating the black screen ghost into the cloud element but spent a lot of time rotoscoping the miner to separate him from the ghost in the background."

Clifford Green

"For the ghost project, I was inspired by the film "Gothika" starring Halle Berry – particularly the scene where a truck runs over a ghost child. My story is about a young girl (Mindy) from the Comox Valley; in 1940 she went missing and was found dead years later. Her spirit roams the area, hunting for her killer. She only comes out at night, when she can be seen walking with her teddy bear in her hand. The project covers areas such as cinematography, composition, rendering and lighting. Lighting the scene was a challenge, as filming was done at night."

Daniel Jackson

"Not surprisingly, my inspiration for the Ghost project was "dark and creepy", so I chose an abandoned concrete ruin in the forest as a location. The ghost character was a follower of the dark arts and the religious people in town burnt him alive – now he haunts the town’s church ruins. I was inspired by movies like Saw, 13 Ghosts, Silent Hill and One Missed Call. The make-up and wardrobe for my ghost were inspired by the lead character in the game Prototype. We filmed at night with practical fire, candles and fog. The hardest part of the project was painting out the pyrotechnician (igniting the fire) from the scene."

For more behind the scenes photos visit our gallery. Watch for further project posts of our Product Shot and UFO project coming in the next few weeks.



Lost Boys Learning is North America’s only dedicated accredited visual effects school with world-class training in photo-realistic 3D for VFX and compositing for film and television. Boasting a 94% placement rate Lost Boys Learning offers a specialized 1 year Visual Effects Diploma on Vancouver Island, Canada. Our students work with the award winning VFX Supervisor and experienced mentor, Mark Benard, in a project-based learning environment, covering VFX pre-production and shooting, 3D for VFX and compositing. We are now accepting applications for our new intake starting in January or May of 2009. Please visit our website and/or email us for further information.

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