This week I was asked how to create a “graphic novel” look, such as was done in Scanner Darkly. Now I know there are many plugins for this look. I.e. Rotoshop for vector keyframe. However, for the production on a limited budget working with Photoshop provides similar results.
Once your footage is ready to be posterized, you can export it to Photoshop. From FCP export out to a QuickTime movie (not QuickTime Conversion), and make sure you only export out video, as audio is not necessary. Then open the file with QuickTime and re-export it back out with the setting “Movie to Image Sequence”. Don’t forget to change the format to TIFF so PS (Photoshop) can see them. QuickTime has broken down your footage into individual frames that now can be manipulated by PS.
Once you have imported your file into PS with the correct aspect ratio you are ready to begin. Apply the filter “Shading” and choose the “Artistic Cutout” to change the values to suit your needs. I like to work with: Edge = 8, Simplicity = 4, and Edge Fidelity = 2. Now with the shading still selected choose image adjust, and increase your brightness and contrast to acceptable levels. Now here comes the fun part, go to Filter => Stylize => Glowing edges
Play with the values until you are happy with what you have. Keep in mind everyone’s footage is different, so this may take some time, and there are no set values. Now your image looks like a Negative, and all you have to do is select Image adjustments and “Invert”. Finally just change your composite from Normal to Darken, and you should have the desired effect.
Great, now I know what you are thinking. “We have to do this to every frame…” The answer is no! This can all be automated. Close your image without saving, and open a new one. The history window has a tab called “Actions” select it. At the bottom you will see a series of icons. The second one from the right lets you create a new one. Click it and name your action. Then once you have clicked record, every step you take in PS will be recorded for you to use them again later. Now repeat all of you previous steps to create the image again, but make your last step to be “Flatten” image. Now stop recording.
After you close this image without saving, go to File => Automate => Batch
Photoshop will now recreate all of your steps applying them to each frame. Depending on how much footage you have this could take awhile, so you may as well go and take a nap.
Once you are ready to bring your footage back into FCP, just simply import the folder that contains your posterized images. Then with the timeline open to your sequence, just drag and drop the folder over the timeline to replace. Now depending on your Mac’s configuration you may or may not get a proper playback. It may be easier to simply re-export, and import the sequence back in.
This is a great workflow for low cost productions, and provides you with the look you are looking for. This may seem lengthy, however even with the latest gear, plugins and automation tools. It still took a grueling 500 hours to complete 1 minute of Scanner Darkly.